Rosslyn County of Painter and Poet

Lady Helen Rosslyn and Angelo Maggi
Paperback. 80 pages. ISBN: 0 903278 29 5 £12.95

This lavishly illustrated book was published to accompany the Exhibition by the same title held at the National Gallery during the summer of 2002. That exhibition brought together some rarely seen works of art and manuscripts. Some of these were provided by the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Especially interesting are the representation of Rosslyn Chapel had the building been completed.

At £12.95 it is not cheap for a 80 page book but the prices reflects the quality especially of the illustrative material. In addition the book is large format 9½ x 11¾ inches as size which does justice to the illustrations. the The book sets out, principally, to explore the architectural, pictorial and literary traditions of Rosslyn Chapel and in this it succeeds very well.

Unfortunately, this book represents something of a missed opportunity as, whilst it brings together for the first time much illustrative material, it does not make any attempt to assess or critically analyse, in any depth, the myths and legends relating to Rosslyn Chapel in regarding Freemasonry (especially Scottish Freemasonry) and the Order of Knight Templar. To be fair that was not the avowed purpose of the book but to repeat, virtually uncritically, all the hoary old myths is a little disappointing. That repetition under the imprimatur of no less an august body as the National Galleries of Scotland simply legitimises those erroneous ideas about the chapel.

It has also to be admitted that the authors did not have access to the latest Masonic research in the subject as this had yet to be published. Nor could the authors have read the second edition of the book: Genealogie of the Staintclaires of Rosslyn as that was not published until after the exhibition had ended. The Knights Templar and Scottish Freemasonry are discussed albeit briefly.

The main purpose of the book, in addition to the illustrations, is to reveal that travellers, artists, architects, writers, photographers and a host of others have for many, many years been attracted to the chapel and in the process charts their activities of which paintings, photographs, novels and music have been the result. That investigation of those visitors, and their work, during the 18th and 19th centuries is the real success of this book. For that reason alone it is bound to become a work of reference for those in the future who wish to enquire more deeply into that most interesting of buildings – Rosslyn Chapel.

We have retained the page, originally used to publicise the exhibition, in order that visitors might have some idea of what they missed! To go to that page click here. The exhibition book is still available from – see below.

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