Knowing that Melek and I would be visiting Rome, I brought a copy of the movie Angels & Demons, starring Tom Hanks, with me. This is a sequel to the Da Vinci Code movie and both are adaptations of the fiction books by Dan Brown with the same titles (although in the books the order is reversed).
The basic plot of Angels & Demons is the Pope just died and the cardinals are trying to elect a new Pope, but the four most likely candidates are kidnapped and threatened to be killed once an hour at four different churches in Rome before Vatican City is to be blown up. Tom Hank’s character is trying to follow the “Path of Illumination” laid out by a banned book of Galileo in order to stop this from happening.
Since Angels & Demons is set in Rome and Vatican City, I figured we could watch it right before we visited to have another perspective of the cities. Turns out we had so much fun, we ended up visiting all the locations in the movie and noticed several errors the producers made with each location.
Pantheon – I have to admit they did a nice job representing this huge Roman temple dedicated to the many gods Romans worshipped before Christianity was sanctioned in the 4th century. The only errors we found in Angels & Demons were at Raphael’s tomb. The first error was the outer facade columns are each missing one piece of decoration. The second error is much bigger. In the movie, it was stated on a metal plaque that he was moved here 200 years after his death. In real life, there is a paper sign saying he was buried here upon his death.
Santa Maria del Popolo – This is where the first cardinal is killed. The most obvious mistake is the church is on the wrong side of the road. When they enter a big knocker has to be turned, which is not there in real life. The interior of the church is completely wrong (they used the same set as the last church in the movie and hid the fact by having scaffolding everywhere). While the center of the floor of the Chigi Chapel, within the church, IS movable like in Angels & Demons; the four symbols on the skeleton’s shield are different.
Also, the finger of the statue is perfect in the movie, but we found it to be damaged. Finally, the creepy crypt the cardinal’s dead body is found in is actually the Da Vinci Museum (ironic given the name of the first movie, haha).
St Peter’s Square – The most glaring error in this scene of Angels & Demons is that Tom Hank notices the carved plaques in the ground around the fountain representing the 16 points on a compass. The problem is that when he gets to the west one there are five lines coming from the mouth of the face on the plaque and he determines this the direction to go since it says, “west wind”. The problem is that each of the plaques has the five lines and are all the same except for saying the direction. Plus, the west one simply says west.
Santa Maria della Vittoria – First off while the façade of this church is close it is still not correct and inside it is represented as having side isles separated from the main nave by round columns. This makes the church much bigger than real life, since there is only one isle and the sides are small chapels with arched ceilings. Also, there is no skeleton covered with wax at the altar, hanging lights in the main nave, and the crypt is not lined with skulls. The biggest problem is a plot point. The Ecstasy of St. Teresa statue’s arrow point towards her victim’s heart in real life, but in Angels & Demons, it is pointing out towards the west or next destination.
Piazza Navona – The final cardinal is to be drowned in the Fountain of Four Rivers in the middle of the plaza. Interestingly the wide angle shots were filmed on location, but they still got a few things wrong (not including the lack of large crowds ???? ). First the church across from the fountain is on the wrong side of the square. The fountain itself is shown with no railing around it, straight sides for the inside of the bowl, five feet deep, and having air hoses in the water. None of this is true. The railing is a foot to two feet high, the sides slope into the water, the fountain is only a foot or so deep, and there is no reason to have air hoses as the fountain is flowing and keeps the water from getting stale.
Castel Sant’Angelo – This mausoleum turned fortress has two big errors that I found. The first is with another statue pointing with a spear this time. The problem is that in real life there is no spear. Second, the large spiral ramp they run down goes to a square room that use to be part of the mausoleum. In the movie, it is a round room that has a secret passage to the Vatican. While there is a passage on top of a wall, it is not a secret and does not originate from the very center of the building, but from the side since it was added almost 900 years after the mausoleum was converted into a fortress.
St Peter’s Necropolis – I must admit this is the one place I was not able to go, but they do have tours (250 people a day max) that I want to do on my next visit. What I did instead was a different necropolis at the Vatican and I can tell you it is not cold down there. With that said, in the movie you can see their breath it is so cold.
Writing this blog took a lot longer than most of my blogs, but I had so much fun watching the movie and then comparing my real-life experience at the different locations. I want to thank Melek for getting into it and having as much fun as I did and you for indulging my writing about this endeavor. Did you enjoy yourself?