The Secrets of Rosslyn Roddy Martine

2 months ago
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  Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, the RevdMichael Fass, Kit Hesketh Harvey, Jenny Hess, Duncan McKendrick, Graeme Munro, John Ritchie, the Countess of Rosslyn, Andrew Russell, Niven Sinclair, Garry and Lorna Stoddart, AJ Stewart andMark Turner. A special thanks to Aline Hill, who so meticulously edited this book, and to Hugh Andrew, Andrew Simmons, Wendy MacGregor and the staff of Birlinn.

List of Illustrations


  In the absence of Scotland’s reliquaries of the Roman religion, notably the Holy Rude, the artefacts of Dalriada’s old Celtic religion were reinstated: the Pastoral Staff of St Moluag, a sixth-century IrishPictish monk; and the Monymusk Reliquary, a bejewelled casket covered in bronze and silver plates, and said to contain the bones of St Columba of Iona, the Irish missionary who had reintroducedChristianity to Scotland during the Dark Ages. This inevitably raises the question of where the original castlemight have stood, and although it has been suggested that it guarded the south bank of the river, or lochan, of Roslin Glen, a more obvious conclusion, endorsed by the complexity of its foundations, isthat the earlier fortification occupied the present-day site of the chapel, high on the hill, where it commanded extensive views of the surrounding countryside but was open to attack on all sides.


  However, these were uncomfortable times for any family adhering to the Holy Roman faith, and particularly for the hereditary custodians of a celebrated ‘house and monument of idolatrie and notane place appointit for teiching the word and ministratioun of ye sacrementis’, as the Presbytery described Rosslyn Chapel in 1589 when they discovered that the minister of Cockpen, the RevdWilliam Knox, a nephew of the great Protestant Reformer John Knox, had participated in a baptism 1 here. If that dynasty is indeed today vested in the royal family of Great Britain, and SEVENTEENThe Earls of Rosslyn Keeping it in the family ne of the more intelligent aspects of the Scottish peerage and honours system is that under the old Celtic tradition it is usual for succession and titles to pass to the nearest female and her progeny in the absence of an immediate male heir.


  At the bottom of the pillar the dragons of Neilfelheim can be seen gnawing at the roots of thetree to rob it of its fruitfulness.’ Certainly, the carvings appear to depict only leaves, pointing to it being symbolic of the Tree ofLife, which is probably exactly what was intended, given that much of the inspiration for the carvings throughout originates from the Old or New Testaments, in this case either the Book of Genesis or theBook of Revelation. As a friend of the St Clair family, Sir Walter would doubtless have been aware of Father Hay’s manuscript from a century earlier in which he so vividly describes the opening of the airless vaultsfor the interment of his stepfather, Sir James, first of the dynasty to be encased in a coffin, since his wife considered the practice of burial without one as being barbaric.

V Rosslyn Castle today suggests a Disney-esque amalgamation of Camelot and a Jane Austen villa, its

  Admittedly the vote was to a degree prompted by the success of The Da Vinci Code – which had sold 25 million copies in forty-four languages over two years – and the subsequent upsurge ofinternational interest in the chapel, but it is also fair to say that the judges were unanimous in their affection for a building which they had all, with one exception, visited at some stage in their lives. Incensed at the Scots’ refusal to betroth the infant Queen Mary to Prince Edward of England, his father, Henry VIII of England, in 1544 ordered the Earl of Hertford to invade Scotland and to ‘SackLeith and burn and subvert it and all the rest, putting man, woman and child to fire and sword without exception.’ The entire Old Town and Edinburgh Castle was destroyed, excepting St Margaret’sChapel, which still stands today.


  Brother Robert LD Cooper, trans. from the Latin Brother John Wade, (The Grand Lodge of Scotland, 1835, 2002) ——, Account of the Templars together with an Account of the Joannites or Knights of St John, ed.


  Billings, The Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland, 1909)Rosslyn Chapel from the east (copyright © Antonia Reeve) Rosslyn Chapel from the south (copyright © Antonia Reeve) An idealised image of Robert Burns and Alexander Nasmyth below the arch of the drawbridge of Rosslyn Castle (James Nasmyth. It sits on the foundations of the one-time Preceptory of the Knights Templar, and some of the stones from the original buildingwere used in the construction of the north wall (copyright © Roddy Martine) The entrance to Wallace’s Cave in the cliffs of Gorton, seen through trees from the opposite river bank of the North Esk (copyright © Roddy Martine)Rosslyn Castle rises spectacularly above the river gorge of Roslin Glen.

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