Rosslyn Chapel, North aspect

This evening, I am focusing on the popular visitor attraction of Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian, Scotland. The correct style of name is Collegiate Chapel of St. Matthew. This is a living church within the Anglican/Episcopalian communion.

Location is about eight miles directly south of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city.

View from South-West

In recent years visitor numbers have grown exponentially due to the Chapel featuring in Dan Brown’s mystical thriller The Da Vinci Code. However, with a history dating back to the 15th century, the Chapel has much to offer the visitor. A summary of key facts and information is provided below.

  • Founded by Sir William Sinclair, third and last St. Clair Prince of Orkney in 1446. The Chapel remains under control of Sir William’s descendants today.
  • Located in Roslin, a village about 7 miles south of Edinburgh.
  • Took 40 years to build using some of the top stone masons in Europe.
  • Shortly after Sir William’s death in 1484 work on the Chapel ceased. It is believed that what exists today was intended as the choir of a much larger collegiate complex.
  • Built for private, Catholic worship which ceased in 1592 due to the Protestant Reformation.
  • An unused ruin from 1592 to 1862 when worship (Episcopalian) re-commenced.
  • In 1954 severe damage was caused by application of incorrect treatment to the interior with aim of remedying water saturation which was threatening the building.
  • In 1997 a free-standing steel ‘umbrella’ structure was erected to facilitate natural drying out. This proved successful and the structure has since been removed.
  • Today, visitors are attracted by a display of some of the best stone carvings in Europe featuring highly decorated:
    • plant motifs;
    • symbols relevant to Old Testament texts;
    • Knights Templar;
    • Freemasonry;
    • Apprentice Pillar;
    • Scandinavia mythology; and
    • pagan themes.
  • A local cat named William has taken up residence in the chapel and has become something of a local celebrity.He may rank as the most petted cat in Britain!

William the Cat at Rosslyn Chapel

During the 18th and 19th centuries the Chapel attracted famous literary and artistic luminaries including Sir Walter Scott, J.M.W. Turner,Robert Burns, Lord Byron, William and Dorothy Wordsworth and Alexander Nasmyth.

The Chapel is open daily. Talks are provided by expert tour guides at specified times.

Photography of the interior is not permitted.