Rosslyn Chapel.
Rosslyn Chapel.

Rosslyn Chapel: More than 20 years on The Da Vinci Code still has an impact for visitors

It was published more than 20 years ago, but Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is still having an impact on Rosslyn Chapel two decades later, with nearly half of visitors visiting because of the book.

The 15th-century chapel in Midlothian shot to fame after Brown based the finale of his 2003 story there, believing it was the most mysterious and magical chapel in the world.

The book uses the chapel as a feature point in the quest for the location of the Holy Grail, which was later brought to life in the film adaptation which stars Tom Hanks.

Fans of the book and movie will recognise the chapel’s intricate carvings, the ‘Apprentice Pillar’ and the atmospheric crypt, which were all featured in the film.

Now research carried out by Shanks Research Consultancy with 6,677 Chapel visitors between March 2023 and March 2024, reveals 49% of visitors said that Dan Brown’s novel, and the subsequent film, was a factor influencing their decision to visit the historic site.

Some 72% of visitors had read the book and seen the film, while 43% of them said that The Da Vinci Code was either a ‘very important or important’ influence.

‘It is remarkable that The Da Vinci Code continues to have such a strong influence on our visitors, 21 years since it first appeared,’ said Ian Gardner, director of Rosslyn Chapel Trust.

‘It has had a huge impact on the profile of Rosslyn Chapel and has significantly increased levels of visitor numbers, which rose from 38,141 to 79,916 after the book was published and to more than 176,000 when the film was released.

‘This has helped us complete a comprehensive conservation project at the Chapel and undertake a major programme of restoration and repair at Rosslyn Castle, enabling  future generations to appreciate these unique buildings.’

In 2023, the Chapel welcomed 142,211 visitors, as numbers started to increase following the pandemic.

In the story of The Da Vinci Code, the main characters, Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu, investigate a murder in the Louvre and, in doing so, follow a set of clues to unravel a mystery to find the Holy Grail, taking them to London and then to Rosslyn Chapel.

Since publication, the novel has been translated into 44 languages and has sold more than an estimated 80 million copies, making it one of the best-selling novels of all time.

‘Rosslyn Chapel is one of Scotland’s iconic attractions and a hugely important driver of tourism in Midlothian,’ said Neil Christison, VisitScotland’s regional director.

‘The Da Vinci Code was a global phenomenon and it’s wonderful that the book and film are still influencing visitors to this day. This new research chimes with our own visitor surveys which continue to show that film and television productions are still referenced by visitors, sometimes decades, after their initial release.’

‘Scotland’s historic sites have been the backdrop to many productions, and this is a great example of the positive impact of screen tourism, which can help support the conservation of our amazing built heritage.’

Rosslyn Chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir William St Clair. The beauty of its setting, in rural Midlothian, and the mysterious symbolism of its ornately carved stonework have inspired, attracted an intrigued visitors and artists ever since. The Chapel is open to visitors throughout the year.

Dan Brown has previously said: ‘When I decided to write The Da Vinci Code, I knew that its finale would have to take place at the most mysterious and magical Chapel on earth – Rosslyn.’

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