We wandered into St Sulpice in Paris the other weekend. As my delightful travelling companion went off to light a candle for her Grandmother, I put on my specs and started having a glance around the old place. It’s nice in an not-very-demonstrative neo-classical sort of way. That is to say it has more flash baroque action than its average English equivalent and less than its average Italian one.

Anyway, a very friendly Frenchman, late middle aged / early old aged, came up and started talking to me about the architecture. He was some sort of guide: he had a wee name badge on. He explained to me about the style, about the relatively egalitarian impulse of the open chancel and the double height clerestory. All very pleasant. He seemed very keen to tell me about a line running at an angle across the nave, brass set in pink marble. He said it was the line the French took as the meridian before it was agreed that Greenwich would be The One. Hm. Quite interesting, I guess. His English was amazing.

The surprise came the next day when my friend got to the relevant part in The Da Vinci Code. That very line was there in the book! What a coincidence! And we wouldn’t have noticed it if it hadn’t been for the nice man. It clicked that he was stationed there to talk the roaming hordes of DVC tourists through something more than the wretched line they’d come to see. This seems marvellously welcoming and peculiarly unParisian.

The Brown Wedge