I typed ‘Holy Grail’ into Mr Google and there were hundreds of entries, as you can expect, I found no clear consensus as to what the Grail is or was. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of people out there claiming to know its history, true meaning and even where to find it.
Briefly, the term ‘grail’ is understood to be a receptacle or cup from which Christ drunk in the Last Supper. There are many claimants vying for the Holy Grail.
Modern authors, perhaps most [in]famously Dan Brown and his novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’ provided speculation about the Holy Grail and was the catalyst for this post.
The public’s imagination was fired, stoked up and thus resurrected with the publication of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, about Christianity’s secret past. Playing a pivotal role in this story and situated just a few miles south of Edinburgh is Rosslyn Chapel, one of the most ornately carved 15th century medieval stone buildings in all of Europe. There are many legends about Rosslyn which help to make it an ever-more-popular tourist attraction for it is thought to hold a number of long lost secrets. Indeed, I am not surprised to learn that over the past decade archaeologists have been clamouring to undertake an excavation to put those legends to the test and to see what is contained in the labyrinth of underground vaults sealed off more than 350 years ago.
Before I continue, let’s just pause and take stock for a moment. If you are a savvy detectorist and one of your back-up machines just happens to be one of those old-fashioned ‘baloney detectors’ then it should be starting to make a series of high pitched screeching noises right now. History, myth and legend seem to be all intertwined when dealing with a subject as complex as Rosslyn. However if you are like me, you won’t be able to resist having a dig and checking out those dodgy signals just to make sure.
Fig 1 – The most mysterious and magical chapel on earth — Rosslyn.’
I suppose the feeling can be likened to going on that new field for the first time and not knowing quite what to expect, even though you have done the homework. Rosslyn is believed by many to be a repository for everything from the mummified head of Christ, the Ark of the Covenant, lost scrolls from the Temple of Jerusalem, the treasures of the Knight’s Templar and has long been the focus of legends connected with the Holy Grail. The latter has gained new currency with the success of Brown’s book and the resultant film starring Tom Hanks.
Is there any truth in these stories and what interest might they have for the metal detectorist? Before I attempt to unravel this intricate web and answer that question, perhaps I should start with one of the known facts about Rosslyn and that is the existence of the Apprentice Pillar, the Chapel’s most elaborate work, stunning in its exquisitely carved beauty.
The Apprentice Pillar
One of the legends attached to it is that this pillar was carved by an apprentice of the master mason who subsequently became jealous when he saw how good a job the apprentice had made. The master mason’s way of dealing with this was to kill the apprentice by striking him on the head with a mallet.
But was that the case? Some believe that the apprentice was sacrificed so that he could never tell what was buried deep inside that pillar – the Holy Grail perhaps, the cup that was supposedly used at the last supper before the death of Christ or/and the one supposed to have collected the blood when the Centurion put the spear through Christ’s side to see if he was dead?
“We have never established beyond doubt that the Apprentice Pillar does not shield the Holy Grail.”
It doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to assume that when the Knights Templar were forced out of the Holy Land in 1291 and fled, eventually ending up in Scotland, that they took their sacred relics with them. William St. Clair, founder of Rosslyn Chapel was allegedly a Templar Grandmaster, so it is possible that he was in possession of relics from Solomon’s Temple and that they were subsequently hidden away in some secret vault in the chapel.
For many years metal detectors have been seen as a way to prove – or disprove – the Holy Grail legend. Alas, to my knowledge no metal detector searches have ever been permitted, although a foray on the ubiquitous Google search engine says otherwise and brings up this unattributed quote from several sites.
“The most popular ‘Grail’ legend about the Apprentice Pillar insists that there is a ‘Grail’ hidden within the pillar, specifically a silver platter. However, scans have been done of the pillar in the past and nothing metal was detected, leading others to speculate that perhaps the ‘Grail’ hidden there is not made of metal”
I have determined that the custodians of the chapel discourage any attempts at private detective work and discount the story of the Holy Grail saying that they know of no grounds on which to base the story. And then, rather enigmatically they appear to fuel speculation and legend by saying, “We have never established beyond doubt that the Apprentice Pillar does not shield the Holy Grail.”
The Apprentice Pillar is the most elaborately decorated pillar in the Rosslyn Chapel. An apprentice mason is said to have carved the pillar, inspired by a dream, in his master’s absence.
It would seem that it would be an easy matter to put this matter to rest by using a metal detector to determine whether anything is embedded in the pillar but apparently the Rosslyn Trust, the body charged with the upkeep of the church, won’t allow it.
Many theories abound about what may be hidden at Rosslyn which has naturally led to great speculation. The sceptics point out that, amidst all the hype, there is nothing to be found. But one question remains: will the vaults of Rosslyn ever be excavated? The director of Rosslyn Chapel Trust, Mr Stuart Beattie, when asked about the possibility of excavation, said that as there are important burial sites located around the chapel and one couldn’t simply start ‘digging up graves.’ Scottish law on the “Right of Sepulchre (protecting graves and kirkyards so that they are not disturbed) would mean that a rather lengthy legal procedure would have to be followed in order to secure the necessary permission to dig on the church grounds. Meanwhile, the focus is on preservation of the building, and not on excavation – at least for the moment.”
In 2005 a Scottish group of Knights Templar began asking for permission to carry out non-invasive searches using thermal imaging technology in an attempt to find evidence but, like the archaeologists mentioned earlier they were also were turned down. Imagine if they had found relics. Rosslyn wouldn’t have been able to handle the crowds; and think how any positive findings would ruin a delightful old story like the legend of the Holy Grail!
It is possible that there are people alive today who are in possession of the Templar heritage and secret traditions and those people could be Freemasons. Since its formal inception in 1717, Freemasonry has sought an answer for its roots in history and the speculations have been varied. The connection between the Templars and the Freemasons will always remain unsubstantiated, but in their book The Hiram Key, Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas say:
“We can now be certain, without any shadow of doubt, that the starting place for Freemasonry was the construction of Rosslyn Chapel in the mid-fifteenth century; later historical developments confirm this view because the St Clair family of Rosslyn became the hereditary Grand Masters of the Crafts and Guilds and Orders of Scotland, and later held the post of the Master of Masons of Scotland until the late 1700s.”
And what of Templar/Freemason treasure? Is it just another one of those little secrets? Was it in fact a real treasure, part of which was a silver chalice or was it just a metaphorical treasure, a ‘great secret’ of some kind? If it was real treasure, has it been buried or lost and just waiting for discovery by a metal detectorist?
IN MY POSSESSION.
This book is about the Restall family and their quest to unearth the ‘treasure’ buried under Oak Island. Lee is their daughter and spent much time on the island during this period. She provides a detailed account of the treasure hunt along with many personal stories and details of day to day life on Oak Island in the 1960s. Her parents gave their all in the search for whatever might be buried there. It’s unfortunate that real life has no guarantees of a happy ending based on hard work and obsession. Interest in Oak Island continues because of the continued failure to find any treasure. The Restalls are part of that history and their efforts continue to motivate a new generation of seekers.
8 thoughts on “Is the Silver Chalice waiting for discovery by a metal detectorist? ”
An interesting post John.
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Thank you, Ray.
A definite ‘food for thought’ post John.. I had hear of Rosslyn, even before the book, but did not realize the depth of history associated with it.. Speculation is so very enjoyable.
But, Indiana Jones notwithstanding, I always felt that a carpenter would use a more humble vessel.. made of wood perhaps…. But I enjoyed the article.. Thank you my friend
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Good thinking, Micheal.
I’d never thought of that.
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Very interesting John. They even profess to saying that the Holy Grail / Sepulchre is in the Money Pit on “The Curse Of Oak Island” just off the coast of Nova Scotia. I know that you and Lynda once had a holiday at Nova Scotia and did you visit Oak Island.
The curse Of Oak Island is presently on Sky Discovery Wednesday nights at 9-00pm, they have found artefacts relating to The Knight Templars.
I have a detecting permission from a farmer who is Master of a Templar Lodge in York he is also Master and 4 times Past Master of a couple of Masonic Lodges in York, he is very dedicated.
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I don’t understand people’s obsession with Oak Island. I opted to go whale-watching instead, I do have a book purchased at the time entitled Oak Island Obsession? Would you like to borrow?
Hello John I think the “The Curse Of Oak Island” TV Program keeps people spell bound is just like Michael Rawlins has said “Speculation is so very enjoyable” and is much better than watching Coronation Street or Emerdale on tv and why did the Lagina brothers Ricky and Marty go to Oak Island.
At the age of 11, Rick used to go to the local library once a week. On one such visit he picked up and read the January 1965 edition of Reader’s Digest. He came across an article about Oak Island, which mentioned the legend of the treasure supposedly buried there, including details about the famed Money Pit. From that moment on Rick was hooked and became obsessed with uncovering the mystery of the Knight Templars treasure. It is known that In 1995, Marty sold his shale gas company to CMS Energy for around $60m and invested a 50% share in Oak Island Tours.
Thanks for the offer to lend me your Oak Island book and if in the future I find the time to read up on this adventure I will give you a bell.
Many Thanks and keep up the blog posts.
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Randy – This is a resume of the Book:
“As Bob and Mildred Lee, they amazed audiences with their death-defying motorcycle act. In reality they were Bob and Mildred Restall, parents of three, who balanced their glamorous show-business career with a happy, stable home life.
In October 1959, the Restalls embarked on the ultimate family adventure, as Bob led his family to the east coast of Canada to dig for the famous treasure of Oak Island. For nearly six years they lived without telephone, hydro, or running water while newspapers and magazines chronicled their attempts to solve the mystery of the Money Pit. On August 17, 1965, their quest ended in tragedy when four men died.
This biography, compiled by their daughter, includes material written by each family member. Lyrical descriptions of nature, amusing anecdotes, details of the dig, and numerous photographs help to tell the story. This book is a must for Oak Island enthusiasts.”