The Masonic connections between the Knights Templar and Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel has becoming synomisis in popular culture through the Da Vinci Code book and movie but how is it connected to the Knights Templar.

The chapel, built 150 years after the dissolution of the Knights Templar, supposedly has many Templar symbols, such as the “Two riders on a single horse” that appear on the Seal of the Knights Templar.

The claim that the layout of Rosslyn Chapel echoes that of Solomon’s Temple has been analysed by Mark Oxbrow and Ian Robertson in their book, Rosslyn and the Grail:

An interior view showing the Apprentice Pillar and ornate carvings.Rosslyn Chapel bears no more resemblance to Solomon’s or Herod’s Temple than a house brick does to a paperback book. If you superimpose the floor plans of Rosslyn Chapel and either Solomon’s or Herod’s Temple, you will actually find that they are not even remotely similar. Writers admit that the chapel is far smaller than either of the temples. They freely scale the plans up or down in an attempt to fit them together. What they actually find are no significant similarities at all. […] If you superimpose the floor plans of Rosslyn Chapel and the East Quire of Glasgow Cathedral you will find a startling match: the four walls of both buildings fit precisely. The East Quire of Glasgow is larger than Rosslyn, but the designs of these two medieval Scottish buildings are virtually identical. They both have the same number of windows and the same number of pillars in the same configuration. […] The similarity between Rosslyn Chapel and Glasgow’s East Quire is well established. Andrew Kemp noted that ‘the entire plan of this Chapel corresponds to a large extent with the choir of Glasgow Cathedral’ as far back as 1877 in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries. Many alternative history writers are well aware of this but fail to mention it in their books.

With regards to a possible connection between the St. Clairs and the Knights Templar, the family testified against the Templars when that Order was put on trial in Edinburgh in 1309. Historian Dr. Louise Yeoman, along with other mediaeval scholars, says the Knights Templar connection is false, and points out that Rosslyn Chapel was built by William Sinclair so that Mass could be said for the souls of his family.

It is also claimed that other carvings in the chapel reflect Masonic imagery, such as the way that hands are placed in various figures. One carving may show a blindfolded man being led forward with a noose around his neck—similar to the way a candidate is prepared for initiation into Freemasonry. The carving has been eroded by time and pollution and is difficult to make out clearly. The chapel was built in the 15th century, and the earliest records of Freemasonic lodges date back only to the late 16th and early 17th centuries. A more likely explanation however is that the Masonic imagery was added at a later date. This may have taken place in the 1860s when James St Clair-Erskine, 3rd Earl of Rosslyn instructed Edinburgh architect David Bryce, a known freemason, to undertake restoration work on areas of the church including many of the carvings.

William Sinclair 3rd Earl of Orkney, Baron of Roslin and 1st Earl of Caithness, claimed by novelists to be a hereditary Grand Master of the Scottish stone masons, built Rosslyn Chapel. A later William Sinclair of Roslin became the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and, subsequently, several other members of the Sinclair family have held this position.

These connections, to both the Templars and the Freemasons, means that Rosslyn features prominently in romantic conjectures that the Freemasons are direct descendants of the Knights Templar, though, as scholars point out, there is absolutely no historical connection between the two.

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Filed under Abou Ali, Religion, Scottish History

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