Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel Guide Book
Rosslyn Chapel Guide Book

Last week whilst staying with our son in Scotland we visited Rosslyn Chapel.  The chapel was founded in 1446 and is still used today as a place of worship.  I first came across Rosslyn Chapel through reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and was fascinated by it then. I never thought I’d actually visit it as we live so far away, but when I discovered through reading Ian Rankin’s The Falls that it is just a few miles south of Edinburgh and only a short distance from where our son is living we decided to go. It’s well worth a visit on its own merits (forget about Dan Brown’s book) if you get the chance. It’s simply the most stunning building, packed with stone carvings. It was a cold windy day, but there were  quite few other people there too, and I imagine it would be packed during the summer months.  

rosslyn-chapel-pillar
The Apprentice Pillar

I was surprised at how big the Chapel is, from outside it seems quite small but inside it is magnificent – the ceiling seems enormous, covered in stone carvings. After reading The Falls I wanted to see the Mason’s Pillar, the Apprentice Pillar and the carvings of maize over one of the windows (these were all clues to the cryptic questions in The Falls). The Pillars are eight feet high and are splendidly and elaborately carved. The legend goes that the Mason decided to go abroad to study the design for a pillar he’d been instructed to build and whilst he was away the Apprentice created the pillar having had a dream about how it should look. On the Master Mason’s return he was so enraged and jealous that he killed the Apprentice striking him with his mallet.

The roof of the Chapel is covered with a steel canopy whilst the conservation of the building is taking place – the masonry was saturated with water and pollutants and the canopy enabled the stonework to dry out before the repairs could be done. Photos are not allowed inside but here are a few photos of the exterior:

Rosslyn Chapel Exterior
Rosslyn Chapel Exterior
Rosslyn Chapel Exterior
Rosslyn Chapel Exterior
Rosslyn Chapel Under the Canopy
Rosslyn Chapel Under the Canopy

 And I did take a photo just before I went into the Chapel – for more photos see the Rosslyn Chapel website.

Rosslyn Chapel Entrance
Rosslyn Chapel Entrance
Of course, I was interested in all the mystery surrounding the carvings and their meanings and whether there really was a link with the Knights Templar. The guide book indicates that there were in fact connections – the carvings of the five-pointed star, the dove in flight carrying an olive branch, the floriated cross and the artichoke are all said to have Templar associations.

For me, though, it was the two pillars and the Biblical scenes that are the most striking, the crucifixion scenes and the images of death, particularly the series of figures each accompanied by a skeleton – known as the ‘dance of death’. The barrel-vaulted roof and stained glass windows are beautiful.  I’ll have to go back for another visit one day, once I’ve read the guide book in more detail – one visit is just not enough.