In 1446 Sir William St Clair founded Rosslyn Chapel to spread intellectual and spiritual knowledge, and, like others of his station, to ensure his place in heaven. The building you see today is only part of what was intended to be a larger cruciform building with a tower, but as this took 40 years to build and Sir William died, it was never completed. What we are left with is a building that must be one of the most distinctive religious buildings in Britain.
I first learnt about this Chapel in one of the Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, Set in Darkness published in 2000. It involves a murder of a MSP and Rosslyn Chapel and the eight feet high Apprentice Pillar form an interesting part of the plot. This pillar is one of the best known of all the wonderful stone carvings inside the chapel. In an Account of the Chapel of Rosslyn written in 1774 by the Bishop of Caithness he describes this fascinating legend as follows:
“The Master Mason, having received from the Founder the model of a pillar of exquisite workmanship and design, hesitated to carry it out until he had been to Rome or some other foreign part and seen the original. He went abroad and in his absence an apprentice, having dreamt that he had finished the pillar, at once set to work and carried out the design as it now stands, a perfect marvel of workmanship. The Master Mason on his return, seeing the pillar completed, instead of being delighted at the success of his pupil, was so stung with envy that he asked who had dared to do it in his absence. On being told that it was his apprentice he was so in flamed with rage and passion that he stuck him with his mallet, killed him on the spot and paid the penalty for his rash and cruel act”
Most people where introduced to the chapel because of its inclusion in the film The DaVinci Code that was based on the Dan Brown novel. Apparently the visitors have increased so much because of the movie that the Trust was able to build the modern visitors centre.
As well as an abundance of uniquely magnificent carvings the chapel is shrouded in legend and mystery involving, amongst other things, the Knights Templar and Masonic associations. Rosslyn Chapels Guides do a grand job of explaining the history of the building and the carvings as well as the St Clair dynasty.
|Various elevations and views of the castle.|
Once you have visited the chapel and before you leave the area, I would suggest a stroll into the Roslin Glen and on to the site of the ruined Roslin Castle. Access to the ruin is down a rather steep narrow pathway and can only be accessed by foot. There’s not much left of the 15th century building where Mary Queen of Scots stayed on her tour of the south west of Scotland in 1563. Although not open to the public there is still a habitual building that has been a holiday let since 1980, if you have the nerve to stay there? The castle is reputed to be haunted by a black knight on horseback and a phantom hound. But to be fair there aren’t many old castles’ in Scotland that is not haunted by something or other!
|Autumn in the lovely Roslin Glen|
There’s no information on site so to find out more about the castle one must rely on the Internet and you will find out that there has been a castle on the site since the early 14th century when the St Clair family, Earls of Caithness and Barons of Roslin fortified the site. It was after the destruction of the castle, during the many wars between England and Scotland, in 1544, that it was rebuilt into the cliffs of Roslin Glen.
A worth while visit next time your in Edinburgh, a number 37 bus goes right into Roslin village followed by a very short walk to the visitors centre. It is likely that the village initially grew up to house the large amount of craftsmen who were employed to build the chapel over the 40-year period.