The spectacular sculptures and carvings of Scotland’s historic Rosslyn Chapel are now in full view of the public for the first time since March 1997. For the last 14 years, visitors to Rosslyn have had to navigate their way around a three-story steel scaffold that had surrounded the medieval chapel’s exterior.
The scaffolding was removed more than a month ago, but a visit this week by Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop made the end of the extensive renovation official. Throughout the work, the chapel had remained open for services and for tourists.
Rosslyn Chapel was founded by Sir William St. Clair in 1446 and took forty years to build. There were plans to build an entire cathedral on the location but the cost of the extravagant architecture drained the funds for the larger venture.
Visitors now have clear view of the angels, gargoyles and numerous other figures that decorate the chapel’s exterior. One could spend hours analyzing the workmanship which is now both restored and preserved after centuries of enduring the damp Scottish weather.
Inside, Rosslyn’s interior walls and vaulted ceiling are completely carved with figures and symbols. Among the things you will see are more than 110 “Green Men” (considered signs of fertility), numerous symbols of Freemasons and the Knights Templar, as well as sixteen distinctly carved columns.
Each has its own name and meaning, but none is more famous than the Apprentice Pillar. The beautifully twisted pillar is said to have been carved by an apprentice while the master mason was away in Italy. The move so angered the master, that he killed the apprentice upon his return. Carvings elsewhere in the chapel show the apprentice with his head wound and the master mason, who is destined to look at the Apprentice Pillar for eternity.
Indeed the legends surrounding Rosslyn are numerous. It was featured prominently in Dan Brown’s book The da Vinci Code.
The renovation cost an estimated £13 million. Visitors as now prohibited from taking photographs of the interior.
Rosslyn Chapel is located in the village of Roslin, just 20 minutes south of Edinburgh. Church services are still conducted weekly so no tours are allowed Sunday morning until after services conclude at 11:30am. Evening services take place April to October and there are also services each Christmas Eve night.
For more on Rosslyn Chapel, visit www.rosslynchapel.org.uk