The History of Leith

October 17, 2010

History-Fact or Fiction

Over the past few months I have been learning how to make videos for “You Tube” for my Genealogical and History websites and it is odd how you come to realise what is right or wrong in a shot. So I have being filming at South Leith Church, Corstorphine Old Church and Tranent and somehow they ring true in terms of their architecture and history.

So if I said that the Knights of St John came to Leith in 1327 I know that this is a fact as I have a copy of a charter dated 1327 saying “The Knights bearing the black cross of the hospital “ come into Leith to take possession of land granted to them in 1230 and I have copy of this as well. That is a fact based on documentary evidence.

Just in the same way the founders of Corstorphine Old Church can still be seen in their recumbent tombs. And in the Church can be seen a plaque and on it written in Latin the following-

“This Collegiate Church was commenced
in the year of our Lord 1429, and that
same year Master Nicholas Bannachtyne
was provost of the said College, who,
lying here below, died in the year
147-. Commemoration of him and his
successors shall be celebrated and
observed on the 14th day of June
for which a yearly rent of £4 is set
apart from the lands of Kirk Cramond.
Pray for the Pope and for him.”

That is fact as to the date of founding of the church. Why lie? That is documentary evidence in stone.

Proper history is based on Documentary, Archaeological,Architectural evidence. Unfortunately much of what passes for history today is based on supposition built on a supposition with no sold evidence underneath. The sort of history you see in the Books “Holy Blood and Holy Grail” by by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincon which owed more to fiction then to fact or Dan Brown’s the “Da Vinci Code”. Good story but not to be taken as history or fact.

To use myth and legend is one thing but to mix it with known fact is something totally different.

For example-

“The claim that the layout of Rosslyn Chapel echoes that of Solomon’s Temple has been analysed by Mark Oxbrow and Ian Robertson in their book, Rosslyn and the Grail:

“Rosslyn Chapel bears no more resemblance to Solomon’s or Herod’s Temple than a house brick does to a paperback book. If you superimpose the floor plans of Rosslyn Chapel and either Solomon’s or Herod’s Temple, you will actually find that they are not even remotely similar. Writers admit that the chapel is far smaller than either of the temples. They freely scale the plans up or down in an attempt to fit them together. What they actually find are no significant similarities at all. […] If you superimpose the floor plans of Rosslyn Chapel and the East Quire of Glasgow Cathedral you will find a startling match: the four walls of both buildings fit precisely. The East Quire of Glasgow is larger than Rosslyn, but the designs of these two mediaeval Scottish buildings are virtually identical. They both have the same number of windows and the same number of pillars in the same configuration. […] The similarity between Rosslyn Chapel and Glasgow’s East Quire is well established. Andrew Kemp noted that ‘the entire plan of this Chapel corresponds to a large extent with the choir of Glasgow Cathedral’ as far back as 1877 in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries. Many alternative history writers are well aware of this but fail to mention it in their books”source-
“It is also claimed that other carvings in the chapel reflect Masonic imagery, such as the way that hands are placed in various figures. One carving may show a blindfolded man being led forward with a noose around his neck—similar to the way a candidate is prepared for initiation into Freemasonry. The carving has been eroded by time and pollution and is difficult to make out clearly. The chapel was built in the 15th century, and the earliest records of Freemasonic lodges date back only to the late 16th and early 17th centuries.A more likely explanation however is that the Masonic imagery was added at a later date. This may have taken place in the 1860s when James St Clair-Erskine, 3rd Earl of Rosslyn instructed Edinburgh architect David Bryce, a known freemason, to undertake restoration work on areas of the church including many of the carvings”


I was at Rosslyn Chapel and I was shown the stone which says “Willian da St Clair,Knight Templar” unfortunately people in the 14th didn’t write like this

Further it is stated-

“Mark Oxbrow and Ian Robertson in their recent book, ‘Rosslyn and the Grail’, note that the St Clair of Rosslyn testified against the Templars at their trial in Edinburgh in 1309. Dr. Louise Yeoman points out that the Rosslyn/Knights Templar connection is false, having been invented by 18th century fiction-writers, and that Rosslyn Chapel was built by William Sinclair so that Mass could be said for the souls of his family.”

And what isn’t mention is the fact there were two earlier Chapels at Rosslyn the ruins of one can be seen in the graveyard attached to the present chapel and one was in Rosslyn Castle.

So the stone is false and much of the images at Rosslyn are false being created in the main in the 19th century. It may make a good story but do not repeat do not swallow it as being history because it is not. Nor is the Holy Grail, the Arc of the Covenant, the head of John the Baptist or Elvis buried at Rosslyn and if you believe any of that then you are being extremely gullible and naive.

There are mysteries in History which can only be resolved by proper historical research. So be careful what you read or what you consider fact.

John Arthur

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