Happy Birthday, me!

Roslin Travel Blog

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Today it was my birthday.  We were still in Edinburgh, celebrating new year with friends, but we had to be in work tomorrow in Manchester.

I was very spoiled.  Iain is well aware of what my favourite things involve - pretty much as many museums and historic buildings as we can find, and something nice for dinner, and being the centre of attention.  So he decided to take me to Rosslyn Chapel. 

Rosslyn doesn't allow you to take photos inside, so you'll have to google their website for photos.  Also, my phone memory is pretty much full and I had a champagne related camera accident at new year.

  So I'll have to try to describe Rosslyn instead, which is hard. 

Rosslyn Chapel is quite simply one of the most interesting buildings in Europe.  It isn't big - more or less the size of a small parish church - and from the outside it looks like a modest chapel with some interesting gargoyles and a lot of scaffolding.  Inside, however, it is absolutely full up with the most incredible carvings.  The story goes that the Lord StClair of the time was getting old and decided to start thinking about religion, so he commissioned the building of the finest chapel in Europe.  He intended it to be a collegiate church but he died before it could be expanded, so the present chapel is smaller than intended. 

But he brought the finest workmen and artists and masons from across Europe to build the chuch, and gave them good wages and a house in the town of Roslin (nobody cared about spelling back then) to build a chapel to the greater glory of god.

  And what they built is full of fascinating symbolism, including semi-pagan Green Men, portraits of devils and Lucifer chained upside down on the pillar, and friezes of the deadly sins and the virtues (except that charity and greed got on the wrong sides, either as a simple mistake or because the capacity for grace is there in the worst sinner, and the capacity for sin in the holiest person).  There is an archway showing death taking people away, from every walk of life - a farmer, a bishop, a king, a woman, and all sorts of other people, to remind us that death comes to all.  A disapointed devil sulks on one pillar, as the couple he was trying to tempt face an angel opposite.  Jesus, almost hidden in the stars of the ceiling, blesses the church. 

it's amazing.  There's very little doubt that it is also deep in Templar lore.  The Lords of StClair had been Templars before the pope banned them, and there is a lot of Knight Templar symbolism in the coats of arms.  There's also a window that people claim shows maize, a hundred years before Columbus.  There's a legend that the Templars found America in the 13th century.  But to be honest, it's also possible it shows feathers.  Or pretty leaves.  I'm not so sure.  Medieval symbolism is quite beautiful, interesting and mad enough without getting all DaVinci Code about it.  Also, the lord who eventually restored the chapel was a well known leader of the Freemasons (that bit is definately true) and may have added a little symbolism during the restoration.

After that, we had a very nice lunch in, of all places, a supermarket cafe.  Who knew?

Beating daylight was going to be an issue, but we decided to batter down through the borders rather than the main road.  We stopped to see the holy well in Innerleithen.  St Ronan's well is, now, a tap in someone's garden, although they seem very friendly about you going in to look.  In the 17th-19th centuries, it was famous for its alleged healing properties.  It was said to have cured blindness, gout, infertility and was also bottled as a mixer for whisky.  Of all of these, I think the last is probably the most likely to have actually worked (yes, you do put a couple of drops of water in good whisky.  But not ice, and NEVER coke).  I tried some.  I cannot comment on the fertility or gout, but it tastes of water and I haven't got poisoning from it, and one sip from it does not cure migraines or bad skin!

After that we headed home, and had dinner in The Grill on the Alley, one of my favourite places for food. 

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photo by: tacco14