Today, the Louvre is one...
Today, the Louvre is one of the world's greatest art museums. Its history as a building makes it the perfect place for the intrigue of The Da Vinci Code, which begins with a murdered body in la Grande Gallerie of the Denon Wing, the best-known of the Louvre's three main sections. Dan Brown gives a fine description of the museum at night, including details such as the parquet floor, which "produced an ephemeral optical illusion - a multi-dimensional network that gave visitors the sense they were floating through the gallery on a surface that changed with every step." (p. 32)
The Louvre has a rich and meandering history. At first it was a fortress conceived by Philippe auguste (1180-1223). Charles V (1364-80) transformed the place into a residence, including a large library. Then kings from Francois 1er to Louis XIV added wings and galleries to the residency. Napoleon, though, expelled the lodgers, and built the Arc du Carousel in the courtyard, a place to review his troops. The Louvre purely as a museum began in 1793, with the ideal of bringing great art to every citizen.
The Louvre represents, for Dan Brown, the tension between the surface and the hidden symbols beneath the surface. Perhaps the most controversial symbol-laden object in the Louvre is the Pyramid, designed by I. M. Pei, and commissioned by Francois Mitterand. French people were divided about the pyramid from its inception. Bezu Fache, the policeman who pursues the heroes throughout the novel, represents one popular sentiment: "A scar on the face of But others believe it is the perfect way to blend a modern, geometric form, with the ancient backdrop of the Cour Napoleon. At any rate, the ." panes of glass specifically requested by Mitterand, himself known as 'The Sphinx,' makes it an ideal symbol for the book's main thesis: Christianity overcame by changing the meanings of pagan symbols into the powerful doctrines of Christendom. And finding 's tomb underneath the inverted pyramid, at the end of the book, is the ideal way to suggest that, for those who know where to look, paganism, natural religion, and the true Jesus, married and with a family, could not be completely suppressed.
The French reaction to the Da Vinci Code parallels the American reaction. In the bookshop of the Louvre scores of pamphlets and DVDs devoted to scrutinizing the premise of the book resemble the cottage industry of materials in the United States. Most are critical. Some of them explain what really happened at Niceia, and why alternative gospels never made it into the . But the setting of the Louvre makes the issues all the more poignant. There is even a guided tour (using head-sets) through the museum's Da Vinci related artwork. Being in such a large museum does give one the feeling that history is right beneath the surface. It makes the story line somewhat more plausible than just reading about it in a novel. Perhaps this is why we love artwork. The good artist can make visible the invisible world. Too bad the story was not about the "mystery once hidden, now revealed" in the gospel! (Ephesians 3:9-10).