As a budget traveller and avid reader, visiting Rosslyn Chapel was an experience I couldn't pass up. Located in the village of Roslin, just seven miles from Edinburgh, this 15th-century chapel is steeped in history and mystery. Tom Hanks was so impressed with the beauty of the church that he said, “Few locations in film are so delightful and few destinations live up to their billing, but Rosslyn Chapel was all one could imagine or hope for“.
Getting there from Edinburgh is easy by bus, train, or car. If you're taking public transport, you can catch the Lothian Bus 37 from Edinburgh city centre, which takes around 45 minutes, or take a train from Waverley Station to nearby Eskbank Station, which is a 20-minute walk from the chapel.
Rosslyn Chapel is an architectural marvel, with intricate stonework and carvings that have survived for centuries. The chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir William St Clair and has been the subject of much speculation and intrigue. It gained even more fame after being featured in Dan Brown's bestselling novel, "The Da Vinci Code," and the subsequent movie adaptation.
According to "The Da Vinci Code," the chapel was built by the Knights Templar and is home to the Holy Grail. There are several connections between the Knights Templar and Rosslyn Chapel that have contributed to the popularity of this theory. The chapel features several carvings of knights and horses, which are believed to be a tribute to the Knights Templar. Additionally, the chapel is located on a site that was once owned by the St. Clair family, who were known to have close ties to the Knights Templar. While the exact nature of these ties is unclear, they have contributed to the enduring fascination with the Knights Templar and their supposed connection to Rosslyn Chapel.
While much of the plot of the book is fictional, author Dan Brown did use some real features of Rosslyn Chapel to create his novel. One of the most prominent is the "Rose Line," said to be a play on words for the "Rosslyn Line." The Rosslyn Line is described as a secret line of longitude that passes through Paris and Chapel that holds the key to the location of the Holy Grail. Visitors to Rosslyn Chapel will see a line running from the entrance of the chapel to the east end of the building.
Another reference from the book is the many Green Men carvings. The Green Men, generally considered a symbol of pagan worship, are linked in the story to the search for the Holy Grail.
The book describes a hidden chamber beneath the chapel that held the remains of Mary Magdalene, the wife of Jesus Christ. Again, there is nothing to suggest that Mary Magdalene's remains were ever here but visitors to Rosslyn Chapel can see a sealed crypt beneath the chapel.
Stepping inside the chapel is like stepping back in time. The interior is dimly lit, with light filtering in through the stained glass windows. The carvings on the walls and pillars are incredibly detailed, and each one tells a story.
The Apprentice Pillar is a highlight, with its twisting columns and intricate carvings attributed to a talented apprentice. It is rumoured the master was so jealous of the young man's skill that he killed him.
The chapel has some crypts and tombs. The crypts are dark and eerie, but the tombs are ornate and fascinating. The most famous tomb is that of Sir William St Clair, which features a carving of him holding a model of the chapel. This is the crypt used as Mary Magdalene's in the book and movie.
For me, one of the most fascinating features of Rosslyn Chapel is the abundance of Green Men carvings. I spent much of my time trying to find them all (I found 73!). Some are depicted with leaves and foliage growing out of their mouths, while others have horns or antlers protruding from their heads. Some are smiling or laughing, while others have more serious expressions. No two Green Men are exactly alike, and each one seems to have its own personality and character.
The Green Man is a pagan symbol found throughout Europe dating back to ancient times. The symbol is often associated with rebirth and renewal, and it is typically represented by a face or mask surrounded by foliage. At Rosslyn Chapel, there are over 100 Green Men carvings, each with its own unique character and expression.
The purpose of the Green Men at Rosslyn Chapel is not entirely clear. Some speculate that they were included as a nod to the pagan origins of Christianity, while others believe that they were added as a form of protection against evil spirits. It's also possible that they were simply included as a form of decoration
As you walk around the exterior, take a moment to appreciate the many symbols and motifs that can be seen throughout the exterior of the building. Look for more Green Men carved into the stone walls and roof. You'll can also search for the St. Clair family coat of arms, which features a black cross on a white background, and the image of a mermaid representing the connection between land and sea.
The most notable feature of the exterior is the ornate entranceway, which is adorned with elaborate carvings of saints, angels, and mythical creatures. Above the entrance, visitors can see a series of grotesques, figures that are half-human and half-animal, and are thought to represent the dual nature of man.
The roof of Rosslyn Chapel is also an architectural masterpiece, with a series of intricate carvings that depict scenes from the Bible, including the Creation story and the life of Christ. The carvings are so detailed that visitors can even see individual feathers on the wings of the angels.
One of the most striking features of the exterior of Rosslyn Chapel is the East Window, which is made up of 13 panels of stained glass. The window is believed to be one of the most intricate and beautiful examples of medieval stained glass in Scotland, and depicts scenes from the life of Christ as well as various saints and angels.
The lush greenery and well-manicured gardens make for a peaceful and serene atmosphere. There are several walking trails that wind through the woods and meadows, providing a perfect opportunity for a leisurely stroll or a picnic.
To learn more about the history and culture of Rosslyn Chapel, be sure to check out the official website, which offers guided tours, exhibits, and educational programs. Admission must be booked online through the official website. Admission is sold for specific time blocks of 1.5 hours each and visitors are requested to leave the Chapel at the end of each time slot.
I found Rosslyn Chapel to be a great value for the price of admission (£9.50). And for those looking for tips, I'd recommend arriving early to beat the crowds, bringing a picnic to enjoy in the beautiful grounds, and taking a guided tour to get the most out of your visit.
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