Lincoln Cathedral is silenced for its Hollywood guests

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The Independent Online

Mr Roberts landed the role of butcher to the stars as the Hollywood bandwagon rolled into Lincoln to shoot scenes for the film of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. This means he will supply 300 of his sausages to the set every day this week, along with 500 bacon rashers and 400 individually packed pork pies. Even if his sizzling products do not make it through to the Hanks caravan door, he says he will have considered the opportunity "a coup."

Staff at the three-star White Hart hotel in the medieval city's Bailgate district were equally spellbound. Not since Richard II popped in for an overnight stay in 1372 had the hotel received such well-known guests as Hanks and his fellow actors, Audrey Tatou and Sir Ian McKellen.

Hanks was spotted yesterday waving briefly to onlookers before being driven away in a black Range Rover which completed a few circuits of Lincoln Cathedral to throw off the paparazzi and deposited him at the south entrance.

Hosting one of Britain's most talked-about film shoots in years has its drawbacks for Lincoln. Great Tom, the cathedral bell which has struck every hour without fail since the Second World War, has been forcibly silenced because the 11th-century cathedral is doubling as Westminster Cathedral in the film.

Some people are also worried about becoming part of the Da Vinci Code tourism trail. Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian, Scotland, another of the film's locations where Brown's book suggests the Holy Grail could be buried, has already said it expects a huge surge in tourist numbers which could cause a rise in humidity and damage its sandstone carvings.

Cathedral managers in Lincoln are expected to earn £175,000, which will go towards building improvements, in return for the use of the nave and cloisters for five days this week.

Inviting Hanks and colleagues inside runs the risk of incurring ecclesiastical wrath. The Catholic Church's well-chronicled opposition to The Da Vinci Code - a novel which claims that Christ married Mary Magdalene and had a baby, starting a bloodline that exists today - led Westminster Cathedral to refuse filming rights.

The cathedral authorities in Lincoln admit that some will see the film shoot is "not the sort of thing a Christian church should be involved in" but insist the Bible is "much bigger" than the novel. "If we can get people talking about why The Da Vinci Code is not true, then that has to be good," said Canon Gavin Kirk, Precentor of Lincoln. "It requires far more of a suspension of disbelief to accept the line of the The Da Vinci Code than it does the Gospels."

Some say the cathedral cannot afford to flirt with maligned fiction like Brown's. It does, after all, have a chequered history: a consequence - some say - of a diminutive carving known as the Lincoln Imp which, according to legend, was a devil blown in by the wind and turned to stone by angels. The cathedral was partly destroyed by an earthquake in 1185, has had its roof damaged by three fires over the years and was engulfed by two sex scandals in the last century.

Now, as the cast and crew of 200 and 400 extras set to work, local historians are suddenly assigning Lincoln its own role in the Holy Grail mystery. The Lincoln Da Vinci Code, recently written by a local former TV researcher, claims that one of the cathedral's stained glass windows provides evidence of significant symbolism therein. The cathedral has dismissed the idea.

In the meantime, residents of Lincoln are brushing up on the novel. Sue Curtis, 52, who broke off from her job at the Colombine Ladies' Fashion store near the cathedral yesterday for some Hanks-spotting, said all her colleagues were "keeping a lookout to see if we can spot anyone famous." She said: "We went the other night to have a look at the film set. I haven't actually read the book yet but my husband read it on holiday and couldn't put it down."