Evil afoot as life meets art
Stuart Wavell, London
August 22, 2005
SOMETHING unholy pulses under the row between a Catholic nun and the Anglican dean at Lincoln Cathedral, in eastern England, about leasing the cathedral for filming Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code.
The word cropping up is "evil", although the only visible sign of dark forces are black-clothed, bewigged extras. Set around attempts to solve a murder with cryptic clues in Leonardo da Vinci's work, the tale claims Jesus married Mary Magdalene and fathered a child. Westminster Abbey refused access and the Vatican denounced the book.
Hence the protest by Sister Mary Michael, who accuses Lincoln of simony -- financial transactions involving spiritual goods.
The cathedral's decision was justified by the dean, the Reverend Alec Knight, as a chance to open up religious debate, even if the tale was "a load of old tosh".
Curiously, "tosh" was a favourite word of his predecessor, the Reverend Brandon Jackson, sent by Margaret Thatcher to sort out a financial scandal. He became embroiled in a feud with the cathedral authorities and was accused, then cleared, of a "sordid" liaison with a female verger.
In 1995, Mr Jackson granted me a strange interview. Declaring that he was in "a battle between good and evil", he said a monk whom he greatly respected had said the cathedral was "one of the most evil places he had ever been in"; clerics had begged him to close it for an exorcism.
Mr Knight acknowledges the phenomenon: "Cathedrals are rather like lightning conductors ... they attract all sorts of spiritual forces. They can earth that evil. That has happened throughout the history of this place. But now we're on a roll."
A roll of money, some say. The film company's donation to the restoration fund is reportedly pound stg. 100,000 ($239,000).
Why is Sister Mary intervening? Earlier this year an interdenominational group prayed there for 10 weeks. "I felt something very bad, even preternatural," she said. "Many of us felt nauseous and sick. I think our praying cleansed the cathedral, then this came back."
What exactly does she think is afoot? "Can I be bold? I think it's freemasonry. There are aspects of freemasonry connected with the mystery faiths that The Da Vinci Code is delving into."
Down Steep Hill, Ottakar's bookstore reports that sales of The Da Vinci Code have almost doubled. The other shops are closing. It is too late to buy a cross and garlic.
The Sunday Times