Templar and Other Symbols in Rosslyn

The Templars had over 600 properties in Scotland. Their headquarters was based at Balantrodach (now called Temple), which is situated a mere 6 miles from Rosslyn.

Many Templar signs and seals are carved into Rosslyn and on the gravestones in its grounds. For example, there are many five pointed stars purported to reflect the major graces of the Virgin Mary.

Here are a few of the other signs and seals: the dove carrying an olive branch; the floriated cross; an artichoke; the Lamb of God holding a cross on its banner; the head of Christ on the roof with His hand held up in benediction. Other symbols are the floriated cross on Sir William’s tombstone and the whole of the interior roof, which design is said to reflect the Templar vision of the Grace and Word of God.

The Templars had learned much about Arab/Eastern philosophy and beliefs while in Jerusalem. They also absorbed the many building techniques derived from the East and Classical Greece. Many of them were stonemasons and they used biblical descriptions of the Temple of Solomon and building tools in the symbolism of their designs and their ceremonies.

They believed in the One God, the Architect of the World, in Whom all religions might believe.

King Robert the Bruce, by appointing the St Clairs (known Templars) hereditary Grand Masters of the crafts and guilds of Scotland, allowed them to pass on their ceremonies and beliefs to the early masons in Scotland.

They became conduits of hermetic and cabbalistic knowledge, bringing this knowledge to the original Scottish Masons and so eventually to all Freemasons. For example, there is a carving showing two men being carried on one horse. At one level this is taken to mean that they have a duty to look after each other. At a higher level, initiates know that it represents the duality of the flesh and the spirit.

Even the St Andrews cross, adopted as Scotland’s national symbol, is said to be based on the Templar burial pattern of the Skull and Crossbones. This symbol can be found in many carvings and tombstones throughout Scotland, dating from the 15-17th centuries, often portrayed together with other Templar symbols of swords and cross. The later carvings often show Masonic symbols together with those of the Templars.

The Skull and Crossbones is also a good example of how our perception of symbols can change over time. Esoteric and hermetic groups had for centuries used the Scull and Crossbones as a symbol to represent birth and rebirth (the evolving soul) and it was adopted for this reason by the Knights Templar. They used it as a symbol on the flags of their ships as well as that of the Cross. After being driven out of the Holy Land, the Knights Templars used their powerful fleet of ships to harass their Moslem adversaries in the Mediterranean area. At the fall of the Templars in 1307, the entire Templar fleet disappeared from the port of La Rochelle. The Skull and Crossbones flags of the Templar ships became a symbol with a powerful reputation and identified with pirates.

By the 17th and 18th centuries the Templars had long since gone underground and evolved into other organisations. The symbol of the Skull and Crossbones came to be associated mainly with pirates and also devil worship. It had become something to be feared. It was known as the ‘Jolly Roger’ in the context of the pirates. (This may be a corruption of the French name for the red flag, the ‘Jolie Rouge’.) Indeed today the Skull and Crossbones is still used as a symbol of fear to alert us to danger and evil, being used to label poisonous or dangerous materials.

Maize Carvings
It is believed today that the Vikings discovered North America, 100 years before Columbus. Henry St Clair, the grandfather of Sir William the founder of the Chapel, has been credited with that discovery and as such could have brought back corn (maize) and the aloe vera succulent plants. This would explain the carvings of maize and aloe vera in the Chapel, carved some 40 or so years before Columbus arrived in North America.

Pagan Carvings
There is, however, a great deal of symbolism found in Rosslyn Chapel that is not classically either Masonic or Templar. There is a plethora of pagan and even some Islamic imagery.

On the outside of the chapel is a carved representation of Hermes - a clear allusion to hermeticism - while the interior is festooned with over two hundred depictions of the Green Man, the pagan Celtic vegetation god, sometimes associated with the Babylonian dying-and-rising god Tammuz. All such gods had similar attributes and were often depicted as having green faces, although the god who was most often depicted in this way was Osiris, consort of Isis.

The St Clair family had not only been Templar, but also pagan from their Norse ancestry.

The lost Templar knowledge is said to be encoded in the fabric of Rosslyn Chapel in order to pass it on to future generations at a time when books could be burnt, censored or banned.




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