Rosslyn Chapel - often called the Cathedral of Codes - stands seven miles south of Edinburgh, Scotland, on the site of an ancient Mithraic temple. Built by the Knights Templar in 1446, the chapel is engraved with a mind-boggling array of symbols from the Jewish, Christian, Egyptian, Masonic, and pagan traditions.
The chapel's geographic coordinates fall precisely on the north-south meridian that runs through Glastonbury. This longitudinal Rose Line is the traditional marker of King Arthur's Isle of Avalon and is considered the central pillar of Britain's sacred geometry. It is from this hallowed Rose Line that Rosslyn - originally spelled Roslin - takes its name.
Rosslyn's rugged spires were casting long evening shadows as Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu pulled their rental car into the grassy parking area at the foot of the bluff on which the chapel stood. Their short flight from London to Edinburgh had been restful, although neither of them had slept for the anticipation of what lay ahead. Gazing up at the stark edifice framed against a cloud-swept sky, Langdon felt like Alice falling headlong into the rabbit hole. This must be a dream.And yet he knew the text of Sauniere's final message could not have been more specific.
The Holy Grail 'neath ancient Roslin waits.
Langdon had fantasized that Sauniere's "Grail map" would be a diagram - a drawing with an X- marks-the-spot - and yet the Priory's final secret had been unveiled in the same way Sauniere had spoken to them from the beginning. Simple verse.Four explicit lines that pointed without a doubt to this very spot. In addition to identifying Rosslyn by name, the verse made reference to several of the chapel's renowned architectural features.
Despite the clarity of Sauniere's final revelation, Langdon had been left feeling more off balance than enlightened. To him, Rosslyn Chapel seemed far too obvious a location. For centuries, this stone chapel had echoed with whispers of the Holy Grail's presence. The whispers had turned to shouts in recent decades when ground-penetrating radar revealed the presence of an astonishing structure beneath the chapel - a massive subterranean chamber. Not only did this deep vault dwarf the chapel atop it, but it appeared to have no entrance or exit. Archaeologists petitioned to begin blasting through the bedrock to reach the mysterious chamber, but the Rosslyn Trust expressly forbade any excavation of the sacred site. Of course, this only fueled the fires of speculation. What was the Rosslyn Trust trying to hide?
Rosslyn had now become a pilgrimage site for mystery seekers. Some claimed they were drawn here by the powerful magnetic field that emanated inexplicably from these coordinates, some claimed they came to search the hillside for a hidden entrance to the vault, but most admitted they had come simply to wander the grounds and absorb the lore of the Holy Grail.
Although Langdon had never been to Rosslyn before now, he always chuckled when he heard the chapel described as the current home of the Holy Grail. Admittedly, Rosslyn once might have been home to the Grail, long ago... but certainly no longer. Far too much attention had been drawn to Rosslyn in past decades, and sooner or later someone would find a way to break into the vault.
True Grail academics agreed that Rosslyn was a decoy - one of the devious dead ends the Priory crafted so convincingly. Tonight, however, with the Priory's keystone offering a verse that pointed directly to this spot, Langdon no longer felt so smug. A perplexing question had been running through his mind all day:
Why would Sauniere go to such effort to guide us to so obvious a location?
There seemed only one logical answer.
There is something about Rosslyn we have yet to understand.
"Robert?" Sophie was standing outside the car, looking back at him. "Are you corning?" She was holding the rosewood box, which Captain Fache had returned to them. Inside, both cryptexes had been reassembled and nested as they had been found. The papyrus verse was locked safely at its core - minus the shattered vial of vinegar.
Making their way up the long gravel path, Langdon and Sophie passed the famous west wall of the chapel. Casual visitors assumed this oddly protruding wall was a section of the chapel that had not been finished. The truth, Langdon recalled, was far more intriguing.
The west wall of Solomon's Temple.
The Knights Templar had designed Rosslyn Chapel as an exact architectural blueprint of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem - complete with a west wall, a narrow rectangular sanctuary, and a subterranean vault like the Holy of Holies, in which the original nine knights had first unearthed their priceless treasure. Langdon had to admit, there existed an intriguing symmetry in the idea of the Templars building a modern Grail repository that echoed the Grail's original hiding place. Rosslyn Chapel's entrance was more modest than Langdon expected. The small wooden door had two iron hinges and a simple, oak sign.
This ancient spelling, Langdon explained to Sophie, derived from the Rose Line meridian on which the chapel sat; or, as Grail academics preferred to believe, from the" Line of Rose" - the ancestral lineage of Mary Magdalene.
The chapel would be closing soon, and as Langdon pulled open the door, a warm puff of air escaped, as if the ancient edifice were heaving a weary sigh at the end of a long day. Her entry arches burgeoned with carved cinquefoils.
Roses. The womb of the goddess.
Entering with Sophie, Langdon felt his eyes reaching across the famous sanctuary and taking it all in. Although he had read accounts of Rosslyn's arrestingly intricate stonework, seeing it in person was an overwhelming encounter.
Symbology heaven, one of Langdon's colleagues had called it.
Every surface in the chapel had been carved with symbols - Christian cruciforms, Jewish stars, Masonic seals, Templar crosses, cornucopias, pyramids, astrological signs, plants, vegetables, pentacles, and roses. The Knights Templar had been master stonemasons, erecting Templar churches all over Europe, but Rosslyn was considered their most sublime labor of love and veneration. The master masons had left no stone uncarved. Rosslyn Chapel was a shrine to all faiths... to all traditions... and, above all, to nature and the goddess.
The sanctuary was empty except for a handful of visitors listening to a young man giving the day's last tour. He was leading them in a single-file line along a well-known route on the floor - an invisible pathway linking six key architectural points within the sanctuary. Generations of visitors had walked these straight lines, connecting the points, and their countless footsteps had engravedan enormous symbol on the floor.
The Star of David, Langdon thought. No coincidence there.Also known as Solomon's Seal, this hexagram had once been the secret symbol of the stargazing priests and was later adopted by the Israelite kings - David and Solomon.
The docent had seen Langdon and Sophie enter, and although it was closing time, offered a pleasant smile and motioned for them to feel free to look around.
Langdon nodded his thanks and began to move deeper into the sanctuary. Sophie, however, stood riveted in the entryway, a puzzled look on her face.
"What is it?" Langdon asked.
Sophie stared out at the chapel. "I think... I've been here."
Langdon was surprised. "But you said you hadn't even heard of Rosslyn."
"I hadn't..." She scanned the sanctuary, looking uncertain. "My grandfather must have brought me here when I was very young. I don't know. It feels familiar." As her eyes scanned the room, she began nodding with more certainty. "Yes." She pointed to the front of the sanctuary. "Those two pillars... I've seen them."
Langdon looked at the pair of intricately sculpted columns at the far end of the sanctuary. Their white lacework carvings seemed to smolder with a ruddy glow as the last of the day's sunlight streamed in through the west window. The pillars - positioned where the altar would normally stand - were an oddly matched pair. The pillar on the left was carved with simple, vertical lines, while the pillar on the right was embellished with an ornate, flowering spiral.
Sophie was already moving toward them. Langdon hurried after her, and as they reached the pillars, Sophie was nodding with incredulity. "Yes, I'm positive I have seen these!"
"I don't doubt you've seen them," Langdon said," but it wasn't necessarily here."
She turned. "What do you mean?"
"These two pillars are the most duplicated architectural structures in history. Replicas exist all over the world."
"Replicas of Rosslyn?" She looked skeptical.
"No. Of the pillars. Do you remember earlier that I mentioned Rosslyn itself is a copy of Solomon's Temple? Those two pillars are exact replicas of the two pillars that stood at the head of Solomon's Temple." Langdon pointed to the pillar on the left. "That's called Boaz - or the Mason's Pillar. The other is called Jachin - or the Apprentice Pillar." He paused. "In fact, virtually every Masonic temple in the world has two pillars like these."
Langdon had already explained to her about the Templars' powerful historic ties to the modern Masonic secret societies, whose primary degrees - Apprentice Freemason, Fellowcraft Freemason, and Master Mason - harked back to early Templar days. Sophie's grandfather's final verse made direct reference to the Master Masons who adorned Rosslyn with their carved artistic offerings. It also noted Rosslyn's central ceiling, which was covered with carvings of stars and planets.
"I've never been in a Masonic temple," Sophie said, still eyeing the pillars. "I am almost positive I saw these here." She turned back into the chapel, as if looking for something else to jog her memory.
The rest of the visitors were now leaving, and the young docent made his way across the chapel to them with a pleasant smile. He was a handsome young man in his late twenties, with a Scottish brogue and strawberry blond hair. "I'm about to close up for the day. May I help you find anything?"
How about the Holy Grail? Langdon wanted to say.
"The code," Sophie blurted, in sudden revelation. "There's a code here!" The docent looked pleased by her enthusiasm. "Yes there is, ma'am." "It's on the ceiling," she said, turning to the right-hand wall
. "Somewhere over... there."
He smiled. "Not your first visit to Rosslyn, I see."
The code, Langdon thought. He had forgotten that little bit of lore. Among Rosslyn's numerous mysteries was a vaulted archway from which hundreds of stone blocks protruded, jutting down to form a bizarre multifaceted surface. Each block was carved with a symbol, seemingly at random, creating a cipher of unfathomable proportion. Some people believed the code revealed the entrance to the vault beneath the chapel.
Others believed it told the true Grail legend. Not that it mattered - cryptographers had been trying for centuries to decipher its meaning. To this day the Rosslyn Trust offered a generous reward to anyone who could unveil the secret meaning, but the code remained a mystery. "I'd be happy to show..."
The docent's voice trailed off.
My first code, Sophie thought, moving alone, in a trance, toward the encoded archway. Having handed the rosewood box to Langdon, she could feel herself momentarily forgetting all about the Holy Grail, the Priory of Sion, and all the mysteries of the past day. When she arrived beneath the encoded ceiling and saw the symbols above her, the memories came flooding back. She was recalling her first visit here, and strangely, the memories conjured an unexpected sadness.
She was a little girl... a year or so after her family's death. Her grandfather had brought her to Scotland on a short vacation. They had come to see Rosslyn Chapel before going back to Paris. It was late evening, and the chapel was closed. But they were still inside. "Can we go home, Grand-pere?" Sophie begged, feeling tired. "Soon, dear, very soon." His voice was melancholy. "I have one last thing I need to do here. How about if you wait in the car?"
"You're doing another big person thing?" He nodded. "I'll be fast. I promise." "Can I do the archway code again? That was fun."
"I don't know. I have to step outside. You won't be frightened in here alone?" "Of course not!" she said with a huff. "It's not even dark yet!" He smiled. "Very well then." He led her over to the elaborate archway he had shown her earlier.
Sophie immediately plopped down on the stone floor, lying on her back and staring up at the collage of puzzle pieces overhead. "I'm going to break this code before you get back!"
"It's a race then." He bent over, kissed her forehead, and walked to the nearby side door. "I'll be right outside. I'll leave the door open. If you need me, just call." He exited into the soft evening light.
Sophie lay there on the floor, gazing up at the code. Her eyes felt sleepy. After a few minutes, the symbols got fuzzy. And then they disappeared.
When Sophie awoke, the floor felt cold.
There was no answer. Standing up, she brushed herself off. The side door was still open. The evening was getting darker. She walked outside and could see her grandfather standing on the porch of a nearby stone house directly behind the church. Her grandfather was talking quietly to a person barely visible inside the screened door.
"Grand-pere?" she called.
Her grandfather turned and waved, motioning for her to wait just a moment. Then, slowly, he said some final words to the person inside and blew a kiss toward the screened door. He came to her with tearful eyes.
"Why are you crying, Grand-pere?"
He picked her up and held her close. "Oh, Sophie, you and I have said good-bye to a lot of people this year. It's hard."
Sophie thought of the accident, of saying good-bye to her mother and father, her grandmother and baby brother. "Were you saying goodbye to another person?"
"To a dear friend whom I love very much," he replied, his voice heavy with emotion. "And I fear I will not see her again for a very long time."
Standing with the docent, Langdon had been scanning the chapel walls and feeling a rising wariness that a dead end might be looming. Sophie had wandered off to look at the code and left Langdon holding the rosewood box, which contained a Grail map that now appeared to be no help at all. Although Sauniere's poem clearly indicated Rosslyn, Langdon was not sure what to do now that they had arrived. The poem made reference to a 'blade and chalice', which Langdon saw nowhere.
The Holy Grail 'neath ancient Roslin waits.
The blade and chalice guarding o'er Her gates.
Again Langdon sensed there remained some facet of this mystery yet to reveal itself.
"I hate to pry," the docent said, eyeing the rosewood box in Langdon's hands. "But this box... might I ask where you got it?"
Langdon gave a weary laugh. "That's an exceptionally long story."
The young man hesitated, his eyes on the box again. "It's the strangest thing - my grandmother has a box exactly like that - a jewelry box. Identical polished rosewood, same inlaid rose, even the hinges look the same."
Langdon knew the young man must be mistaken. If ever a box had been one of a kind, it was thisone - the box custom-made for the Priory keystone. "The two boxes may be similar but - "
The side door closed loudly, drawing both of their gazes. Sophie had exited without a word and was now wandering down the bluff toward a fieldstone house nearby. Langdon stared after her. Where is she going? She had been acting strangely ever since they entered the building. He turned to the docent. "Do you know what that house is?"
He nodded, also looking puzzled that Sophie was going down there. "That's the chapel rectory. The chapel curator lives there. She also happens to be the head of the Rosslyn Trust." He paused. "And my grandmother."
"Your grandmother heads the Rosslyn Trust?"
The young man nodded. "I live with her in the rectory and help keep up the chapel and give tours." He shrugged. "I've lived here my whole life. My grandmother raised me in that house."
Concerned for Sophie, Langdon moved across the chapel toward the door to call out to her. He was only halfway there when he stopped short. Something the young man said just registered.
My grandmother raised me.
Langdon looked out at Sophie on the bluff, then down at the rosewood box in his hand. Impossible. Slowly, Langdon turned back to the young man. "You said your grandmother has a box like this one?"
"Almost identical." "Where did she get it?" "My grandfather made it for her. He died when I was a baby, but my grandmother still talks about him. She says he was a genius with his hands. He made all kinds of things."
Langdon glimpsed an unimaginable web of connections emerging. "You said your grandmother raised you. Do you mind my asking what happened to your parents?"
The young man looked surprised. "They died when I was young." He paused. "The same day as my grandfather."
Langdon's heart pounded. "In a car accident?"
The docent recoiled, a look of bewilderment in his olive-green eyes. "Yes. In a car accident. My entire family died that day. I lost my grandfather, my parents, and..." He hesitated, glancing down at the floor. "And your sister," Langdon said.
Out on the bluff, the fieldstone house was exactly as Sophie remembered it. Night was falling now, and the house exuded a warm and inviting aura. The smell of bread wafted through the opened screened door, and a golden light shone in the windows. As Sophie approached, she could hear the quiet sounds of sobbing from within.
Through the screened door, Sophie saw an elderly woman in the hallway. Her back was to the door, but Sophie could see she was crying. The woman had long, luxuriant, silver hair that conjured an unexpected wisp of memory. Feeling herself drawn closer, Sophie stepped onto the porch stairs. The woman was clutching a framed photograph of a man and touching her fingertips to his face with loving sadness. It was a face Sophie knew well. Grand-pere.
The woman had obviously heard the sad news of his death last night.
A board squeaked beneath Sophie's feet, and the woman turned slowly, her sad eyes finding Sophie's. Sophie wanted to run, but she stood transfixed. The woman's fervent gaze never wavered as she set down the photo and approached the screened door. An eternity seemed to pass as the two women stared at one another through the thin mesh. Then, like the slowly gathering swell of an ocean wave, the woman's visage transformed from one of uncertainty... to disbelief... to hope... and finally, to cresting joy.
Throwing open the door, she came out, reaching with soft hands, cradling Sophie's thunderstruck face. "Oh, dear child... look at you!"
Although Sophie did not recognize her, she knew who this woman was. She tried to speak but found she could not even breathe.
"Sophie," the woman sobbed, kissing her forehead.
Sophie's words were a choked whisper. "But... Grand-pere said you were..."
"I know." The woman placed her tender hands on Sophie's shoulders and gazed at her with familiar eyes. "Your grandfather and I were forced to say so many things. We did what we thought was right. I'm so sorry. It was for your own safety, princess."
Sophie heard her final word, and immediately thought of her grandfather, who had called her princess for so many years. The sound of his voice seemed to echo now in the ancient stones of Rosslyn, settling through the earth and reverberating in the unknown hollows below.
The woman threw her arms around Sophie, the tears flowing faster. "Your grandfather wanted so badly to tell you everything. But things were difficult between you two. He tried so hard. There'sso much to explain. So very much to explain." She kissed Sophie's forehead once again, then whispered in her ear. "No more secrets, princess. It's time you learn the truth about our family."
Sophie and her grandmother were seated on the porch stairs in a tearful hug when the young docent dashed across the lawn, his eyes shining with hope and disbelief.
Through her tears, Sophie nodded, standing. She did not know the young man's face, but as they embraced, she could feel the power of the blood coursing through his veins... the blood she now understood they shared.
When Langdon walked across the lawn to join them, Sophie could not imagine that only yesterday she had felt so alone in the world. And now, somehow, in this foreign place, in the company of three people she barely knew, she felt at last that she was home.