Rosslyn Chapel was built between 1440 and 1484 by the Sinclair (or St. Clair) family, the Earls of Rosslyn, whose ancient connections link them to Robert the Bruce, the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, and pre-Columbian journeys to the New World. These links are recorded in stone in the decorations of the chapel which was built to be a collegiate center of learning. The Earl of Rosslyn’s book Rosslyn Chapel is full of beautiful photographs and is both informative and interesting. The chapel comes up time and again in relation to a variety of wonderful stories.
Sir William St. Clair was one of the knights selected to carry the heart of Robert Bruce to the Holy Land, as the Bruce had requested that it be buried there. Sir William, a Templar Knight, died in Spain in 1330 while on this errand. He was reburied in the chapel.
Sinclair connection to the Templars is older and deeper than this. Hugues de Payen, who founded the Templar order in 1118, was married to Katherine St. Clair. Two Sinclairs were allegedly grand masters of the Prieure de Sion in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Templars fled to Scotland as the Pope had excommunicated Robert Bruce, because the Scots would not recognize Edward II of England as their king, and thus the Templars were not proscribed in Scotland. Many of the carvings in the chapel – the five-pointed star, the dove in flight carrying an olive branch, the floriated cross, and the artichoke have Templar associations.
In 1398, Prince Henry Sinclair, along with Sir James Gunn, is supposed to have traveled to the New World. The Westford Knight is thought to mark the grave of Sir James. According to the Earl of Rosslyn:
“Some writers have suggested that the voyage of Prince Henry to the New World was organized by by the Knights Templar to seek a new home where their ideas could flourish. Others see the Chapel’s and the St. Clair family’s Masonic connections as significant, since Freemasonry is believed by some to have been an escape route for Templar knights fleeing persecution.”
We might dismiss this journey as fantasy were it not for the image of Indian maize carved into the decoration of the chapel before 1484. Then too, we might recall that Gunn is a family with Viking origins and the Vikings had sailed to the New World before Columbus.
The decorations of the chapel also contain figures and symbols with Masonic associations including the Apprentice Pillar which would make 1484 an early date for the appearance of the Freemasons. They appear in a chapel with strong connections to the Templars and the Earls of Rosslyn have long been active Masonic officers.
Is it then surprising that so many people find Rosslyn Chapel a place of wonder and mystery?