After visiting Rosslyn Chapel, I wrote in my travel log, “mystery, mayhem, magic, movie”. Sometimes an attraction you don’t even know about turns out to be one of the best of all. Such was Rosslyn Chapel. Lynette, John’s world-traveling mother, insisted that he track it down while in Scotland, and he did with Ruth, Trish, and me tagging along.
Seven miles south of Edinburgh’s city center off motorway A701 in the village of Roslin, Rosslyn Chapel was founded by Sir William St. Clair, 11th Baron of Rosslyn, 3rd Prince of Orkney. In 1446 he was feeling his mortality and vowed to build a chapel to both serve God and instruct all who entered. His oldest son was dubbed William The Waster, but that’s a subject for another blog. Sir William died in 1484 about 2 years before his chapel was finished. According to rosslynchapel.org.uk, “William’s plan for a building of ‘curiosity’ and ‘splendour’ has clearly been fulfilled.” Indeed. This official website includes a message from the current Earl of Rosslyn who notes proudly that RC is still family owned after 567 years. The family’s coat of arms is a common motif throughout.
I highly recommend exploring Rosslyn Chapel’s multitude of decorations before listening to an introductory talk. These occur several times a day, and we were lucky to get well-informed, funny, red-headed Maureen. She quickly unraveled one mystery–why is non-flash photography forbidden inside? A female taking pictures once banged her head and sued the church.
Another mystery. Rosslyn was built to instruct non-readers. In the vividly depicted 7 Deadly Sins, charity replaces greed. Charity is a sin? One theory suggests that this is to remind us that good can come out of evil. Maybe.
Yet another mystery. There’s a Latin inscription in Gothic lettering that reads, “Wine is strong. The king is stronger. Women are stronger still: but truth conquers all.” Pretty deep, huh?
Mayhem. My favorite example is the tale of the pillars. A master carver created the Mason’s Pillar to the altar’s left and went abroad to study other designs before attempting a second. While he was away, an apprentice carved a twisted masterpiece. When the master returned and saw it, he flew into a rage, killed the apprentice with a mallet, and was hanged.
Magic. A mysterious light gives the chapel a weird pink glow at the solstice since stained glass windows were installed in the 19th century. Coincidence? There are rumors of a Masonic connection, secret doings, etc. Some believe that the Holy Grail remains hidden in a secret vault. I found a reference to Rosslyn Chapel on ufodigest.com.
Movies. The steps down to The Crypt are steep, and there’s not much to see when you get to the bottom. So I recommend that you rent The Da Vinci Code (again?) and pay close attention to the climactic scene when the characters are looking for a clue in the lintel. It was filmed at Rosslyn Chapel. After this film’s release, visitors to Rosslyn increased to 1,000 per day.