This blog is in danger of becoming The Headache Diaries. I’ve been stricken down again but so long as I don’t move my head I can manage to type!

Caiti had another rendez-vous at Montluçon hospital this morning. On our way to and fro, we crossed the Meridienne Verte.

This has long intrigued me. I’d ignorantly assumed it was the Greenwich Meridian, and other than find out that there had been a plan, hatched by architect Paul Chemetov, to plant 60,000 trees along it to celebrate the year 2000, I hadn’t looked into it any further. (Not many of those trees have actually made it into the ground, which seems a dreadful shame. It would have been a wonderful project to fulfil.)

But today, immobilised, I decided to investigate more. A quick dig around on the Net and I’ve found out that the Meridienne Verte is actually the Paris Meridian. It cuts through France at a longitude of 2° 20′ 16″ E from Dunkirk in the north (latitude 51° 2′ 10″ N) to Fromentera in the south (latitude 38° 39′ 56″ N). The meridienne goes through the very centre of the Paris Observatory

A commemorative plaque marking the Meridienne Verte in Paris

The Paris Meridian is one of three famous meridians – the other two being the Greenwich Meridian and the Cadiz Meridian. France, England and Spain were the three great naval powers in the past (how ironic that seems now, when Britain doesn’t have an aircraft carrier to call its own any more), and each one came up with its own meridian to help its sailors navigate and to accurately locate ports, colonies and so on. The Paris Meridian was established under Napoleon. The measurements were carried out in 1807 and 1808 by François Arago, together with José Rodriguez et Jean-Baptiste Biot. Eventually, in 1884, the Greenwich Meridian became the universally recognised one, but without much grace on France’s side. As you’d expect! The French stuck with their meridian for timekeeping purposes until 1911 and for navigation until 1914. The competition between the Paris and Greenwich meridians is one element of the plot of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

The Paris Meridian has its darker side. Not quite an axis of evil, but it’s thought by some to be extremely sinister. In 1994, 135 medallions were put at intervals along the meridian. They’re known as Arago medallions, after François mentioned above. A French conspiracy theorist reckoned these traced an ‘occult geographical line’. There have been a couple of books written about this idea – David Wood’s Genisis (and I’ve spelt it correctly), and Henry Lincoln’s The Holy Place. I for one will be trying to get hold of those. Sounds rather intriguing …