One of the nice things about not having a car is that when you walk everywhere you have time to stop when something catches your eye. It doesn’t matter if it’s a shop with an interesting window display, a Medieval carved doorway that you want to investigate, or even those flowers you want to take the time to smell. We sometimes take the city bus to a shopping area outside of town and near the stop where we get on is the marker you see in the photo. Of course I had to find out why this stone had an upward pointing arrow and the words Meridien de Paris.
Do you remember author Dan Brown’s book from 2003 called The Da Vinci Code followed three years later by the movie with the same title? In this work of fiction, Brown refers to the Rose Line as running through St. Sulpice Church in Paris and might have indicated a hiding place for the Holy Grail. From what I’ve read, the author’s inspiration for this part of his novel came from the very real Meridien de Paris or prime meridian line that runs through the City of Light and, before Greenwich, England assumed the role in 1884, served as the world’s indicator of 0 degrees longitude.
And that’s where the marker in this photo comes into play. It indicates one of the points in Carcassonne where the meridian from Paris passes through and the arrow is pointing north towards the capital city. In 1701, Louis XIV sent his chief astronomer, Jean-Dominique Cassini, here to verify the line’s placement which he did from the highest point in town, the 54 meter (177 feet) tall tower of St. Vincent’s church.
You don’t have to travel a great distance from here to find another connection to The Da Vinci Code. Only about 46 kilometers (29 mi.) south of Carcassonne, not far off that same Rose Line, is the village of Rennes-le-Château where a book from the 1980’s about supposedly discovering there the true meaning of the holy grail seems to have been key to Dan Brown’s bestseller 20 years later. I’d say that mysteries abound in our part of France.