Rosslyn Chapel: A Building Made Famous by The da Vinci Code
Anthony Ambrosius Aurelius
“The Scottish estate of Rosslyn (pronounced “ros-ah-lin”) which is home to the Collegiate Church of Saint Matthew, has become one of the most famous buildings in the world as it is featured in the 2003 book The da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
Commissioned in 1446 by the Third Prince of Orkney, William St. Clair, construction spanned decades and because of this, the building was not finished within St. Clair’s lifetime. The chapel has been passed down generationally by the St. Clair family for almost 600 years, kept within the family since conception. St. Clair traveled throughout France and was heavily inspired by the gothic cathedrals he came across. Despite life expectancy being 35 years during the 15th century, St. Clair died at age 74 in 1484, leaving behind his unfinished chapel.
It is believed that the original design was to create a cruciform shaped building however the largest part of the cathedral was never built, originally designed to extend 90 meters west. Although intended to be built in the shape of a cross, the only section finished was the top of the crucifix where Jesus Christ’s head would have been.
Earl St. Clair built lodging for the craftspeople who worked upon the Collegiate Church of St. Matthew in the tiny neighboring village of Rosslyn, Scotland, a short 0.4 kilometers from the building site. The chapel itself is 68’9” long and 42’7” high with the interior covered with carvings of varying sizes. The lower level carvings are more crude than the higher level carvings as it was believed during the 15th century that the closer a person ascended to God, the more ornate, intricate, and beautiful the work produced must be. This is evidenced by some of the keystones which are high up and unable to be properly observed by the naked eye, with beautiful carvings that can only properly be appreciated when standing upon scaffolding.
Some of the best featured carvings include an angel playing bagpipes, a farmer’s wife rescuing a goose from the jaws of a fox, a knight upon horseback, a rope bound Lucifer hung upside down, a star of Bethlehem atop the nativity scene, maze carved a century before Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas which was the only place where corn existed during this period, and”