Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see ‘About Listed Buildings’ below for more information.

Rosslyn Chapel (Episcopal), formerly Collegiate Church of St Matthew, including vaults, burial ground memorials and boundary walls, excluding scheduled monument SM6458, RoslinLB13028

Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 27489 63073
327489, 663073


1446 with later alterations and additions. Initial structures of an unfinished cruciform-plan church. Full-height 5-bay gothic chancel with projecting, lower flanking aisles linked by flying and salient buttresses between bays with pyramidal finials and crockets, with a further 2-bay buttressed projection to E. Lower level sacristy to E and later vestry of chamfered square-plan added to W end, 1861 2; beginnings of the E transept walls to W. Cream ashlar sandstone with deeply carved sandstone dressings; grey ashlar sandstone to vestry. Profusely decorated with crockets, niches, and gargoyles. Moulded base course; cill course to traceried windows at ground continuous around door; columned mullions to aisle windows; carved floral hood moulds with mask terminals with further carved foliate motifs around arch; each buttress with richly carved pedestal and canopy (statues now missing); eaves cornice with floreate bosses to aisles; string course at impost level to transept windows, continuous around windows as hood mould with floreate bosses beneath; evenly disposed carved motifs around margins of transept windows; eaves course with heraldic shields and gargoyles. Vestry with set back angle buttresses, upper levels with stepped pyramidal canopies over figures; smaller canopied figures to chamfered angles; hood moulds over door and flanking windows; rose window to W; thick blocking course above floreate bossed cornice with geometric and foliate blind fretwork; trefoil detail to parapet above.

N (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: 7-bay, grouped 2-5. Moulded round arch with projecting gargoyles in spandrels spanning front face of buttresses at ground in entrance bay to right of centre; architraved doorpiece set back with boarded door; hood-moulded and trefoiled pointed-arched light above; tall window to chancel set back above. Aisle window with chancel window set back above in 2 bays to left of entrance bay with buttresses between. Further aisle window in each bay to penultimate and outer left. Aisle window with cancel window above in bay to right of entrance bay. Blank aisle bay to outer right, a small enclosure formed by adjoining buttress of E transept wall; window to chancel above.

S ELEVATION: round arch spanning front face of buttresses at ground in entrance bay to left of centre with gargoyles in spandrels; deep, hood- moulded pointed-arched doorpiece set back with boarded door; trefoil, pointed-arched light above; tall clerestory window set back above. Aisle window with clerestory window above in 2 bays to right of entrance bay; buttresses between. Further aisle window in each bay to penultimate and outer right. Aisle window in clerestory window above in bay to left of entrance bay. Blank aisle bay to outer left, a small enclosure formed by adjoining buttress of E transept wall; window to clerestory above.

W (VESTRY) ELEVATION: chamfered, square-plan vestry (added) to centre, with part complete E transept walls flanking. Hood-moulded point- arched door at ground to W with deep set, part glazed door; hood- moulded lancet windows set high at ground level in chamfers flanking; circular window above; figures to buttresses flanking; figures to chamfers flanking. Pointed-arched window to ground and upper levels with figure to buttress flanking, to left and right returns.

E ELEVATION: single storey projecting 4-bay block with window to each bay and buttresses between below large bipartite window with circular light above to E end of nave. Further projecting single bay sacristy block set at a lower level to outer left; single window to E elevation; flat-roof; joined to the main block by a short, coped sloping wall.

INTERIOR: extremely richly decorated in carved stone relief. 2-storey, full-height pointed and ribbed barrel vault; 5-bay colonnade with heavily moulded pointed-arches springing from compound piers with carved foliate capitals to separate aisles from nave; low, barrel vaulted side aisles. Pointed-arched windows clerestory walls with hood-moulding, flanking slim cylindrical columns and carved bosses around margins. Transverse aisle to E end behind altar with low barrel vaults and 4 E chapels; bipartite window with light above and extremely decorative stone tracery, mullions and point-arched surrounds to each E chapel; 4-part vaulting ribs and pendants, lavishly decorated; SE pier, the Prentice Pillar, has 4 wreathed spiral bands over multi-shafted column with naive animal carving at the base and a deeply carved foliate capital; large pointed-arched stained glass window to E end wall above. Vestry with organ loft above to W end; wall divided by carved floral frieze above squared entrance to vestry; decorative wrought iron pointed-arched screen as doorway; tall pointed-arched opening spanning entire W wall above, open fretwork screen arch and spandrels with organ loft behind; stained glass light in uppermost part of opening. Steep stair leading to 5-bay, lower level sacristy to SE; ribbed barrel-vaulted with pointed-arched window at far SE end; round- arched doorway to N and S walls flanked by various blank niches.

Stained glass and leaded windows; bipartite, pointed-arched windows with cluster columnar stone mullions and variations on the plate tracery theme to N and S aisles; pointed-arched windows to N and S clerestory walls; rose window, quartered by stone mullions with fleur- de-lys foils to W elevation; upper-half of pointed-arched window above; large pointed-arch window with round arched elements below and quartered circular window above to E end. Barrel-vaulted roof with asphalt covering; flat roofed block to E; crockets to buttresses.

Statement of Special Interest

In ecclesiastical use. Established in 1450 by the 3rd Earl of Orkney and Caithness, William Sinclair. Foundations for the entire chapel were laid and uncovered in the 19th century. It was made Collegiate in 1524 by Sir William St Clair of Roslin and, after restoration in 1861-2, was re-opened for worship as the private chapel for the Earls of Rosslyn. The two aisles of the choir, an ambulatory and four subsidiary chapels is reminiscent of the Cistercian form, perhaps influenced by Glasgow Cathedral c1230. The rich sculptural decoration of the interior was once thought to have been the work of masons from Spain or Portugal but research has found that the workforce probably came to Rosslyn on finishing at Borthwick Castle. The carvings are varied in theme and subject and are both religious and secular; they range from mystical animals, complex foliate carvings to religious figural sculpture, (McWilliam identifies each saint and gives details of positioning within the chapel. He also gives details of the dates and subject matter of the stained glass windows). The Prentice Pillar , situated at the south-east end of the chapel has acquired significance, due either to the importance of its position in the east end and as part of the entrance to the sacristy below, or to the fairly recent story of the apprentice who carved it and who was subsequently killed by the jealous master mason. It has a reeded core overlain by four strips of foliage that spiral around it for 180 degrees. A monument to the Earl of Caithness who died in 1582 lies to the west end and legend says that 10 Barons of Rosslyn lie in their armour in the burial vault below.



Appears on 1st edition OS map; F Groome, ORDNANCE GAZETTEER OF SCOTLAND, (1892), pp258-260; NEW STATISTICAL ACCOUNTS, (1843), pp 340-349; McGibbon and Ross, ECCLESIASTICAL ARCHITECTURE, III (1896) pp149-179; RCAHMS, MIDLOTHIAN INVENTORY, (1929), pp98-106; C McWilliam, LOTHIAN (1978) pp 409-417 (including plan); R Haslam, "Rosslyn" COUNTRY LIFE, (13th April 1989); J Thomas, MIDLOTHIAN RIAS GUIDE (1995) pp 58-60; W Grant, ROSSLYN, ITS CASTLE, CHAPEL AND SCENIC LORE (no date).

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the 1997 Act. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect subsequent legislation.

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Printed: 08/07/2020 06:32