Trip To Scotland
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
The town of Roslin is just south of Edinburgh. The town itself was created as the stone masons working on Rosslyn Chapel built homes in the area where they were working. John joined me for the trip and, thankfully, did the driving.
We pulled into the chapel parking lot (quite small) and found...appropriately...a Smart Car. Remember, that's the car that Langdon and Sophie drive around in the DaVinci Code. Here it is, in case you've never seen one.
The outside of the chapel was not what I expected.
It seems they are doing quite a bit of renovation. Fortunately, we were just in time for one of two guided tours of the day, so we heard all about it. For those of you wanting to know the secrets contained in the huge vault beneath the chapel, the wait will be long. No one has ever been down there, and it is rumored that all sorts of things are there...from Templar tombs to the Holy Grail, but it will be another 10-15 years before they look. First comes the roof and exterior repair that you see now. Next, they are going to clean all the stone on the inside so that all the carving can be more clearly seen. THEN they will find a way to go below and see what is there. I'm guessing that they are afraid the money for renovation will dry up once the room below is uncovered, so they want to get everything else done first, but that's just my own hunch.
The inside is indeed remarkable...and enigmatic. We walked in this door...
That cross in the circle above the door is the symbol of the St. Clair family, who built the chapel. The guide said it was the only carving that was repeated in any part of the chapel. Every other carving is unique...which is pretty amazing when you see the extent of the carvings. Originally a much larger church was intended, and there are still walls that extend out to the side. With a typical cross-shaped cathedral in mind, the chapel as it stands was meant only to be the head of the cross. But the St. Clair with the most interest in the project died and the son finished it off as this much smaller chapel.
This door where we enter is a much newer baptistry. Take a look at this stained glass window just inside the door and to the right.
That's a different way to earn your wings!
This area was small and then we walked into the larger chapel. It was hard to get pictures inside, due to the light...or lack thereof...but I have tried to get some of the individual carvings for you. This one is the head of the apprentice mason.
Can you see it there as a support to the carving and pedastal above? Here's the story. There are two ornately carved pillars at the front of the chapel. Sorry, don't have pictures of those. Both are ornate and both are different. The Master mason carved one of them at which point Mr. St. Clair decided there was some pillar in Italy that he wanted duplicated for the other pillar. So the master mason went to Italy to find it and replicate it.
Well, he was a long time in doing it. While he was away, the apprentice mason had a dream, which he claimed was given to him by God, showing him how to carve the second pillar. He convinced St. Clair to let him do it, and he set to work. Years are going by here. The apprentice finishes the pillar. Then the master mason comes home. He sees that the pillar has already been carved, and he asks who did it. His apprentice proudly raises his hand, at which point the master mason smashes his head in with a mallet. The other masons were so outraged that they, in turn, killed the master mason. For years, the master mason's pillar was covered up...a sort of punishment for his deeds by letting no one see his work. Eventually, however, the stone overlay was removed and now you can see both pillars. The other masons carved the heads of both the apprentice and the master mason into the chapel. They sit in similar positions across the aisle from each other.
Here is a carving of the mandylion
Sorry about the blur. It was high up. It is the triangular shaped piece in the middle. The mandylion was the cloth that supposedly showed the face of Christ. Some think it was what we now know as the Shroud of Turin.
Here is the knight that symbolized the Knights Templar.
Some think the chapel was created specifically as a refuge for the Knights Templar. Here is a view just looking up and over the chapel. The ceiling is entirely carved, as you can partly see, and is divided into five sections...four with flowers...daisies, lilies, roses, and forget me nots, and the fifth with stars. Jut below that you can see several places where statues should be. You can thank Oliver Cromwell for their absence. He came here, destroyed the statues, and stabled his horses in the chapel. He did the same thing in St. Michael's church in Linlithgow. Thanks so much, Ollie.
What I didn't realize before coming here is that the chapel pays tribute to Robert the Bruce. This heart, carried by the angel, is supposed to represent his heart.
Again, I apologize for the blur. With the low light setting, the shutter is open longer, and I don't have a very steady hand.
Also, we have the death mask of Robert the Bruce carved into the Lady's Chapel at the front.
This Lady's Chapel at the front...where there are four altars...is an enigmatic area. For those of you who are psychics, there is a blue door in this area. For others, this is supposedly a high energy area...perhaps a door between dimensions. People report feeling quite warm in that spot. If you look up, there are LOTS of these rectangular carved protrusions.
At the end of each one is a different symbol. They supposedly represent musical notes, although not the type we are used to seeing. Here's one a bit closer.
This next pictures gives you an idea of how many there are. This is a shot down the Lady's Chapel area.
Now...the deal is, if you can decode the notes and play them on the right instrument at the exactly the right time, the secrets of the chapel will be revealed to you. The kicker is, if you get it wrong, you die. Hey, I just report this stuff...but I'm not making up the story.
At the end of the Lady's Chapel is a stairway down into a crypt, which used to be covered by a stone floor. There are lots of ghost stories in this place, and some come from down there. Some girls, if I remember right. There's a monk upstairs, and someone else that they haven't been able to identify. The castle is not too far from here, and supposedly there is a secret passage from the chapel to the castle, so that the St. Clairs didn't have to be seen coming here. But they haven't found the passage. Some think that passage would also let you into the vault that has never been opened. They have done soundings down there and can say that the vault goes as far down as the chapel ceiling does up. That's pretty big.
Other carvings...throughout the chapel are over a hundred "green men." Here's an example of one.
There are also a lot of carvings with strictly masonic significance. A bunch of angels holding different body parts in the Lady's Chapel are some of those. There is a separate masonic guide for the Chapel, for those who are interested. Here's one of the masonic carvings.
It's a fascinating place. That trip was all I did yesterday. I'm going to post it up with yesterday's date, so that it doesn't get too long with today's entry. I hope that those of you having trouble loading have been helped by me doing the archiving.
It looks like everything will be a day behind for a couple of days. Today I went to Rosslyn Chapel (of DaVinci Code fame), but in order to conserve disks, I'm not including it in this blog of yesterday's events. I had already dumped yesterday's pictures.
In any case, I was out the door by 7 am yesterday (yes, this is really my blog...I, Anne Robertson, willingly got up at 6 am to go monster hunting). Loch Ness is a good ways north, and the roads to get there are not quick. They are, however, lovely. Here are a couple of shots from relatively early in the drive.
You will note in these pictures of the highlands that there are no trees on the mountains. That is not because we are above the tree line. It it because of history. The Highlands were once filled with forests and people and cattle. The people were removed by the British Government during the infamous "Clearances" of the late 18th century to make way for sheep farming. When that proved to be less of a boon than anticipated, they took the timber. The forestry service is now doing replanting, but still for the sake of commerce, so they are only planting pines. The population in the Highlands is somewhere around 12,000...in an area about the size of Ohio. But I digress. Here's another shot along the journey.
I drove up and up to the summit of the Rannoch Moor...the western border of Robertson land. Here's what it looks like on a moor...
Eventually I came into the beautiful area of Glencoe. It was hard to know which shots to pick, it is so beautiful.
And these were just the lesser shots where I could pull off and take a picture.
Glencoe was the land of the MacDonalds, who were Jacobites (supported King James and descendants, who had been driven out of power) like the Robertsons. In 1691, as a way of dealing with the Jacobite uprisings, the government required that all clans chiefs go to Ft. William and give an oath of allegiance to the government by Jan. 1, 1692. The chief of the MacDonald clan arrived on Dec. 31 and was told he had to go to Inverary instead. That was over the mountains. Remember, it's winter. When he got to Inverary, the official, Colin Campbell, was not there yet due to bad weather. It took three more days. Glencoe (the MacDonald chief) took the oath on Jan. 6. The government rejected the oath and ordered the MacDonalds slaughtered.
The Campbells were enemies of the MacDonalds, and had already taken much of their lands. They ended up doing the deed. They came into MacDonald land, 120 of them, were accepted into the hospitality of their homes, ate and drank with them for days. Then, the orders came. In the dead of winter, on the 12th of Feb. 1692, they rose up in the middle of the night and slaughtered their hosts, according to orders. All under 70 years of age were to be put to the sword. Just a few escaped into the snowy hills with only what they had on. There are Scottish laments about Glencoe, and the Campbell name still evokes the memory.
The beauty of the landscape is a sharp contrast to the deeds done here. You can read about the massacre in detail at www.macdonald.com/glen1.html.
I traveled further up the winding road. Loch Ness is a very long lake, crawling across the land below Inverness, much like the monster it supposedly holds. It is the largest body of water in Scotland and holds more water than all of England and Wales combined. Every human being on the planet could be submerged in Loch Ness three times over. Okay, everybody get your suits on! Here is my first view of the loch.
Wait! What is that off to the right? Oh...it's a boat. Could just be a clever ruse...the monster with a ship hat.
Just below the town of Drumnadrochit, where most of the visitor center stuff is, lies Urquhart Castle...or what is left of it. The government blew it up in the 17th century so the Jacobites couldn't use it as a stronghold. It sits on the shore of Loch Ness, just at its deepest point.
Note the ancient lawnmower in the foreground. I took this next shot because I liked the plant growing in the castle window.
The castle once looked like this...
Now it looks like this...
It wasn't associated with one particular family, but saw a lot of action because of its strategic location.
Leaving here, I went just a bit further north into Drumnadrochit. There was a very good exhibition called Loch Ness 2000 that gave the geologic history of the loch. Did you know that Scotland was once south of the equator? From the pictures of the continental shifts, it looks to me like the White Mountains of New Hampshire were once part of the Highlands. Both ranges were once the size of the Himalayas. They are very old.
Monster hunting has been big business, with all the latest equipment put to the effort. In the process, much else has been learned about this area. A very disturbing bit was when they told about putting one of those tubes down to collect soil layers from the bottom of the loch...kind of like they do with a glacier, where you can see the trends of the years much as you can with rings on a tree.
Anyway, the part of that I found disturbing was that there was a noticeable difference as a result of the nuclear testing in the 70's and a big blip for the Chernobyl accident. Here, in the deserted Highlands, down at the bottom of Loch Ness, radiation from thousands of miles away makes its mark. We truly have no idea what we are doing to the earth.
All that is to say that if Nessie ever had cancer, perhaps the radiation has cured her. But where is she? I looked and I looked...
but could see nothing. Then it dawned on me. Suppose Nessie is not truly a water creature? Suppose she doesn't live in the water itself, but in a den nearby...merely taking to the waters when they are free of boats with sonar devices? I changed my approach and began to look on land. I'd seen the photographs...a long neck, a body that looked like a boat...and there, around the corner, I knew I had her. Nessie, at long last...truly revealed.
It wasn't the head in those pictures after all...it was the tail! Remember, you heard it here first.
I was going to go on one of the cruises, but by then it was raining and I thought better of it. Like the Wise Men, I returned home by another way...passing by the Battlefield of Culloden, where I would have stopped if the weather had been better. It looked a bit clearer toward the south, so I kept heading in that direction, down the upper portion of the A9, above the flooding damage. And so at last I came back to that area I have now been to so often, the Robertson Clan Center. I went in and looked at the Clach-Na-Brataich one more time and then headed out a little road I hadn't had time to do earlier in the week. I went to the Queen's View.
The Queen's View was named for Isabella, the wife of Robert the Bruce, who came here. Queen Victoria, however, thought it was named for her, and no one sought to disabuse her of the notion. It looks out over Loch Tummel, which heads West toward Loch Rannoch, which is the northern border of Robertson territory. Here is the Queen's View...
It's hard to look bad even when it's overcast. From here I took the now familiar route home through Aberfeldy...since the A9 is still all messed up.
I have one more day with the car, and I have decided to do the unthinkable and skip Edinburgh. The earlier shot of the castle in the rain is likely all you will get. Aside from the fact that it is supposed to be raining again tomorrow, cities just don't do much for me. I have two more goals. One is to go to Melrose Abbey...that is south of Edinburgh a good bit...I haven't been to the Border Lands at all. Melrose is the burial place of R the B's heart. If you remember, it took a trip without him to the Holy Land. It is buried in the Melrose Abbey. Then, if I can make a trek to the opposite side of the southern lands...under Glasgow, I hope to follow a mysterious lead to an address in the little hamlet of Hurlford. More tomorrow...including today's pictures of Rosslyn Chapel.