Rosslyn Chapel
15th Century Gothic Church

The Wooden Gorge of Roslin Glen

Rosslyn Chapel lies within Roslin Glen, located on the edge of the village of Roslin in Midlothian, Scotland, approximately 7 miles south of the centre of Edinburgh. Rosslyn Chapel was constructed almost entirely in stone, with no structural timber except within the much later Victorian baptistery added to the west end of the chapel. The chapel is thought to be only part of what was intended to be a much larger church, and it exhibits immense historic, architectural and cultural value. The extent of carved stonework both internally and externally makes this little chapel truly unique.

Early History

Constructed in 1446 by Sir William St Clair, 11th Baron of Roslin and 3rd Prince of Orkney, Rosslyn Chapel has seen visitors of all ilk over the course of the centuries. Many writers and artists visited Rosslyn, including Robert Burns, Dorothy and William Wordsworth, and Alexander Naysmyth. In 1842, Queen Victoria herself visited the site and expressed a desire that the chapel be “preserved for the country.”

The Masons at Rosslyn Chapel

The unique carvings of the chapel have been the subject of much speculation and conjecture, as Christian symbolism and other references are interspersed throughout the building. In 1630, Sir William Sinclair of Rosslyn was granted the charters from the Masons of Scotland, which confirms that the St Clairs were traditional Grand Masters of the Masons of Scotland. Accordingly, Rosslyn Chapel is of considerable interest to Masonic groups. Other carvings at Rosslyn Chapel are of religious, natural, or decorative nature, such as the Apprentice Pillar and the Seven Acts of Mercy panel.

Erosion and Restoration

In March 2009, digital documentation partners from the Technical Conservation Group at Historic Scotland and the Digital Design Studio at Glasgow School of Art carried out complete laser scanning of Rosslyn’s interiors and exteriors. The digital documentation of Rosslyn Chapel was conducted prior to major site conservation efforts, and the data is currently assisting the conservation process by informing the team of structural details and enabling better site interpretation during the restoration period. Over the centuries, many of the intricate carvings and foundational structures at Rosslyn Chapel have eroded. The Rosslyn Chapel digital preservation project hopes to document the site accurately for restoration and educational purposes, preserving the integrity of the site for future generations.


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