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United Kingdom: Rosslyn Chapel

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Rosslyn Chapel | United Kingdom | Europe

[Visited: May 2007]

When I left Edinburgh on a bus south to Rosslyn Chapel, the sun was shining. In a very short period, however, the sky darkened completely, and when I got off the bus, it was raining from dark clouds racing through the sky. Expecting to see a chapel, I was a little disappointed to find it completely covered by a protective roof - no view of the chapel standing on the edge of the green Esk valley. The rain disappeared as fast as it had come, and sunrays lightened up the surrounding landscape. I walked around the chapel before entering through the western door.

Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Countryside south of Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel is surrounded by mystery and inevitably, all kinds of theories surround it - even though the chapel is almost 600 years old, as it was founded in the mid-15th century. Its popularity now stems from the role it plays in the 2003 Da Vinci code novel, and in fact the chapel was full when I entered. Theories include those linking the founder, William St. Clair, to the Knights Templar, or the Holy Grail (and other precious items) being entombed in a crypt under the chapel - some even claim the body of Jesus Christ can be found here! Some of these theories build on the richly sculpted interior of Rosslyn Chapel, not all of which have been explained so far. One of the newest theories claims that Rosslyn Chapel is a mere representation of the different stages of life. After entering Rosslyn Chapel, I was immediately struck by the beauty which seemed to come from all sides. The ceiling is divided in five parts, and is decorated with stars and moons, and tablet flowers, ball flowers and roses. No window is the same, all have colourful and delicately decorated stained glass. The architraves are decorated, in small alcoves you can find subtle sculptures.

Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Stained glass window in Rosslyn Chapel

The most prominent sight, however, is the Apprentice Pillar: a curiously curved pillar in the eastern side of Rosslyn Chapel. According to legend, the mason who had already finished a pillar was sent to Italy to study a certain style that appealed to William St. Clair. After a while, an apprentice mason told William he had had a dream about a pillar, and since the mason had not returned, William granted the apprentice the favour to sculpt the pillar. However, when the mason returned and saw the pillar, he killed the apprentice in a fit of rage and envy. On the opposite wall, you can see several sculpted heads: the one diagonally opposite the Apprentice Pillar is said to represent the mason, whose eternal punishment for killing the apprentice is that he has to see the pillar. Considering the queer and interesting design of the pillar, with dragons at its base and vines sculpted all around it, there are much worse things to look at. Joining the pillar, an inscription in an architrave states that "wine is strong, a king is stronger, women are stronger still, but truth conquers all". Next to this architrave there is one depicting the seven sins and seven virtues. There are boxes protruding from arches and pillars, every one of them with a pattern. It has recently been claimed these represent a musical store. Likewise, walking around Rosslyn Chapel is like a puzzle: there are so many large and small sculptures and sculpted details to be found - all with their story and explanation. Or lack of it.

Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Lionhead carved on pendant in Rosslyn Chapel
Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Dragons at the base of the Apprentice Pillar in Rosslyn Chapel
Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Apprentice Pillar in Rosslyn Chapel
Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Angel with book carving in Rosslyn Chapel
Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Sculpture of devil and couple looking away in Rosslyn Chapel
Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Window with stained glass in Rosslyn Chapel
Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Lucifer in Rosslyn Chapel
Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Rosslyn Chapel: looking down from the outside
Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Tomb outside Rosslyn Chapel
Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Intricately carved ceiling of Rosslyn Chapel
Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Architrave with a message: seven sins and virtues in Rosslyn Chapel
Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Sculpture of angel with book in Rosslyn Chapel
Picture of Rosslyn Chapel (United Kingdom): Roof of Rosslyn Chapel

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