Now Scorsese joins the film world's pilgrimage to Lincoln

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The Independent Online

Actors frequently complain that they can become typecast, doomed to play the same role over and over again. Now Lincoln Cathedral looks set to be heading the same way after it was revealed that the historic building will once again act as Westminster Abbey's "double" in an upcoming film by Martin Scorsese about the turbulent early years of the Queen Victoria's reign.

The news follows a similar move two years ago when the cathedral allowed itself to be filmed as Westminster Abbey's doppelganger in the Hollywood blockbuster version of Dan Brown's book Da Vinci Code.

Jean-Marc Vallée, a French Canadian, will direct The Young Victoria from a script by the award-winning writer Julian Fellowes, the author of Gosford Park. Scorsese's soon-to-be-filmed screenplay, due for release next year, will examine the monarch's romance with and marriage to Prince Albert.

Although co-operation with the Da Vinci Code raised £100,000 for the Cathedral, not to mention the tourism boost it gave to the largely 13th century church, it simultaneously raised some eyebrows in the pews because of the nature of the story it was promoting.

Tom Hanks starred as Robert Langdon, a professor investigating the murder of a curate at the Louvre, the gallery in Paris, which leads to a coded trail through centuries of clouded intrigue involving the hard-line Catholic sect Opus Dei.

At the heart of the tale is the - for many Christian's outrageous - claim that Jesus Christ fathered a child with Mary Magdelene, starting a secret bloodline, revealed in the paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci, and covered up by the Church. The Vatican condemned Brown's story as "shameful lies" and appointed an archbishop to debunk the allegations that gripped millions.

The film features scenes filmed at Lincoln as the search draws to a close in Westminster Abbey, London. It climaxes at Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian, the last church to appear in the story and site of the ancient "holy grail" which Brown portrays not as the traditional "cup of Christ", but as his bloodline, and present-day descendants.

Westminster Abbey refused to open its doors to the film, saying its plot was "theologically unsound". But Lincoln Cathedral, while admitting that deciding to allow filming for the Da Vinci Code was a "difficult decision", justified the move by saying it did not want to encourage the detraction of the Church brought about by the book.

"Was it an activity consistent with our mission? Would the film undermine the Christian story and turn people away from the faith?" a notice on Lincoln's website asked. "Balanced against this was the need for the Church to engage with a book that millions of people, many with no connection to Christianity, were reading.

"Not to engage would be to encourage the book's own claim that the Church was prepared to suppress ideas it did not agree with. Our decision to agree to the filming was made because we wanted to talk to people about the issues raised in the book. It is an important part of our mission to get people to understand the truths of the Gospel and to share our knowledge of the person and work of Jesus Christ."

Lincoln Cathedral towers above Lincoln, its west front dating from 1072. Inspired by the leadership of St Hugh, bishop from 1186-1200, the cathedral was re-built in the new gothic style.

The director of the Da Vinci Code, Ron Howard, said filming in Lincoln was "gorgeous". "It's not all that common that movies roll into town, so it's not that unusual to generate a little attention," he added.

Celluloid churches

Rosslyn Chapel, Midlothian, became world famous after starring in The Da Vinci Code in 2005, enjoying a 72 per cent rise in visitors that year: 118,151 compared with 68,603 in 2004, and just 37,199 in the previous year.

In contrast, Guildford Cathedral saw a slump in attendance after being used for filming by the 1976 horror film The Omen.

Brompton Cemetery in London has featured in a number of films, with its chapel on the Fulham Road side of the cemetery used in the Bond movie GoldenEye, standing in for a church in St Petersburg. The scenes inside the church were filmed at St Sofia's Greek Cathedral in Bayswater.

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