(no photography allowed inside)
Along with the standing stones and stone circles that mark the Gaelic landscape in Scotland, another place of great mystery is Rosslyn Chapel. As anyone who has read “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” or “The DaVinci Code” knows, the chapel supposedly contains many secrets and treasures hidden by the Knights Templar (or their successors) in secret passageways. The most precious of these was said to be the holy cup of the Last Supper.
It isn’t too far from Edinburgh by the Midlothian city bus, and although I’ve visited before, my excitement still mounts when I see the signpost announcing Roslin village ahead and knowing that Rosslyn Chapel is nearby.
The church was built by William Sinclair, a son of the Earl of Orkney, in the 1400s. The Sinclairs original name was St.Clair revealing the Norman connection to the family. William who was considered a ne’er do well by his father was never a Knight Templar. The knights had been dishonoured and disbanded by Pope Clement long before, in 1312. William’s grandfather Henry, “may” have been a member of the order and is thought to be buried in one of the crypts under the chapel. A prior William Sinclair is also buried there. He was killed in a battle in Spain while attempting to bring the heart of Robert The Bruce to the Holy land for burial.
The Chapel’s facade and interior are fantastically and ornately carved with strange symbols and sculptures that are said to contain secret meanings, maps and messages. One of these sculptures is of St. Catherine’s Wheel. St. Catherine was the patron saint of the Sinclairs but many believe the carving to be representative of the Rose of the Knights Templar. According to one custodian of the chapel, all these stories and conjectures always conclude with the phrase “it is almost certain” which really means that it is not certain at all.
Nevertheless the chapel has long been associated with both the ancient Templars and the Freemasons of today which has fueled the secret society theories.
The Knights Templar themselves had a long, controversial and colourful history. Though they began in spiritual idealism during the Crusades, they amassed great wealth in the Holy Land, became known for their excesses,- “to drink like a Templar“ was an adage of the day- and were eventually disgraced, and accused of heresy and sorcery by the church. Their order ended with the execution by burning of their leader and Grand Master, Jacques de Molay in Paris. It is said he died defiant, condemning both the pope and the church!
To date no treasures or secret passageways have been found – and the Holy Grail remains a mystical ideal, but the chapel endures as a fascinating and mysterious place- and a most intriguing tale!!
Photography is not allowed inside the chapel but down in the lower sacristy leading to the crypt a kind custodian turned his back to let me quickly snap one.
I am still feeling quite fatigued and disorganized and trying to catch up with notifications and emails.