Tag Archives: Washington

Photo Tour :: Apotheosis of Washington

The Apotheosis of Washington, Capitol Rotunda (© Julie O'Connor, 2009)

Welcome to Day Five of Julie O’Connor’s Magical, Mystical, Masonic Photo Tour of Washington, DC. You’re staring up at The Apotheosis of Washington, a fresco painted onto the ceiling of the Capitol Rotunda by Italian artist Constantino Brumidi in 1865.

The use of The Apotheosis of Washington in The Lost Symbol is classic Dan Brown, directing the reader’s attention to an unusual episode of American history that is hidden in plain sight:

For most people, The Apotheosis of Washington got stranger and stranger the longer they looked at it. “That’s George Washington on the central panel.” Langdon said, pointing 180 feet upward in the middle of the dome. “As you can see, he’s dressed in white robes, attended by thirteen maidens, and ascending on a cloud above mortal man. This is the moment of his apotheosis . . . his transformation into god.”

Langdon goes on to point out the major figures in the painting: the goddess Minerva giving inspiration to American inventors such as Ben Franklin and Samuel Morse; the god Vulcan helping America build the steam engine; Neptune demonstrating how to lay the transatlantic cable.

Though this scene, in Chapter 21, is memorable, The Apotheosis of Washington plays only a minor role in the novel at this early stage. It holds no secrets and offers no clues to guide Robert Langdon on his quest.

But, for the attentive reader, it does point the way to one of the overarching themes in The Lost Symbol–the power of human thought and the god that lies within every man.

So important is The Apotheosis that Dan Brown returns to it at the end of The Lost Symbol, with a memorable, some might say, cinematic scene, in Chapter 133, where Langdon and Katherine Solomon climb to a circular catwalk and marvel at the fresco while discussing the key to the Ancient Mysteries–the power of the human mind:

Langdon had to admit, not many frescoes in the world fused scientific inventions with mythical gods and human apotheosis…Today, this soaring icon–the father of our country ascending to heaven–hung silently above our lawmakers, leaders, and presidents . . . a bold reminder, a map to the future, a promise of a time when man would evolve to complete spiritual maturity.

And now Katherine:

“Robert,” Katherine whispered, her gaze still fixed on the massive figures of America’s great inventors accompanied by Minerva. “It’s prophetic, really. Today, man’s most advanced inventions are being used to study man’s most ancient ideas. The science of Noetics may be new, but it’s actually the oldest science on earth–the study of human thought.

Noetics is a topic for another post. But there is much more that can be said about The Apotheosis.

Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, adjunct professor of religious art and cultural history at Georgetown University, has written a detailed essay about the fresco for Secrets of The Lost Symbol.

Among her many fascinating insights, she points out that although the painting, mingling gods and real people, might seem confusing today, at the time The Apotheosis was commissioned the depiction of abstract ideas, like moral courage, as a recognizable person was commonplace.

She also draws attention to small details Robert Langdon doesn’t acknowledge, such as that fact that the 13 maidens attending Washington represent the 13 original colonies. And that six of them have their backs turned to represent their secession from the Union during the Civil War.

To find out more pre-order your hard copy of Secrets of The Lost Symbol today or download it now as an e-book.

Photo Tour :: Capitol Rotunda

Statue of George Washington, Capitol Rotunda. (© Julie O'Connor, 2009)

It’s Day Four of Julie O’Connor’s Magical, Mystical, Masonic Photo Tour of Washington, DC. We’ re now at page 83, standing in the Capitol Rotunda, as Robert Langdon describes to CIA security chief Inoue Sato how the founders of Washington, D.C. modeled the nation’s capital–its architecture and landmarks–on Rome:

Now, centuries later, despite America’s separation of church and state, this state-sponsored Rotunda glistened with ancient religious symbolism. There were over a dozen different gods in the Rotunda–more than the original Pantheon in Rome. Of course, the Roman Pantheon had been converted to Christianity in 609 . . . but this pantheon was never converted; vestiges of its true history still remained in plain view.

Langdon goes on to explain that the Rotunda was designed as a tribute to Rome’s Temple of Vesta. And that there was once a hole in the floor that looked down upon a “sacred fire of enlightenment” that could be tended by a “sisterhood of virgins.”

Brown is correct. There once was, indeed, a hole in the middle of the Rotunda. But during our research for Secrets of The Lost Symbol, we discovered that the hole was probably created for an altogether different purpose.

The statue you can see in the photograph above is of George Washington. But once, there was a much more controversial statue of Washington in this room. It is the statue of Washington as Zeus (mentioned on page 87 of The Lost Symbol), bare-chested, holding a sword, and pointing towards heaven.

That statue, perhaps unsurprisingly, was something of a laughing stock in its day. It was unveiled in the Rotunda in 1841. But it was so controversial that it was soon moved into the Capitol Crypt.

During our research into Secrets of The Lost Symbol, Pam Scott, an architectural historian with DC Office of Planning, told us that when the statue was moved into the crypt, in 1842, a small hole was created in the center of the Rotunda so that people could peer down on it.

Eventually, Washington as Zeus was moved to the Smithsonian Institution (you can see it today in the National Museum of American History) and the hole was covered up.

The flame theory, like many of DC’s conspiracies, springs from an overactive imagination.

But there’s even more to this room than Roman gods and vestal virgins. As Langdon explains, there are symbols of the Ancient Mysteries, too.

We’ll save that for tomorrow.

Pre-order your hard copy of Secrets of The Lost Symbol today or download it now as an e-book.

Photo Tour :: Washington Monument

The Washington Monument at sunset. (© Julie O'Connor, 2009)

Day Two of Julie O’Connor’s Magical, Mystical, Masonic Photo Tour of Washington, DC, takes us to the Washington Monument. The monument makes a number of appearances in The Lost Symbol, but we first glimpse it through Robert Langdon’s eyes from the seat of a Falcon 2000EX corporate jet, as he flies into Washington:

Outside the window, the sun had set, but Langdon could still make out the slender silhouette of the world’s largest obelisk, rising on the horizon like the spire of an ancient gnomon. The 555-foot marble-faced obelisk marked this nation’s heart. All around the spire, the meticulous geometry of streets and monuments radiated outwards.

Chapter 1, The Lost Symbol.

Some Lost Symbol/Washington Monument trivia (spoiler alert! Read on only if you have finished The Lost Symbol):

  • Intriguingly, the Washington Monument’s height—555 feet—is mentioned specifically four different times in The Lost Symbol, including the first reference.
  • The “lost” cornerstone of the Washington Monument referred to so often in The Lost Symbol is actually huge and, appropriately, used underground in the construction of the monument. It is true that its exact location is no longer known, but it is undoubtedly underground at the base of the Monument. Sealed in its time capsule is not just the Bible that is the centerpiece of The Lost Symbol, but numerous other documents and artifacts collected in 1848 (when the cornerstone was laid) to reflect American life and society at the time. A small sampling of what’s in there (via Snopes) besides the Holy Word of the Bible includes: Constitution of the United States and Declaration of Independence; a portrait of Washington; a map of the city of Washington; all the coins of the United States, from the eagle to the half-dime inclusive; the Constitution and General Laws of the Great Council of the Improved Order of Red Men of the District of Columbia; Appleton’s Railroad and Steamboat Companion; Copies of the Union Magazine, National Magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book, Graham’s Magazine, and Columbian Magazine, for July, 1848; Harper’s Illustrated Catalogue; and the Annual Report of the Comptroller of the State of New York, January 5, 1848.

Photo Tour :: The Sphinx

A Sphinx stands guard outside the House of the Temple. (© Julie O'Connor, 2009)

Many Dan Brown fans have already made the Lost Symbol pilgrimage to Washington. For all those for whom Washington is too far, we aim to bring the city to you. Over the coming weeks, we will post photographs from the main Lost Symbol locations by Julie O’Connor.

Julie O’Connor’s Magical, Mystical, Masonic Photo Tour of Washington, DC will feature Washington sights in the order they appear in the novel. Today, it’s the sphinx outside the House of the Temple, the headquarters of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in the Southern Jurisdiction.

This colossal edifice, located at 1733 Sixteenth Street NW in Washington, D.C. was a replica of a pre-Christian temple–the temple of King Mausolus, the original mausoleum . . . a place to be taken after death. Outside the main entrance, two seventeen-ton sphinxes guarded the bronze doors.

Prologue, The Lost Symbol.

Do you have any photographs of Lost Symbol locations you would like to share with out readers? Email us at symbolsecrets@gmail.com.

Where We Expect to See Matt Lauer on Monday

Continuing our series of posts second-guessing the Today Show, we believe Matt Lauer will be at Union Station in Washington tomorrow morning.

As we revealed last week, someone has been posting the clues to the Today show’s Search for the Lost Symbol” competition, one day early, on Amazon.com.

Therefore, we can fairly confidently say that tomorrow’s clue will be:

Location 4:
40.750305, -73.993156
89 Palmetto
Count the Hills of Rome

Secrets of The Lost Symbol editor Arne de Keijzer instantly worked out that “40.750305, -73.993156″ is the latitude/longitude of New York’s Penn Station, “Palmetto” is an Amtrack train, and “#89″ goes south.

Meanwhile, members of our Secrets team and the band of Twitterers we have been following, reasoned that the seven hills of Rome probably had a correlation to the seven Amtrak stops between Penn Station and Union Station in Washington.

Secrets’ investigative reporter Dave Shugarts is particularly convinced because many of the landmarks revealed so far have been within jogging distance of each other and because there are many elements of Union Station, such as its statuary, that could be of interest to Dan Brown. We’ll find out in the morning.

Paul Berger, Contributing Editor, Secrets of the Lost Symbol.