On my first day in Scotland I went in search of the Holy Grail in a place called Rosslyn Chapel. You might remember the name of this church from the Da Vinci Code. At the end of the story they arrive at this small chapel that is said to hold the Holy Grail. Beyond the Da Vinci code this small church was actually built by William St. Claire. A great man, who in wishing to thank God for all the graces of his life and to ensure his place in heaven, had this church built. Steeped in myth, Rosslyn Chapel is unlike any you have seen before. Intricate carvings not only mark Christ's birth, life, and resurrection around the church, there are also symbols of paganism in the 150 green men carvings. Adding to the mystery of the church is the fact that more carvings mark the church as one of the Knights Templars' places of worship and it is believed that when the warrior monks set out to keep safe passage for pilgrims to the holy land, they also went in search of the Holy Grail. From the elaborate carved ceiling, a marker points to the floor and the legend says that this is where the Knight's Templar buried the Holy Grail.
But even more mystery comes in the carvings of this church. In the feminine altar space, individual carved symbols decorate the arched ceiling. Many believe the symbols are musical notes and some have even composed songs, saying that they have broken the code. Others say that the code leads to the secrets of life. Then there is the carvings of maize. The church was finished fifty years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, yet here in this church there are symbols of the Native Americans. It is said, that Sir William's uncle actually traveled to Westford, Massachusetts and lived with the Mic Mac Indians long before Columbus's journey to discover America.
I spent the afternoon steeped in the mystery of the chapel and then walked in the glen towards the destroyed castle below. The castle had been bombed by invaders, but the church was saved because it had symbols of the Free Masons and the conquerors were known to be Free Masons.
You wonder with all this curiosity about the church why no one has dug into the floors to find the answers. Many have asked, but the St. Claire's, who feel it is there duty to save and protect the church, do know that their ancestors are buried beneath and they refuse to disturb the dead. Scientists have proven that there is a set of stairs and a large cellar, but can't say anything more of what secrets the church still holds.
I returned for evening service with Rev. Neil. The church is much different when the tourists leave. At one time this place had eight thousand visitors a year. The Da Vinci code has brought over 150,000 per year to this holy place. But this is still a place of worship, and the members of the congregation close the doors every day at five.
During the service, a woman with a beautiful Celtic voice led us in songs from the Hebrew, Christian, and Islamic traditions, our breath apparent as we sang in the night chill. In a prayer for world peace there was a hum of energy I can't explain that radiated through the room. Even William, the chapel cat, seemed to feel it as he purred loudly in the center of the circle. A peace so deep, that seemed to soothe every weary part of my traveling mind, seeped through my body as I listened to the harp echo off the walls.
At the end of service, we shared sandwiches and wine. I met the reverend and he invited me to talk to him about joining him for a peace pilgrimage next April.
In the end, I don't know what lies beneath the stone of the church. Some say it is the Grail, others the Dead Sea Scrolls. It doesn't matter, because the true gift of this church is the hundreds of years where faith has brought people together to hope and pray for a more peaceful world.
I wasn't allowed to take pictures within the chapel and at this time the church is going through a massive restoration and so the outside is covered in scaffolding. Please follow the link to see images of this beautiful place. Rosslyn Chapel