The Rosslyn Chapel is probably most famous for its appearance in The Da Vinci Code. However, Dan Brown took some liberties when he said the chapel was home to the Holy Grail. While it certainly is a great setting for the movie’s climax, it’s certainly not the only reason to visit Rosslyn Chapel.
Rosslyn Chapel certainly has a good bit of history. Chartered in 1446, construction began in 1456 and was completed 40 years later. Originally it was used as a place of worship for the Sinclair family. It was then closed to public worship after the Scottish Reformation in 1560. In 1861 it reopened and to this day offers services to the public.
I certainly was not expecting the level of detail I saw within the chapel. Nearly every inch of the interior has carvings that you just wouldn’t expect to find in such a small church. The ceiling has five different patterns each symbolizing a different part of life. There’s even an incredibly intricate column sculpted by an apprentice based on a dream he had. Word has it that when his master returned, he flew into a jealous rage and killed the apprentice for displaying such a high level of skill.
Dan Brown was not the first to suggest connections between the chapel and the Knights Templars. Theories have been springing up since the 1980’s that Rosslyn Chapel has connections to mystical societies, including the Freemasons and the Illuminati. There are aspects of the chapel which bring up some interesting questions, such as the relief of Indian corn. Maize is grown in North America, which was “discovered” half a century after the construction of the chapel. Other images of “New World” vegetation can be found in the chapel.
While you might not be able to find the Holy Grail, there’s a good chance you’ll see Mr. William, the Chapel Cat. He actually belongs to a family in Rosslyn town, but for 12 years now he’s been a resident of “his” chapel. William developed quite the name for himself, and books have even been written about him. He hangs around often, although he tends to be more haughty than friendly. But every church needs a cat, right?
To get to Rosslyn Chapel, take the 37 bus from South Bridge in Edinburgh’s City Center. Bus fare is £1.60 each way or £4 for a day pass. The bus takes about 45-60 minutes, depending on traffic.
The chapel itself has an entry fee of £9. Several times a day there are guided tours of the chapel, included in the entry fee. The visitor center also has panels with information on the chapel, as well as a cafe and gift shop.
As the visitor center and chapel are indoors, this is the perfect attraction for a rainy day. If it does happen to be sunny, you can also walk around the chapel grounds and visit the Rosslyn Cemetery next door. Depending on the time of year, you might also catch a great sunset.