Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel, formerly known as the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew, is a 15th-century chapel located in the village of Roslin, Midlothian, Scotland. Rosslyn Chapel was founded on a small hill above Roslin Glen as a Catholic collegiate church (with between four and six ordained canons and two boy choristers) in the mid-15th century. The chapel was founded by William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness of the Scoto-Norman Sinclair family. Rosslyn Chapel is the third Sinclair place of worship at Roslin, the first being in Roslin Castle and the second (whose crumbling buttresses can still be seen today) in what is now Roslin Cemetery. After the Scottish Reformation (1560), Catholic worship in the chapel was brought to an end. The Sinclair family continued to be Catholics until the early 18th century. From that time, the chapel was closed to public worship until 1861. It was re-opened as a place of worship according to the rites of the Scottish Episcopal Church, a member church of the Anglican Communion. Since the late 1980s, the chapel has been the subject of speculative theories concerning a connection with the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail, and Freemasonry. It was prominently featured in this role in Dan Brown’s bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code (2003) and its 2006 film adaptation. Medieval historians say these accounts have no basis in fact. Rosslyn Chapel remains privately owned. The current owner is Peter St Clair-Erskine, 7th Earl of Rosslyn.


Apprentice pillar

One of the more notable architectural features of the Chapel is the “Apprentice Pillar, or “Prentice Pillar”. Originally called the “Prince’s Pillar” (in the 1778 document An Account of the Chapel of Roslinthe name morphed over time due to a legend dating from the 18th century, involving the master mason in charge of the stonework in the chapel and his young apprentice mason. According to the legend, the master mason did not believe that the apprentice could perform the complicated task of carving the column without seeing the original which formed the inspiration for the design. The master mason travelled to see the original himself, but upon his return was enraged to find that the upstart apprentice had completed the column by himself. In a fit of jealous anger, the master mason took his mallet and struck the apprentice on the head, killing him. The legend concludes that as punishment for his crime, the master mason’s face was carved into the opposite corner to forever gaze upon his apprentice’s pillar. There is however, no evidence that any such murder took place. On the architrave joining the pillar there is an inscription, Forte est vinum fortior est rex fortiores sunt mulieres super omnia vincit veritas: “Wine is strong, a king is stronger, women are stronger still, but truth conquers all” (1 Esdras, chapters 3 & 4). The author Henning Klovekorn has proposed that the pillar is representative of one of the roots of the Nordic Yggdrasil tree, prominent in Germanic and Norse mythology. He compares the dragons at the base of the pillar to the dragons found eating away at the base of the Yggdrasil root and, pointing out that at the top of the pillar is carved tree foliage, argues that the Nordic/Viking association is plausible considering the many auxiliary references in the chapel to Celtic and Norse mythology. The general form of the pillar has been related to a type described by the French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc as a “bunch of sausages.” A full-size plaster cast of the Apprentice Pillar and the adjacent bay of the chapel was made in 1871, and is in the Cast Courts of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Photo Aug 18, 6 20 43 AM

 

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