Rosslyn Chapel has presented another mystery as builders discovered a 600-year-old bee hive built into the stones. The 15th Century Midlothian chapel is undergoing a £13million preservation exercise at the moment.
The hive said to be "unprecedented" was found during dismantling of a rooftop pinnacle.
The bees entered the hive through a hole in a carved flower crafted by the chapel's master stone masons.
Malcolm Mitchell, of Page Park Architects, said: "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.
"These hives were never intended to be a source of honey."
No one really knows why the chapel had built-in bee hives but the insects have been sacred going back to Egyptian times.
MORE THAN JUST A CHURCH
Rosslyn Chapel, just outside Edinburgh, has been a holy place for centuries. Its name means either “point of a waterfall” or “ancient knowledge down the line” depending on who you ask.
Other mysteries of the chapel include:
Is Rosslyn Chapel the resting place of the Holy Grail? Dan Brown’s book Da Vinci Code suggests that the ultimate of all holy icons is hidden in the church. The Holy Grail was possibly one of the things carried by the Knights Templar when they fled France for Scotland.
Was Rosslyn the final resting place for a hunted order of medieval warrior monks? Work on the chapel began in 1446 and was overseen by Sir William St. Clair, the third and last St Clair Prince of Orkney. An account written in 1700 refers to various builders and masons as coming from "other regions" and "foreign kingdoms", with France as a good bet. Contrary to popular believe Sir William was neither a Knight Templar nor Freemason. The Chapel was built more than 100 years after the official dissolution of the Templar order and more than 200 years before the beginnings of Freemasonry. There is no proven link between St Clair and the Knights Templar although their official headquarters is nearby in the village of Temple.
What lies behind the famous Prentice Pillar? The popular myth has it that the master mason who intended to carve the centrepiece pillar went to Rome. On his return, he found his apprentice had completed the work in magnificent style. He was so furious he killed the apprentice, hence the name of the pillar. However, it’s more likey it was carved by a tradesman from a firm of stonemasons called Prentys and Sutton.
Who is the leering green man engraved more than 120 times in the chapel? Carvings of a bearded green man appear in many religious settings in much of the world, but few have as many as Rosslyn. There are many theories about who the green man was. Some say it was either John the Baptist or Hercules. He is depicted as a Robin Hood-type figure, sometimes alternatively named Jack-in-the-green or Jack-in-the-Tree. He also may have been Celtic fertility god or a tree spirit.
Who is the man with the gash on his head? Rumour suggests that he might be the smited apprentice of pillar fame. However, he could also be Freemasonry’s legendary figure, Hiram Abiff, the martyred architect of King Solomon’s Temple. Academic symbologists say it could just as easily express a classic archetype of sacrifice and rebirth.
What is the chapel’s link with Freemasons? Apparently Sir William St Clair claimed patronage of the masons – a link passed and strengthened through the generations and evidenced in two seventeenth century charters. In 1736, Sir William Sinclair became the first Scottish Grand Master at the Grand Lodge of Scotland in Edinburgh. By the 1690s, the bond between the Sinclairs and the masons was commented in a celebrated letter.
What do the 213 mysterious cube carvings mean? The mystical symbols carved into the stone ceiling of the chapel have confused historians for generations. But recently music scientists who believe they are part of a musical notation system are making efforts to decode the signs. The series of lines and dots are thought to represent shapes created by sand on a musical instrument during the vibrations caused by sound.
Is the heart of Robert Bruce there? Probably not. The face of Robert the Bruce is carved into the easternmost part of the Church. He looks pretty squished-in despite his importance in history and the fact was related to the St Claire family. However, his body is buried in Dunfermline Abbey and his heart is buried in Melrose Abbey.
Is there another secret vault no one knows about? A painting of a Templar Knight standing in front of the Prentice Pillar was recently discovered in a private collection. It became a talking point when someone spotted a staircase which seems to lead down behind the rear wall of the chapel. It does not exist in real life.
What is the Holy Grail? The Holy Grail is a sacred object figuring in literature and Christian traditions. It is either a dish, plate, or cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper and said to possess miraculous powers. It was also said to be used to gather his blood when he was taken down from the cross. Variously it has also been said to be documents about Christ’s bloodline, his mummified head or, if you believe Dan Brown, his descendants.
What’s hidden in the vaults? Mythology suggests that the Sinclair family hid ancient Templar and Masonic artefacts and documents in the vaults. This may include the Holy Grail. During a modern day excavation of an underground vault, workmen were prevented from reaching a large chamber by a massive wall. It is also suggested the bodies of some of the Knights lie inside. Traditionally male members of the St Clair family were buried there without coffins in their full knightly regalia. A non-invasive seismic survey in the 1980s, did reveal metal objects contained within the vaults, but proposals for further scans met a chorus of opposition in 2003 and no further investigation seems likely to take place in the near future.
What’s the meaning of carvings of American plants that predate Columbus’ discovery of America? Exotic plants featured in the chapel’s carving include maize and aloe vera. One theory is that some of the masons who carved the chapel were descended from Vikings who may have landed in America before Columbus but another says simply that they were added later.