For more than 500 years, a code has been locked in the stones of Rosslyn Chapel. Now Stuart Mitchell, 41, and his father Tommy, 75, say they have deciphered it and will perform the music in May at a concert in the 15th century chapel.
Following its appearance in Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code, numbers of visitors to the chapel have increased rapidly.
Stuart Mitchell discovered a series of figures which he calls an "orchestra of angels" at the base of elaborate arches round the altar, with each angel holding a musical instrument.
He worked with his father to decipher the patterns on cubes which jut out from the vaulted arches.
According to Tommy Mitchell, the markings arethekey to unlocking a tune which they were determined to crack.
He said: "We were convinced from the position at the top of the pillars of the angels and they are all precisely under the arches where the cubes occur that there was music there.
"We got clues from other books as well. Over the years this became more of an obsession than anything else and we decided we had to find out what was going on."
"If these patterns and cubes had not contained music anything we turned up would have been purely random and would not have sounded hauntily beautiful."
Stuart Mitchell said the tunes could have been hidden because knowledge of harmonics may have been seen as dangerous, even heretical, by 15th century church authorities.
He said: "What we have here is a recorded piece of music, it is almost like a compact disc from the 15th century."
Corporal Mortification in Opus Dei
Corporal mortification is regularly practiced in Opus Dei. It is perhaps one of the most startling aspects of Opus Dei life for people outside the group. Many of the practices of corporal mortification were at one time more regularly practiced within the Church; however, due to modern psychology and thinking, the practices which inflict pain are sometimes considered to be counterproductive to one's spiritual development, as they can easily lead to pride and an unhealthy attitude toward one's body.
Some acts of corporal mortification may be helpful in checking the desires of the flesh, such as fasting. However, in Opus Dei, especially for the numerary (celibate) members, all of the practices mentioned below are mandatory if one wishes to live the "Spirit of Opus Dei" fully. The "Spirit of Opus Dei" is the standard of living, as outlined by the Opus Dei directors, for which all truly dedicated Opus Dei members strive. Under the umbrella of the "Spirit of Opus Dei" hide many of the abuses in Opus Dei. The subtle control to conform to the norm is typical in groups which practice mind control; members are "guilted" into conforming, feeling that they must in order to follow "God's will" as it is outlined by the controlling group.
Listed below are the ways Opus Dei numeraries practice corporal mortification:
Cilice: a spiked chain worn around the upper thigh for two hours each day, except for Church feast days, Sundays, and certain times of the year. This is perhaps the most shocking of the corporal mortifications, and generally Opus Dei members are extremely hesitant to admit that they use them. It is a painful mortification which leaves small prick holes in the flesh, and makes the Opus Dei members tentative about wearing swim suits wherever non-Opus Dei members may be. Discipline : a cord-like whip which resembles macrame, used on the buttocks or back once a week. Opus Dei members must ask permission to use it more often, which many do. The story is often told in Opus Dei that the Founder was so zealous in using the discipline, he splattered the bathroom walls with streaks of blood. Cold Showers : Most numeraries take cold showers every day and offer it up for the intentions of the current Prelate. Meals : Numeraries generally practice one small corporal mortification at every meal, such as drinking coffee without milk or sugar, not buttering one's toast, skipping dessert, not taking seconds, etc. For the most part, eating between meals is not practiced. Opus Dei members fast on the Church's prescribed days for fasting, but otherwise must ask for permission to fast on their own. The Heroic Minute : Numeraries are encouraged to jump out of bed and kiss the floor as soon as the door is knocked in the morning. As they kiss, they say "Serviam," Latin for "I will serve." Silences : Each night after making an examination of conscience, numeraries do not speak to one another until after Holy Mass the following morning. (They do not say "Good morning" to anyone as they are getting ready.) In the afternoons, they try to avoid speaking until dinnertime. On Sundays, numeraries generally do not listen to music, especially in the afternoons.
Here is an image of the beautiful Apprentice Pillar which was ignored in the movie version of the Da Vinci Code.
The history of the St. Clair (now Sinclair) family, who built the Rosslyn chapel and castle, is rendered in stone, interspersed with symbols from Judaism, Islam, Christianity and Masonic rituals, in keeping with the family’s Knights Templar and Masonic connections.
While Our 15th-century tourist might have been confused by depictions of Norse mythology and foreign legend, they would have been perplexed even more by two totally unfamiliar subjects: carvings of corn and aloe, New World crops unknown in Europe at that time.
Rosslyn was completed six years before Columbus explored the Americas, but legend has it that Sir Henry St. Clair of Orkney led an expedition to America in 1398, theoretically explaining these plant anachronisms.
The Da Vinci Code begins in the Grand Gallery of the Louvre in Paris and leads to Rosslyn Chapel, postulating, among many other things, that the Holy Grail was at one time concealed there. The Grail was brought from Jerusalem by the Knights Templar and secreted in Rosslyn, according to the tale.
Secrets of the Templars treasures, of immortality, of the very universe itself, are supposedly carved into the chapel’s walls. And is it a coincidence that the Roslin Institute, birthplace of Dolly the cloned sheep, is within walking distance of the chapel, where an intricately carved Apprentice Pillar is shaped eerily like DNA’s double-helix?
Whether the theories are real or fantastical, modern visitors, like their 15th-century counterpart, cannot help feeling moved upon entering the building. This echoing structure, 40 feet high and 69 feet long, is filled with thousands of icons, 32 kinds of arches and touches of Medieval, French and Spanish architecture, with transoms inspired by Babylon and Egypt.
Every surface, nook and corner is covered in Sacred Geometry. Even the window arches on the outside of the building hold carved bats and contorted faces of mythic Green Men and soldiers on horseback.
The building’s impressive barrel roof is decorated with flowers, stars and doves. Gargoyles, the face of Jesus and an angel holding the heart of King Robert Bruce stare down from the walls. An angelic orchestra supports 213 inigmatic cubes above the Lady chapel — cubes that some believe are musical notation. Several historians, in fact, are attempting to decode and play these notes.
Tableaux of the seven deadly sins and the seven virtues line the south aisle. More than 120 Green Man symbols peer out from all surfaces, and two dragons intertwine on the west wall.
Three support columns — The Mason's Pillar, Journeyman’s Pillar and Apprentice Pillar — dominate the room. Said to have been carved by an upstart underling while the master mason was away, the Apprentice Pillar depicts the Norse legend of the world tree, Yggdrasil, with branches, dragons and serpents twining, helix-like, from the base. Above the pillar is carved the Latin motto, “Wine is strong, a king is stronger, women are stronger still but Truth conquers all.” The pillar was such a work of beauty that the master is said to have killed the apprentice in a fit of jealousy.
Taking 40 years to complete, the chapel was only the beginning of what was to be a massive cathedral. Sir William St. Clair, grandson of Sir Henry, began construction in 1446, designing the building and drawing the template for every carving on pieces of wood to guide dozens of stonemasons, carpenters, smiths and craftsmen from across Europe. The town of Roslin— both spellings of the name were used — was built to house the workers.
Rosslyn was one of the few churches left intact during the Reformation in 1560, but after the altars were destroyed in 1592, the chapel was all but abandoned.
The Protestant revolution of 1688 left the chapel without doors or windows, pillaged by a local mob who considered it “popish idolatry.” It remained vacant until 1736, when James St. Clair replaced the windows and retiled its flagstone floor. Work began in the 19th century to restore the building — and continues to this day.
Today, noon prayers and Sunday services are held in Rosslyn Chapel, and travelers can book accommodations in nearby Rosslyn Castle — still owned by the Sinclair family —through Scotland’s Landmark Trust. There, visitors may explore the three levels of dungeons and wait for visits by the ghostly “Woman in White,” the beheaded spirit of a man named Archie, a Black Knight on horseback, or a phantom war hound called “the Mauthe Doog.” The beauty and intricate workmanship of Rosslyn Chapel lured travelers and pilgrims for centuries before historical theories and fictional accounts brought its mysteries to the larger world. Although those secrets may never be explained, no Code is required for the majesty of the chapel to impress visitors.