Scheduled Monument

Rosslyn Chapel, burial ground, buried remains of nave and remains of St Matthew's Church, RoslinSM6458

Status: Designated

Documents

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Summary

Date Added
07/10/1996
Last Date Amended
19/07/2017
Type
Ecclesiastical: burial ground, cemetery, graveyard; church
Local Authority
Midlothian
Parish
Lasswade
NGR
NT 27458 63074
Coordinates
327458, 663074

Description

The monument is the burial ground and buried remains of the nave associated with Rosslyn Chapel, dating to the 15th century, and the remains of the late medieval church of St Matthew's. The remains around Rosslyn Chapel survive exclusively as buried remains. St Matthew's chapel is visible as the standing remains of two buttresses and grass-covered footings. The monument is located on the hillside above Roslin Glen, at about 150m and 130m above sea level respectively.

The buried foundations of the nave and transepts of Rosslyn Chapel are recorded as measuring around 28m east to west and about 23m wide across the transepts. The two rubble-built buttresses of St Matthew's church are spaced about 2.5m apart and stand to around 1.9m and 3m in height. Grass-covered footings, around 1m wide and set about 6.6m apart, extend around 9m to the northeast. This represents the west end of the chapel, which extended for a further 9m and survives as buried remains.

The scheduled area is in two parts, one of which is irregular on plan, the other rectangular, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling extends up to but does not include the boundary walls and Chapel of Rosslyn. It specifically excludes the top 300mm of all paths and gravel areas, the above ground elements of all interpretation boards, floodlights and modern fixtures and fittings, all memorials, enclosure walls, metal gates, railings and active burial lairs.

 

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

St Matthew's church is oriented northeast by southwest. It survives as the standing remains of two buttresses and grass-covered footings, representing the remains of the western end of the church. The visible remains extend for around 9m, though records indicate the church was originally around 18m in length. Later burials have disturbed the profile of the east end of the church, which survives as buried remains. The church is likely of late medieval date and was superseded by Rosslyn Chapel, constructed some 160m northeast. The buried remains associated with Rosslyn Chapel consist of the foundations of the nave and transepts. They were laid out in the 15th century but neither were fully constructed. The foundations were uncovered in the late 19th century and indicate that the intended church was to be cruciform in layout with choir, transepts and aisled nave. Reused stone identified in and around the present chapel indicates the nave and transepts may have been partly built before being demolished. The location of accommodation for the staff of the chapel is unknown, but may have been close to the church, while burials associated with the medieval use of the site are likely to survive within the burial ground. Limited excavation within the burial ground has demonstrated the survival of medieval deposits.

There is good potential for the survival of archaeological deposits, including structural remains, human burials, artefacts and environmental remains  within the burial ground around Rosslyn Chapel and within, beneath and around the remains of St Matthew's church. The buried archaeological deposits have the potential to add to our understanding of ecclesiastical structure, land-use and environment during the medieval and post-reformation periods. They can clarify the layout and nature of the intended church at Rosslyn, and the plan and extent of St Matthew's church. There are likely to be burials spanning a considerable time depth within St Matthew's church and within Rosslyn Chapel burial ground, with potential to enhance our knowledge of status and burial practice at medieval ecclesiastical sites.

Although the date of foundation of St Matthew's church is not documented, it is likely of late medieval date. It was in use in the early 15th century when Sir William St Clair was married in the church. The church was abandoned when Rosslyn Chapel was constructed in the later 15th century. The gables may have remained standing into the early 19th century and part of the east gable is recorded as surviving in 1877.

Rosslyn chapel was established as a collegiate foundation by William St Clair in 1446 with construction continuing until the death of Sir William in 1484. Only the choir and the lower-level sacristy were completed by the time of his death, though the foundations of the nave and transepts had been laid out. The completed choir forms the present Rosslyn Chapel. The chapel and burial ground continued in use until the reformation, at which date they were abandoned. The chapel was restored and rededicated in the 19th century. The monument, therefore, offers high potential to study changes in belief and religious practice over an extended time period. Study of the form and construction of the St Matthew's church and the buried remains around Rosslyn Chapel has the potential to clarify the date of the remains and development sequence, and to provide information about the design, construction and development of medieval ecclesiastical sites.

Contextual Characteristics

St Matthew's church was part of a network of parish churches covering Scotland and served as a central place of worship, prayer, baptism and burial for the local community. It is of particular significance because of its possible early date and place in the history of ecclesiastical foundations at Rosslyn. Comparison of the local ecclesiastical architectural features in this area with those on other Scottish churches has the potential to enhance our understanding of regional variation in ecclesiastical architectural in the medieval period.

Rosslyn Chapel was dedicated as the Collegiate Church of St Matthew, with a staff of a provost, six prebendaries and two choristers. Collegiate churches were churches where the daily office of worship was carried out by a college of canons, a non-monastic or "secular" community of clergy, often established to pray for the soul of the founder and spread intellectual and spiritual knowledge. Such foundations grew in popularity during the late medieval period as support for the established monastic orders waned. Rosslyn Chapel was one of a number of such foundations established in Scotland in the late medieval period under the patronage of nobility, including Seton Collegiate Church (scheduled monument number SM13368; Canmore ID 54951) and Dunglass Collegiate Church (scheduled monument number SM13313; Canmore ID 58881).

Rosslyn Chapel is one of the most intact late collegiate churches in Scotland and is recognised for the quality and quantity of its decorative stonework. The remains surrounding the chapel are of particular significance because of their association with the chapel. They have an important role in informing us of the use and functioning of the chapel, as well as the intended plan of the collegiate church. The remains have the potential to broaden our understanding of medieval patronage and status and the nature and chronology of medieval ecclesiastical foundations.

Rosslyn Castle (scheduled monument number SM1208, Canmore ID 51811), seat of the St Clair family, is situated 200m to the south in a very strong location overlooking the River Esk. The castle, St Matthew's church and the later collegiate church, allow us to understand elements of the medieval landscape of Rosslyn.

Associative Characteristics

Rossyln Chapel, together with The Church of St Matthew and Rosslyn Castle are closely associate with the St Clair Family. The family is believed to have come from Saint-Clair-sur-Epte in Normandy. William of Saint-Claire, the first Baron of Rosslyn, came to England with William the Conqueror, and accompanied Saint Margaret of Scotland, daughter of Edward the Exile, to Scotland in 1068, where she was to marry Malcolm III of Scotland. He was granted the Barony of Rosslyn in 1070.

Sir William St Clair, the founder of Rosslyn Chapel, was closely connected to St Matthew's Church. He married Elizabeth Douglas, Countess of Buchan, in St Matthew's church in the early 15th century. The marriage was declared invalid because of their blood relationship, but Sir William successfully petitioned the pope for a dispensation. William and Elizabeth were subsequently married a second time, again in St Matthew's church.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Roslin Glen with the remains of the chapel and castle attracted many visitors, including poets, writers and artists, wishing to experience the Sublime and the Picturesque sights of Scotland. William and Dorothy Wordsworth were notable visitors with William composing the sonnet 'Composed In Roslin Chapel During A Storm' during a visit in 1831. Queen Victoria visited the chapel in 1842 expressing the desire that it be 'preserved for the country'. This was encouraged conservation work at the Chapel.

The Chapel came to worldwide attention in 2003, when it was featured in Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code. In 2006, a film based on the book was made, with scenes filmed at Rosslyn Chapel.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it can make a significant contribution to our understanding of medieval ecclesiastical foundations, architecture and religious practices. The monument is a good example of an ecclesiastical site with an extended development sequence with high potential for the survival of survival of significant buried deposits, including architectural remains and burials. It can help us understand much about ecclesiastical architecture and the role of the church in medieval society. The monument has the potential to make a significant contribution to our knowledge of changing religious practice and the development of places of worship over an extended time period. The loss or damage of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the origins and development of places of worship in Scotland and the role of the church in wider medieval life. It would significantly diminish our ability to understand the form, character and architecture of medieval collegiate churches in lowland Scotland and their role in the expression of status of their noble founders and benefactors.

References

Bibliography

No Bibliography entries for this designation

Canmore

HER/SMR Reference

  • MEL8158
  • MEL8113

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Images

Remains of St Matthew's Chapel, looking east northeast, during daytime, on a clear day with blue sky.
Remains of St Matthew's Chapel, looking southeast, during daytime, on a clear day with blue sky

Printed: 13/11/2019 14:39