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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2005, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Intrigue abounds in 'Da Vinci' chapel
Readers are being invited to submit their own articles to the BBC Scotland news website. Paul Hurst, from Manchester, visited Rosslyn Chapel, near Edinburgh, shortly before Tom Hanks began filming there this week on The Da Vinci Code, the novel which has sold millions of copies and caused controversy the world over.


FACT AND FANTASY COLLIDE AT ROSSLYN

It's strange to think that the answer to one of history's oldest mysteries may lie in a tiny chapel in Scotland but according to some, the strange marks on the wall and the even stranger 14th pillar may indicate the resting place of the most prized relic in all Christendom, the Holy Grail.

Rosslyn Chapel with production equipment. Picture by Paul Hurst
Lights, cameras, action... the stage is set at Rosslyn Chapel

It's the cup used by Christ at the last supper and the centre of endless myth and folklore tales.

In Dan Brown's book, the hero, Robert Langdon, jets all over Europe to try to unravel a religious code which has been hidden away within works of art and architecture.

Langdon is drawn into a world where the unfamiliar is hidden in the familiar and he is forced to look at some of the world's greatest works of art in a completely new way.

I won't spoil the story for those who haven't read the book, but part of Langdon's trail sees him visit this small chapel just south of Edinburgh.

It's a tiny place which looks quite unassuming from the outside but on the inside, the lavishly decorated interior holds a wealth of mysteries waiting for any "wannabe" code-breaker.

Architectural graffiti

Moses seems to have horns, some of the angels are carved upside-down and there are numerous mason's marks scattered around the walls. They seem to be architectural graffiti, but could they symbolise something more?

The chapel has been linked with freemasonry along with a mysterious order of religious warriors called the "Knights Templar" who supposedly found the cup of Christ and buried it somewhere underneath or inside the chapel at Rosslyn.

Here the hushed worlds of secret societies and unearthed relics mix to find their final home at Rosslyn and according to some historians, this isn't by chance.

As the actors run between the ancient pillars, they are writing the newest chapter in the chapel's story

Some believe that the Knights Templar amassed many relics over the centuries, treasures which were hidden in key churches and chapels for protection.

When the order of the Templars was outlawed and its followers executed, some say that their secrets died with them, others claim that the secret societies left clues etched on the walls and in ancient manuscripts and works of art.

To such an end, treasure hunters have almost taken the chapel apart, piece by piece, looking for either the Ark of the Covenant, the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper or even manuscripts said to be written by King Solomon himself. They have found nothing.

Interior of chapel. Picture by Paul Hurst
The ornate interior of the chapel has been pored over by visitors

As I wandered round, my mind was caught somewhere between folklore and my personal beliefs. Everyone loves a great mystery and even though I don't subscribe to Dan Brown's "facts" on which he bases his novel, it's amazing to see how some parts of church history blend easily with shadowy figures, lurking precariously between fact and fiction.

I wasn't the only person wondering around the chapel. Along with the solitary American "Brownie" tourist, security guards occasionally popped in to check that studio lights and equipment were still in place.

So once again at Rosslyn, fantasy invades reality and what an ideal setting.

As the actors run between the ancient pillars, they are writing the newest chapter in the chapel's story.

A tale which started centuries ago. A story not written with words, but strange etchings on stone which in some ways, contain more than words ever could.

This article was first published in a slightly longer form on Paul's blog.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and are not endorsed by the BBC.


SEE ALSO:
'Da Vinci chapel' filming starts
26 Sep 05 |  Scotland


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