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from PhilipCoppens Website
Caught between Templars and Freemasons: the enigma of Rosslyn Chapel
Recently, Rosslyn Chapel, just to the South of Edinburgh, has been described as Britain's answer to Rennes-le-Château. That small village is the focus of a decades-long treasure chase, after the local priest, Berenger Sauniere, was believed to have known a secret, possibly the location of an important treasure. Two chapels, but there the connection seems to end; Rosslyn does not have an enigmatic priest, and fortunately it is much more accessible than Rennes-le-Chateau, situated just outside Edinburgh's City Bypass. But since a decade, a series of authors have claimed that Rosslyn Chapel contains a secret. What secret? Some have grandiosely claimed it is the Grail, others the Head of Jesus, others secret scrolls detailing the life of Jesus. If we take all these theories as a group, it seems that Rosslyn Chapel acts as a magnet for all important treasures; perhaps there is even a bus service between Rennes-le-Chateau and Rosslyn Chapel operated by the Illuminati shuttling the various treasures back and forth. All kidding aside, Rosslyn Chapel was thrown into the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau in the 1980s, by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln. The connection was based on how the last grandmaster of the Priory of Sion, who claim to guard the secret of Rennes-le-Chateau, was named Pierre Plantard. But he added "de St Clair" to that name, and hence made the connections with the "Sinclairs", the modern spelling from the medieval "St Clair" of Rosslyn Chapel. The lid was opened: as the Templars had their Scottish headquarters near to Rosslyn Chapel, at Ballantrodoch (now renamed Temple), the trio of authors wondered whether the Templars, upon their dissolution went to Scotland - some Masonic legends from the 19th Century claimed as much - and hid their secrets in Rosslyn Chapel. In the 15th Century, William St Clair built Rosslyn Chapel and by the early 18th Century, copying the example of the English freemasonry, Scottish freemasonry was "made public", with William St Clair, namesake and descendent from the chapel builder, the first Grandmaster. However, the Scots had to outdo the English, and hence claimed that even though they had not gone public first, their Masonic institution had been going for several centuries, and that the Sinclair were the "hereditary grandmasters". So were the St Clairs the missing link between the Templars and the Masons? The answer seemed to be a straightforward "yes". Too good to be true? It normally is.
First of all, Plantard taking the name St Clair is nice for him, but there is no evidence at all - and many have looked - that he is connected with Rosslyn. There is no connection between the Priory of Sion and Rosslyn - none of the Priory documents claim such a connection; they only people claiming such a connection are British-based authors who speculate on whether such a connection might exist or not. And so far, none have found any evidence. Though it is possible Templars hid in Scotland, Ballontrodoch and Rosslyn Chapel were not a safe-haven for the Templars. Falling under English rule at the time, the knights of Ballontrodoch were arrested. In the ensuing trials, the Sinclairs actually testified against these Templars. In 1736, when Scottish masonry went public, William St Clair, the so-called hereditary grandmaster, was not even a mason; the Scottish masons needed a figurehead, and William St Clair accepted the role. In less than six months, he went from no-Mason to grandmaster, and then resigned his title of "hereditary grandmaster", which had been created for one purpose only: get one over the English. So is Rosslyn Chapel built on thin air? No. Rosslyn Chapel is not a piece of a puzzle that people need to try and fit into its proper place. That approach has occurred over the past several years, and has been largely unsuccessful. Rosslyn Chapel has been described as "unique", and hence it needs to be looked as a mature, stand-alone piece of architecture. In this approach, over the past several years, I was able to point out why Rosslyn intrigues and why it did become a central piece in Scottish masonry. The reason why it was built where it was built, incorporates design features of a ritual landscape that go back to prehistoric times - they are very intriguing, but too complex to detail here. But all of this has nothing to do with the Sinclairs, but with the location of and the imagery used in the chapel. The chapel has been described as a "stone garden"; the chapel is dedicated with lush vegetation, is full of Green men; there is no obvious Christian imagery, except that inserted into it in recent decades by the churchgoers. Remove that modern layer and you end up with some Christians who wanted to attend mass, but in the end decided against it, saying this was not a Christian place. William St Clair, in the middle of the 15th Century, was a tremendously wealthy person. He had his castle, but all his peers in Scottish matters of states, most of them much poorer than him, were erecting chapels in the style of a collegiate church: a church where certain priests lived, said masses and looked after the church. The Setons of Prestonpans, a family which has possible connections with the famous alchemist Alexander Seton, built their collegiate church: it is largely without any decorations. St Clair had much more money and brought in experts from France and elsewhere. To some extent, labor resource was scarce in Scotland, but at the same time, the French builders had a different legacy and knowledge. Furthermore, St Clair had been brought up as one of the most learned men in the country - by one of the most learned men in the country. St Clair become personally involved in the building of the chapel and when he died before the completion of the church, his son was either unable or unwilling to continue; instead, he decided to close it off and leave it in its present state. The chapel's ground-plan was based on Glasgow Cathedral, the largest religious building in Scotland. The interior was then decorated with more than a hundred Green Men, according to some a pagan symbol. If so, many Scottish churches have pagan connections, for even Glasgow Cathedral has its share of Green Men.
Green Man at Rosslyn Chapel
Other decorations, such as bag-pipe playing angels or death masks, have all been found in prominent churches in France; though odd for Scotland, it was not odd for the French workforce erecting the chapel. What is unique, however, is the decoration of the three front pillars, particularly the so-called Apprentice Pillar. Vines circling to the top, dragons on its feet, one woman a few decades ago chained herself to it, saying she would not leave before the pillar was cut down, so that the Holy Grail, which she believed was inside, could be revealed. She left shortly after making her point, but on one other occasion, apparently one person entered the chapel with a pick axe and was caught just in time before the pillar was demolished. As the pillar is weight-bearing… What is the mystery of the Apprentice Pillar? There is a centuries-old legend that argues that during the building of the chapel, the Apprentice Pillar was built by an apprentice, who disobeyed the orders of his master when he had gone to Rome. On his return, he found that the apprentice had finished the pillar, and as a result was killed: the Murdered Apprentice, a well-known theme in masonry. Though many books were written on Rosslyn Chapel, none had been able to explain why this story was told and what the importance of it was. The reason is to be found in the fact that masonry has three degrees: Apprentice Journeyman Master Mason Each has its initiation ritual and early on, Rosslyn Chapel was chosen by the masons as a place for their services and initiations. The three degrees are linked with the three pillars at the front. The three rituals are distinguished in where the initiate stands. And in Rosslyn, there is a small problem: to make the rituals work, you would expect that the most lushly decorated pillar marks the Master degree. But in Rosslyn, that is marked by the Apprentice. And thus we have the story, I believe, of why the Apprentice was allegedly killed: to explain the anomaly. But that is what the masons made of the pillars. What did the builder try to convey when he ordered the Apprentice Pillar to be erected in that way?
The dragons encircle a vine that has been compared with a pillar, or a tree; the symbol is well-known in mythology and is pagan in origin: the world tree connected heaven and Earth, and the Underworld (the dragons at its base) and was used by angels ascending to and descending from heaven. One such angel, the fallen angel, Shemhazai, is depicted on the wall not too far from the Apprentice Pillar. He was expelled from heaven and as punishment had to hang upside down, tied, from heaven. Is there an overall theme to the chapel? There is only one inscription in the entire church, and it is a quote from the bible - unremarkable, were it not for the fact that the quote is directly related with Zerubabbel, the builder of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. Zerubabbel is a major figure in freemasonry: he set the Jews free from captivity and rebuilt the Temple of Solomon, the central focus of masonry. There is one depiction of a Masonic ritual, from the 19th Century, where the Apprentice Pillar has been used in a "boardgame" that marks the various steps of the initiation of a Scottish mason in his degree; the initiate is identified with Zerubabbel. Two authors with a more than casual interest in Rosslyn Chapel, Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight, have been claiming for several years that the chapel itself is based on the Temple of Solomon. Their main focus is on the west wall of the building. This, they claim, resembles the wall of the Temple of Solomon; rather than unfinished, they believe St Clair wanted it to look like that, to mimic the temple wall. They claim it could never have been part of a larger church - even though there are drawings of much larger church for the site - as the wall itself is non-weight-bearing and hence could never have supported the larger structure. So is there no hidden mystery? From the mid 1990s onwards, the steady stream of books resulted in continued attempts to gain approval for various explorations of the chapel. Of course, proposals to "smash open the Apprentice Pillar" are never granted, but modern technology has brought about a new arsenal of non-destructive, often remote survey methods that can identify the presence of caverns, presence of metals, etc. The first potentially successful proposal came from two authors, Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight, whose first book, The Hiram Key, was launched inside the chapel in 1996. As a consequence, a proposal for non-destructive scans was created, which received the support of Historic Scotland. The Rosslyn Chapel Trust, however, first approved, then withdrew the permission. To quote Knight and Lomas: "They suggested that we might be able to work with them on future, commercially based scanning, but we would be required to agree to keep the results secret and even deny that the scans had happened if so required by the Trust." They declined, but a befriended scholar, James Charlesworth of Princeton University, filed one their behalf. The Trust has not acknowledged this proposal. Rumour goes that the Trust have used the services of an Edinburgh firm to do non-destructive scans, and that the results of this scan have been kept a secret. In 1997, Niven Sinclair and a few friends did what could be described as "ad hoc" exploratory excavations in the vicinity of the Chapel. Soon, they discovered the existence of a tunnel that lead from the chapel to the castle. Equally soon, Historic Scotland became aware of this work going on and stopped the exploration, which involved a camera on a 32-foot pole. Niven Sinclair described the tunnel as "huge and very deep underground" at the point where it enters under the foundations of Rosslyn Castle. Beneath the floor of the crypt is a flight of steep steps, leading in the direction of the main building, to a vault directly underneath the engrailed cross in the chapel roof. A tunnel connects this vault with the castle; its location is directly below the south door, at which it is three feet wide and five feet high. Its roof is eight and a half feet below ground level.
After a straight run of approximately twenty five feet, the passage turns ninety degrees towards the east and then drops down the hillside, its roof twelve and a half feet below ground level. The tunnel then continues under Gardener's Brae towards the castle. Anyone can try and trace the tunnel in the landscape; what comes immediately to mind is that the tunnel would extremely steep in places. Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight have highlighted that the design mimics the design of a similar tunnel connecting the Palace of Solomon with the Temple of Solomon, as mentioned in the mythology of freemasonry. All remained relatively calm until 2003. Then, the newspaper Scotland on Sunday (the Sunday edition of The Scotsman) complained about the "absent landlord" Peter Lougborough, the Earl of Rosslyn. Loughborough had been at the heart of a national controversy: in charge of police protection of the royal family. Loughborough's credibility was officially challenged when a stand-up comedian evaded the security measures during Prince William's 21st birthday party at Windsor Palace, gaining access and possible control of the royal family. Bringing the national news story down to the local drizzle, the article reported that Loughborough had received large amounts of funding for the preservation of Rosslyn Castle, a house next to the Chapel (College Hill House) and the Chapel itself; yet the public had received no benefits from this public money; in fact, certain people had complained that access to the Castle had been refused, even though under the terms of the agreement, this should not be possible. In fact, Loughborough seemed to receive financial benefits from all, including, it seems, money paid from the Trust to the Earl for the monstrous construction hovering over the chapel. Apart from the owner, the Trust also became the centre of controversy. I myself experienced this firsthand: preparation for the first edition of my book, The Stone Puzzle of Rosslyn Chapel, was underway in 2001. It is local knowledge - underlined in the newspaper article - that the chapel and everything connected with it is seen as a money-making, if not myth-making machine by those operating it. When I approached the Project Director of the Trust about the creation of the book, and later of the existence of the book, I twice received extremely negative, but insightful comments. On the first occasion, he phoned, stating the book was seen as direct competition with their own guide, and as such would not be sold on the premises - despite the fact that this book is one of handful of books - and the first by a non-Sinclair or Sinclair-sponsored - solely dedicated to the chapel. Though the various often outlandish theories about the chapel are published, like the Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln book, various mysteries get discussed and Rosslyn Chapel only gets a few pages or chapters dedicated solely to it. The book also goes against various unfounded allegations made in other books on sale in the bookshop, books which promote the fame of the chapel, but not the "understanding" of the chapel. On the second occasion, the Director had either forgotten the first correspondence, or chose to neglect it, and informed me of his outrage that such a book had come about without his approval! At the same time, John Ritchie, a native of Roslin and press secretary for a group of modern Scottish Knights Templar, had created an international stir by stating that a ground scan of Rosslyn Chapel would soon take place. This scan would occur from Gardener's Brae and as such would be able to scan for anything underneath the chapel, by directing its beam horizontally. This greatly upset the Project Director again, but there was nothing that he could do about the situation, as the area is not in the ownership of the Trust. The Trust, and particularly the Director, then embarked on a rather desperate campaign, which resulted in public mud slinging against Ritchie and various
others, whereby - as always - far too willing and far too simple minds (as usual operating on the Internet) sided with the loudest, rather than the wisest. One important stake was, of course, the known existence by Ritchie, as well as the Trust, of the subterranean tunnel, a major discovery which they knew would become public knowledge once the scans occurred. The fact that Ritchie had the eyes and ears of the international media meant the Trust could do nothing but wait, and blasphemy "the opposition". The Trust was furious as this tremendous revelation would occur without their control - and reading from the evidence, one could argue the Trust actually tried to suppress awareness of the existence of this tunnel. In 2001-3, somewhat enigmatic modifications were made to one part of the crypt: they could be interpreted as a one-time attempt to foil plans relating to the tunnel - but plans, it seems, never carried out, hence resulting in a useless building. Knight and Lomas describe parts of this work as follows: "the wide trenches dug across Gardener's Brae, to lay fairly modest drain pipes." Though it is doubtful the tunnel will reveal great secrets, the tunnel itself is a major discovery and as such, Lomas and Knight decided to incorporate it in their book, The Book of Hiram, published in 2003. This meant that the existence of the tunnel stopped being a local story, and entered the public arena. Where will it end and when will it be opened? That mystery will continue to linger for some time more…
Rosslyn and "The Secret"
In the 16th century, the Sinclairs of Rosslyn were close advisors to the Scottish kings, and thus to Marie de Guise, the French Regent. In 1546, Marie de Guise wrote one of her letters to William St Clair. The letter included this remarkable passage: “Likewise that we shall be Leal and trew Maistres to him, his Counsill and Secret shewn to us we sall keep secret.” “Likewise that we shall be loyal and a true Mistress to him, his Council and the Secret shown to us, which we shall keep secret.” In 1556, she sent William St Clair to France, to find more support for her daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots. It underlines the close relationship Marie de Guise and the Sinclairs had in the defense of the Scottish monarchy, a cause which was always close to the heart of the Sinclairs. The question is what “The Secret” might be. There is some speculation that this included jewellery, which had gone missing and of which the Sinclairs were suspected for being involved in. However, it seems that such a secret would not be referred to as “The Secret”, nor would it require a letter from the Queen Regent, pledging her cause to Sinclair. Rather than Sinclair pledging his loyalty to the Queen Regent, it is the Queen Regent saying she will obey the Sinclairs and not betray him. What could it be?
Abbé Augustin Barruel (February 10, 1741 - May 10, 1820) was a Jesuit priest mostly known for creating a conspiracy theory involving the Knights Templars, the Bavarian Illuminati and the Jacobinians in his book Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism (original title: Mémoires pour servir l’Histoire du Jacobinisme) published in 1797. He wrote the book while living in London. Among other things he called Adam Weishaupt, the leader of the Illuminati, “a human devil”. His basic idea was that a conspiracy dating back through time existed, with the aim of overthrowing Christianity. Of interest is Barruel’s reference to a Scottish-Templar and Masonic connection. Barruel wrote in 1797, when all these subjects were popular – and as such not too much credence should be given to coming up with such a suggestion; it was not novel. But what is interesting is that he wrote that the Templars had discovered three stones in Temple of Solomon, one of which carried the Name of God. He argued that the three stones were secretly moved to Scotland after the Templar’s dissolution in 1312. “The Knights of the Temple made them the foundation for their Lodge. Their successors, heirs of the Secret, are currently the perfect Masters of Freemasonry, the High Priests of Jehova.” The three stones were a slab carrying the name of God, a cover stone which gave access to a hidden room and which displayed a four-headed cherub. The third stone was a square, white stone on which the Ark of the Covenant had originally been placed. Barruel’s book is believed to have been a reaction against the French Revolution. Originally, he felt the freemasons were behind this. Barruel had returned to Paris in 1802, where he now had a great reputation as a witch-hunter. In 1806, Barruel circulated a forged letter, probably sent to him by members of the state police opposed to Napoleon Bonaparte’s liberal policy toward the Jews, calling attention to the alleged part of the Jews in the conspiracy he had earlier attributed to the freemasons. It opened the way for books such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, another conspiracy tome from the early 20th century, detailing the Jews were involved in a massive conspiracy. It was coincidental that another book, John Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Government of Europe carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati and Reading Societies, was published at about the same time as Barruel’s book. Professor John Robison was a secretary of the Royal Society and academic at the University of Edinburgh. The two men were not acquainted and their respective works were written independently. By contemporary standards Barruel’s Memoires and Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy were bestsellers. Robison’s book was soon forgotten, but Barruel’s became known all over Europe and was still available more than a century after its original publication in E. Perrenet’s abridged edition (Paris, 1912). Barruel and Robison influenced public opinion because, then as now, there was a ready market for “sensational disclosures”. In his old age, shortly before his death in October 1821, Barruel was obsessed with the idea that Europe was covered by a network of Masonic Lodges which was controlled by a supreme council of twenty-one members which included no less than nine Jews. This supreme council, in its turn, was supposed to be governed by an inner council of three. The latter appointed a Grand Master who was supposed to be the secret head of a vast conspiratorial organization whose hidden aim was to produce revolutions. Professor Norman Cohn remarked that, “clearly the supreme council, even although partly Jewish, already possessed that superhuman capacity for organizing vast and invisible maneuvers that later generations were to attribute to the Elders of Zion”.
It is clear that Barruel made a lot of noise, and a lot of unfounded allegations. Like David Icke in the late 20th century, his message of a conspiracy became more and more wild, reaching a point of ridicule, whereupon the original promise and cry of a conspiracy were completely lost amidst the stupendous and ridiculous allegations that would follow afterwards – in Icke’s case that the Queen of Britain, as well as many members of the British royalty, were reptilian aliens in disguise. What to think therefore of his allegation of a connection linking the Templars with Scotland, and it being linked with “The Secret”? A century after William St Clair’s display of “The Secret” to Marie de Guise, French royal circles would be alive with rumors of another secret. This was a secret held by the Compagnie du Saint Sacrement, a French secret society that included the entourage of the French King Louis XIV, including his mother, Anne of Austria, and some of his ministers, including Nicolas Fouquet. In 1656, Fouquet had received a letter from his brother Louis, in Rome, in which he referred to an important secret which Nicolas Fouquet would be informed of next time they met. Louis Fouquet added that he had attained the secret from the French artist Nicolas Poussin, and that the secret itself was something that would move royals. It seems that in the previous decades, the French king himself had asked Poussin to confide in him – unsuccessfully, it seems. We are thus left with three references to “The Secret” – capitals. The first reference is in Rosslyn, involving Marie de Guise, in 1546. The next reference is in a letter between the Fouquet family, in 1656. The next references are in the documents of the Compagnie de Saint-Sacrement, whose purpose was the “protection of the Secret”. The vital question is whether or not “The Secret” is of course the same secret. Nevertheless, it is clear that there is an intriguing parallel within these references: all involve a great Secret, affecting specifically French royalty. The approaches of William St Clair to Marie de Guise might indeed mean that it was of specific interest to the French throne. If we were to believe Barruel, then it is clear that treasures of the Knights Templar taken from the Temple of Solomon at the time of the Crusades, specifically involving the First Temple of Solomon and including stones connected with the Ark of the Covenant do warrant a classification of a secret with a capital S. Whether or not this is the case, it definitely inspired Umberto Eco to incorporate Barruel and the Secret – transformed into “The Plan” – in his novel, Foucault’s Pendulum.
A Rosslyn Meridian?
Some researchers have suggested the possibility that Rosslyn was part of a larger complex. For example: should we look into the idea that Rosslyn might be connected to Roseline, a meridian that is believed to have been the nickname of the French Zero meridian? Should we read any significance into the presence of a gnomon on top of a gravestone in the cemetery?
Meridians were created for timekeeping. They served as local timekeepers at first. Until two centuries ago, most cities, towns and villages would set their own time by the sun. For this, they established a “local meridian”. One often used technique was the gnomon, i.e. the sundial, which charts the shadow of the sun through the day to set the time and find the directions. When the railways came, the companies needed to set their timetables using a single countrywide standard meridian which synchronized with local times. With Global trade becoming a normal feature of society, there was the need to set a single Zero meridian that the world could take as a standard by which time could be set. There were competing interests for the location of 0°, especially with the French, who set their Zero Meridian, known as the Paris Meridian so that it passed through the greatest possible uninterrupted landmass in France, passing through Paris in the North and Carcassonne in the South. In the end it was at a conference in Washington, USA in 1884 that Greenwich was chosen, because of the overwhelming influence of the British Empire and its Navy. Quite often the traces of these old meridian lines can still be seen, as is the case in Paris; and perhaps there is such a trace in Rosslyn also, although on a much smaller scale, of course, than in Paris. Are there any specific features north and south of Rosslyn that might indicate the presence of such a local meridian?
Exactly to the North is Arthur’s Seat, the most famous geological feature of the Lothians. Arthur's Seat is an 800 ft. high extinct volcano, which erupted last some 350 million years ago. Nearby stands Holyrood Abbey. In the “mythical origins” of the Sinclair dynasty, it is said that the Sinclairs were instrumental in building this abbey, named after the Holy Rood, supposedly a piece of the true cross of Christ, brought to Scotland by Princess Margaret under the protection of a Sinclair. Although it is now known that this account is not accurate, several Sinclairs have been buried inside the Abbey. At least seven of the stones in the floor of Holyrood Abbey are memorials to Sinclairs, although most of them date from the 18th and 19th Century.
From Rosslyn Chapel, it is possible to see Arthur's Seat. Thanks to the presence of the canopy and its walkway, we are able to look over the new walls and buildings that would otherwise obscure the view… but which were absent when the chapel was erected. Most intriguingly, Arthur’s Seat is visible as a twin-peaked mountain. Furthermore, it is the only mountain visible above the northern horizon. Imagine that there are no houses, and then Arthur’s Seat could be seen to rise as the only hill above the northern horizon. Even today, in sunny weather, it is a magnificent view… though somewhat difficult to discover as one is distracted by the modern buildings. Vincent Scully, a Yale University architectural historian, researched the sacred landscape of Crete and came to the following conclusions: all Minoan palaces were situated in an enclosed valley. There was a mounded or conical hill to the north or south of the palace and on its axis, a higher mountain, with a cleft summit or double-peak, further away on that axis. In fact, Scully’s observations have since been found elsewhere in many cultures and in the “holy places” of Europe - though with variations. The themes are there, but the interplay of the various features is sometimes slightly different. Notice how closely this works for Rosslyn. Rosslyn Castle is set inside an enclosed valley. For St. Matthew's Church, the original church, this was also the case. Rosslyn Chapel, however, has been set on top of a hill, which stands above the Castle. Directly north from the chapel, one can indeed see the twin-peaked Arthur’s Seat. This has been linked to a pair of horns, raised arms or wings, the female cleft, or a pair of breasts. Furthermore, the fact that Arthur’s Seat is volcanic in origin must have strengthened its mythological significance, for it is known that in ancient societies volcanoes were given sacred attributions. Above Arthur’s Seat, the Pole star would shine and it would be a natural focal point for anyone wishing to observe the stars. Anyone standing in Rosslyn Chapel, looking to the Arthur’s Seat, would literally see the stars move around… rising in the East, setting over the Pentland Hills in the West. The Northern polar stars have been described in many mythologies as the “everlasting stars”. They were linked with the Afterlife. In many mythologies, including Celtic and Egyptian mythologies, the opening between a twin-peaked mountain was said to be the passage through which the souls of the deceased would enter the Afterlife. Can it be a coincidence that this age-old mythology is present in Rosslyn Chapel? Or was it by design? Intriguingly, the connection between the Hill and Arthur’s Seat was only made in the 15th Century, when the chapel was built. Before then, it was named differently. Arthur’s constellation is the Great Bear, which circles around the pole star. To observe this, one has to look North. Therefore, to observe this feature above Arthur’s Seat, one would have to be South of Arthur’s Seat, with College Hill, where the chapel was built, a perfect location to make astronomical observations. So, as Arthur is the Great Bear circling around the Pole Star, which is visible (from Rosslyn Chapel) above Arthur’s Seat, this could be one reason why the mountain was renamed: it “anchored”, or “sat” Arthur, who ruled the land.
In mythology, the Great Bear was said to be the chariot of the heavenly ruler, the pole star. But it was also considered to be the vehicle of the sun god, i.e. the sun. North was linked to the World of the Dead. In some cultures, the sacred mountain to the north was sometimes called “Storehouse of the Dead”. The twin-peaked hill between the temple and the “Everlasting Stars” of the North was thus considered to be a way-station to “Heaven”. Perhaps the two peaks were compared to two “pillars”, marking the entrance to the World of the Dead, where St. Peter greeted the dead with the key to heaven. And what about the two pillars of freemasonry?
Directly to the South is the impressively named “Mount Lothian”. It is, however, “merely” a low hill. The hill is crowned by a grove of thirteen sycamore trees, the thirteenth being set off-centre. In the centre of the grove is the ruin of a 14th Century chapel, dedicated to St. Mary. Mount Lothian marked the western outpost or gate of Balentradoch, the Templar headquarters of Scotland. It was the location of a Cistercian abbey, to which the chapel belonged. The chapel is now in ruins, but once, it was the place where William Wallace was knighted - the scene made famous in the 1995 Academy Award winning movie “Braveheart”. Sycamores were often considered to be sacred trees. Their lifespan is approximately 250 to 300 years, so the trees there now could not have been present during that knighthood. However, local farmers have discovered tiling in the adjacent field, as well as debris of dwellings that make ploughing impossible. The name “Mount Lothian” also suggests it is an important place, the primary mountain for Lothian and therefore possibly the location from which the ruler of the Lothians ruled. The legendary ruler of the Lothians was Lot. He was father of Gawain and his brothers, husband of Arthur’s sister Anna (according to Geoffrey of Mommouth) or Margawse (according to Malory book II chapter XI). Geoffrey presents him as a supporter of Arthur, and already King of Lothian, whom Arthur placed on the throne of Norway - a country with connections to the Sinclairs when they acquired the Orkney Islands. The name Lot means “Lothian ruler” and therefore it is not a personal but a generic name. It seems certain that there was a king in the Lothian area in the 5th Century, but his headquarters appear to have been at Traprain Law, near Haddington, some thirty kilometers to the west of Edinburgh. However, maybe mythology had him rule from Mount Lothian, and as a result, this sacred place was later converted into a chapel. As Lot ruled the Lothians as a nation, the Scots looked upon William Wallace, at his knighthood, as the Guardian of Scotland, and looked to him to make free it from English rule.
Is it coincidence, or design? If by design, then the setting of Rosslyn Chapel within the landscape was a deliberate attempt by William St. Clair to make his kingdom a magical setting; a magic kingdom, very much like the concepts of Camelot and other Arthurian and Grail traditions with which William St. Clair must have been familiar. Furthermore, as we have seen, his teacher, Gilbert Hay, definitely knew about such legends, and stories about the Earthly Paradise, or the Garden of Eden.
Keeping up With the Neighbours - Crichton Collegiate Church
Rosslyn Chapel is unique. But its uniqueness is that there is no other chapel like it. Still, each individual element of that chapel, even the spiraling decoration of the Apprentice Pillar, has been found elsewhere, even though some elements are only found in places such as Spain or France. Rosslyn Chapel was neither a unique venture: it was constructed as part of the collegiate church “trend” that swept through Scotland in the 1400s. Collegiate churches housed a college of priests, whose role was to pray each day for the souls of the Lord and his family, whereby, it was hoped, their path to salvation would be eased.
One such “college collegiate church” is Crichton Collegiate Church, dedicated to St Mary & St Kentigern, which lies, quite literally, at the end of the road – and not far from Rosslyn. A few hundred yards of single track road separate it from Crichton Castle, already another parallel with Rosslyn, where castle and chapel were set apart from each other too, in the same sequence, and with the same intervisibility between the two structures. As in Rosslyn, the castle came before the church, and Crichton came before Rosslyn. Unlike Rosslyn, which is not named after the Sinclairs, Crichton is named after its lords, even though the “Lords” of Crichton were members of the ranks of the lesser mobility, until 1424, when William was knighted at the coronation of James I. His family fortunes were raised by his son, William, the Lord Chancellor of Scotland, who became, during the minority of James II, the most powerful person in the kingdom.
Crichton Castle had been built in ca. 1400, but was attacked and damaged by the Douglas family in the early 1440s. William Crichton spent much of his life quarrelling with the powerful Black Douglases. Crichton was responsible for the famous "Black Dinner" in Edinburgh Castle at which the Sixth Earl of Douglas and his brother were murdered. As a consequence of the damage to the castle, William, who became Lord Chancellor in 1447, had to effect repairs. While he was at it, he decided to build Crichton Collegiate Church. Confirmation of the status of a collegiate church was given by James Kennedy, Bishop of St. Andrews, and the church was finished in time to hold its first service on December 26, 1449 – at a time when according to the most likely scenario, Rosslyn was not even started. At its inauguration, provisions had been made for a provost, eight prebendaries, two boys or clerks and a sacrist. The money to sustain this religious community was coming from the revenue of neighboring churches, and elsewhere. Though the church opened in 1449, it was never totally completed – a further parallel with Rosslyn. In 1452, when he was keeper of Stirling Castle, the eight Earl Douglas was killed in Crichton castle - this time by King James II himself! But 35 years later, the Crichtons fell out of favor with James III. In 1479, William's son, also named William Crichton, had an affair with the sister of James III, the result of which was a child. The king was further displeased when allegations were made in 1484 that Crichton was plotting against him: the family's titles and possessions were forfeited. As quickly as the family had risen in the ranks of nobility, even faster they had fallen. In 1488, Crichton Castle was among a number of properties bestowed by James IV on the Earl of Bothwell.
After the rise and demise of the Crichton family, the Reformation of 1560 swept away the system of collegiate churches in Scotland. By the time the new owners embarked on a major program to rebuild Crichton Castle in the 1580s, the chapel was already in a state of disrepair. Still, in 1641, the church formerly known as collegiate became Crichton’s parish church. Its near neighbor Rosslyn, meanwhile, remained largely neglected, until a series of visitors descended on the chapel, eventually leading to its reopening in the late 19th century. In the 19th century, the future of Crichton looked equally bleak. In 1822, it was decided that repairs had to be carried out imminently, or, it was suggested, perhaps it was better to abandon the chapel altogether – underlining the desperate state in which the building was found to be in. It was nevertheless decided that repairs should be carried out, which occurred in 1825. The church, now without its original nave, saw a pulpit placed high on the south wall (a ring in the wall is today the only remnant of it), and with the extensive use of galleries around three walls, as many as 600 people could be seated in what must have been a very cramped space when full. Despite these renovations, in the late 19th century, further repairs and renovations had to be carried out. In 1898, when all “innovations” were cleared out, only leaving the bare and solid walls. The church reopened on May 11, 1899. The latest series of restoration work was carried out in 1999, to coincide with the church's 450th anniversary.
Apart from sharing a largely similar history, Crichton and Rosslyn also have several structural similarities, though in execution, Rosslyn was far more eccentric; the Sinclairs were definitely trying to outdo their Crichton neighbors. But though less elaborate, it was elaborate enough, and in size, there is little difference between the two buildings. Like at Rosslyn, where some structures of what could have been further foundations have been found, some kind of structure extends forty feet out from the existing building. Rosslyn’s unfinished western wall has drawn extra-ordinary comparisons with the Temple of Solomon, yet Crichton’s equally unfinished parts of its walls have hardly been noted – or perhaps properly identified or what they were: unfinished. But the most important similarity are the series of heads that in Crichton adorn the outside the church – whereas in Rosslyn, they are displayed largely inside – though much more elaborate. But in essence, all of the enigmatic faces that have made Rosslyn such a magnet are present in Crichton too. Like Rosslyn, none of the glass in Crichton is original; all original glass was destroyed during the Reformation. By 1706, not a pane of glass remained. Nevertheless, Crichton has some aspects that are not as easily identifiable in Rosslyn. On the south side of the chapel are the “sedilia”, three elegant arches where the clergy would have sat during the various stages of the Mass. The seats were later chipped away. On the north wall, there is a niche or aumbry, where the sacraments would be housed. Traces of such structures are today absent from Rosslyn’s interior. Today, visitors to Rosslyn Chapel enter via the north door, but at the time of its construction, people would have been encouraged to enter via the south door – which now remains largely closed. The same
arrangement would have applied to Crichton, but here, all original doors have been altered. The north door was largely there to be used by “evil spirits”. As such, in Rosslyn, the north door has far more “demonic” illustrations than the south door.
Like Rosslyn, Crichton church and castle have attracted painters, including JMW Turner, who sketched the church in 1818 while he was painting the castle. As at Rosslyn, there are rumors of a secret passage between church and castle, which at Crichton was called the Velvet Way. A search for it was made in 1867 – without success – and thus as in Rosslyn, its existence remains shrouded in mystery. Unlike Rosslyn, no-one seems to suggest it might contain a treasure. Endless speculation also exists why Rosslyn was built where it is. Some have argued that it was for the presence of a Temple of Mithras or a megalithic structure that existed there. In Crichton, evidence of Pictish and Roman settlements have been found very close by and everyone agrees that Christians probably worshipped on the site of the present church even before the first building was constructed – perhaps as much as a millennium before the Collegiate Church was erected. And thus, we know that formally, Crichton Collegiate Church is older than Rosslyn, but whereas there is no trace of whether there was anything at Rosslyn Chapel before ca. 1440, there is more consensus as to what there was at Crichton. Today, Crichton Collegiate Church might seem dwarfed by the decorative extravaganza that is on display at Rosslyn. One is the older brother, the other the more extravagant one; but both chapels were part of the same family, with several more brothers and sisters located throughout southern Scotland.
Excursions from Rosslyn Chapel
REMAINS OF THE TEMPLE PRECEPTORY AT TEMPLE
Although it has been restored over the centuries, the church at Temple, roughly five miles from Rosslyn, is the only existing Templar property in Scotland. It is situated in a valley, next to the river. The Knights Templar first came to Scotland in 1128 during the reign of King David I, whom Hugues de Payens visited as part of his international recruitment drive. De Payens made a very favorable impression on King David, to the extent that he later surrounded himself by Templars and appointed them as “the Guardians of his morals by day and night”. As a result of this Royal favor, through gifts from both the King and his Court, the Templars acquired a substantial property holding in Scotland. There were two major Preceptories at the time: in Midlothian, there was Ballantradoch, also known as Balintradoch or a number of other spellings, but now renamed Temple, which was regarded as the main Preceptory and the administrative headquarters of the Order in Scotland; the other was at Maryculter in Aberdeenshire, on the southern bank of the River Dee.
The centre at Temple was opened in 1129. It is alleged that Hugues de Payens was married to Catherine St. Clair, whose family had given the land to the order. However, there is no evidence for these allegations. The Sinclairs were not present in the area at this time and it is known that Ballantrodoch was donated by King David I himself. At the Battle of Falkirk, where King Edward defeated William Wallace, the king’s archers stayed at Temple and were assisted by the Master of England and the Preceptor of Scotland. Edward’s march to Falkirk had been under Templar command. But despite this allegiance to the English king, the Knights Templar suffered a similar fate to their French brethren. When the Templars were rounded up in France in 1307, Scotland itself was not affected; but then the area south of the Firth of Forth, where Rosslyn is situated, belonged to England at that time. This fact is
often neglected and it is frequently assumed that the Scottish borders were then as they are now, and that the Knights Templar of Temple were affected by the ban. Upon receiving the Papal Decree, Edward ordered all Templars to surrender themselves at Holyrood Palace. Two Knights were arrested, Walter de Clifton and William de Middleton while a third, Thomas Tocci, surrendered voluntarily. None of them were of fighting age, or Scottish by birth, but all were residents of Temple, the Templars’ Scottish headquarters. They were tried in 1308 by an ecclesiastical court, presided over by William de Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews. The Knights Templar were prosecuted by John Solario, the papal legate to Scotland. During the trials, both Henry St. Clair and his son William were called as witnesses. Researcher Mark Oxbrow points out that this evidence is at odds with the popular accounts, which state that the Sinclairs were the Knights’ protectors. The evidence suggests nothing of the kind. In fact, the Sinclairs stated that they felt the Knights Templar were of no good, for “if the Templars had been faithful Christians they would in no way have lost the Holy Land”. In spite of such testimony, which was after all merely the Sinclairs airing their personal prejudice against their neighboring knights, the verdict was that the accusations were not proven and the Knights were released. Acceding to French pressure, in 1312 Edward did abolish the Templars in both England and Scotland. Any Scottish Templars under arrest were confined to the Cistercian Houses. Two charters show that members of the Seton family, staunch Catholics and esteemed friends of the Sinclairs, were Masters of the Knights Hospitaller in 1346 and were in control of Temple. As in most countries, the Hospitallers were granted many of the former Templar lands, although North of the Firth of Forth, Robert the Briuce was reluctant to grant them that privilege. Despite the fact that the ban did mean the end of Temple’s association with Templars, one legend has it that treasure of the Knights Templar was removed secretly from Paris, to be hidden in Temple. A local legend states: “Twixt the oak and the elm tree/You will find buried the millions free.” French legends about the Templar treasure apparently also state that the treasure was taken to Scotland, with the knights landing on the Isle of Mey, the first island they would encounter in the Firth of Forth. Geographically, this would take them to the mouth of the river Esk, which could take them on to Rosslyn – though this is theory, since seafaring ships would find it virtually impossible to reach that far inland. A route over land would definitely have been easier. Only the outside walls of the church at Temple remain standing. In 1989, Dr. Crispen Phillips discovered a wall and a set of steps running north-south at right angles to the church. Subsequent excavations showed there was at least two feet of dressed stonework above the foundations revealing steps and the foot of a doorway. On all four sides, it is surrounded by graves, many of which show the familiar “skull and bones”-motive. This design has been linked to masonic degrees, but in truth, the motive is quite common, and was a “memento mori”: a reminder of death, expressing the knowledge we must all die eventually.
ABBOTSFORD: THE HOME OF SIR WALTER SCOTT
Abbotsford is the house that Sir Walter Scott built for himself. It is situated on the banks of the River Tweed and contains an impressive collection of relics, weapons and armors.
It cannot come as a surprise that a writer of Scott's fame had a famous library, containing over nine thousand rare volumes.
Scott’s love for Rosslyn Chapel is expressed in one room, where carvings from the chapel have been reproduced. It should be stressed the room is not a replica of the chapel; instead, the decoration of the room is based upon the decoration of Rosslyn chapel.
SOUTRA AISLE: THE DESTROYED HOSPITAL
Soutra Aisle is all that remains of the medieval hospital of Soutra. It is here that excavations have uncovered details of how medicine was practiced in one of the biggest and most famous hospitals in Europe.
Situated along Dere Street, which connected Newcastle to Edinburgh (the route of the A68), it was a medieval highway, whereby the hospital functioned both as a hotel, first aid, spiritual retreat and hospital. Archaeological discoveries on the site have revealed the use of hallucinogenic substances, used during the treatment of patients, particularly as anesthetics.
The small remaining building is in itself not worthy of a visit, but the views from the Aisle over the Lothians, the Pentland Hills and the coasts of Fife are spectacular - weather permitting.
Videoclip of Soutra Aisle
LIBERTON'S BALM WELL - ST CATHERINE'S SACRED WELL
Legend has it that a pilgrim let fall a drop of oil used to embalm St. Catherine of Alexandria that he was carrying to Queen Margaret from Mount Sinai. Where the drop fell, a spring welled up. There are coal deposits in the area and these are most likely linked to the water in the well which has an oily balm on its surface. This is a black tarry substance which was an effective ointment for some skin complaints and was also used to relieve the pain of sprains, burns and dislocations. As well as treating eczema, it was alleged that this well was used for treating leprosy, Robert the Bruce being one of its patients. This speculation is based on the assumption that Liberton is derived from “Leper-Town”, but this is known to be incorrect. There is also no evidence to suggest that there was a leper colony near here or that lepers are connected with the well. Because of its dedication to St. Catherine, one of the patron saints of the St. Clairs, it is believed they held this well in special reverence. Apart from the St. Clairs, this healing well was a place of pilgrimage for many Scottish monarchs. In 1504, James IV visited it and left an offering. In 1617, on a visit Scotland, James VI (and I of England) ordered that the well-house and steps be built, so that access to the balm was easier. In 1650 Cromwell’s troops demolished the well. Over 200 year later, in 1889, the well-house was once again carefully rebuilt. Inscription belongs to Lord Prestonfield. Originally a chapel to St. Catherine (known as St. Catherine of the Kaims) stood nearby. But in the early 19th Century, this was rebuilt as a house, and is now The Balm Well restaurant.
The French Rosslyn?
This article appeared in 'Les Carnets Secrets 9' (2007)
St Bertrand de Comminges St Bertrand de Comminges has what is popularly called “The Cathedral of the Pyrenees”. But you could also argue it is France’s answer to Rosslyn… predating it, and with a potentially genuine Templar link.
Mix one enigmatic cathedral, the Knights Templar, stories about their survival. Result: Rosslyn. Add one pope. Result: St Bertrand de Comminges. Its cathedral, known popularly as the “Cathedral of the Pyrenees”, is a major tourist attraction. Like Rosslyn, it does not need an esoteric dimension to shine. It has a magnificent organ, which has been labeled one of the three beauties of the Gascogne region. It has an enigmatic crocodile hanging from the wall. Popular opinion has it that it crawled up the river, beached itself and that St Bertrand (from whom the town takes its name) killed it with the power of his prayers. More likely, the crocodile was an ex voto, brought back from the Middle East by a pilgrim or a knight, as a gift to the church.
There is beautiful tomb of St Bertrand, as well as extraordinary wood carvings. What is so special about this place that made it one of the oldest churches in the Gaul – France? The answer is hiding in the latter part of the town’s name first: Comminges. Under the Roman occupation, the town was called Lugdunum Convenarum. It is believed that in 72 BC Pompey, a Roman General, was victorious in Spain, and upon his return, established a town here. The local tribe was labeled “the Convenae”, “the assembled ones”. Lugdunum shared its Latin name with Lyon (perhaps why it received Convenarum attached to it), which is largely accepted to mean “Fortress of Lug”, the sun god. The Roman presence is attested by numerous finds. It was obviously an important centre, equipped with an aqueduct to bring water from the spring of Tibiran three kilometers away. In “The Templar Revelation”, the town is mentioned as it is believed to have been the place of exile of Herod Antipas, the man from the Bible, whose daughter Salome requested the head of John the Baptist – and got it on a platter. It was the Jewish historian Josephus who wrote that Caligula punished Herod and sent him to “Lugdunum”, which was a city in Gaul. In another text, Josephus added that Herod went into exile to Spain, but ended his life in what everyone accepts is St Bertrand de Comminges. Though we do not know where he may have been buried, or lived, the claim is largely undisputed. It is therefore of interest to note that the town had one of the oldest churches in Gaul – though the present cathedral was not the site of the first church.
In fact, it is possible, after archaeological considerations of the substructure of the cathedral, that it may have once been the location where a pagan temple stood. The original church was near the Chapelle Saint-Julien du Plan, at the foot of the hill. There are records from 409 AD confirming the presence of a “Christian basilica”. A basilica is a specific term, arguing for the conclusion that the site held a precious relic. As archaeologists have found no further evidence for this, they argue that the term may have been loosely applied. If this was Rosslyn, Herod’s presence, its status as an old church, the possibility of a precious missing relic… someone would conclude that relic could only be the head of John the Baptist, taken here by Herod himself. But this is not Rosslyn. St Bertrand de Comminges sits on a 515m outcrop in a valley, with the Pyrenean mountains beginning to rise nearby. Often described as sitting by the river Garonne, it is actually more than a kilometer removed from the river itself. The fortress on the top of the hill is furthermore not a singularity. In the valley below, much closer to the river, sits the basilica of Saint-Just de Valcabrère. This church is constructed with numerous remains of previous sacred – and pagan – structures. It is accepted that the location was once the site of “a privileged necropolis”. The church once had a relic of the True Cross and is linked with the martyr Saint Just. It is most remarkable for the martyr’s relics stored in a stone sarcophagus. This sarcophagus sits at the far end of the church and pilgrims could walk and stand underneath the sarcophagus, which was a novel custom of the time, whereby pilgrims believed that close proximity if not actual contact with the tomb of a martyr was the most powerful method for the pilgrim’s prayers to come true. Hence why the tomb was raised and pilgrims could pass underneath. The old pilgrim’s route would have taken the pilgrim from this basilica past the Chapelle Saint-Julien du Plan, the original church of St Bertrand de Comminges, up to the hill, to reach the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary. The cathedral is the work of three people. St Bertrand de l’Isle, in the 12th century; Bertrand de Got, the future pope Clement V, in the 14th century; and Jean de Mauleon, in the 16th century. With the first one, we can explain the first part of the name of the town. Bertrand was the local bishop, a cousin of Count Raymond IV of Toulouse, nominated in 1073, canonized in 1218. Apart from giving his to the town, he was responsible for the first and now oldest phase of the cathedral. Tourist guides direct the visitor’s attention to the decoration about the entrance porch, showing the twelve apostles, surmounted by the adoration of the Magi, presenting their gifts to the Virgin Mary. The consensus is that the figure in the background is Bertrand – even though at the time, he was not yet canonized – and he is indeed depicted without aureole. Today’s tourist steps in the footsteps of the pilgrims, who began to visit the site on the way to Santiago de Compostela. Trevor Ravenscroft would have drawn a parallel to Rosslyn here too… It are the decorations in the cloister that awards the site its first notion as the French equivalent of Rosslyn. The numerous pillars here depict a profundity of Green Men; foliage, plants, leaves abound everywhere. Even the “entrelacs”, non-specific decoration of columns, resembles that of key pillars in Rosslyn. Speaking of pillars: Rosslyn may have its three enigmatic pillars, but this cathedral’s narthex ends by two huge pillars, with a circumference of no less than 11,45m. They are gigantic, so much so that most tourists will fail to spot them.
The second man linked with the town is another Bertrand – Bertrand de Got. He was Bishop of Comminges from 1295 to 1299. In 1304, he became archbishop of Bordeaux, but continued to have a specific devotion to his former residence: he made sure that the foundation stone for a series of extensions – the current cathedral – was executed. In 1305, Bertrand de Got became Pope Clement V, the first pope of Avignon, though he was elected in that other Lugdunum, Lyon. It could be a coincidence… In 1309, he went on a pilgrimage, on January 16-17, 1309 visiting St Bertrand, where he “elevated” the relics. A papal bull explains the details of the event. In 1307, of course, Clement V consented to the arrest of his Knights Templar and in 1312, he officially abolished the order in Vienne, just south of Lyon. He would soon die and the Gothic church of St Bertrand de Comminges was completed in 1350, under the authority of Hugues de Castillon. The third man in the story of the cathedral was Jean de Mauleon. He built “the church of wood in the church of stone”, executed in the Renaissance style and inaugurated on Christmas 1535. The central area of the church is fenced off by a majestic wooden rectangle. Inside of this is the “church of wood”: a smaller church, for the privileged, made up out of 66 stalls, on two levels (38 on top, 28 on bottom), each and all supporting some of the most magnificent wooden carvings. Here, again, we find depictions of angels, Green Man and other enigmatic features. There is a depiction of Jesse’s tree; more remarkably still, are the depictions of various Sibyls, pagan oracles that the Church was able to weave into its mythology, but which are totally a totally unexpected – though highly welcome – sight at the foot of the Pyrenees. As in Rosslyn, you will expect to see an enveloping theme, but like Rosslyn, you leave the cathedral what that story could be. Though this wooden church (mostly oak and walnut wood) was commissioned by Jean de Mauléon, because of a lack of documents, the artist is unknown, though it is assumed to be the work of Nicolas Bachelier and his school, which worked with artists from France, Spain and Italy – very much like William St Clair used a foreign workforce to construct his chef d’oeuvre, Rosslyn. Three men, all of importance, but one more important than the other two. Bertrand de Got was born in 1264 in Villandraut, Aquitaine. He was a canon and sacristan of the church of Saint-André in Bordeaux, then vicar-general to his brother, the archbishop of Lyon, who in 1294 was created Cardinal Bishop of
Albano. He was then made bishop of St Bertrand de Comminges, and apparently and specifically wanted to be assigned to this site. Why remains unclear, though it is known that at the time of this assignment, he was equally elevated to be chaplain to Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303), who made him archbishop of Bordeaux in 1299 – a required step if de Got ever aimed for the papacy. He was elected Pope Clement V in June 1305, after a year's interregnum occasioned by the disputes between the French and Italian cardinals, who were nearly equally balanced in the conclave. Bertrand was neither Italian nor a cardinal, and his election might have been considered a gesture towards neutrality. But according to the contemporary chronicler Giovanni Villani, there were rumors that he had bound himself to King Philip IV of France by a formal agreement previous to his elevation. It puts Clement’s agreement to disband the Templars a few years later in a different light, each having desires and ambitions with which the other had, or wanted to agree. At Bordeaux, Bertrand was formally notified of his election and urged to come to Italy, but he selected Lyon – the other Lugdunum – for his coronation instead. He is recorded as the first pope to be crowned with a papal tiara, but it seems that the coronation did not go as planned – some believing it was a curious omen. During the papal parade through the town, a wall collapsed, injuring and killing several bystanders. Some in the papal parade were injured too; the pope himself lost his balance and a precious stone loosened from his tiara – to be lost forever.
Rosslyn lacks a pope. It also lacks miracles, unlike St Bertrand de Comminges. St Bertrand’s canonization was supported by a document detailing a list of no less than 31 miracles. One of these involved the corn of a unicorn, today still on display in the treasury of the cathedral. In truth, it is a tusk of the Arctic Narwhal (monodon monoceros), a species of whale. Though the object may seem to be without too much interest, it is reported that Bertrand de Got had a veritable fascination with it; and so, it seems, had the larger community, as the object was used in a festival that commemorated one of the miracles performed by St Bertrand. Such horns had become an obsession amongst the nobility and even among the higher clergy. Unicorn horns were said to sweat in the presence of poisoned liquid or food; it was also believed that they could detect heresy. As such, Vikings and other northern traders were able to sell them for many times their weight in gold.
Central to the intrigue of Rosslyn, before The Da Vinci Code, was its place in history as the possible location where the Templars deposited certain knowledge, protected by the St Clair family, who later might have passed it onto Freemasonry. The evidence for this claim is tentative at best. At least, St Bertrand de Comminges has something in writing: one document, known as the “Rubant document”, dating from the 18th century. It claims that Clement V was so obsessed with this unicorn that he worked it into his papal cross. He instructs three Templars form the nearby commandery of Montsaunès to guard over the relic. But, the text continues, when the Knights Templar were arrested and afterwards abolished, Clement V made a special dispensation for these three guardians. He informed them that if they continued to guard this relic, they would not be arrested, nor interrogated, definitely not thrown in prison, or killed. In return for this exceptional clemency, all they had to do was guard the relic – and apparently after their and the order’s demise, had to elect and prepare their successors to continue to safeguard the relic. Here, we are therefore confronted with a clear example of Templar survival and continuation, though the Rubant document should not be considered as primary evidence – but at least there is one document, unlike Rosslyn where there is none.
One question should be asked: is it possible that the guardianship of this “unicorn” was but an excuse? Could it be that the Templars instead guarded something far more precious? Perhaps… And no doubt, someone could conclude that this precious relic may have been the Grail… or Baphomet? And when we “know” that Baphomet, the idol apparently worshipped by the Templars, was
“apparently” a bearded head… the head of John the Baptist? It does make sense, doesn’t it? All that is missing, is a link to the story of Rennes-le-Château. And we do not even need to invent one. The story goes that in 1285, one Pierre de Voisins, lord of Bézu, just south of Rennes-le-Château, required the arrival of a group of Knights Templar, who come from the Roussillon. Why he chose to have Templars sent from so far whereas there were other commanderies nearby is not known. Officially, they were there to protect the pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostella, but the rumor goes that they were there to exploit, bury or survey a treasure – or secret. Like the Templars in St Bertrand de Comminges, this contingency is not arrested. It is also known that at that time, they were under the command of a lord known as “de Goth” – the same surname as the pope. If you need to work a bloodline into this story, we should know that “de Got(h)” was derived from Visigoth, the tribe which various authors have already identified as being of the bloodline. But we won’t go into that direction. Instead, genuine amazement is required when we learn that the mother of Pope Clement was Ida de Blanchefort, of the same family of Bertrand de Blanchefort, grandmaster of the Knights Templar from 1156 to 1169. Is it therefore not rather remarkable that a descendant of a grandmaster of the Knights Templar would be the one who is responsible for the abolition of the order, but that we have at least two locations where for rather unclear reasons, certain arrest warrants were not given, likely through the direct intervention of Clement V, whom in the case of Bezu seems to have had a family member in charge and whom in the case of St Bertrand de Comminges appears to have had a personal desire to protect precious relics? And this is where the parallels with Rosslyn end. In fact, whereas Rosslyn is believed to have been the receptacle of Templar knowledge, it is clear that if there ever was any secret in St Bertrand de Comminges, the Pope himself made sure that it remained – or came – in his possession. So where did he take it to? The Scottish Rosslyn? In 1306, the family de Got took over the château de Duras. Pope Clement V had a nephew with the same name of Bertrand de Got – perhaps the commander in Bézu? Perhaps. In 1306, with Clement in charge of the Knights Templar and a year to go before their arrest, the de Got family expanded the chateau and made it into a veritable fortress, in the years 1308 to 1310. The nephew Bertrand de Got was responsible for the works, which resulted in a 3000 m² fortress complete with eight round towers. It was a war machine, well equipped to defend the valley and its produce, and the roads passing. The money for this operation apparently came from the Knights Templar. The question, therefore, is whether this castle is perhaps a possible location where a “precious Templar relic” was hidden. And that might make it not only the “French Rosslyn”, but the “real” Rosslyn.
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