Vatican bans Dan Brown film Angels & Demons from Rome churches

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The Vatican has banned the makers of a prequel to The Da Vinci Code from filming in its grounds or any church in Rome, describing the work as “an offence against God”.

Angels and Demons, the latest Dan Brown thriller to be turned into a film, includes key episodes that take place in the Vatican and Rome’s churches. Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, the head of the Vatican’s Prefecture for Economic Affairs, said that Brown had “turned the gospels upside down to poison the faith”.

“It would be unacceptable to transform churches into film sets so that his blasphemous novels can be made into films in the name of business,” he said, adding that Brown’s work “wounds common religious feelings”.

Father Marco Fibbi, a spokesman for the Diocese of Rome, said: “Normally we read the script but this time it was not necessary. The name Dan Brown was enough.”

The Vatican fiercely condemned The Da Vinci Code novel and its film version, which starred Tom Hanks as the Harvard professor Robert Langdon. Hanks is also starring in Angels and Demons, which like The Da Vinci Code, is directed by Ron Howard.

Published before The Da Vinci Code, which suggested that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and had children, Angels and Demons revolves around a plot by a sinister elite known as the Illuminati to install their candidate as Pope and blow up the Vatican. Crucial scenes are set in the Vatican and two Rome churches — Santa Maria del Popolo and Santa Maria della Vittoria. In both churches, cardinals are murdered and mutilated with mysterious marks and symbols. Father Antonio Truda, parish priest at Santa Maria del Popolo, said that there was no question of allowing scenes to be shot there. “It’s bad enough having to put up with tour guides explaining the scene to tourists,” he said.

The production team is set to recreate on a set in Hollywood the interiors of the Rome churches from which they are banned.

Vatican officials said they had been unable to prevent the film-makers from shooting exterior shots of St Peter’s and the surrounding medieval streets of the Borgo, with the permission of the borough council.

However, the film-makers are having to use the marble halls and staircases of the former royal palace at Caserta, near Naples, to double for Vatican interiors.

“When a film is about the saints or about stories regarding the Church’s artistic values, then we give permission without any doubts,” Father Fibbi told the TV listings magazine Sorrisi e Canzoni (Smiles and Songs). “But when it is a question of content which does not relate to traditional religious criteria, then our doors are closed.”

The Vatican asked the faithful to boycott the film of The Da Vinci Code.