From Secrets of the Code

Two Cities, 24 Hrs: The Da Vinci Code Timeline

The Da Vinci Code seems to take place at nearly the speed of light. Part of the fun in thinking about the book is to try and figure out whether or not the action really could take place in the 24 hours allotted.

To find out for ourselves, we constructed a timeline of the book in order to keep track of the movements of the various characters as they raced around Paris, London, and other locales.  For most editions of The Da Vinci Code, the events take place on a Friday and Saturday in April. As the first step in solving the time puzzles, it’s intriguing to try to decide what week, and what year, to pose as the “point of origin.”

Part of our hunt for the answer actually starts in Dan Brown’s previous book, Angels & Demons. That book takes place in April, in Rome.  Robert Langdon, whose life as a Dan Brown character began with Angels & Demons, recalls  in The Da Vinci Code  that the prior experience was “a little over a year ago” (DVC first U.S. hardcover edition page 11). That would place the action in DVC even later in the month of April than A&D. We also assumed that the action of DVC is in the later part of April because Easter arrived in early April of 2001 and would have affected any mentions of crowds, traffic, and the like.

The year 2001 looks good for a number of reasons. We knew it had to be substantially past the turn of the millennium--probably by a year. This is because the plot instigated by Teabing and carried out through manipulation of Opus Dei and the Vatican, arose in a meeting of Aringarosa and churchmen at Castel Gandolfo during the previous November (page 149). The motivating reason for Teabing’s actions was that the Priory of Sion, expected to reveal the Grail secret around the turn of the millennium, had failed to do so.

Although some clues might point to 2002 (2003 is pretty much ruled out by the fact that the book was published in March 2003), we picked 2001 because September 11, 2001 was a worldwide shock, and it had a profound effect on security arrangements throughout Europe. We feel Dan Brown would have had to treat the subjects of terrorism, religious fundamentalism, religious tensions in the Mideast, and all the many complexities of September 11 had he consciously been trying to set the action of the book after that date.  Certainly, we would not have seen the same permissive attitude by Customs officials allowing Teabing into England, for instance. Many other aspects of the plot, from how Swiss bank vaults are treated to security precautions in public buildings, would undoubtedly have been affected.

Thus, when forced to pick a date to begin our timeline, we selected April 20, 2001 as our proposed Friday evening when the action began at 10:46 p.m.

But the fun of discovery continues when we find the book has some contradictory evidence as well. A big “oops” is that Langdon has Euros in his pocket. This monetary unit was not released as currency and coin until January 1, 2002. Another item: the article in the New York Times Magazine about the art diagnostician Maurizio Seracini (mentioned in DVC on page 169) was a real life article about the secret meanings of some of Leonardo da Vinci’s works—and it was published on April 21, 2002.  So Langdon could not have known about it the year before. We note these interesting details only to join in the fun of The Da Vinci Code: Dan Brown has done fascinating research to bring complex historic mysteries to life in a compelling novel.  He has been extremely accurate in many facts and details, but he’s in error on quite a few as well. 

The very time line of the book emphasizes this contradiction. On the one hand, the reader feels like he or she has to suspend a lot of disbelief to accept the premise that the vast majority of the book’s action takes place in one 24-hour period (incidentally, the same was true for Angels & Demons).  On the other hand, disregarding a few mistakes here and there, it is actually possible that this story could have unfolded in this highly compact space of time.

A word about the mistakes: The travels of Bishop Aringarosa are inconsistent with the rest of the timeline, in our opinion. In the extreme possibility, it seems he could be airborne about six hours from Rome to Biggin Hill, with intermediate points that do not fit the trip. But further, if events were taken in sequential order in the book, he would instantly arrive at 5 Orme Court to be shot by Silas, when it should require about 50 minutes to get from Biggin Hill to London center. Therefore, we pose the time of Silas’s shootout with police at 9:15 a.m.

Sophie and Langdon arrive at the King’s College institute library around 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning to find it open and staffed by Pamela Gettum. This is improbable enough, but then they go to Westminster Abbey at about 8:35 or 8:45 a.m., when the Abbey doesn’t open until 9:30 a.m. (and remember, Teabing arrives at least 10 minutes ahead of them).
Some further notes:  In late April, the United Kingdom, France and Italy are all on Daylight Savings Time. The time in Rome is one hour later than in Paris and London, but we have adhered to London/Paris time in all timeline references.

In our timeline, some entries are explicitly specified by the book itself, while many others must be estimated, based on context.


Time: 10:46 p.m. (Explicit)
Action: Saunière triggers alarm.
Comment: Saunière staggers into Grand Gallery, grabs a Caravaggio and triggers the alarm.

Time: 10:49 p.m. (Estimated)        
Action: Silas shoots Saunière.

Time: 11:06 p.m. (Estimated)
Action: Police open gate.
Comment: (Assumed from statement that the gate could not be opened for 20 minutes.)


Time: 12:32 a.m. (Explicit)
Action: Ritz concierge calls Langdon’s room.
Comment: Langdon reads watch.

Time: 12:35 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Collet meets with Langdon.
Comment: After short talk, Langdon takes quick shower.

Time: 12:45 a.m. (Estimated)         
Action: Silas arrives at Rue La Bruyère.
Comment: Silas enters brownstone, phones Teabing (The Teacher), self-flagellates.

Time: 12:52 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Langdon arrives at Louvre.

Time: 12:55 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Langdon and Fache go to barricade at Grand Gallery.

Time: 12:55 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Teabing calls Aringarosa.
Comment: Teabing phones Aringarosa as the Bishop’s airliner passes over the coast of Portugal bound for Rome, saying he has spoken with Silas.

Time: 12:55 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Silas gets dressed.
Comment: Silas is “five hundred miles away” from Aringarosa.

Time: 1:00 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Langdon and Fache reach Saunière’s corpse.

Time: 12:40 a.m. (Explicit)
Action: Sister Sandrine gets phone call.
Comment: Her abbé calls to tell her to admit Silas. The abbé says Silas “can be there at . . . say one o’clock? That’s in twenty minutes.”

Time: 1:00 a.m. (Explicit)
Action: Silas arrives at Saint-Sulpice.
Comment: Silas arrives in a black Audi at Place Saint-Sulpice; time assumed to be 1 a.m.

Time: 1:10 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie arrives at Louvre.

Time: 1:20 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Langdon calls Sophie’s answering machine.

Time: 1:20 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie and Fache discuss Fibonacci Sequence.

Time: 1:00 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Aringarosa is over the Mediterranean bound for Rome.
Comment: Alitalia Flight 1618 at 20,000 feet.

Time: 1:25 a.m. (Estimated)           
Action: Langdon goes to men’s room, Sophie meets him.

Time: 1:35 a.m. (Estimated)           
Action: Fache gets call from director of Cryptology Department.
Comment: Langdon (and Sophie) have been in the men’s room for about 10 minutes.

Time: 1:40 a.m. (Estimated)           
Action: Window is broken in men’s room and Langdon apparently escapes.
Comment: GPS signal appears to show Langdon stationary on Place du Carrousel.

Time: 1:41 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Fache sprints to men’s room while Langdon and Sophie hide among dividers.

Time: 1:05 a.m. (Estimated)           
Action: Silas enters Saint-Sulpice and speaks with Sister Sandrine.

Time: 1:42 a.m. (Estimated)           
Action: Langdon and Sophie head for emergency stairwell.
Comment: They discuss Fibonacci, Tarot, and Phi as they sneak around the Louvre.

Time: 1:44 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie and Langdon part company in the stairwell.
Comment: Sophie heads back toward the Salle des Etats.

Time: 1:45 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Langdon heads back into the Louvre.

Time: 1:10 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Silas ends his prayers and goes toward the obelisk in Saint-Sulpice.

Time: 1:10 a.m. (Explicit)
Action: Aringarosa’s flight touches down in Rome.
Comment: Aringarosa’s aircraft touches down at Leonardo da Vinci Airport at the same moment that Silas heads for the obelisk.

Time: 1:46 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie arrives at Salle des Etats.
Comment: She goes down the hall and picks up an ultraviolet penlight from the materials near Saunière’s body.

Time: 1:47 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Langdon arrives at Salle des Etats.

Time: 1:49 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Police stop truck at Les Invalides.

Time: 1:50 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Fache calls U.S. Embassy, then Sophie’s answering machine.
Comment: Fache finds out that Sophie has lied.

Time: 1:51 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Fache calls Collet at Louvre.

Time: 1:52 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Fache releases truck at Les Invalides.
Comment: Fache divides his men into two groups, one heading back to the Louvre and the other heading for the U.S. Embassy.

Time: 1:52 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Collet dispatches Louvre guard from gate at east end of Grand Gallery.

Time: 1:53 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Security guard stops Langdon.
Comment: Sophie sneaks away.

Time: 1:13 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Silas cracks the tile in Saint-Sulpice.
Comment: He gets stone tablet, interprets it at the Bible at the altar.

Time: 1:55 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie and Langdon leave the Louvre.
Comment: Langdon carries the security warden’s pistol. They leave via an emergency exit stairwell.

Time: 1:15 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sister Sandrine makes four phone calls.
Comment: She calls the houses of the three sénéchaux and then the house of Saunière.

Time: 1:20 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Silas kills Sister Sandrine.
Comment: She speaks with people at three of the houses and leaves a message on the answering machine at Saunière’s.

Time: 1:56 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie and Langdon drive away from the Louvre.
Comment: They get into the SmartCar and head north, then west on Rue de Rivoli. The trip to within sight of the American Embassy should take about three minutes, but due to some wandering around, probably occupies five or six.

Time: 2:51 a.m. (Explicit)
Action: Sophie and Langdon reach the Arc de Triomphe.
Comment: Langdon checks his watch at the rotary around the Arch.

Time: 2:55 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie and Langdon reach the Gare Saint-Lazare.

Time: 1:20 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Driver collects Bishop Aringarosa at airport.
Comment: Leaving Leonardo da Vinci Airport headed for Castel Gandolfo. The Bishop worries because Silas should have called to say he has the keystone by now.

Time: 2:59 a.m. (Explicit)
Action: Langdon buys train tickets.
Comment: Tickets for the Lille Express, leaving 3:06 a.m., $70 total. (Note: In the first editions of the book, Sophie and Langdon buy tickets not for Lille but for Lyon).

Time: 3:00 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie and Langdon head north out of Paris.

Time: 3:05 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie and Langdon turn and head for Rue Haxo.

Time: 3:10 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Fache puts out bulletins on Sophie and Langdon.
Comment: Fache tells Collet to contact the taxi dispatcher and says he is calling Interpol. He sends Collet out to the “next train station.”

Time: 3:15 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie and Langdon ditch the taxi driver.
Comment: Sophie sees the driver using the radio. She pulls Langdon’s pistol from his jacket and commandeers the taxi.

Time: 1:40 a.m. (Estimated)           
Action: Silas returns to his room at Rue la Bruyère.

Time: 3:20 a.m. (Estimated)           
Action: Sophie and Langdon arrive at Zurich Bank.

Time: 1:40 a.m. (Estimated)           
Action: Aringarosa reaches the observatory and goes to the library.
Comment: Meets with Secretariat Vaticana.

Time: 1:50 a.m. (Estimated)           
Action: Aringarosa leaves the observatory.

Time: 3:23 a.m. (Estimated)           
Action: Sophie and Langdon enter Zurich Bank.
Comment: Bank guard calls for Vernet and then calls Interpol.

Time: 3:24 a.m. (Estimated)           
Action: Fache calls Collet.
Comment: Collet is at Gare du Nord.

Time: 3:25 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Vernet meets with Sophie and Langdon.
Comment: Within a few minutes, he tells them that the police are arriving.

Time: 3:30 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie and Langdon open the vault box.
Comment: They find the rosewood box and the cryptex.

Time: 3:35 a.m. (Estimated)           
Action: Vernet, Sophie and Langdon leave the bank.
Comment: Vernet is stopped by Collet. He tells him he is headed to St. Thurial.

Time: 1:50 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Silas lashes himself and rests.

Time: 1:51 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Silas gets a call from Aringarosa.
Comment: Aringarosa says Saunière “transferred information before he died.”

Time: 3:45 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Vernet pulls off the road.
Comment: Sophie and Langdon don’t think they have gone very far out of the city.

Time: 3:47 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Vernet gets left behind.
Comment: Langdon is driving the armored truck. They find themselves on a “country highway.”

Time: 1:55 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Aringarosa leaves Gandolfo.
Comment: They speed out of the Alban Hills toward Rome. The driver says they will be out of the mountains in about five minutes, and cell reception will be restored.

Time: 3:50 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Armored truck pauses.
Comment: They have gone a few kilometers at 60 kmph. Langdon stops to tear off the dangling bumper.

Time: 3:55 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie and Langdon contiinue.
Comment: They decide on the plan of going to see Teabing at Villette, which Sophie says is only 20 minutes away.

Time: 4:15 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie and Langdon arrive at Villette.
Comment: They spend several minutes getting admitted and then must drive a mile-long driveway.

Time: 4:16 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Teabing phones Silas?
Comment: By inference, Teabing is the only one who can call Silas.

Time: 4:00 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Vernet calls the bank night manager, says to activate LoJack.
Comment: LoJack triggers from bank 30 seconds later, “forty kilometers away.”

Time: 4:17 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie and Langdon reach the main house.

Time: 4:30 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Teabing adjourns to the study.
Comment: They have been in the drawing room about 13 minutes and have had tea and discussed Leonardo, the history of Christ and the early church, Constantine and the Council of Nicea, the Dead Sea scrolls and Nag Hammadi finds, the Last Supper, and the blade/chalice symbology.

Time: 4:40 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Legaludec learns Sophie and Langdon are fugitives.

Time: 4:20 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Command post phones Collet with address at Villette.

Time: 4:20 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Silas arrives at Villette.

Time: 2:00 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Aringarosa checks messages at Opus Dei headquarters.

Time: 2:01 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Aringarosa calls Fache.
Comment: Aringarosa is near the Ciampino Charter Airport exit. Assume that he takes off at about 2:20 a.m.

Time: 4:50 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Legaludec calls Teabing to the kitchen.
Comment: In the past 20  minutes, they have discussed the Holy Grail , Mary Magdalene, the bloodline of Christ,  the “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” conspiracy, the Rose symbol, the Sangreal, the Merovingian kings.

Time: 4:53 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Teabing returns from kitchen aware that Langdon is wanted by police.
Comment: He opens the side doors and asks them to leave.

Time: 4:50 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Collet has arrived at Villette, gets phone call from Fache.
Comment: Fache is said to be 20 minutes away.

Time: 4:51 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Police find Silas’s Audi.

Time: 4:51 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Aringarosa is over Tyrrhenian Sea.
Comment: Aringarosa is “racing northward” over the Tyrrhenian Sea. The news he has heard makes him sick because “everything in Paris has gone terribly wrong.”

Time: 4:57 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Silas knocks down Langdon and confronts them at gunpoint.

Time: 5:00 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Teabing fells Silas.
Comment: The gunshot spurs Collet to storm the estate.

Time: 5:02 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Teabing and the rest escape the house.
Comment: They get the police to follow the intercom sound while they load up the car.

Time: 5:03 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Teabing’s Range Rover leaves.

Time: 5:13 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: They drive three kilometers to the road, then head to Le Bourget.

Time: 5:13 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Langdon calls Faukman.

Time: 5:33 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Teabing and the others arrive at Le Bourget.

Time: 5:43 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: The Hawker leaves Paris.

Time: 5:15 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Fache has arrived at Villette.
Comment: Word comes that Vernet is changing his story.

Time: 5:16 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Fache gets word of Teabing’s takeoff.
Comment: Supposedly, the takeoff was 30 minutes earlier.

Time: 5:36 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Fache arrives at Le Bourget and gets the controller to say where the Hawker has gone.

Time: 6:15 a.m. (Explicit)
Action: Controller estimates jet’s landing at Biggin.
Comment: The controller says 6:30 a.m., or “fifteen minutes from now.”

Time: 5:40 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Aringarosa talks to Fache and changes destination to London.
Comment: (Prior to now, Fache was not aware where Langdon and Sophie were headed.) Aringarosa is over Monaco.

Time: 6:00 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Teabing’s jet crosses Channel.
Comment: [Sunrise in London came at 5:52 a.m. DST on April 21, 2001.]

Time: 6:15 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Teabing’s jet is 15 miles from Biggin Hill.

Time: 6:15 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Collet gets call from Vernet at Villette.

Time: 6:20 a.m. (Estimated)           
Action: Police confront Teabing at hangar.

Time: 6:40 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Teabing’s limo leaves Biggin Hill.

Time: 7:30 a.m. (Estimated)
 Action: Teabing’s limo arrives at Temple Church.

Time: 7:35 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Legaludec frees Silas.
Comment: Legaludec gives Silas his HK pistol and gets a palm-sized Medusa revolver from the glove box.

Time: 7:30 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Fache arrives at Biggin Hill.
Comment: This assumes he took off from Paris around 6:40 a.m.

Time: 7:35 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Aringarosa calls Fache.
Comment: Aringarosa has already changed destinations for London (Heathrow). Fache tells him to come to Biggin Hill--he will arrange a clearance. Aringarosa says he will be arriving in an hour.

Time: 7:40 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Legaludec and Silas confront Langdon and Sophie in Temple Church.

Time: 7:45 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Legaludec, Silas and Teabing leave Temple Church.

Time: 7:46 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Collet, at Villette, learns of electronic equipment in the barn.

Time: 7:47 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Langdon and Sophie go to the Tube station.

Time: 7:48 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie talks to Fache by cell phone.
Comment: In the background of Fache’s phone, she overhears the mechanic working on opening the Hawker’s safe.

Time: 7:49 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Fache gets the rosewood box and looks at it.
Comment: (They were still working on the safe when Sophie called.)

Time: 7:51 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Fache gets phone call from Vernet.

Time: 7:47 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Collet learns of surveillance targets.

Time: 7:47 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Legaludec, Silas and Teabing leave in limo.

Time: 7:49 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Teabing calls Silas (from back of limo).
Comment: He speaks to Silas, then Legaludec.

Time: 7:57 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Sophie and Langdon arrive, presumably by Tube, at Kings College.

Time: 7:55 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Silas is dropped off at Opus Dei Center.

Time: 8:05 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Police call Opus Dei to confirm tip that Silas is there.
Comment: Teabing is probably the one who tiips off police.

Time: 8:10 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Langeludec and Teabing stop in St. James Park.

Time: 8:25 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Teabing walks across St. James Park to Westminster.

Time: 8:25 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Aringarosa steps out of his plane at Biggin Hill.
Comment: Same instant as Teabing reaches Abbey. Aringarosa learns Silas is at Opus Dei and demands to be taken there.

Time: 9:15 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Silas has shootout with police and also shoots Aringarosa.
Comment: This time is assumed to be 9:25 a.m. because otherwise Aringarosa cannot have reached 5 Orme Court from Biggin Hill.

Time: 8:35 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Langdon and Sophie arrive at Westminster.
Comment: Teabing has been studying the tomb of Newton for about 10 minutes.

Time: 8:40 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Langdon and Sophie go to Chapter House.

Time: 9:20 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Aringarosa is carried to hospital by Silas.

Time: 8:50 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Teabing is defeated, Langdon obtains code.

Time: 8:52 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Fache arrives at Chapter House.

Time: 9:25 a.m. (Estimated)
Action: Silas goes to Kensington Gardens and expires.

Time: 4:30 p.m. (Estimated)
Action: Fache leaves police station after questioning Teabing.
Comment: Late afternoon, sun is shining.

Time: 4:40 p.m. (Estimated)
Action: Aringarosa regains consciousness, Fache arrives.

Time: 5:00 p.m. (Estimated)
Action: Langdon and Sophie arrive at Rosslyn Chapel.
Comment: “Long shadows” and the tour guide is on his last tour. Chapel closes at 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

Tuesday night

Time: 8:00 p.m. (Estimated)
Action: Langdon awakens at Ritz Hotel.
Comment: It is dusk and he has slept for the “better part of two days.” Paris sunset is 7:51 p.m.

Time: 8:35 p.m. (Estimated)
Action: Langdon arrives at Louvre and has his epiphany…


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