Scotland is the birthplace of so many historical and cultural sites and it can be challenging to find time to cram all your bucket list stops into one mere trip.
As well as the Highland beauty and mysterious loch-dwelling monsters the country is famous for, Scotland is home to some incredible architecture – particularly its castles, countryside manors, and churches.
One such church that is absolutely worth a visit is Rosslyn Chapel Scotland, which readers/viewers of The Da Vinci Code will be familiar with. But it’s so much more than a story setting. Let’s find out why.
Rosslyn Chapel Scotland – A Brief History
The gothic beauty of Rosslyn Chapel is a sight to behold, and, aside from its retrospective religious and movie-based connections, it’s easy to see why many travellers pay a visit to this historical building to marvel in awe.
Formerly known as the Collegiate Church of St. Matthew, Rosslyn Chapel can be found in the Scottish village of Roslin, just seven miles south of Edinburgh, so visitors to the city can easily make a day trip to see the chapel.
Founded in 1446 by Sir William St. Clair, a man with a bloodline rich in masons, the formidable structure of Rosslyn Chapel took a whopping 40 years to build, which includes the intricately carved stonework from inside the building, featuring etchings of bible stories.
Amazingly, the chapel survived the Scottish Reformation in 1560, but less than a century later, it fell into disrepair, which was further exasperated when Oliver Cromwell and his troops used the Chapel as a battle station.
These damages were not fully remedied until the mid-1800s, when the church was finally in a state of function and could be used as a house of worship again.
Scotland has a strong connection to both the protestant and Catholic faiths, so what makes Rosslyn Chapel so special in amongst its myriad places of worship?
Rosslyn Chapel Secrets
Known as ‘The Mystery Through History’ or the ‘Treasure in Stone’, Rosslyn Chapel is a gothic chamber of delights – and the great news? You can visit both the interior and exterior of this 15th-century building and marvel at its beauty and enigma.
Although there are great whacks of its history that remain unknown to historians (hence the first nickname), the visual offering of the Chapel is a feast for the imagination – and that was before Dan Brown got involved!
Most of what makes Rosslyn Chapel so elusive are the myths and legends that have been borne of the last six centuries, which have left many historians scratching their heads. Not only is much of the stonework etched with strange symbolism, the Chapel has mysterious connections to cult activity and is a frequent UFO hotspot.
Much like the pyramids of Eqypt and Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, conspiracy theorists have linked Rosslyn Chapel to extraterrestrial activity. Although we know that the church was built by humans (and not aliens, as supposedly the pyramids and Stonehenge were), it features a ‘stargate’, which mythologists claim to be a portal to another realm or dimension in the universe.
The ceiling of the chapel is bedecked with its own cosmos of stone-carved stars and strange geometric patterns, which many viewers find difficult to believe could be the work of 15th-century builders.
As well as this awe-inspiring ceiling, the inner stone walls of the chapel are tattooed with detailed carvings of various biblical stories, as well as ‘codes’. One of these codes (which took code breakers 27 years to crack) feature angels playing musical instruments that correlate to the patterns sand and liquid make when certain musical tones are played (known as the Chladni Pitch).
Rosslyn Chapel is also connected to tales of murder most foul. Supposedly, the mason’s apprentice was struck dead by the mason himself, who flew into a rage of jealousy when he witnessed the beauty of what’s now known as the Apprentice Pillar – the work of which was far superior to that of the master mason himself.
Note: Photography and videography are not permitted inside the chapel so we don’t have any images to share here.
Rosslyn Chapel Da Vinci Code
Fans of the book or movie series will know that Rosslyn Chapel features heavily in Da Vinci’s theory about the location of the Holy Grail and how the chapel is supposedly connected to the infamous Knights Templar – the knights of whom are theorised to be guarders of a ‘great secret’ – so much so, that King Philip IV of France ordered them to be burnt at the stake when they came to Europe. It’s supposed that some of these knights escaped this grisly fate and took refuge in Roslin.
Those who found themselves in awe of the on-location site of Rosslyn Chapel have pilgrimaged to this neck of the Scottish woods to visit it in the flesh.
Rosslyn Chapel Underground Chamber
One of the many mysterious charms of this building is its underground chamber below the magnificently carved walls – which is supposedly it is more of a vault than a chamber – and it’s said to be rather large.
This vault was be sealed in 1690 and has never been reopened, leading to much speculation as to what’s inside. Possibilities include:
- The Holy Grail (the cup Christ supposedly drank from during the Last Supper).
- The blood or mummiefied head of Christ.
- The cross Christ was crucified on.
- Templar treasure.
- Holy scrolls/documents dating back to the Crusades.
- The original Scottish crown jewels.
- The mummified body of Mary Magdalene.
Rosslyn Chapel Mary Magdalene
According to Christian Gnostic texts, some believe Jesus Christ’s constant companion, Mary Magdalene, accompanied him during his Western travels and that the underground vault may be her final resting place.
Many believe that Jesus visited the Western Isles of Scotland, including Iona in the Outer Hebrides. Other theories, which were featured in the Da Vinci Code, suggest that the two had a child and that there may be a Holy bloodline that settled in the Roslin part of Scotland.
Rosslyn Chapel Knights Templar
Like many of the myths surrounding Rosslyn Chapel, there’s little-to-no evidence to back it up, but theories suggest that the chapel may be housing treasure belonging to the Knights Templar, which is said to be buried even deeper than the crypt.
Owing to the delicacy of this ancient building’s foundation, deep excavations are no longer permitted, meaning we may never know the truth behind any of the chapel’s secrets and myths.
Rosslyn Chapel Opening Times
The chapel is open every day (9 am – 5 pm, Monday to Saturday, and 12 pm – 5 pm, Sunday), but visiting times are broken up into time slots, which you will need to book through the website in order to visit.
Rosslyn Chapel Scotland FYIs
Before booking your visit to the chapel, keep in mind the following:
- Tickets need to be pre-booked. You won’t be able to just show up.
- Adult admission is £9.50. Children may visit for free.
- Photography and videography aren’t permitted inside the chapel, but you may do outside the building.
- There is a gift shop, café, and even a micro-brewery adjacent to the chapel – be sure to pick up a bottle of their very own beer!
Rosslyn Chapel Scotland: FAQs
Scotland is home to many ancient religious sites – both Pagan and Christian – and Rosslyn Chapel is something of a household name due to it being a possible site of the Holy Grail, as well as featuring in the book and movie adaptation of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
Rosslyn Chapel is shrouded in ancient mystery and one such legend is that underneath the foundation is a spartan stone crypt.
It is also suggested in some religious circles that the Chapel is/once was home to the Holy Grail, although there isn’t any solid evidence to back this theory up.
In 1650, Oliver Cromwell and his troops were stationed at Rosslyn Chapel during their invasion of the nearby Rosslyn Castle.
Some 30 years later, the Chapel bore the brunt of a mob attack from Edinburgh, who sought to damage the building in their rampage. These damages were not fully restored until 1862.
The movie adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code required various religious and historical filming locations in keeping with the themes of the story and Rosslyn Chapel was one of them.
Rosslyn Chapel is located in a village called Roslin, Midlothian, in the Scottish Borders region of the country.
Visitors from Edinburgh will be delighted to know that Rosslyn Chapel in Roslin is a mere seven miles from the city centre.
This 15th-century place of worship is one of many quintessential Scottish sites, particularly for the Catholic community.
The building is a popular tourist hotspot, owing to its mysterious symbolism, connection with Jesus Christ, movie location, and because of the sheer beauty of the architecture.
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