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The Roslin Chapel
The Grail's Hiding Place?

The Tradition: In the Chapel of Roslin in Lothian stands a most remarkable carved pillar, known as the "Prentice Pillar". It is said that the design for the chapel pillars was created by the local master mason, but the scheme was so intricate that he did not have the skills to carve them. So he travelled abroad in an attempt to learn the necessary expertise. On his return, however, he found that his apprentice had completed the first pillar and, on their Lord's instructions, had hidden the secret Grail within it. In a fit of jealous rage, the mason killed the poor boy! The murderer had, however, failed to learn the continental skills he had hoped for and, with the talented apprentice dead, the "Prentice Pillar" remained unique.

The Theory: According to Wolfram Von Eschenbach's "Parzival," the Grail was kept in a Holy Temple where it was guarded by formidable force of fighting men known as the Templiesen. Knight and Lomas believe that this was the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, where the treasures of the Jewish people were buried before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 68. The Templiesen are the Monastic Order of the Knights Templar, supposedly heirs to this hidden treasures which they recovered while on Crusade a thousand years later. The most precious object salvaged was the Holy Grail, which the Templar's Grand Master, Hugues de Payen, brought to Scotland to entrust to his wife's uncle, Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney. It remained with the family until the 3rd Earl built the present chapel at Roslin Castle in 1446. It was constructed as a replica of the original Temple of Solomon, and the Grail was encased in the beautiful Prentice Pillar there.

Possible interpretations & Criticism: The Knights Templar were a mysterious order of monks-cum-soldiers under the protection of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. During the Crusades of the 13th century, they undertook a quest to recover a piece of the True Cross from the Saracens in the Holy Land. They consciously promoted this as a parallel to the Grail Quest, and may have even had the Grail legends rewritten to suit their own bizarre rituals.

The Sinclairs were indeed a well-connected family with close links to both the Order of the Knights Templar and the later Freemasons. The Chapel at their Castle of Roslin is certainly unique, not only housing the "Prentice Pillar" but a singular collection of fascinating imagery and symbolism which may well have been inspired by their Templar beliefs. Perhaps the pillar itself was so very complicated to complete that its mason never made another, but the Grail connection appears to be mere speculation on the part of local tradition.

 

    Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.