Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Musicians unlock Da Vinci Mystery Melody in Rosslyn Chapel

A Scottish church which featured in the best-selling novel "The Da Vinci Code" has revealed another mystery hidden in secret code for almost 600 years.

A father and son who became fascinated by symbols carved into the chapel's arches say they have deciphered a musical score encrypted in them.

Thomas Mitchell, a 75-year-old musician and ex-Royal Air Force code breaker, and his composer and pianist son Stuart, described the piece as "frozen music."

"The music has been frozen in time by symbolism," Mitchell said on his Web site (www.tjmitchell.com/stuart/rosslyn.html), which details the 27-year project to crack the chapel's code.

"It was only a matter of time before the symbolism began to thaw out and begin to make sense to scientific and musical perception."

The 15th Century Rosslyn Chapel, about seven miles south of the Scottish capital Edinburgh, featured in the last part of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" -- one of the most successful novels of all time which has been turned into a Hollywood film.

Stuart Mitchell said he and his father were intrigued by 13 intricately carved angel musicians on the arches of the chapel and by 213 carved cubes depicting geometric-type patterns.

"They are of such exquisite detail and so beautiful that we thought there must be a message here," he told Reuters.

Years of research led the Mitchells to an ancient musical system called cymatics, or Chladni patterns, which are formed by sound waves at specific pitches.

The two men matched each of the patterns on the carved cubes to a Chladni pitch, and were able finally to unlock the melody.

The Mitchells have called the piece The Rosslyn Motet and added words from a contemporary hymn to complete it.

They have also scheduled a world premiere at a concert in the chapel on May 18, when four singers will be accompanied by eight musicians playing the piece on medieval instruments.

Simon Beattie of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust said he was delighted to have the mystery finally solved, and was intrigued by the music itself.

"It's not something you would want to put on in the car and listen to, but it's certainly an interesting piece of music," he said. "It's got a good medieval sound to it."

1 comment:

student of history said...

The music at Rosslyn is mainly in one's head, rather than in the stone. Try reading this new book:it provides all the evidence.

• Hardcover: 256 pages
• Publisher: Sutton Publishing Ltd (1 November 2007)
• Language English
• Price £17.99
• ISBN-10: 0750944676
• ISBN-13: 978-0750944670

‘Rosslyn Chapel Revealed’ is unique in exploring the landscape of Midlothian in depth — the geology, the flora and fauna, illustrated by fascinating antique maps. It was this landscape that supplied the pink, yellow and grey stone for Rosslyn Chapel, cut from the ancient wildernesses of Roslin Glen.

‘Rosslyn Chapel Revealed’ explains in detail what few have done before — the daily life of the priests and choirboys at Rosslyn Chapel, one of 40 collegiate churches set up as powerhouses of prayer and song — some of the music still happily preserved in major libraries across Europe.

‘Rosslyn Chapel Revealed’ makes clear the central role of the Scots scholar Fr Richard Augustine Hay, related to the Sinclair by marriage, and involved in the strange but brief years around 1688 when King James VII set up a Roman Catholic Chapel Royal at Holyrood, a printing-press and a school and Fr Hay took part in the services.

‘Rosslyn Chapel Revealed’ explores the landscape of Midlothian from Temple village (home of glass artist and clarsach player Alison Kinnaird and folk musician Robin Morton, and once home to painter Sir William Gillies and author George Scott-Moncrieff), to Soutra Aisle and the unique ecumenical community of the Transfiguration.

‘Rosslyn Chapel Revealed’ uncovers the role of Sir Walter Scott in increasing the Chapel’s reputation for mystery and the ways in which successive poets, painters and photographers celebrated the extraordinary design of the Chapel.

‘Rosslyn Chapel Revealed’ ends with a new mystery, a challenge to its readers to uncover the truth behind an act of sacrilege committed in the Chapel in the 1470s, the answer to which lies in the Secret Vatican Archives in Rome.

Among the myths ‘Rosslyn Chapel Revealed’ lays to rest are:

• The Apprentice Pillar (also known as the ‘Prince’s Pillar) is a story found at a number of other medieval churches in Britain and the Continent. Interviews with 3 working stonemasons and an apprentice mason (at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral Workshop, Edinburgh) show that no apprentice would have the skill to carve such a pillar that would take a year to complete

• Knights Templar the Sinclair family were Crusaders (fighting to free the Holy Land). Templars had to swear vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The Sinclairs were married, well-to-do and vowed allegiance only to the King.

• American Corn two academic botanists with PhDs are quoted as finding no evidence of any specific botanical specimen in the decoration of the Chapel, apart, perhaps, from Hart’s Tongue Fern, an ancient plant that still grows in Roslin Glen.

• Freemasons Freemasonic images were added to the Chapel in the 1860s when the Fourth Earl of Rosslyn, Grand Master Mason of Scotland, commissioned the architect David Bryce to ‘restore’ the Chapel. He took out a number of damaged stone ‘bosses’ in the Lady Chapel and replaced them with new, quasi-masonic carvings

• The Red Light-Box photographs by Hill & Adamson show that the medieval tracery of the East Window was entirely different to that in the window today. New stone tracery and stained glass were inserted in the 1860s, including the triangle of red glass said to be a ‘light-box.’

All these facets of Rosslyn Chapel are profusely illustrated with some 30 colour photographs and 200 black and white images, as well as a copious footnotes substantiating all the evidence provided in the book, a detailed index and a contact list of useful organisations.

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