Last updated on February 13th, 2021
Chapter Twelve Rosslyn Chapel
As Dan Brown points out in The Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Chapel is nicknamed the “Cathedral of Codes.” It is also known as “the Tapestry in Stone” and in some cases, “a garden in stone.” All these epithets are more descriptively beguiling than its “Christian” name of St. Matthew’s Collegiate Church, which it uses in its capacity as a fully operational Episcopalian chapel. They indicate, quite rightly, that Rosslyn Chapel pas a message which goes far beyond that of other Christian buildings. In fact, Professor Philip Davis, the eminent biblical and Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, says that there is nothing at all Christian about the building apart from its nineteenth century additions. He concluded that the reason it was built was to conceal a medieval secret. Because of its association with the founding of Freemasonry it was also known as “Lodge Number One” in Edinburgh. It is located in the village of Rosslyn ( or “Roslin”) near Edinburgh above the Esk Valley, a few miles from the original Templar center at “Ballantradoch,” meaning “the House of the Warrior.”
In The Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon tells Sophie Neveu that the word “Roslin” means “Line of the Rose,” but other explanations exist. Some say that “Roslin” is a Gaelic word meaning “ancient knowledge passed down the generations” while others break the word down into the Celtic “ros” (“a promontary”) and “lin” (“waterfall”). Yet another, perhaps more interesting translation is “stone falling from heaven,” a phrase with Masonic, alchemical and Luciferian implications. Perhaps the least attractive definition comes from Cassell’s Dictionary of Scottish Names, which translates the word to mean “morass at a pool.”
Rosslyn Chapel was built for the Prince of Orkney, Sir William Saint Clair, and it was apparently completed by his son Oliver in 1486. The name “Saint Clair” (now “Sinclair”) comes from the Latin “Sanctus Claris” meaning “Holy Light.” The stone from which it was built has been identified by Dr. Jack Miller, the Head of Studies of Geology at Cambridge University, as coming from exactly the same strata as that found in Jerusalem. As Dan Brown indicates in The Da Vinci Code and as authors Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas prove in their book The Hiram Key, the floor plan of Rosslyn is nearly identical to that of the Temple of Solomon. The oversized western wall is particularly reminiscent of the ruins of Herod’s Temple. The pillars of Boaz and Jachin, which stood at the entrance to Solomon’s Temple, are in exactly the same position at Rosslyn Chapel. Furthermore, the huge engrailed cross of Saint Clair on the ceiling points to exactly the spot in the floor plan where the “Holy of Holies” was kept at the Temple of Solomon.
When the Knights Templar built cathedrals throughout Europe in the medieval period, they accepted their stonemasons into the lower grades of the Templar order. Following the demise of the Templars’ power, these stonemasons continued the observance and practice of these rituals on mainland Europe. Sir William Saint Clair decided to hire these ex-Templar stonemasons from Europe, instead of local Scottish stonemasons, to build Rosslyn Chapel. It was in this manner that Scottish Rite Freemasonry was born and the Saint Clairs became its hereditary patrons and Grand Masters, which they are to this very day.
The Saint Clairs came from Normandy and had been one of the most influential familes in Europe since the tenth century. At first they seemed to threaten the line of King David I of Scotland, who reigned from 1124 to 1153. The Saint Clairs had been invested with the Barony of Roslin in 1057 by the Scots King Malcolm III, also known as Malcolm Canmore (“the Bigheaded”). Marie de Saint Clair was married to the first Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, Jean de Gisors. The Priory ofSion, as we know, was formed from the related Order of the Temple. And of course, one of the most recent Grand Masters of the Priory is Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair, who claims descent from this family. In The Da Vinci Code, Robert and Sophie are led by a series of clues to Rosslyn, where they discover Sophie’s long-lost mother and brother, whom, up until that point, she has been led to believe were dead. She discovers that they are members of the Saint Clair family, the hereditary protectors of the chapel.
The interior walls and ceilings of Rosslyn Chapel are festooned with symbols of Freemasonry, Templarism, Judaism and Christianity, along with a few Islamic motifs. Although the abundance of carvings appears to be a discordant cacophony, each element is there for a reason and relates strongly to its neighbors. Readers of The Do Vinci Code will recall how mesmerized Robert Langdon was by the plethora of symbolism.he found at Rosslyn Chapel. It is here that Robert and Sophie discover a code pointing towards the six-pointed Seal of Solomon -emblematic, writes Dan Brown, of the chalice and the blade, the union of male and female energies embodied in the Grail symbol.
A monument to the Pagan “Green Man” or “Jack of the Green” welcomes you when you enter. You notice that his vacant, eerie, and hollow eyes have an unnerving way of following your progress around the chapel. It is said that this monument is consistently colder than the stones that surround it and some say that it is difficult, if not impossible, to photograph.
The Apprentice Pillar is a dominant feature of the Chapel and was thought by some to contain the Holy Grail. However, when it was investigated by Tony Wood and Greg Mills using Groundscan radar, they were unable to find anything inside. What is more likely is that the carvings on the pillar itself form a code communicating one of the secrets of the Holy Grail. Thus, this secret would be preserved for future generations of the Saint Clair branch of the Grail family. As to what this code consists of, there are many theories. Tricks of light and shadow produce for various observers anything from a trembling and pregnant Madonna to an undulating DNA double helix. The apprentice pillar has been said to resemble the Norse Tree of Life, Yggdrasil, the mythological tree which forms a bridge between heaven and hell. It is a bit of a Rorschach test, but most observers would agree that there is definitely something there.
The Apprentice Pillar was built, appropriately enough, by an apprentice stonemason. The story is that the master mason, for whom he was working, went on a trip to Rome to get some inspiration for how to carve the pillar. When he returned, he found that the apprentice had finished it himself, and, what is more, had done an exquisite job. Instead of basking in the reflection of his apprentice’s outstanding achievement, he fell into such a rage that he struck the apprentice dead. The story bears an uncanny resemblance to that of the legend of Hiram Abiff, the architect of the Temple of Solomon who was murdered by his apprentice, at least according to Masonic ritual. However, it is reported that the Bishop of St. Andrew made a request to delay the consecration of the building because a violent act had recently taken place during the construction. Also, in the Chapel, there is a carving of a young man, reputed to be the murdered apprentice, with an injury to his face. However, it is possible that this was caused by either accidental or intentional damage. 1
According to the legend, the master himself also carved a pillar, called “the Mason’s Pillar,” which can be seen inside the chapel today. An alternate version of the legend states that this pillar is a decoy and that the true Mason’s Pillar is in a private garden in Sintra, Portugal. Whether inspired by something he saw in Rome or whether he was competing with his dead apprentice is not known, but his pillar is said to be even more ornate than that of the victim of his rage. Another carving of great interest is that of the inverted angel. It is positioned at the exact center of the heavily carved eastern wall and is portrayed as being suspended by a rope tied to his legs. It represents Shemhazai who, according to apocryphal legend, played a part in bringing about the great Flood.
In these stories, God was so displeased by the sins that mankind was committing that he regretted having ever made the mischievous animal. Recognizing God’s plight, two angels, Azazel and Shemhazai, offered to go down to earth to influence man to behave better. God agreed to this plan, but after a while, as the angels started to mix with the humans, they began to adopt characteristically human wicked ways. Shemhazai even managed to lure 200 angels to cohabit with human women. The children that resulted from these unions influenced men to commit even greater sins. God was naturally incensed by this turn of events, and told Shemhazai that he would send a great flood to destroy the Earth if matters did not improve.
Shemhazai atoned for his sins, but still felt deeply ashamed. He suspended himself upside down between Heaven and Earth so that he would not have to face God. 2 In the meantime, Azazel had no such feelings of contrition. He continued his lascivious ways until God could stand no more and brought about the Flood as a punishment to both man and the fallen angels.
Many will recognize this story as being nearly identical to the story in The Book of Enoch about the Fallen Angels referred to as “the Watchers.” The Book of Enoch was at first accepted by the Christian church, but later rejected. It contained magical and astronomical references. Michael Black, the biblical scholar who has published the most up-to-date analysis of the work, says of The Book of Enoch: “What the book presents to the reader is a bizarre variety of disparate and overlapping traditions, containing units of narrative and discourse … The Book of Enoch is like an intricately devised jigsaw puzzle, or rather a collection of such puzzles, in which, after the main component pieces have been put together to make a whole picture, there still remain elements unaccounted for which baffle the most ingenious attempts to fit them into a coherent whole … there is no Ariadne’s thread to lead (the reader) through the Enochian Labyrinth.” Remnants of the legend about the Watchers can even be found in Genesis 6 where the fallen angels are referred to as “the sons of God’; and their unholy progeny “giants,” or “nephilim.” This is obviously the origin of the tale of the fallen angels led by Lucifer in Milton’s Paradise Lost. In fact, the book Rosslyn Chapel by the Earl of Rosslyn explicitly states that the carving of the inverted angel represents Lucifer.
It has been suggested by several researchers that this miscegenation between man and angel is the true origin of the bloodline of the biblical patriarchs, and therefore, the true origin of the European Grail bloodline. Thus, in The Book of Enoch, Noah (an ancestor of Christ) is portrayed as having been one of the offspring of the Watchers. In this account, when Noah is born, he is described as:
…a child, the flesh of which was white as snow and red as a rose· the hair of whose head was white like wool, and long; and whos~ eyes were beautiful. When he opened them, he illuminated all the house, like the sun, the whole house abounded with light.
Noah’s father, Lamech, remarks that “he looks not as if he belonged to me, but to the angels.”
Interestingly, this story is alluded to in The Da Vinci Code when the character named “Silas,” who has albino eyes and snowwhite skin, is told by another character:
Were you not aware that Noah himself was an albino?… Like you, he had skin white like an angel.
The story of The Book of Enoch is told both in literal narrative, and in parable. In the latter case, the descent of the fallen angels from Heaven to Earth is symbolized by a star falling from Heaven. This seems to equate with the eminent medieval poet Wolfram von Eschenbach’s description of the Grail as being not a cup, but a “stone that fell from Heaven,” literally a jewel knocked from Lucifer’s crown during the rebellion that descended to Earth. Thereafter it became mankind’s most prized possession. In a way, this symbolism represents not only the descent of the angels themselves to Earth, but the biological descent of the Grail bloodline from the fallen angels. The symbol of the “stone from Heaven” or the “blazing star” is now central to the mysteries of Freemasonry and of occultism in general. 3 Given this, the fact that “Roslin” may mean “stone falling from Heaven” seems quite significant.
In addition to a variety of Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Masonic and even Luciferian symbolism, there is a great deal of treasure and code at Rosslyn relating to the history of the Saint Clair family itself. When Robert the Bruce died in 1329, William de Saint Clair, the Bishop of Dunkeld, was entrusted, with taking his heart, contained in a silver casket, to be buried in Jerusalem. On the way, in Andalusia, King Alfonso of Spain requested the help of his party against the Saracens and William de Saint Clair and his band of knights were massacred. The Saracens were so impressed by the knights’ courage that they returned the heart to Scotland ( this time in an enamel box), where it was buried at Melrose Abbey (which has a strong Templar history). William de Saint Clair’s skull and leg bones were eventually buried at Rosslyn Chapel.
Many researchers have noticed that among the various carvings throughout the chapel depicting plants and foliage, many of the representations are of species ( such as maize and aloe vera) that are native only to the Americas and should not have been known to the stonemasons of Rosslyn when the chapel was built, almost fifty years prior to the discoveries of Columbus.
However, they may have had knowledge of these species through their association with the Saint Clairs. There is a persistent belief among some historians that Henry Saint Clair
(a.k.a. “Prince Henry the Navigator”) sailed to the Americas in twelve ships as early as 1398. Several traces of this voyage have been left behind. There is still a canon of the type used by the Saint Clair fleet on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The grave of one of Henry Saint Clair’s knights can be seen at Westford, Massachusetts, and there is an effigy there of a fourteenth century knight carved into a rock ledge. There is also a two-story circular medieval tower of Scottish design in Newport, Rhode Island. Its bears a strong resemblance to the twelfth century Orphir Chapel on Orkney, and it was built in the style of the Knights Templar.
There is a peculiar legend stating that when a member of the Saint Clair family dies, a glow spreads throughout the stones of Rosslyn Chapel. The last report of this happening was when a younger member of the family was killed in action five days after the outbreak of the Second World War. 4 Sir Walter Scott wrote of this phenomenon in his poem The Lay of the Minstrel, which says:
O’er Roslin all that dreary night,
A wondrous blaze was seen to gleam;
‘Twas broader than the watch-fire’s light,
And redder than the bright moon-beam.
The most fascinating stories about Rosslyn Chapel tell of treasure of some kind being hidden there. A crypt has been found with the same depth and height as that of the Chapel, but is accessible at the moment only by a very old staircase and it is filled with fine sand. William Saint Clair (“the Seemly”) brought from the Holy Land the “Holy” or “Blood Rood” which is purportedly part of the true cross and saturated with Christ’s blood. This is the relic after which Holyrood House and Abbey were named.
The Holy Rood and the Stone of Scone are considered to be the most valuable artifacts among the Scottish coronation treasures. Sir William Sinclair saved many of the Scottish treasures during the Reformation and it is thought that he hid them at Rosslyn Chapel. If this is the case, it is more than likely that they are still in the crypt today. Additionally, some of the Templar treasure which was brought from France to Scotland during the Catholic Inquisition is thought to be contained within this crypt. It may also be home to the scrolls of the Zadok priests of first century Jerusalem. This is perhaps the most valuable type of treasure that Rosslyn Chapel could conceivably reveal to us. Perhaps this is what Sir William Sinclair was referring to when he inscribed the following in Latin on a lintel next to the Apprentice Pillar:
“Wine is strong, a_ King is stronger, women are even stronger, but TRUTH conquers all.”
- ‘Oliver Cromwell, who had never been much of a respecter of either beauty or tradition ( and even banned Christmas celebrations), used the chapel as a stable while he and his troops attacked Roslin Castle in 1650. The damage could also have occurred in 1658, when the chapel was attacked by an angry mob from Edinburgh with some villagers from Roslin, who considered it an example of Roman Catholic excess.
- This may link up with stories that are prevalent throughout many world cultures regarding an heroic god who descends from Heaven ..on a rope to bestow enlightenment upon mankind such as the Islamic “Marut”, the Buddhist “Mura,” the Sudanese “Tule” and the East African “Imana.” In the Western tradition of the tarot, this image of an angel hanging upside down on a rope is depicted as the “Hanged Man” card.
- 10 The blazing star symbol can be seen etched above the entrance to the church at Rennes-le-Chateau.
- 11 The incident is apparently quite reliably reported. The member of the family who was killed was on active service in the RAF (the British Royal Air Force).