Rosslyn Chapel remains a working church — pay a visit on Sunday morning for a magical service
Found on the eastern edge of Roslin, seven miles south of Edinburgh, Rosslyn Chapel is a beautiful enigma. Made famous by Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’, the chapel was built in the 15th century for William St Clair, third early of Orkney. It remains privately owned: the current owner is Peter St Clair-Erskine, seventh earl of Roslyn.
The chapel is stunning, and unique. It’s ornate, carved stone interior went against the architectural fashion of the time and has fuelled dozens of conspiracy theories. In addition to the usual flowers, vines and angels, it also contains over a hundred representations of the pagan ‘Green Man’. Among other figures associated with Freemasonry and the Knights Templar, there also appear to be carvings of plants from the Americas — even though the chapel predates Columbus’ voyage.
Such clues have led some to suggest the chapel is a secret Templar repository, and that hidden vaults beneath it could contain the Holy Grail, or even Jesus Christ’s mummified head.
A tall tale
The Apprentice Pillar, one of the three pillars at the east end of the chapel, bears a grisly legend. Supposedly, the master mason of the chapel did not believe his apprentice could carve the pillar without seeing the original which inspired the design. He went to see the original himself, but on his return found that his upstart apprentice had completed the column. Enraged, he clocked the apprentice on the head with his mallet, killing him. As punishment for his crime the master’s face was carved into the opposite corner to look upon his apprentice’s pillar for eternity.
Among the intricate carvings is a sequence of 213 protruding cubes with mysterious patterns on them. They have recently been interpreted as a musical score, since the motifs on the boxes slightly resemble the patterns formed when powder is placed on a flat surface that is vibrated at certain frequencies. By matching these carved patterns to the musical notes of the same frequencies, Thomas and Stuart Mitchell produced the tune ‘Rosslyn Motet’.
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