Rosslyn Chapel – a recent visit

Edinburgh is a truly cosmopolitan city with amazing architecture, history and of course throngs of tourists. One of the main attractions being the shopping and the atmosphere on its main street “the Royal Mile”

The reason for our visit was based on the fact that for the last 4 years Bryon Lingard and his wife Karen have had a weekend break in the city, and each year friends are invited to attend. On this occasion however one of our number was unable to join us for the weekend so we were missing one of our musketeers.

We stayed at the Kings Manor Hotel, which is on the outskirts of the city but an easy bus or taxi ride into town. The room rate is one which Karen secures early in the year and represents exceedingly good value for money. Suffice it to say we all had a great time in Edinburgh enjoying the food, wine and of course the traditional export Whisky.

Getting back on subject, we have visited Rosslyn Chapel a few times in the past, but never with our ladies present, the very first being prior to the publication of the number one best seller “The Davinci Code” which catapulted the Chapel into legendary status. The party then, enjoyed a very different visit, there being absolutely no tourists or visitor center on site. In fact we entered the chapel grounds via a small gate in the wall and enjoyed the exterior of the building via a scaffolding and aerial walkway that had been erected to provide a roof structure above the chapel, this was to protect it from the elements and to allow it to slowly dry out. We also had its spectacular interior, with its carvings and history entirely to ourselves.  There was a small cafe that offered refreshments on site, plus a masonic museum upstairs above the cafe.  We came away absolutely transfixed with the building its architecture and the theories about what and why it was there fresh in minds.

The second visit was very different indeed, by this stage the book had been released and every conspiracy theorist on the planet knew about Rosslyn Chapel and its location.  There was now a car park and direction signs to the Chapel. The Rosslyn Chapel Trust had built a temporary timber building with admission stalls and a display of the Chapels history and the work being undertaken to preserve the building. On the day we arrived there must have been hundreds of tourist queueing up to see the building, this was before the film, just the book so far remember. The temporary structure providing weather protection for the roof was still in place which creaked and swayed under the

weight of the visitors pouring over its scaffolding. It really did afford a very good view of the roof and adjoining flying buttress supports and the intricate carvings. Inside, the chapel had been fully floodlight, so that more of the interior detail could be seen and the smell of damp that was ever-present had started to disappear. The building still had its interest for us as masons but to many more visitors as fans of Dan Brown and his latest conspiracy.

It was interest from our wives which instigated the most recent visit, what with hearing about Rosslyn Chapel on numerous occasions and now being within 17 mile of the location, it only seemed right for them to see what it was all about.

The release of the film “The Davinci Code” featuring Tom Hanks made Rosslyn Chapel a Global commodity, pushing visitor number up from 30,thousand in a good year to well above 170 thousand on a regular basis. The additional finance had allowed work to progress on conservation and for a visitor center to be built, which was almost complete but not open on the day. The aerial walkway and temporary roof had gone and the exterior had a different type of scaffolding around it, that giving access to stonemasons and conservators. The new lead roofing had enabled the ceiling inside the chapel to dry out and the whole interior was transformed and now free of damp smelling odours. admission was £7.00 or there about with various concessions for age and families etc. Nothing much else had changed apart from half a dozen guides directing tourists around the site and explaining history and detail in all its glory. The main part of the tour was conducted by a young lady, dressed with sufficient Scottish regalia to make it interesting, standing in the centre of the chapel and with the aid of a lazer marker pen, pointed out and explained many of the strange carvings, she really was very good and had everyone spellbound. The visit still took two hours to conduct including the look around the gift shop which had almost everything you could think of with Rosslyn Chapel stamped across it. Personally I’m not sure where the cut off point should be with commercializing such a treasure as Rosslyn Chapel, conserving and restoring is all well and good but it all costs money, and if that money just so happens to come from a commercial source then where do you draw the line. Thankfully Davinci Code stuff was nowhere in sight. The positive side of it all was stated by our young lady guide when she said that the roof had been repaired and the scaffolding removed  10 years ahead of schedule due largely to the number of visitors. The Rosslyn Chapel visit was a real finale to our Edinburgh trip, I’m sure it wont be our last. More pictures of Rosslyn Chapel can be found in the picture gallery


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