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Knights Templar: Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel – Scotland

Henry Sinclair, the Earl of Orkney is a descendant of Rollo, the son of Rognvold a 9th century Norse chief.  Rollo went to war against King Charles of France, and a peace treaty was signed in 912 at St.Clair-sur-Epte, and so the St.Clair name was born with Rollo as the 1st Duke of Normandy.

William “The Seemly” St.Clair descendant of Rollo, founded the Scottish Sinclain clan, and fought alongside his cousin; William the Conqueror at the “Battle of Hastings” in 1066.

In 1068 William St.Clair accompanied Margaret a Saxon princess from a Hungarian royal court to Scotland, where she married King Malcolm III, and in 1070, William was granted the Barony of Roslin.

William St.Clair’s son and heir; Henry St.Clair the 2nd Baron of Roslin answered the public appeal for men of God, Knights and warriors to take up arms and free Jerusalem by Pope Urban II.  So it was he fought in the First Crusade in the Holy Land (1096-1099).

When the Knights Templar were outlawed by the King of France, the orders went out across France, they were to be arrested on site.  Robert the Bruce of Scotland gave them sanctuary, and some 500 of those warriors, laid down their lives and fought alongside Robert Bruce at the “Battle of Bannockburn” on the 23rd and 24th June 1314.  Scotland’s bid for Independence… and they were victorious against the English.

In 1436, William the third and last St.Clair Prince of Orkney, escorted James I’s daughter, Margaret to Tours, where she was married to Louis, son of Charles VII of France.

William Sinclair (1410-1484) held the titles of Ist Earl of Caithness (1455-1476), 3rd Earl of Orkney (1455-1470), Baron of Roslin in 1070, and was grandson of Scottish explorer; Henry Sinclair the 1st Earl of Orkney.  Lord Admiral of Scotland, and Lord Chancellor of Scotland (1454-1456).

On top of that, he had a vision, wanting to remember those he was descended from, and so it was he spent four years exploring French cathedrals and their gothic architectural design, seeking out ideas for Rosslyn Chapel.

In the year 1446, a founding charter was received from Rome, allowing the construction of Rosslyn Chapel: Collegiate Church of St.Mathew, the family church for the St.Clairs.

On the 21st September 1450, the sun rose due east of Rosslyn Chapel, marking the Autumnal Equinox when Rosslyn Chapel was formally dedicated to that of a saint; St.Mathews.

Rosslyn Chapel, an historical monument, a legacy to the Knights Templar, located to the south of Edinburgh, Scotland’s ancient capital city.  It consists of medieval stone chapels, built by William St.Clair, the Prince of Orkney and Knight of the Order of St.James in the 15th century.

The original architectural design of the building was one of a cruciform shape, with a central tower, standing on fourteen pillars, with twelve pointed arches, positioned on three sides of the nave.

Rosslyn Chapel ladychapel

Lady Chapel

A group of three pillars at the eastern end create the link from the nave to the Lady Chapel.  Pillars located at the eastern end, running north to south are; Master Pillar, Journeyman Pillar and Apprentice Pillar.  Pre-Georgian era, these pillars were called; The Earl’s Pillar, The Shekinah and Prince’s Pillar.

barrel-vaulted roof 2

Barrel Vaulted Roof

The chapels barrel-vaulted roof, stand outs, an architectural design decorated with such brilliance.  The ceiling divided into five sections, containing carved flowers and their petals and finally stars.  The final section of stars are mostly laid out in a uniform manner, with the sun, moon and dove with the face of Christ partly hidden.

Each roof section is separated by lines of stones, with sculptures looking downwards.  Central in the roof, is the St. Clair or Sinclair shield and cross, supported by two hands.

Rosslyn Chapel Sacristy

The Sacristy

The Sacristy at Rosslyn Chapel, is located beneath floor level, of a crypt design, located at the eastern point, and carved into the hillside.  It contains an altar and window, and is believed to pre-date the chapel by some 200 years.  It could be part of a former building, as a castle once sat on the existing site; pre 1303.

Geometric drawings scratched into the wall, tell us this was more likely an area used by the stone masons, during the construction of the chapel.  Interestingly though, the steps which one descends to the Sacristy are not all of the same size, and a building which boasts quality and history everywhere you look, one has to wonder why.

The Apprentice Pillar is entwined with carved vines, and its architrave bears the Latin inscription: forte est vinum, fortiori est rex, fortiores sunt mulieres: super omnia vincit veritas, which means “wine is strong, the king is stronger, women are stronger still: (but) truth triumphs over all.”

Apprentice Pillar

The Apprentice Pillar

Located close by, are the carved heads of the master mason, the apprentice and his grieving mother.

The legend, the story, of the apprentice, a tale of caution, told by older craftsmen as a warning to apprentices, to prevent them getting ideas above their station.

The design for the pillar was so intricate, the master mason travelled to Rome to see the original.  Upon his return, his apprentice had completed the pillar.  Out of rage, he killed the apprentice, with a hammer blow to the head.

The punishment to the Stone Mason, his face was carved, located close by, gazing upon his apprentice’s work: The Apprentice Pillar.

Many Green Men surround the chapel walls, starting at the east, representing young face and spring, onto the south and west, ageing faces and autumn, ending at the north, where face are skeletons.

Green Man

The Green Man

The Green Men originated from pre-Christian times, and are associated with Pagan deities.  They symbolise new life and rebirth, themes much associated with Christian life.

Symbols on the walls of the chapel, mainly relate to Old Testament events in the Bible.

Rosslyn Chapel Crypt, burial place for the Sinclairs, with its access via the staircase at the rear of the chapel.  In 1837, the 2nd Earl of Rosslyn died, and it was his wish to be buried in the original vault, alongside his ancestors.  Extensive searches were carried out, but alas, the entrance evaded them, and he was finally buried alongside his wife in Lady Chapel.

Rosslyn Chapel sits close to the remnants of Roslin Castle, some 500 yards away, where in 1303, a battle took place.  Scottish warriors defeated the English Knights, in Scotland’s War for Independence, their bid to set them free from the English.R

Roslin Castle

Roslin Castle Drawing

In 1592, the chapel altars were destroyed as part of the Reformation, and the building fell into decay.

In 1650, Oliver Cromwell’s troops used the old chapel for a stable, whilst laying siege to the castle.

In 1658, the chapel was attacked for what it stood for, blatantly Catholic in origin, and interior carvings were destroyed by an Edinburgh mob.

In 1736, James St.Clair halted its decay, by replacing the stone floor and making the roof watertight.

In 1842 Queen Victoria ordered its restoration, and on the 22nd April 1862, the chapel was re-dedicated.

In 1881, the baptistery and organ loft were added to the west end.

Knights Templar Tombs

Drawing of Templar Tombs

In 1997, ground scanners were used, seeking out anomalies within the stonework, which revealed vaults and staircases, which led to a chamber consisting of the entombed Sinclair Barons in full armour.

Additional discoveries revealed a tunnel, some 500 yards in length, running from the chapel to the ruined castle.

Ghostly sightings have been observed: A monk praying at the altar within the crypt, surrounded by four knights.  Two monks have also been observed wandering the grounds and chapel, one dressed in grey, the other in black.

Since 1997, the chapel has undergone major restoration… undertaken by the Rosslyn Chapel Trust.

Images: Wikipedia + My Own

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