09 November 2006

Rosslyn Chapel and The Real Mary Kings Close, Edinburgh

Hearing: TV noise

Happy Birthday to Me!!!

A quick trip out to Rosslyn Chapel today. I actually didn't know that it was so close to Edinburgh, only about 1/2 an hour by local bus. So out i went, there were a few others who had the same idea and located in a small village, off a side road, there it was. For those who don't know, this chapel is home to one of the places that Dan Brown wrote about in his book The Da Vinci Code. It also featured in the movie. Its rumored to have masonic ties and no wonder, the stonework is so detailed. Everywhere you look there is something to see. There is so much religious symbology but mixed in is a "mother nature" feel which i suppose helps the myth Dan Brown wrote about. This chapel is actually only part (the choir) of what was to be a much larger church but when Sir William St Clair (the founder) died it was left incomplete.

The ceiling of the main alter has all sorts of symbols running along the arches. A recent theory was that they were musical notes. The guy who came up with this theory actually played the music he thought they depicted at the chapel earlier in the year though the music according to the guide was a bit unusual.

An interesting story about the place is based on the 2 pillars you can see on the left. One straight and one curved. Its called the apprentice story and it goes a little something like this. Out of all the masons employed to build and decorate this chapel one was in charge of these 2 pillars and he had an apprentice to help him. This master had finished the pillar on the left and wanted something different for the other so he was sent off to find inspiration leaving the apprentice behind. One day the apprentice approaches Sir William and says he saw a dream of how the 2nd pillar should be and could he please be allowed to do it. Sir William agrees and the apprentice comes up with the pillar on the right. When the Master comes back and sees that the apprentices work is better than his he is jealous and beheads his apprentice. The master is also beheaded as punishment for such a crime and if you look carefully, there is what is believed to be, a carved version of his head, the apprentices head in the corners just below the organ.

At the moment the chapel is covered with a temporary roof to keep out the moisture that had been seeping into the stone through the years. Its presence allows you to see the chapel from the top (also minutely decorated) and gives you a chance to see beautiful views of the valley and Rosslyn Castle.

I also paid a trip to The Real Mary Kings Close. It is basically the remnants of 16th -19th century closes and houses preserved as they were. The unusual thing about this is that there is a building on top of it! The building of the Royal Exchange (Council Chambers) knocked down a few floors of the existing buildings but left the bottom floors intact to be used as foundations! When you step inside the close it looks like any other close you can see running off the Royal Mile but there is no sky, just the floor of the Council Chambers.

The tour takes you underneath and shows you the homes of people who lived there, tells you about the plague and how it was dealt with and how if you were poor your home was one room where 12 people lived including the livestock. There is one house still preserved exactly as it was before only you cant go inside as the floorboards may be unsound and the walls are painted with arsenic treatment (as if we're going to lick the walls??!!). But you can take a peek inside from the doorway and right at the back can see a lovely old "thunder box" LOL!

As with a lot of other places in Edinburgh, the Close is haunted and one particular room is haunted with the spirit of a little girl from a well to do family (they had 3 rooms) who apparently was sick and had to be abandoned by her family.

I have to say its as close as you can get to stepping back in time going down Mary Kings Close, just standing in the close and looking down - everything is as it was all those years ago - a lot cleaner but still the same. They have added a few things here and there (like laundry hangings across the close above) but nothing to take away the feel of the history of the place. I really wanted to take photos but they weren't allowed - total bummer.


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