The Prince’s Pillar, or as it is now more commonly known – The Apprentice Pillar, is one of the most famous parts of the chapel.

Capt. John Sleazer (? – 1714) described the pillar in his: Theatrum Scotiae, published in 1693, when he described it as being the Prince’s Pillar presumably after the founder of the Chapel – William St Clair, (c.1404 – c.1484) ‘Prince’ of Orkney. He made no mention of the Knights Templar or Freemasonry.

Father Richard Augustine Hay (1661 – 1736) in transcribing all the documents in about 1690 of the St Clair family never once mentions the legend of the Apprentice Pillar. See the: Genealogie of the Saintclaires of Rosslyn. Father Hay meticulously recorded the history, documents and folk tales of the St Clair family but never once mentions Freemasonry or the Knights Templar.

In 1774 when Bishop Robert Forbes published the first known ‘guidebook’ of the chapel; An Account of the Chapel of Roslin, he stated:

‘… a model of this pillar had been sent from Rome, or some foreign place, the master-mason upon viewing it, would by no means consent to work off such a pillar, till he should go to Rome, or some foreign part, to take exact inspection of the pillar from which the model had been taken; that, in his absence, whatever might be, the occasion of it, an Apprentice finished the pillar as it know stands: and that the master upon his return, seeing the pillar so exquisitely well finished made enquiry who had done it; and being stung with envy, slew the apprentice.’

Like Hay and Slezer, Forbes had an intimate knowledge of Rosslyn Chapel having read and quoted both. He wrote about the chapel 80+ years after them and when William St Clair of Rosslyn was still alive and yet he too made no mention of Freemasonry nor of the Knights Templar.

From this one can deduce that the legend came into being sometime during the first half of the 18th century.

Of interest here is the fact that the legend of the murdered apprentice is not unique to Rosslyn Chapel. Rouen Cathedral, Gloucester Cathedral, the Mosque of Damietta, the Great Mosque of Damascus all have similar legends. There are others but most importantly is the murdered apprentice legend at Seton Collegiate Church barely nine miles from Rosslyn Chapel. Despite the similarities no one has suggested that Seton Church had any connection with Freemasonry (Scottish or otherwise) of the medieval Order of Knight Templar.

To be continued…


The Unofficial Home Page of Damietta, Egypt:

Damietta, Egypt, also has a legend about a murdered appentice but it has no connection with Freemasonry of the Knights Templar