Friday, July 13, 2012

Visit Rosslyn Chapel from the Da Vinci Code Movie


I am a huge Da Vinci Code fan. I read the book when it first came out, before all the hype, and I remember telling Joey that it was going to be a hit because of its mind-blowing ending. But then I watched the movie and became an even bigger fan, particularly of the scene where Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou visit Rosslyn Chapel. What a spectacular place, I thought! Wouldn't that be nice to visit?

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown - my inspiration for visiting the Rosslyn Chapel (imdb.com)

Fast-forward several years, and I found myself traveling to Scotland with my husband. As I was Googling things to see and do in Edinburgh, Rosslyn Chapel popped up as a nearby attraction. It isn't in the city, but is about a twenty minute drive south-east of the city limits, and I thought that this was a very do-able drive (especially since I wasn't driving; Joey was). 

On day three of our journey through Scotland, we hopped in the rental car bright and early and entered "Rosslyn Chapel" into the TomTom GPS unit. Helpful note: if you don't know Scotland inside out already, don't drive anywhere without a GPS unit! They are worth their weight in gold - I don't think my marriage to Joey would be intact today without that TomTom! GPS: man's greatest invention (other than the airplane, of course!) It was $15.00 CDN a day to rent, but completely worth the cost. 

Joey with our little rental car.

Google Maps was true to its word: twenty minutes later we were pulling into the Rosslyn Chapel parking lot in the village of Roslin. I was dying for breakfast and a coffee, so we decided to head into the village before seeing the chapel. Unfortunately, nothing was open in the village for food or drink before noon. Boo! We turned around and headed back to the Rosslyn Chapel interpretive center, paid an exorbitant amount for a hot chocolate and croissant (but it was super delicious hot chocolate, made from a melty chocolate bar - yum!), and sat and ate.

Then it was time to see the chapel. We paid the £9.00 per person entrance fee, and walked through the doors. (Rosslyn Chapel is NOT covered under the Historical Scotland Explorer Pass, by the way. Just so you know.)

Standing outside the beautiful Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland.

At the time we visited, there was extensive repair work occurring on the Chapel's exterior, so there was a lot of scaffolding up, which kind of marred the picturesque atmosphere of the building. Nevertheless, it was still an amazing sight. The carvings on the outside of the building were spectacular - I could only imagine what the inside held. We circled the building first, prolonging the anticipation of seeing the inside. I was pretty happy with how beautiful just the outside was, and finally, how the weather was! We didn't get rained on until after we exited the Chapel much later.

The back entrance to Rosslyn Chapel, in the newest addition from the 1800s.

Me trying to sneak in the side door of Rosslyn Chapel - but it was locked.

Inside was a whole other level of beauty. Every single inch of ceiling, wall, and column space has a carving on it, and with each sculpture comes a unique and individual story. Symbolism runs rampant: the Green Man for vitality, stars, suns, people's faces, crosses, pagan symbols, Christian symbols, and so much more. The Chapel provides laminated guides in the shape of placemats as a form of guidebook for some of the more popular sculptures and stories.

The interior of Rosslyn Chapel (wikipedia.com)

My favorite story, and Joey's too, was that of the two beautifully carved pillars at the front of Rosslyn Chapel, just before the Lady Chapel. Look at the picture below of the pillar, the one that looks almost as if it could have come from a mosque in Cordoba. This pillar was carved by the master sculptor of Rosslyn. He was inspired to create a pillar of great beauty to adorn the front of the chapel, and this is what came of that inspiration.

The Master Pillar (questier.com)

However, he had an assistant, a protégée if you will. This young man was also inspired to create a pillar of his own, and approached the master sculptor with his idea for a Romanesque pillar, wrapped with floral and ivy patterns. His idea was based on a real pillar in Rome, and before the master sculptor (who sounds like he may have been a bit of a diva and control freak) would consent for the apprentice to begin carving, he had to travel to Rome and see the original pillar for himself. He told the apprentice to wait until he returned, and then he would say yes or no to carving the final piece.

They waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, William Sinclair, owner of Rosslyn Chapel and the one who had commissioned all of the carvings, got impatient and, unsure if the master sculptor would ever return, told the apprentice to get on with it. The apprentice chose a pillar also at the front of the chapel, opposite of the one the master sculptor had designed, and began his work. Four years later he was done. Below is a photo of his pillar, and as you can see, it puts the master sculptor's to shame.

The gorgeous Apprentice Pillar (clannalba.com)

A thing of beauty it was, and everyone loved it: that is, until the master sculptor DID return. When he came back to Rosslyn, he found that the apprentice had not only gone on without his permission, but he had carved on one of his pillars, and had done a much better job than the master sculptor ever could have done. In a fit of rage and jealousy, the master sculptor grabbed a mallet and bashed in the side of the apprentice's head, killing him. For this, the master sculptor was hung. Effigies of both men can be found in the chapel, elevated near the pipe organ on the back wall.

An example of all the different carvings that can be found inside Rosslyn Chapel (henniker.org.uk)

I could go on and on about all the carvings, but trust me, there are websites dedicated to documenting and analyzing all of the sculptures in Rosslyn Chapel, and they do a much better job than I ever could. Look them up, and enjoy the photos! There is no photography allowed in Rosslyn - I snuck in two, one of each pillar because I loved them oh-so-much! Other than that, I was a good girl. Any other pictures on this blog post I have credited the original websites.

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