Ten facts you (probably) didn't know about Rosslyn Chapel

20 September 2018
crypt-39060.jpg The crypt at Rosslyn Chapel
From a secret beehive, to stained glass featuring a kangaroo, these facts about Rosslyn Chapel, will surely amaze you...
Ten facts you (probably) didn't know about Rosslyn Chapel Images

From a secret beehive, to stained glass featuring a kangaroo, these facts about Rosslyn Chapel, will surely amaze you...

1: An unfinished project

       Rosslyn Chapel was never finished. When the founder died in 1484, his son, who inherited the Chapel, roofed the choir with its stone vault but did  not fulfil his father's intention that the building should be more like a cathedral in scale.

2: Truth conquers all...

There are hundreds of carvings in the stone of Rosslyn Chapel but only one carved inscription which reads – ‘Wine is strong. The king is stronger. Women are stronger still: but truth conquers all.’

3: Men at work

The crypt is thought to be the oldest part of the Chapel and was probably used as a workshop during the 40 years in which the chapel was under construction. There are working drawings scratched into the walls, thought to be a template for one of the stonecutters to follow.

4: Founding father

The founder, Sir William St Clair, was the third St Clair Prince of Orkney, a title first held by his grandfather, Henry, who was recognised as 42nd Earl of Orkney in 1369 and 10 years later the first St Clair Prince of Orkney. In 1471, Sir William received Ravenscraig Castle in Fife for the earldom of Orkney, which was annexed to the Scottish Crown in the same year.

5: The most ornate area

The Lady Chapel is the most ornate part of Rosslyn Chapel and measures 15feet high, seven and a half feet deep and extends to the whole thirty five foot width of the chapel.

6: Carving error

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The carving showing the seven corporal works of mercy mistakenly includes ‘avarice’ and the carving of the seven deadly sins mistakenly includes ‘charity’.

7: Australian origins

The most recent stained glass window was installed in 1970 and is dedicated to the Earl of Rosslyn’s grandmother, Princess Dimitri. The window’s theme is St Francis of Assisi and he is shown surrounded by birds, butterflies, a squirrel, a rabbit and, as a symbol of Princess Dimitri’s Australian origins, a kangaroo.

8: Royal connection

Queen Victoria visited the Chapel in 1842, during her first visit to Scotland, and described the architecture as ‘exceedingly rich.’

9: A place of worship

The Chapel is dedicated to St Matthew and, part of the Scottish Episcopal Church, continues to be a working church, with services every Sunday.

10: A haven for bees

The stonemasons who built the Chapel created a secret beehive in a pinnacle, high up on the roof. Bees were considered sacred messengers of God and this was to provide a safe haven for them.


Discover Rosslyn Chapel for yourself with a visit to this beautiful, historic building, just seven miles south of Edinburgh city centre. The chapel is open throughout the year. For visitor details, day and evening visits, the events programme and more history, visit the website.


(images copyright Rosslyn Chapel)

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