The Scottish Reformation of 1560 was a bloody, tumultuous affair that resulted in the persecution of many Catholic Scots. The Sinclair family, which was of French descent, had long been Roman Catholic, and the denomination was the primary one of the services held at Rosslyn Chapel. The chapel was closed to all but members of the Sinclair family until 1861 to minimize the dangerous conditions brought about by the Scottish Reformation. It was all but completely abandoned as a result of the religious persecution brought by the Scottish Reformation. One result of its closing was that it fell into a state of severe disrepair.
Scotland has a cold, wet climate, and the chapel’s limestone began to absorb large amounts of moisture, thereby damaging them. Mosses, ferns, and other organic life began to grow inside the chapel, causing even more damage to the stones. The chapel turned green from the moss and was considered to be ruined. Queen Victoria visited in 1842 and found the place worthy of repairs to preserve it. Restoration projects began in 1862, the year after the chapel re-opened to the public. When the plans were completed, the services that were carried out were of the Scottish Episcopalian Church.
3. Restoration Efforts in the 1950s Nearly Destroyed the Chapel
By the mid-twentieth century, Scotland’s wet, cold climate had caused the chapel’s stones to absorb so much moisture that the walls appeared to be crying from the water that regularly ran down them. In 1954, Scotland’s Ministry of Works declared that the building was suffering extreme effects of the dampness, and if nothing were done, the dilapidated building would likely be condemned. A restoration project was quickly begun to reserve this condition. Videos of workers carrying out the restoration reveal what happened.
Initially, workers used fine brushes to remove any debris – be it dust or organic matter that had attached to the stone – in the effort to thoroughly clean the rocks. In the next stage, workers used three-inch paint brushes to coat all of the stone with a cement slurry, several layers. This method caused substantial damage to two levels. The first is that rather than protecting the rocks from additional moisture seeping in, the slurry actually sealed inside the stones the moisture that was already in them. The second is that it covered over many of the fine details that could be seen on the original carvings. Additional restoration projects were required to remove the dampness from inside the stones, but so far, there are no cost-effective means of removing the layers of cement.
2. The Da Vinci Code Brought About the “Rosslyn Miracle”
Dan Brown said that when he began writing his breakout novel, The Da Vinci Code, he “knew that its finale would have to take place at the most mysterious and magical chapel on earth — Rosslyn.” Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu’s search for the Holy Grail brought them to this iconic building where, in the story, Sophie meets the grandmother that she had long believed was dead. The story is of course fiction, and almost all of the claims about the Holy Grail are pseudo-history that have long been debunked by historians. However, the effect that the novel had on Rosslyn Chapel was nothing short of miraculous.
Fans of The Da Vinci Code flocked to the chapel to view its enigmatic carvings for themselves and see what they could make of them. The chapel had long been a site for tourists to visit, but with the book’s success, the number of visitors surged from just a few hundred per month to as many as 176,000. The income generated from all of these visitors enabled the Rosslyn Chapel Trust, which is concerned with the chapel’s preservation, to carry out many much-needed restorations. The fortunes of the decaying were completely turned around, and its stone treasures will likely be enjoyed for generations to come.
1. The Sinclair Family Still Maintains Rosslyn Chapel
Rosslyn Chapel today is open to the public and is one of the most popular locations for tourists to visit. It is also frequented by locals and scholars who want to peer more deeply into the secrets that it has held for centuries. Given the chapel’s public nature and global notoriety, one might expect that the Scottish government owns it. However, it is still preserved and maintained by the Sinclair family, the descendants of the first Viking leader of Normandy and later of William Sinclair. It is a private building, and the Sinclair family holds all the rights to it.
This fact has generated quite a buzz for conspiracy theorists. If William Sinclair was a descendant of the Knights Templar, then maybe some of the secrets that he passed on to his offspring have been shared in their original entirety within the family. Perhaps the Holy Grail and other relics can be found within the walls, or possibly under the floors, of Rosslyn Chapel. Maybe some secrets of the chapel’s history will remain within the family, at least for the time being. If nothing else, the chapel will continue to create one hell of a story.
Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources: