Rosslyn Chapel, formally known as the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew, is a 15th-century chapel located at the village of Roslin, Midlothian, Scotland.
Rosslyn Chapel was founded on a small hill above Roslin Glen as a Catholic collegiate church (with between four and six ordained canons and two boy choristers) in the mid-15th century. The chapel was founded by William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness of the Scoto-Norman Sinclair family. Rosslyn Chapel is the third Sinclair place of worship at Roslin, the first being in Roslin Castle and the second (whose crumbling buttresses can still be seen today) in what is now Roslin Cemetery.
The purpose of the college was to celebrate the Divine Office throughout the day and night and also to celebrate Holy Mass for all the faithful departed, including the deceased members of the Sinclair family. During this period the rich heritage of plainsong (a single melodic line) or polyphony (vocal harmony) would be used to enrich the singing of the liturgy. An endowment was made that would pay for the upkeep of the priests and choristers in perpetuity and they also had parochial responsibilities.
After the Scottish Reformation (1560), Roman Catholic worship in the chapel was brought to an end, although the Sinclair family continued to be Roman Catholics until the early 18th century. From that time the chapel was closed to public worship until 1861, when it was opened again as a place of worship according to the rites of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Since the late 1980s, the chapel has also featured in speculative theories concerning a connection of Freemasonry, the Knights Templar, and the Holy Grail. It was prominently featured in the 2003 bestseller The Da Vinci Code and its 2006 film adaptation.
Rosslyn Chapel remains privately owned. The current owner is Peter St Clair-Erskine, 7th Earl of Rosslyn.
Interior of the chapel.
The original plans for Rosslyn have never been found or recorded, so it is open to speculation whether or not the chapel was intended to be built in its current layout. Its architecture is considered to be among the finest in Scotland.
Construction of the chapel began on 20 September 1456, although it has often been recorded as 1446. The confusion over the building date comes from the chapel's receiving its founding charter to build a collegiate chapel in 1446 from Rome. Sinclair did not start to build the chapel until he had built houses for his craftsmen.
Although the original building was to be cruciform in shape, it was never completed. Only the choir was constructed, with the retro-chapel, otherwise called the Lady chapel, built on the much earlier crypt (Lower Chapel) believed to form part of an earlier castle. The foundations of the unbuilt nave and transepts stretching to a distance of 90 feet were recorded in the 19th century. The decorative carving was executed over a forty-year period. After the founder's death, construction of the planned nave and transepts was abandoned - either from lack of funds, lack of interest or a change in liturgical fashion.
The Lower Chapel (also known as the crypt or sacristy) should not be confused with the burial vaults that lie underneath Rosslyn Chapel.
The chapel stands on fourteen pillars, which form an arcade of twelve pointed arches on three sides of the nave. At the east end, a fourteenth pillar between the penultimate pair form a three-pillared division between the nave and the Lady chapel. The three pillars at the east end of the chapel are named, from north to south: the Master Pillar, the Journeyman Pillar, and most famously, the Apprentice Pillar. These names for the pillars date from the late Georgian period — prior to this period they were called The Earl's Pillar, The Shekinah and the Prince's pillar.
Pendant keystone in the roof
The Apprentice Pillar