Rosslyn Chapel is seen by many as the 'missing link' that demonstrates continuity between the Knights Templars
and the Freemasons.
The Knights Templar
The Knights Templar - or Order of the Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon, to give the formal title - were an
order of knights formed during the Crusades, rising to become the most powerful and wealthy institution in medieval
Europe after the Church itself. They were literally warrior-monks, a monastic order (based on the Cistercians, with
whom they had close ties) given special dispensation to fight and to shed blood. They were the
most feared Christian fighting force of their day, respected even by the Assassins. However, to many people
today the Templars are hugely exciting and mysterious, believed to have been the guardians of some great,
After two centuries of unrivalled power in Europe and the Holy Land, the Order was suppressed in the early years
of the 14th century on charges of heresy, blasphemy and obscenity. This move was initiated by Philip IV of France,
who gave secret orders that all Templars in France be arrested at dawn on Friday, 13
October 1307. Similar action was taken against the Order in the rest of Europe, and the Pope declared it
abolished in 1312. The last Templar Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, was roasted to death in Paris two years
However, there is good evidence that the Templars did not disappear, but simply went underground and continued
in secret. The evidence reveals that the fugitive knights settled in Scotland, which at the time of the suppression
had been excommunicated, and so lay outside the authority of the Pope.
The Templars &
A link between the Templars, driven underground in 1307, and Freemasonry has long been a matter of speculation.
In fact, this was first mooted, not by the Freemasons themselves,
but by their opponents, the Catholic Church. In a Papal Bull of 1738, Pope Clement XII condemned Freemasonry
on the grounds that it was a continuation of the Order of the Temple, which had been declared heretical and
abolished over four centuries earlier.
Although long derided even by Masonic historians, in recent years much evidence has been found to support the
idea that Freemasonry evolved from 'underground' Templars, and that
this process took place in Scotland. American historian John J. Robinson (Born in Blood, 1990) has shown that
Freemasonic rituals evolved from the practices of the Templars, and Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh (The
Temple and the Lodge, 1989) traced the historical line of Templar survival in Scotland. And Rosslyn Chapel is
one of the key pieces of the jigsaw.
To begin with, there were close connections between the St Clair family and the Templars. Indeed, the founder of the order, Hugues de Payens,
married into the French branch of the family. It is therefore not beyond the bounds of possibility that, when
the Order was driven into exile in Scotland, their possessions and archives passed into the protection of the
St Clairs. Perhaps this accounts for the great wealth of Sir William St Clair, the chapel builder.
Templar symbols can be seen in the carvings of Rosslyn Chapel. These include the 'Lamb of God' (Agnus Dei), a
device used on Templar seals (particularly in the Languedoc region of southern France) to represent St John the
Baptist. There is also what appears to be a stylised version of their most famous seal, depicting two knights
riding a single horse.
The Sinclair's 'engrailed cross' - found in profusion
throughout the chapel - hides the Templar cross at its heart.
The Chapel also contains the grave stone of a 'Sir William de Sinncler', which was moved into the chapel from
the site of an earlier church that occupied the same location as the present village graveyard. It is not known for
certain which Sir William St Clair this is, but it is thought to be either the 3rd Baron, who fought at Bannockburn
in 1314, or the Sir William who was killed while attempting to take Robert Bruce's heart to the Holy Land in 1330.
However, the significant thing is that the stone bears the characteristic signs of a Templar grave, a sword and the
floriated cross - although both of the candidates died after the suppression of the Order.