Magical Rosslyn Chapel


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, “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

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.



About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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