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Rosslyn's Pillars & Cubes

Rosslyn's Pillars & Cubes

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Published by Jeff Nisbet
Examining the evidence concerning Rosslyn Chapel's famous pillars and its controversial "musical cubes"
Examining the evidence concerning Rosslyn Chapel's famous pillars and its controversial "musical cubes"

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Jeff Nisbet on Dec 11, 2010
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06/04/2013

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Rosslyn’s Pillars & Cubes
 Examining the evidence concerning Rosslyn Chapel’s famous pillarsand its controversial “musical cubes”
(An earlier version of this article ran in the April 2010 edition of 
Girnigoe: Scotland’s Clan Sinclair Magazine)
By Jeff Nisbet
D
uring the last ten years or so, but especially since the publication of Dan Brown’s
The Da Vinci Code
, someof the more esoteric theories surrounding certain ele-ments of the architectural enigma we know as Rosslyn Chapelhave taken a bit of stick, and I have been responsible for someof it. Let’s take a look at two of them -- first the chapel’sfamous pillars, and then its so-called “musical cubes.”The text for John Slezer’s 1693 collection of copper engravings “of all the King’s Castles, Pallaces, towns, andother notable places in the kingdom belonging to private sub- jects,” the
T h e a t rum Scotiae
, was written by Robert Sibbald,Geographer Royal for Scotland.In part, here is what Sibbald had to say about Rosslyn Chapel(emphasis mine): “This Chapel lies in Mid-Lothian, Four Milesfrom Edinburgh, and is one of the most curious Pieces of Workman-ship in Europe. The Foundation of this rare Buildingwas laid Anno 1440 by William St Clair, Prince of Orkney,Duke of Holdenburgh, &c. AMan as considerable for the pub-lick Works which he erected, as for the Lands which he pos-sess’d, and the Honours which were conferred upon him byseveral of the greatest Princes of Europe. It is remarkable thatin all this Work there are not two Cuts of one sort. The mostcurious Part of the Building is the Vault of the Quire, and thatwhich is called the
 P r i n c e ’s Pillar 
so much talk’d of.”What are we to make of the fact that the pillar we nowrefer to as the Apprentice or Prentice Pillar was, in the late1600s, known as the Prince’s Pillar, and had indeed beenknown as such long enough to be “much talk’d” about?Eight decades later, in his 1774
 An Account of the Chapel of Roslin
, the Bishop of Caithness, Robert Forbes, supposesthat the Prince’s Pillar was so named because of the chapel’s“princely founder,” and then goes on to relate, for the firsttime anywhere, the by-then-well-known legend of the slainapprentice, killed in a jealous rage by Rosslyn’s master mason for carving the pillar during the master’s absence -- atale only marginally reminiscent of the murder of HiramAbiff, grand architect of the Temple of Solomon, an act thatis central to freemasonic ritual. The legend, Forbes claims, is
Copyright April/December 2010 by Jeff Nisbet / www.mythomorph.com
1
Rosslyn Chapel,
1828, by David Roberts
 
Left: Detail from Samuel Dukinfield Swarbreck’s 1837
East Aisle or Lady Chapel, Rosslyn Chapel 
. Right: Photo by Thomas Vernon Begbie, circa 1880.
“a tradition that has prevailed in the family of Roslin, fromfather to son.”The legend has since enjoyed a long and robust life, but itsdodgy provenance has recently given rise to a number of  books that insist the chapel’s symbolism is strictly Christian,and cannot be considered in any way freemasonic. While Iam of the studied opinion that Rosslyn was built to preserveand pass forward certain occult knowledge, as those of youwho have read my work will know, there’s no doubt that thearchitectural fabric of the chapel has been tampered withover the last two centuries in an over-zealous attempt to fur-ther a Masonic agenda. As just one example, let’s consider the pillar now known as the Master’s Pillar.First, let’s compare the detail from Samuel DukinfieldSwarbreck’s 1837 lithograph of Rosslyn’s Lady Chapel,shown above-left. Then compare the pillar in the foregroundof that detail with the same pillar in Thomas Vernon Begbie’scirca 1880 photograph next to it, taken after architect andfreemason David Bryce’s 1860’s restoration of the chapelinterior.To all appearances it seems that Bryce’s work wentfar beyond the remit of simple restoration.And yet, an entry in the Scottish Records Office seems toindicate that Bryce actually discovered an ornate inner pillar that at some point in time had already been partially restoredand concealed beneath a false exterior. That entry, dated 1861and referenced as
GD 164/Box12/21
, reads as follows:“David Bryce describes the pillar on the opposite side andcorresponding with the Apprentice Pillar: ‘It has at one time been ornamented not in a spiral form but with upright orna-ment which has been partly cut out and new stone introduced,and other stones where entire being plastered over. The intro-duced plain stone is white, the original is red.’” Whether or not you are predisposed to believe that Bryce was lying inorder to establish that two ornate pillars had existed inRosslyn from the time of the chapel’s original construction,thereby lending credence to the idea that the Masonic pillarsof Boaz and Jachin had been intended by the builder, the evi-dence of your eyes should indicate that the drab and unre-stored pillar shown in Swarbreck’s 1837 lithograph is of anobviously angular construction, unlike all other chapel pillars.
Copyright April/December 2010 by Jeff Nisbet / www.mythomorph.com
2
 
Left: Samuel Dukinfield Swarbreck’s 1837
The Interior of Rosslyn Chapel.
Above: Screenshot from Tommy and Stuart Mitchells’YouTube presentation,
The RosslynStave Angel --Music Cipher.
One other theory about the naming of the Prentice Pillar,albeit a rather mundane one, bears mention. Contemporaneousto the building of the chapel there was, in the East Midlandstown of Chellaston, England, a renowned alabaster quarry andworkshop of the firm Prentys and Sutton. Perhaps master carv-er Thomas Prentys carved the Prentys Pillar.While there may be no legitimate tie to freemasonryafforded by the legend of the slain apprentice -- a legend thatis not unique to Rosslyn Chapel -- my recent research hasshown that there may indeed by a symbolic tie, however ten-uous, between the building of the chapel and the building of Solomon’sTemple.In James Anderson’s 1723
Constitutions
, which utilizessome of freemasonry’s oldest manuscripts, is the followingdescription of the building of Solomon’sTemple (emphasismine).D a g o n ’s Temple, and the finest structures of Tyre andSidon, could not be compared with the Eternal God’s Te m p l eat Jerusalem. There were employed about it no less than 3,699
 Princes or Master- M a s o n s
, to conduct the work according toS o l o m o n ’s directions.”So, Sibbald’s naming of the Prince’s Pillar may have hadnothing to do with the founder’s “princely origins.” The pil-lar we now know of as the Prentice Pillar may, in fact, haveoriginally been the Master’s Pillar.And now, on to Rosslyn’s “Musical Cubes.”Many of you will know that today’s varied patterns on the213 cubes that hang down from the ceiling ribs of Rosslyn’sLady Chapel have been long thought to hold a musical code,and that the father-and-son team of Tommy and StuartMitchell, a few years ago, came up with a solution to thatcode that resulted in a commercially successful book and amusical composition titled
The Rosslyn Motet 
.Many of you will also know that I subsequently wrote anarticle on the Mitchells’solution, now archived on my web-site at
m y t h o m o r p h . c o m
, taking issue with its veracity, andused as evidence the 1837 Swarbreck, showing the sorry stateof the cubes before their restoration in the 1860s by architectDavid Bryce.In that article, the Mitchells’“Stave Angel” is described as“holding a stave of music, and is pointing to notes on thestave that exactly correspond with the Chladni patternsshown on the first three cubes above the angel’s head and,astonishingly, that these three notes account for 70 percent of the entire cube sequence.” Chladni patterns are caused whena “sustained note is used to vibrate a sheet of metal coveredin powder, producing marks.” The marks produced by differ-ent notes can “include flowers, diamonds and hexagons --shapes all present on the Rosslyn cubes.”My article did not convince the True Believers that theM i t c h e l l s claims were suspect, perhaps because theSwarbreck drawing I used as evidence was not of a suffi-ciently high resolution. I have since acquired a large-formatand high-quality reproduction of his original drawing, andhave included a section of it on the following page for your inspection.
Copyright April/December 2010 by Jeff Nisbet / www.mythomorph.com
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