Rosslyn Chapel - History and Facts | History Hit

Rosslyn Chapel

Roslin, Scotland, United Kingdom

Rosslyn Chapel is a 15th century Catholic Church near Edinburgh in Scotland brimming with mysterious carvings.

Lily Johnson

08 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh in Scotland is the beautiful 15th century creation of the third Prince of Orkney, William St Clair. Begun in 1446 and with its foundations completed in 1450, Rosslyn Chapel was actually named the “Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew”.

Rosslyn Chapel history

Whilst Rosslyn Chapel may seem like a finished church, it is actually thought to be incomplete, with William intending it to be a cross-shaped church rather than a rectangular one. Work largely ceased upon his death in 1484 however, and he was buried at Rosslyn Chapel, later to be joined by several members of his noble family.

Over the next two centuries, Rosslyn Chapel would suffer first under the Reformation, when its altar was destroyed, and again in 1650 when Oliver Cromwell’s men used it as stables whilst they raided Rosslyn Castle. Nevertheless, Rosslyn Chapel has survived in good condition, with renovations having restored this stunning church – revered by artists and poets alike – to its former glory.

Rosslyn Chapel today

Part of what makes Rosslyn Chapel such a masterpiece is its collection of stone carvings which cover virtually every inch of its walls. From depictions of what has been interpreted by some as Indian corn to more local rural images and, of course, many of prominent religious figures – there is something to see in every nook and cranny of Rosslyn Chapel.

However, it is the carvings linked to the Knights Templar which have gained the most attention for Rosslyn Chapel, particularly following the release of the 2003 novel “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown, in which the church played an important role.

Infused with mystery and legend, these carvings draw tourists, artists and even royalty to Rosslyn Chapel. Guided tours are available to explain their meanings.

Getting to Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel is located 7 miles south of Edinburgh in the village of Roslin, just off the A701. Follow the brown tourist signs to the Chapel as you approach the village, where there is parking available. The Lothian 37 bus service travels between Edinburgh and Roslin regularly, and stops at the Original Rosslyn Hotel, a few minutes’ walk from the site.

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