British churches divided over allowing `Da Vinci Code' filming
Tuesday, August 16th 2005, 4:28 pm
By: News On 6
LONDON (AP) _ Westminster Abbey said no, but Lincoln Cathedral was happy to oblige as was a small Scottish chapel.
British churches are divided over whether to allow filming of ``The Da Vinci Code,'' an adaptation of Dan Brown's biblically revisionist megaseller.
The novel has drawn strong protests from the Roman Catholic Church, and the movie version has fanned whispers of discontent in Lincoln, where Tom Hanks and the crew were filming Tuesday.
But the head of Lincoln's Anglican cathedral, the Very Rev. Alec Knight, conceded that the novel was ``far-fetched and heretical'' but defended the decision to allow filming. The cathedral in central England accepted a reported $180,000 to double as Westminster Abbey in the Ron Howard-directed film.
``It has clearly touched the public imagination, and the church needs to open up a debate about it rather than throw one's hands up and walk away from it,'' Knight said.
He confirmed the cathedral had received a donation, but refused to disclose the amount. Sony Pictures, which plans to release the film next May, would not comment.
Brown's fictional thriller follows professor Robert Langdon as he investigates the murder of an elderly member of an ancient society that guards dark secrets about the quest for the Holy Grail and the story of Jesus Christ. The book's mix of code-breaking, art history, religion and mystical lore has helped it sell 25 million copies since it was published two years ago.
But many Christians have been offended by the book's central claim _ that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had descendants. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a former Vatican official, said the book espoused heresy and called on Catholics to boycott it.
Westminster Abbey, the 1,000-year-old London edifice where British monarchs are crowned and buried _ and whose Chapter House is featured in the book _ turned down an approach from producers earlier this year, saying it would be ``inappropriate'' to allow filming.
``Although it is a fine page-turner, we cannot commend or endorse the contentious and wayward religious and historic suggestions made in the book _ nor its views of Christianity and the New Testament,'' the Abbey said in a statement.
Other Anglican institutions have been more welcoming. Winchester Cathedral in Southern England has given permission for filming to take place later this year, as has Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh.
The 40-by-90 foot medieval chapel has attracted tens of thousands of tourists, many of them American, since Brown popularized its links to the once-powerful Knights Templar, a medieval military order.
Chapel director Stuart Beattie said the 15th-century chapel expected 100,000 visitors this year, almost triple the number of two years ago.