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The Rosslyn Chapel is a small church in a small village close to Edinburgh. I had never heard of the chapel until it was featured in the Hollywood film 'The Da Vinci Code' based on the best selling book by Dan Brown.
Personally, we visited the chapel as though we were visiting a film set rather than as a place of worship. Although the place feels very peaceful, it is hard to ignore the droves of tourists moving through the church so bear that in mind if you are looking for peace and serenity (although I did find it in some parts!)
We visited in 2007 when a lot of restoration work was taking place with a canopy overheard which sort of spoiled the appeal a little bit for us. However, the canopy was taken off in August 2010 so I imagine it will look as you expect it to.
It is worth noting that if you are going to visit, only the inside of the chapel looks as it did in the film, the outside and setting of the church looks quite different to the film.
**Getting to the attraction**
We found the village of Roslin to be very easy to find, it is 7 miles South of Ediburgh and easy to find once you leave the M8 motorway by car. The village website states it would cost £15-£20 each way for a taxi from Roslin to Edinburgh. I guess there are bus links, but there wasn't a train station in the village. Bear in mind the village is small and is not exactly built to accomodate lots of traffic and people. I am certain that they have adapted to this, and at the attraction there is a good sized car park, but just bear in mind that the village is small.
**What do I get?**
The website states that the current opening hours are:
1st April - 30 Sept (Mon - Sat 09:30 - 18:00 ; Sun 12:00 - 16.45)
1 October - 31 March (Mon - Sat 09:30 - 17:00 ; Sun 12:00 - 16.45)
Last admission 30 minutes before closing. It is worth remembering that it is a working church so may be closed unexpectedly for a funeral, wedding, baptism etc. and also at times such as Christmas and Easter it is likely to have services on there. You can check the website for planned closures but there may be unscheduled closures too so bear that in mind before making a special trip.
The price of entrance is not clear on the website, but from memory it was less than £10 for adults. It does seem a little bit expensive, given that we didn't get an audio guide (you do now as of September 2011). We did however join in the guided tours given by people who worked there which were really informative. The guides were great and I felt we got a lot of information on the chapel.
The site has facilities such as refreshments, a gift shop and toilets and the lovely village of Roslin is a two minute walk away.
**My opinion of the chapel**
I was very excited to see the chapel, mainly because it was part of the film set of the Da Vinci Code. For anyone who knows the film, the chapel features in the final sequence of events, making it even more exciting. The crypt (as featured in the film) is slightly different to the film, so bear in mind you will not see it quite in the same way that it is featured on the big screen.
However, I found the excitment for the "film set" aspect grew when I realised what a lovely setting this chapel was. As I said earlier, despite all of the tourists, it just seemed so peaceful to visit there. The old stonework meant that it was quite cool inside the chapel (as per most stone churches), there is no plaster or rendering, all the original carvings can be seen.
When we went, we were able to access the scaffolding and get super views of the top of the church and all the ornate carvings (the "green men") and the surrounding area. The area around the chapel is a treat all by itself, luscious green glens. I wish we had had more time to explore.
**Would I go again?**
I would visit the chapel again, but it isn't somewhere to go on an annual basis. We haven't been for almost five years so would be nice to see how it has changed. I would love to visit the surrounding area, it was so beautiful. The village now has its own website: http://www.roslinvillage.com/tourist-roslin.php so I would like to visit again to explore this lovely place with more time.
I would heartily reccomend a visit if you are in the local area.
More information can be found here: http://www.rosslynchapel.org.uk/
Also posted on tripadvisor by dollydaydream84 and majorly updated for your viewing pleasure :)
At the moment I am staying with Dave in Edinburgh to keep him company whilst he is currently working there. This weekend we have been out for a ride and on the way back to the house at Swanston that we are renting (review already written!) Dave decided to take me somewhere as a surprise.
The place in question was Rosslyn Chapel. He knows that I love to visit churches, chapels and cathedrals in any state of repair so he was on to a winner with this place.
Where is it?
The address is:
Tel: +44 (0)131 440 2159
How do you get there?
To get there by car you just need to take the A701 travelling south from Edinburgh and then turn left onto the B7006 and follow the signs to Roslin and the chapel. It is very well signposted and easy to find. There is a free car park for cars and an overflow car park for use by coaches.
There is a bus service from the centre of Edinburgh (No 15) and you need to get off at the 'Hotel' stop. Rosslyn Chapel is then just two minutes walk away. If you want to check the buses and times just visit www.lothianbuses.com
What are the opening times?
The chapel is open every day except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. From April to September it is open from 1200 until 1645 on Sunday and 0930 until 1800 the rest of the week and from October until March it is open from 1200 until 1645 on Sunday and 0930 until 1700 the rest of the week.
The chapel is still a working Scottish Episcopal Church so you need to be aware that there are prayer services at noon on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with services at 1030 and 1700 on Sundays.
How much does it cost to get in?
The admission prices are as follows:
Adults - £7.50
Concessions - £6
Under 16' accompanied by their family - Free
Under 16's in a school group - £4
You can also choose to pay the same amount as a donation instead which means that you then fill out a Gift Aid form so that they can recover the tax back from the Inland Revenue. They will also give you a form to complete and return with a passport photograph and they will send you a pass valid for a year so that you can visit as often as you like.
To get in
We went in through the little shop which sells the usual souvenirs including books, pens, jewelry, postcards etc. There is also a small café selling tea, coffee, soft drinks, cakes and biscuits at very reasonable prices. As we walked from the shop to head out to the chapel there were toilets so we could pay a call before we started exploring! Incidentally they are going
to completely refurbish this visitor centre as part of the current work.
A bit of background
I don't intend to go into great detail here as the information I do give will be paraphrased from the website and I would rather keep this short and give you my opinion of the place. If you want to read up on the history of the place the website does have a lot of information.
Briefly the chapel was originally started in 1446 and dedicated in 1450 and continued to be changed and restored at intervals until the current major restoration, which began in 2007 and is scheduled to end in 2010, using a £7 million grant from Historic Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund plus donations from other sources.
In 2004 the Da Vinci Code was published and the film was released in 2006 both of which increased the interest in Rosslyn's mysteries. Part of the film was actually filmed at Rosslyn Chapel.
We parked in the village and walked along the lane towards the chapel. The first sight was of the chapel encased in scaffolding with an extra temporary metal roof over the top of the whole thing. This was erected in 1997 to protect the roof and allow it to dry out ready for the restoration work to begin on it. They are hoping to remove it by the end of 2009. We paid our donations and headed out through the gift shop into the grounds of the chapel.
The lady in the gift shop had told us that the next guided tour started at 1400 and that we were welcome to join. Since it was only about 1315 at the time we decided to mooch round on our own.
There are lots of boards around the place and these are well written both with general information and things specific to the spot where you are standing. For example it might say something like - look up at the window in front of you above which is a carved frieze depicting the seven deadly sins or maybe look at the top of the column on your left to see a carving of a green man - you get the idea.
We walked round the inside of the chapel, pausing to read the boards and look round at the various things that we would have missed had we not done so. We also paused to fuss the cat who was sitting on one of the pews just waiting for a 'victim'! I began to fuss him and Dave sat down next to him and he promptly climbed onto his lap (the cat onto Dave's lap not the other way round!) and curled up to be fussed, which was lovely as we are both missing Mew whilst we are up here in Scotland. We stayed with him until the next prospective fussers came along.
The carvings in the church are amazing - there are angels, green men, shields with family crests and much more. The ceiling is divided into seven (I think) separate bands each of which is full of carvings of a different flower.
I stopped to light a candle and offer a prayer for my lovely mother in law for Mother's Day and asking The Boss to look after my mom on our first Mother's Day apart.
We went down into the crypt where the air was very cold - make of that what you will! There wasn't much down there but it was interesting to take a look. The next thing was to return to the church and exit via the main door.
As I have already mentioned there was scaffolding all round the church to aid the restoration process and there was a staircase forming part of said scaffolding. We climbed the stairs and were then able to walk around three sides of the chapel along the top of the scaffolding protected by barriers of course!
This meant that not only did we get a unique view of the architecture of the outside of the chapel but we also got amazing views of the surrounding countryside which is beautiful. The outside of the chapel is almost as intricately carved as the inside and it was a real privilege to be able to see it at such close quarters, especially as my eyesight is none too brilliant so I wouldn't have seen it very well from ground level at all.
I'm not particularly good with heights but even I felt safe up there although the whole thing did shake occasionally as people were walking round. At the opposite end to the stairs going up to the top there was a small gate marked - emergency exit. I looked down to see a series of near vertical ladders! I did say that I couldn't imagine an emergency that would tempt me to go down those!
Disabled access to the chapel is fine as there are ramps and one of the toilets is a disabled one although the entrance would be a tight squeeze for a wheelchair. Obviously there is no way that disabled visitors would be able to go up on the scaffolding and the crypt is only accessible by a short but steep staircase.
You can get married at the chapel but they are not taking bookings whilst the renovation works are ongoing.
You are not allowed to take photographs or videos inside the church.
I loved my visit! It was a lovely surprise as I didn't even know that the place existed until today. I shall certainly send off for our free passes as soon as we get home as I would love to visit again if I get the chance.
I would definitely recommend a visit, especially if you are keen on history, churches, architecture or beautiful views!
If I had been writing this review 10 years ago few people would have heard of Rosslyn Chapel, but now thanks to Dan Brown, this 15th century Scottish chapel has found worldwide fame and this has been reflected in vastly increased visitor numbers. This year Rosslyn Chapel expects to receive 100,000 visitors compared with 65,000 last year and 6,000 a decade ago. Although to immediately disappoint Brown fans there is not a Star of David worn in the floor and in fact the flagstone floor was an 18th century addition.
Regardless of whether or not the mysterious cavern or room below the chapel floor contains the Holy Grail, Templar treasures or other such historical mysteries, or even if the carvings do not contain some mysterious code, Rosslyn Chapel is well worth a visit.
Rosslyn chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir William St Clair and took 40 years to build, it was infact intended to be a larger cruciform church but was never completed after the death of Sir William in 1484. The reformation bought closure for Rosslyn as a working church and it remained closed to worship until 1861, during this time it survived a visit from Cromwells army when the wall statues were either hidden or destroyed. The vault beneath the chapel has been sealed since this time. Repairs and restoration work including the laying of the flagstone floor took place in the 18th and early 19th century and in 1881 the baptistery and organ loft were added at the front of the church.
The main attraction of the chapel lies in its historical connections to the Knights Templar and freemasonry and the numerous symbols contained within.
Visiting the Chapel
On approaching the Chapel the first thing that you notice is the fact that the chapel is currently covered in a large metal canopy, this has been in place since 1997 and despite the expectation that it would be removed in 2005 I believe that this will be in place for another 2-3 years. This has been put in place due to the fact that the chapel was suffering from severe dampness and the inner walls were covered in green algae. The canopy is obviously doing its job as the condition of the walls is much improved from my previous visits with the green covering virtually having disappeared. Whilst the canopy does detract from the external view of the chapel it does afford visitors the opportunity to climb up to the walkway and see the carvings on the external buttresses.
It is the inside of this remarkable chapel that you come to see and passing under the two gargoyles guarding the North door you pass into the chapel itself and you immediately start to suffer from sensory overload as virtually every stone in this remarkable building appears to have been carved in some way. To list every single carving in the chapel would require a book on its own and therefore it is not my intention to do so here but I will mention a few of my favourites.
Firstly there are the carvings of the green man, this symbol of nature often associated with pagan fertility rites is not uncommon in medieval churches but certainly not in the profusion found at Rosslyn, I have heard various numbers 103,109, 110 for the amount at Rosslyn, personally I gave up after finding 43. Many of the other carvings have a biblical theme with scenes from Christs birth through to his crucifixion. The chapel also contains many Masonic symbols and this may explain why Oliver Cromwell left the chapel intact when he invaded Scotland during the Civil War whilst destroying virtually everything else in the vicinity.
My personal favourite carving is of an angel playing the bagpipes, left handed, amongst the musical angels, I also have a morbid fascination with the upturned and bound angel signifying the fallen angel Lucifer and really wonder if it is the death mask of Robert Bruce carved above the Alter to the Virgin Mary.
Whilst all the talk is of hidden codes, many of the carvings leave more questions than answers, how can their be carvings of sweet corn and cacti in a chapel built before Columbus sailed to America? Does this show that the founders forebear Henry Prince of Orkney really did visit North America 100 years before Columbus? Why is charity shown as part of the seven sins and avarice with the seven virtues? How can the Apprentice pillar carved in the 15th century show a representation of the double helix representation of DNA?
Due to the massive amount of detail within the chapel to prevent yourself being overwhelmed and missing much of the extraordinary detail I would thoroughly recommend going on one of the free guided tours, or if the numbers are great lectures with accompanying laser pens, that take place regularly and/or purchasing the rather nice 56 page guidebook which shows where to find the most interesting carvings and gives a history of the chapel and the St Clair family priced at £3.95.
The Chapel is served by a car park approximately 150 yards down hill from the chapel entrance and additional overflow parking in an adjacent farmers field, this has no doubt been introduced to deal with increased visitor numbers. Entry to the chapel is via a converted outbuilding which in addition to the ticket desk contains a small gift shop, which sells numerous paintings, mock carvings and other Rosslyn related trinkets and numerous fiction and no-fiction books pertaining to Templars, Masons and the Holy Grail (Although The Da Vinci Code did appear to be missing.). As well as the gift shop this building contains a small café serving teas, coffees and biscuits/shortbread with seating for approximately 20 people. Through the door leading to the chapel grounds are 3 unisex/disabled toilets.
The Chapel trust have made an effort to make the chapel accessible to disabled visitors by fitting a ramp from the North Door down the floor of the chapel and with a reasonably wide walkway around the chapel, the pews are all situated in the center, access around the chapel itself will be possible, however the sacristy is down a steep flight of stair affording no disabled access. The major difficulty for disabled visitors however will be the gift shop and café, situated in the cramped converted outbuildings, there is very little room for maneuver in here and would be extremely difficult for a wheelchair. There are however additional gates in the chapel grounds walls and access to the toilet facilities should be easily achieved from the grounds.
Opening Times and Admission Costs
Rosslyn Chapel is open Monday to Saturday 10 to 5 and 12 to 4.45 on a Sunday. Please note that this is a functioning Episcopalian Church so may on occasion be closed for Church services such as weddings and funerals.
Admission is £6 for adults and £5 for what is billed as Senior concessions/OAPs so I am not sure if that includes students and unemployed. Children up to the age of 18 go free.
The village of Roslin is situated 6 miles to the south of Edinburgh City Centre and can be accessed by Lothian Buses 15A Service Monday to Friday from St Andrews Square, Princes Street or Lothian Road or First Buses Service 62 Monday to Saturday from the North Bridge.
By Car follow the Edinburgh City By-pass to the Straiton Junction, head south past IKEA to the village of Bilston, turn left following signs for Roslin. Upon entering Roslin follow the main road through the village until it takes a sharp left, at this point turn off the main road on the left (this is more or less straight on) and after approximately 200 yards you will see the car park on the right hand side. Despite claims to the contrary the chapel is not very well sign posted within the village.
INTRODUCTION ~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ The little village of Roslin, near Edinburgh, is the home of this old 15th century chapel, which in architecture and detail would remind you more of a Gothic Cathedral than a church in a wee sleepy hamlet in rural Scotland. There is a good reason why it is so ornate and beautiful, as Rosslyn Chapel is reputed to be no ordinary church. It was built by an heraldic order called “The Knights Templar”, whose history predates even the chapel itself, dating back to the 12th century, and who were one of the main body of Knights involved in the Crusades to the Holy Land of about this time. In order to fully understand just what it is that makes this chapel so special, it is first necessary to appreciate a little of the history of this ancient order of holy Knights, and the extraordinary circumstances that surrounded the building of Rosslyn Chapel. THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ Supposedly formed as an order to protect pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land, it is now believed that the true purpose of this order was to retrieve the treasures secreted in the catacombs under the old Temple of Herod in Jerusalem just before it was sacked and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD It is speculated that not only did the Templars succeed in their mission, a theory supported by the vast wealth and power they accumulated over the following two centuries, but that they also brought back with them artefacts of such religious significance that they would change the face of religion forever. (more on these artefacts later) So powerful did the Templars become that in 1307 AD, King Phillippe IV of France, with the blessing of the Pope, arrested all known members of the Order and accused them of blasphemy and heresy, which resulted in most of them being burned at the stake. This arrest and trial was basically a ruse by the King to gain control of the Templar wealth, but in
this he was not wholly successful, as a fleet of Templar ships escaped from the harbour of La Rochelle, and fled to the west coast of Scotland, carrying with it the Templar fortune and secrets. One of the Knights was a Scotsman, Sir Henry St. Clair, who then joined forces with King Robert the Bruce of Scotland, who had himself been excommunicated by the Pope. It was these same Templar Knights who were Bruce’s vanguard at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, and who reputedly turned the tide of the battle in Bruce’s favour, thus being instrumental in achieving victory and independence for Scotland from the English. It was Henry St. Clair’s grandson, Sir William St. Clair, who started work on the building of Rosslyn Chapel in 1446, employing the very best stonemasons that Europe had to offer at that period. Thus this historic chapel came into existence. THE CHAPEL ~~~~~~~~~~ The Exterior ~ ~ The first of many incredible facts about Rosslyn Chapel is that the floor plan coincides almost to the centimetre to the original floor plan of the old Herod’s Temple in Jurusalem. In fact, the chapel was never truly completed, because building stopped upon the death of Sir William St. Clair in 1484. But what was completed is extraordinary enough. It is built in true Gothic style, with many gargoyles and buttresses on its exterior walls, while the interior abounds with carved Biblical scenes depicting such events as the Expulsion of Man from the Garden of Eden, and the Crucifixion and Resurrection. These scenes are everywhere, and follow a logical progression across all the walls and the ceiling. The pillars and arches inside the chapel are covered in hundreds of beautifully carved flowers, animals, and figures, and are as fine an example of the stonemasons art as can be found anywhere in the world. Some of the more unusual carvings are thought to be of cactus and sweet corn, plants
which were unknown in Europe until after the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492, and gave rise to speculation in historical circles that the Americas had in fact been discovered some years earlier by none other than Henry St. Clair himself! It is in fact now known that Christopher Columbus himself sailed under the Templar flag, and it is within the bounds of possibility that he had in his possession maps and charts from an earlier voyage by Henry St. Clair. The Apprentice Pillar ~ ~ One of its most famous pillars is called the “Apprentice Pillar”. This was for many years covered with plain plaster, and legend has it that it was built by an apprentice stonemason in his master’s absence, without either his master’s knowledge or consent. On seeing the extraordinary craftsmanship and ornate carving on this pillar, the master mason was so enraged and jealous that he immediately ordered it hidden, and had his young apprentice put to death. This famous pillar depicts the Tree of Life, with magnificent carvings snaking around its whole length. At the base are eight winged serpents that have eaten of the fruit of good and evil. What is almost beyond belief is that when examined closely by experts, these serpents were revealed as forming a perfect “double helix” – the fundamental building block of all life! The perfect double helix was not discovered until more than 500 years after this pillar was carved. Make of that what you will! Hidden Treasures ~ ~ We now return to what I mentioned earlier in the section about the Knights Templar; the religious artefacts that were supposedly recovered from the vaults of the old Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem during the Crusades. It is the existence or otherwise of these relics which could yet make the small chapel in Rosslyn a talking point throughout the whole world. It is speculated that secreted in the pillars,
walls and ancient vaults are relics such as the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, the original “Stone of Destiny”, and even, if one anthropologist (Keith Laidler) is to be believed, the actual mummified head of Christ himself! This theory about the hidden relics was first expounded by two historians and authors called Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, in two books called “The Hiram Key” and “The Second Messiah”, which examined in great detail the history of the Knights Templar right down through the ages, from their formation to the present day. These are two books that I would highly recommend to anyone whose appetite for more information has been whetted by the short piece I have written here, and go into enormous detail and conjecture about this whole question. CONCLUSION ~~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ There is now talk of the keepers of Rosslyn Chapel allowing an archaeological investigation to take place in the very near future to finally determine the validity or otherwise of the various rumours and legends about the chapel which have grown up over all the centuries of its existence. So before too much longer, it should be known whether these are myths or an incredible secret kept by the Templars throughout the generations which will rock the world. Whatever the case, this amazing ancient chapel is well worth a look if you ever find yourself in the Edinburgh area. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ PS The modern name “Sinclair” is the adaptation of the ancient “St. Clair”