With the sun shining on it, this has to be one of the prettiest cemeteries I have ever visited. The graveyard is located on a sloping hill to the side of Rosslyn chapel in Midlothian, Scotland. The upper area is terraced beyond which the sloping land gives way to a field. There are numerous statues to lend an air of history to the place. The sound of bees buzzing with little interruption from modern day traffic spirits you away to another time.
Upon a life I did not live
Upon a death I did not die
Another’s death is take my whole eternity
He being dead yet speaketh
I am poor and needy yet the Lord thinketh upon me
Lord I have loved the habitation of thy house
O for the touch of a vanished hand
And the sound of a voice that is still
The 15th century Rosslyn Chapel is a beautiful example of architecture and masonry set in a picturesque area overlooking a gorge. The chapel became world famous with the issue of Dan Brown’s novel, the Da Vinci Code. Hundreds of intricate carvings have eroded throughout the centuries, of which are numerous examples of the faces of ‘Green Men’ believed to be a symbol of rebirth or fertility. However, it is most famous for the Apprentice Pillar an intricately carved stone column for which the apprentice was killed by the envious Master Mason.
The Chapel is also a burial place for several generations of the Sinclair family. In the south west corner of the chapel grounds is a Victorian memorial to the 4th Earl of Rosslyn.
The structure is a four sided red sandstone pillar surmounted on a rectangular plinth containing a sunken bed of gravel. The plinth is inscribed on all sides with the following:
Not stone or brass
These perish with the flight of time and quickly pass
But love endures in every clime
Eternal as the poet’s rhyme.
Not brass or stone
These will corrode and some day die
But love alone laughs at decay
And soars on high to fragrant immortality.
On two sides engraved arches contain memorials. The epitaphs for Francis Robert St. Clair and his wife Blanche are detailed on the east side.
- In memory of the / Right Honourable / Francis Robert / St. Clair Erskine / Earl of Rosslyn / Born March 2nd / 1833 / Died Sept 6th / 1890
- In memory of / Blanche / Countess of Rosslyn / Widow of 4th Earl of Rosslyn / Born Aug 22nd / 1839 / Died Dec 8th / 1933.
The crest displayed atop the headstones is the Earl of Rosslyn’s heraldic arms.
Within the peak of this arch an angel holds a banner with a Latin quote from the Roman poet, Virgil: Omnia vincit Amor, et nos cedamus amori translated as Love conquers all, and let us surrender to love.
Francis Robert was the author of sonnets and poems. Lines from his sonnet, the Gates of Death, are inscribed on the west arch:
Safe, safe at last from doubt, from storm, from strife
Moored in depths of Christ’s unfathomed grave
With spirits of just with dear ones lost
And found again this strange ineffable life
Is Life Eternal. Death has here no place
And they are welcomed best who suffered most.
The structure is highly decorated with statues, spires, and angels holding banners with the words, Love, Courage, Hope, Patience, Faith and Truth. The memorial is surmounted with a cross terminal.