There are two major settings in Angels and Demons. The first is the Vatican and its surrounding sites of Catholic worship in Rome; the second is CERN, a scientific counterpoint to the Vatican.

Located in Geneva, Switzerland, CERN is ultramodern and filled with world-class minds and gleaming technological artifacts that extend its reach around the world (such as the Internet, which it had a hand in creating, and the X-33 jet that carries Langdon there at several times the speed of sound). The site of cutting-edge research into the nature of matter, and ultimately of existence, CERN is also a symbolic representation of the power of the rational mind. It is in effect a cathedral to science.

CERN serves as an overt and symbolic balance to the Vatican. Where CERN is new, the Vatican is old, and parts of it are ancient. Where CERN is designed by reason and depends on new inventions to justify its existence, the Vatican is founded upon faith and depends on the continuation of tradition to justify its existence. CERN’s architecture is replete with the technology it creates and is literally transparent; the Vatican is founded upon sites of martyrdom, and in its foundation can be found the bodies of church founders. CERN’s beauty is austere, mathematical, and pure. By contrast, the Vatican’s artwork accumulated over time, sparked by mixing civilizations and waves of inspiration, and is therefore more layered. The two sites serve as command towers for the ongoing battle between reason/science and faith/religion and, like the high commands of military forces, are in frequent contact. Both enlist the media to champion their respective causes.

Both locations also have a kind of neutrality. CERN’s location in Geneva, Switzerland, anchors it in historical political neutrality, while the Vatican’s status as a tiny independent state creates a partial parallel. CERN’s commitment to science cuts across national bounds, as...

(The entire section is 511 words.)