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visit the store Also available as an eBook via Amazon, iBookstore, Sony and Barnes & Nobles A Rosslyn Meridian? Some researchers have suggested the possibility that Rosslyn was part of a larger complex. For example: should we look into the idea that Rosslyn might be connected to Roseline, a meridian that is believed to have been the nickname of the French Zero meridian? Should we read any significance into the presence of a gnomon on top of a gravestone in the cemetery? Meridians were created for timekeeping. They served as local timekeepers at first. Until two centuries ago, most cities, towns and villages would set their own time by the sun. For this, they established a “local meridian”. One often used technique was the gnomon, i.e. the sundial, which charts the shadow of the sun through the day to set the time and find the directions.
When the railways came, the companies needed to set their timetables using a single countrywide standard meridian which synchronised with local times. With Global trade becoming a normal feature of society, there was the need to set a single Zero meridian that the world could take as a standard by which time could be set. There were competing interests for the location of 0°, espcially with the French, who set their Zero Meridian, known as the Paris Meridian so that it passed through the greatest possible uninterrupted landmass in France, passing through Paris in the North and Carcassonne in the South. In the end it was at a conference in Washington, USA in 1884 that Greenwich was chosen, because of the overwhelming influence of the British Empire and its Navy. Quite often the traces of these old meridian lines can still be seen, as is the case in Paris; and perhaps there is such a trace in Rosslyn also, although on a much smaller scale, of course, than in Paris. Are there any specific features north and south of Rosslyn that might indicate the presence of such a local meridian?
Exactly to the North is Arthur’s Seat, the most famous geological feature of the Lothians. Arthur’s Seat is an 800 ft. high extinct volcano, which erupted last some 350 million years ago.
Nearby stands Holyrood Abbey. In the “mythical origins” of the Sinclair dynasty, it is said that the Sinclairs were instrumental in building this abbey, named after the Holy Rood, supposedly a piece of the true cross of Christ, brought to Scotland by Princess Margaret under the protection of a Sinclair. Although it is now known that this account is not accurate, several Sinclairs have been buried inside the Abbey. At least seven of the stones in the floor of Holyrood Abbey are memorials to Sinclairs, although most of them date from the 18th and 19th Century. From Rosslyn Chapel, it is possible to see Arthur’s Seat. Thanks to the presence of the canopy and its walkway, we are able to look over the new walls and buildings that would otherwise obscure the view… but which were absent when the chapel was erected. Most intriguingly, Arthur’s Seat is visible as a twin-peaked mountain. Furthermore, it is the only mountain visible above the northern horizon. Imagine that there are no houses, and then Arthur’s Seat could be seen to rise as the only hill above the northern horizon. Even today, in sunny weather, it is a magnificent view… though somewhat difficult to discover as one is distracted by the modern buildings. Vincent Scully, a Yale University architectural historian, researched the sacred landscape of Crete and came to the following conclusions: all Minoan palaces were situated in an enclosed valley. There was a mounded or conical hill to the north or south of the palace and on its axis, a higher mountain, with a cleft summit or double-peak, further away on that axis. In fact, Scully’s observations have since been found elsewhere in many cultures and in the “holy places” of Europe – though with variations. The themes are there, but the interplay of the various features is sometimes slightly different.
Notice how closely this works for Rosslyn. Rosslyn Castle is set inside an enclosed valley. For St. Matthew’s Church, the original church, this was also the case. Rosslyn Chapel, however, has been set on top of a hill, which stands above the Castle.
Directly north from the chapel, one can indeed see the twin-peaked Arthur’s Seat. This has been linked to a pair of horns, raised arms or wings, the female cleft, or a pair of breasts. Furthermore, the fact that Arthur’s Seat is volcanic in origin must have strengthened its mythological significance, for it is known that in ancient societies volcanoes were given sacred attributions.
Above Arthur’s Seat, the Pole star would shine and it would be a natural focal point for anyone wishing to observe the stars. Anyone standing in Rosslyn Chapel, looking to the Arthur’s Seat, would literally see the stars move around… rising in the East, setting over the Pentland Hills in the West.
The Northern polar stars have been described in many mythologies as the “everlasting stars”. They were linked with the Afterlife. In many mythologies, including Celtic and Egyptian mythologies, the opening between a twin-peaked mountain was said to be the passage through which the souls of the deceased would enter the Afterlife. Can it be a coincidence that this age-old mythology is present in Rosslyn Chapel? Or was it by design? Intriguingly, the connection between the Hill and Arthur’s Seat was only made in the 15th Century, when the chapel was built. Before then, it was named differently. Arthur’s constellation is the Great Bear, which circles around the pole star. To observe this, one has to look North. Therefore, to observe this feature above Arthur’s Seat, one would have to be South of Arthur’s Seat, with College Hill, where the chapel was built, a perfect location to make astronomical observations. So, as Arthur is the Great Bear circling around the Pole Star, which is visible (from Rosslyn Chapel) above Arthur’s Seat, this could be one reason why the mountain was renamed: it “anchored”, or “sat” Arthur, who ruled the land.
In mythology, the Great Bear was said to be the chariot of the heavenly ruler, the pole star. But it was also considered to be the vehicle of the sun god, i.e. the sun. North was linked to the World of the Dead. In some cultures, the sacred mountain to the north was sometimes called “Storehouse of the Dead”. The twin-peaked hill between the temple and the “Everlasting Stars” of the North was thus considered to be a way-station to “Heaven”. Perhaps the two peaks were compared to two “pillars”, marking the entrance to the World of the Dead, where St. Peter greeted the dead with the key to heaven. And what about the two pillars of freemasonry?
Directly to the South is the impressively named “Mount Lothian”. It is, however, “merely” a low hill. The hill is crowned by a grove of thirteen sycamore trees, the thirteenth being set off-centre. In the centre of the grove is the ruin of a 14th Century chapel, dedicated to St. Mary. Mount Lothian marked the western outpost or gate of Balentradoch, the Templar headquarters of Scotland. It was the location of a Cistercian abbey, to which the chapel belonged. The chapel is now in ruins, but once, it was the place where William Wallace was knighted – the scene made famous in the 1995 Academy Award winning movie “Braveheart”.
Sycamores were often considered to be sacred trees. Their life-span is approximately 250 to 300 years, so the trees there now could not have been present during that knighthood. However, local farmers have discovered tiling in the adjacent field, as well as debris of dwellings that make ploughing impossible. The name “Mount Lothian” also suggests it is an important place, the primary mountain for Lothian and therefore possibly the location from which the ruler of the Lothians ruled. The legendary ruler of the Lothians was Lot. He was father of Gawain and his brothers, husband of Arthur’s sister Anna (according to Geoffrey of Mommouth) or Margawse (according to Malory book II chapter XI). Geoffrey presents him as a supporter of Arthur, and already King of Lothian, whom Arthur placed on the throne of Norway – a country with connections to the Sinclairs when they acquired the Orkney Islands.
The name Lot means “Lothian ruler” and therefore it is not a personal but a generic name. It seems certain that there was a king in the Lothian area in the 5th Century, but his headquarters appear to have been at Traprain Law, near Haddington, some thirty kilometres to the west of Edinburgh. However, maybe mythology had him rule from Mount Lothian, and as a result, this sacred place was later converted into a chapel. As Lot ruled the Lothians as a nation, the Scots looked upon William Wallace, at his knighthood, as the Guardian of Scotland, and looked to him to make free it from English rule. Is it coincidence, or design? If by design, then the setting of Rosslyn Chapel within the landscape was a deliberate attempt by William St. Clair to make his kingdom a magical setting; a magic kingdom, very much like the concepts of Camelot and other Arthurian and Grail traditions with which William St. Clair must have been familiar. Furthermore, as we have seen, his teacher, Gilbert Hay, definitely knew about such legends, and stories about the Earthly Paradise, or the Garden of Eden. [this information was excerpted from the book.]