The Ersatz Edifice

Christelle Aleeza Yao, 2011-13746

10:55am – March 12, 2012


I would definitely consider Leonardo da Vinci as an icon whom I will always look up to as both a role model and an inspiration. He was a painter, a sculptor, an architect, a musician, a scientist, a mathematician, an engineer, an inventor, an anatomist, a geologist, a cartographer, a botanist, and a writer, whose intelligence exceeded perhaps that of any other figure. Leonardo has often been described as a man of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination”. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.

It must have been due to his numerous accomplishments that Dan Brown decided to write a fiction book that involved his numerous works. His novel tells of a murder inside the Louvre and clues in da Vinci paintings that lead to the discovery of a religious mystery protected by a secret society for two thousand years–a mystery which could shake the very foundations of Christianity. This novel has evolved into a movie that has been released and watched all over the world.


The Westminster Abbey                                      The Lincoln Cathedral

Interestingly, one of the settings in this blockbuster movie is not actually what it portrays it to be. I am referring to the Lincoln Cathedral, which was used as an ersatz, or a substitute, for the Westminster Abbey, where Leigh Teabing lured Sophie and Langdon into. It was in this scene that Teabing threatened both their lives and made them decode the cryptex t

hat held a map leading to the Holy Grail. The Lincoln Cathedral, built in 1280, is gothic in appearance, complete with several gargoyles that can be seen both from the exterior and the interior. Legend has it that two gargoyles, one of whom is now known as the Lincoln Imp, once smashed tables and chairs and tripped up the Bishop of the cathedral. An angel then appeared and ordered them to stop. One of the imps sat atop a stone pillar started throwing rocks at the angel whilst the other imp cowered under the broken tables and chairs. The angel turned the first imp to stone allowing the second imp escape. The first imp, the Lincoln Imp, can still be found frozen in stone, sitting atop his stone column in the Angel Choir.


Today, the Lincoln City Football Club are referred to as ‘The Imps’. The Lincoln Imp is also the symbol of the city of Lincoln itself. Over £1 million a year is spent on keeping the Lincoln Cathedral in shape. The most recent project completed has been the restoration of the West Front in 2000. Several years ago, it was discovered that the Flying Buttresses on the east end were no longer connected to the adjoining stonework, and hasty repairs had to be made.

The reason behind the change of the setting from the book to the movie is the refusal of the Abbey to permit the filming of a heretic movie within their church. How sad! It would have been nice to see the actual interiors of the Westminster Abbey shown in the movie. However, despite this obstacle, I must admit that the production crew chose their substitute Westminster Abbey well. In fact, I doubt anyone would have noticed that the movie was being shot from a different interior than that of Westminster Abbey’s – at least, not anyone who hadn’t done their research or heard about this before. This is because of their very similar styles of architecture, which stemmed from the fact that they came the same period – the Gothic period. Both the abbey and the cathedral have the many motifs and architectural features that make them distinctly Gothic. These include the pointed arches, the stained glass, the rose windows, the spires, and the ribbed vaults. The vertical emphasis and majesty present in both the exterior of the abbey and the interior of the cathedral also make them seem like one edifice alone. The use of stone for the construction of both these architectural structures also contributes to the link between them.Th


                     Westminster Abbey Interior                                 Lincoln Cathedral Interior

Ever since its release on August 2006, The Da Vinci Code has always been one of my all-time favorite movies because of its intriguing synopsis. Seeing it again now, makes me appreciate so much more than just its twisting plot. I now begin to appreciate the significance of architecture and design, not only for its aesthetic purposes, but especially for its importance in communicating ideas and scenes as well. I now see how the Lincoln Cathedral can be such an effective ersatz edifice for the Westminster Abbey, simply because of their similar period style. One thing’s for certain: never again will I underestimate the value and importance of having good architecture. Or a good ersatz edifice.


Directed by: Ron Howard

Based on The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown



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