Rosslyn Chapel’s Guardian Angels

by Jeff Nisbet

(Originally published in Atlantis Rising #52 – July/August, 2005)

I paid my annual visit to Scotland’s Rosslyn Chapel on March 22, and while I fully expected it to be a bit busier than it should have been at that early date, nothing prepared me for the sight that met my eyes as I drove near. Every space in front of the visitor’s center was taken, and the small auxiliary parking lot was close to full.

Since I’ve never had to use the auxiliary lot even much later in the season, it’s obvious that Dan Brown’s blockbuster novel, “The Da Vinci Code,” which features Rosslyn Chapel as the book’s endgame unfolds, promises to bring a hectic summer to the chapel’s staff.

From the outside, Rosslyn still sports the unsightly canopy erected to allow the roof and walls to dry out after many years of moisture retention. Not due to be removed for another two years, the canopy continues to spoil the outer view of the otherwise pretty chapel. The inner view, however, is much improved, and all of the interior details now show no evidence of the green mold so evident on previous visits. The “cementinous slurry,” applied during the 1950s in an ill-considered attempt to stop the encroaching damp, is sadly still in place, softening the details of Rosslyn’s celebrated carvings.

Of the chapel’s visitors, two or three seemed to be using Brown’s novel as a guide of sorts, perhaps hoping to divine the hiding place of one of the ancient artifacts thought to be concealed within the chapel’s walls. But relic hunters should beware. A report from London’s Temple Church (the other UK site featured earlier in Brown’s book) indicates that “souvenir theft” is on the rise. No fewer than 27 of the church’s inscribed hymnals have disappeared over a recent five-month period.

Rosslyn Chapel is taking no chances. No longer placing its trust in the Lord, alone, at least two members of the chapel’s heavenly host of angels have been drummed into service. Ever vigilant at locations I won’t disclose, one holds a video camera. The other holds a mysterious rectangular object, the function of which I dare not even guess at.

So whether it’s the Holy Grail, the Head of Christ, a piece of the True Cross, or just anything that’s not nailed down that some of you might be after, I have just one word for you: “Fuggetaboutit!” Rosslyn’s Guardian Angels are on the job, and it looks like they mean business.

If you would like to visit the chapel early in the day, some further words of advice: While the Roslin Glen Hotel serves food continuously from noon until 9 p.m., it stops serving its excellent breakfast at 9 a.m., while the chapel, which opens at 10 a.m., only offers a small and uninspiring selection of pre-packaged cakes and “bickies” served up with coffee or tea.

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