Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 12:35 UK

Rosslyn Chapel was haven for bees

The pinnacle concealing a hidden hive being removed
The bees entered the hive through a carved flower

An ancient chapel has revealed a new mystery with the discovery of a 600-year-old hive built into the stones.

Builders renovating Rosslyn Chapel, which was made famous in The Da Vinci Code, found the "unprecedented" hive while dismantling a rooftop pinnacle.

The bees entered the hive through a hole in a carved flower crafted by the chapel's master stone masons.

The 15th Century Midlothian building is undergoing a £13m conservation and site improvement project.

The discovery was made when two pinnacles, which had been made unstable by nesting jackdaws, had to be taken down stone by stone and rebuilt.

Malcolm Mitchell, of Page Park Architects, said: "It was a big hollow about the size of a gas cylinder and the hive had obviously been abandoned."

'Teasing' masons

It is believed that the bees left the hive when a canopy was put over the chapel during renovation works. Another pinnacle had a similar hollow, but no access hole.

"Master masons built these in, whether it was under direction or not. What you find at Rosslyn is there are so many irregularities and nuances in the stone work and it's as if the stone masons are teasing us from the past," Mr Mitchell said.

"These hives were never intended to be a source of honey. They were there purely to protect the bees from our inclement weather."

Rosslyn hive
It is hoped the bees will return to the hive once renovations are complete

"There doesn't seem to be any precedent.

"Bee hives in the past were normally portable. Often they were made of wicker baskets or ceramics, but the intention was that you would have access to them.

"At Rosslyn they are there purely for the bees."

He said there appeared to be a coating to protect the sandstone from the insects, which can damage masonry.

The hive has been sent to local beekeepers in an attempt to identify the type of insect that made them.

It is hoped the bees will return once the renovation works are complete.

Several unusual findings have been made during the project, including two skeletons.



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