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Rosslyn Chapel

In the village of Roslin, approximately 10 km from Edinburgh, is located the Rosslyn Chapel, probably one of the most important Masonic heritages in Scotland and the World. In the fifteenth century Roslin was a thriving market village. The St Clairs of Rosslyn were at the time one of the most powerful families in Scotland. They were Princes of Orkney and owned lands throughout Scotland. Prince Henry, the second prince, is claimed to have discovered America in 1398, before Christopher Columbus was born. He returned with Indian corn, or maize as we know it . This and two other plants found only in America, one of which is the Aloe Cactus, is engraved on the walls of the Chapel.


The word Rosslyn means, ross a cliff and lyn a stream. The Chapel’s proper name is the Collegiate Chapel of St Mary. It was started in 1446 by William Sinclair

(St Clair), Third Earl of Orkney, Baron of Roslin, and First Earl of Caithness. It took 40 years to complete. The Chapel was to be part of a much bigger cathedral. The full foundations lie below the surrounding garden. It fell to his son to complete it but he was known to be rather tight with money and it was blocked off at its present size. It was first intended to be a family chapel and was rumored to be a replica of the Inner Chamber of King Solomon’s Temple. It should be remembered that King Solomon’s Temple was not large and hence the Chapel could have been kept small to symbolize the original Temple.


The Chapel is constructed along Templar lines, namely due north and south and due west and east. Every part is constructed in threes, fives, sevens or nines. There are reported to be twenty of Rosslyn’s Barons in the vaults in full armour and lying on open ledges, a privilege reserved for Kings. The Chapel is a wonder of sculptor’s art. Every nook and cranny is decorated in some way or other. From the Appentices and Masters columns to the busts of the Master, Apprentice and the Apprentice’s mother, the two Templars on a single horse, the hanging of Lucifer , and many other accepted symbols Templar and Masonic presence.


The Templar connection was through King Bruce who was a great friend of William Sinclair. A death mask of Robert the Bruce is carved in the east wall of Rosslyn Chapel. It is accepted that William Sinclair was a Knight Templar. The Sinclair descendants have at various stages been Grand Masters of the Masonic Order. Their graves depict this connection. The title of “Master of the Masons in Scotland “was conferred on the Sinclairs of Rosslyn by King James ll in 1421. This was confirmed in the Schaw Statutes and later in the St Clair Charters in the early seventeenth century. The Scots maintain the link was between the operative masons and the Knights Templar whereas the English promoted the origins of Freemasonry from the stone, or operative , masons only.


Many items of value are purported to have been buried under the Chapel. As discussed above all that can be found there are the tombs of the past Barons of Roslyn. The one deviation is a scroll dating back to 1871 which was a partition from all the Lodges in Scotland asking Brother Francis Robert to stay on as the Grand Master Mason when he expressed the desire to resign. The scroll is 10 metres long and was signed by members of the 400 Lodges in Scotland.


There are three pillars of note in the Chapel. These are the Apprentice, the Founder and the Master Mason pillars. The legion goes that the master mason built the Masters Column (Ionic Column) and not being satisfied with it left to seek inspiration overseas before building the Apprentices Column. While he was away his apprentice had a dream and built the Apprentice Column (Corinthian Column) before the master’s return. The master was so infuriated that he struck the apprentice across the forehead with a mallet killing him. Both he and the apprentice’s heads are sculptured in the east. The pillar in the middle is the Founder’s Pillar. It is very strong and of severe appearance. With beautiful lattice work on top this Doric Column signifies strength representing the Senior Warden’s column.


Everything in the south eastern corner relates to the Royal Arch Chapter and certain other degrees. To the left of the south east window is Melchizedek bearing the loving cup filled with wine. Around the same arch of the same window is maize, or Indian sweet corn. Higher up around the same arch are the twelve disciples and the four crowned martyrs, one of whom appears to be pouring oil. Therefore, we have corn, wine and oil in the south eastern corner. The architrave facing the east shows the seven acts of mercy. At the end is St Peter with the key to let you into heaven. On the other side is the seven deadly sins, pride , gluttony , anger , sloth , envy , avarice and lust. At the end in the Devil coming out of the mouth of a serpent with a rake to rake in a plentiful supply of sinners.