Friday, September 11, 2009
Washington's Rosslyn Chapel
Many people are familiar legends surrounding Rosslyn Chapel in Roslin, Scotland, near Edinburgh. More properly called the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew, it was built beginning in 1446 by Sir William St. Claire, Prince of Orkney as part of a larger cathedral that was never completed. Sir William, who died in 1484, was buried in the chapel. It is asserted by some that Sir William had secretly been a Knight Templar, and his chapel has long been the center of wild speculation, variously claimed to be connected to the Knights Templar, Freemasons, Holy Grail seekers and pop-culture pilgrims in search of Dan Brown’s “Sacred Feminine” mystery. From its incredibly detailed carvings to its possible connection with Templars who may have been hiding from the Pope’s wrath after their excommunication, Rosslyn is a true enigma.
Rosslyn is also the name of a neighborhood just across the Potomac on the southeast corner of Washington D.C. Is it named after the mysterious chapel in Scotland, and does it hold some clue to the mysteries of Washington D.C.?
According to researcher Ian Kendall, of the 1,974 communities and neighborhoods in the District of Columbia, 342 of them, or 17.3 percent, are named after Scotsmen, Scottish locations or Scottish words—one of the highest urban concentrations of Scottish place names in the United States. (Nearby Baltimore has a similar concentration.) Obviously, a lot of Scotsmen roamed the banks of the Potomac in the 18th century. So it’s entirely possible that some Midlothian Scot in the 1700s decided to name his patch of land after Rosslyn Chapel.
The mystery gets even stranger when Rosslyn, Virginia, is located on a map, just across the river from what was once known as Mason’s Island (named after George Mason, who wasn’t a Freemason), now called Theodore Roosevelt Island (named after a famous Freemason president), at the base of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. A bridge named after a Freemason passes over Mason’s Island, pointing at Rosslyn in a direct line from the White House!
It is a minor footnote in Washington’s history, but in 1866, there was a suggestion put forth in Congress to move the Presidential Mansion to a different location. The White House had not been expanded yet, and sewage from the city canal dumping into the nearby Potomac River, combined with the surrounding swampland, made the area less than pleasant on a hot, humid day. A commission was appointed to find a new place within the district that would provide room to build a larger mansion, nestled in more pleasant surroundings. The commission, led by Major Nathaniel Michler, chose what would become Rock Creek Park. The idea of moving the White House died out quickly, but the land Michler recommended was purchased and was turned into one of the largest city parks in America.
Now let’s engage in a little “sacred geometry” of our own. Draw a line north from the White House, up the 16th Street Meridian Line, clear up to Rock Creek Park where the presidential mansion would have been built. Draw another line straight west from the White House, across the river, creating a right angle. The third leg of this triangle crosses diagonally over the Potomac by way of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, connecting Rock Creek Park and Rosslyn. Could the “Key” of Solomon be the Key Bridge, pointing the way to a modern-day Rosslyn chapel?
There really is a temple dead center in Rosslyn, Virginia, and, as hoary legends and present-day potboilers suggest, it really does have a treasure buried in its underground vaults. The Arlington Temple United Methodist Church is at 1835 N. Nash Street in Rosslyn, and if you’re looking for symbolism, it rivals the original Rosslyn Chapel as one of the most peculiar churches ever constructed. The ground floor of this multi-story building is a Chevron gas station. When the church was built in the 1970s, the founders wanted it to have a reliable source of income, so the filling station was designed into the original plans.
With oil prices being what they are today, I can’t think of a bigger buried treasure than subterranean fuel tanks filled with $3.00 a gallon premium...
(Portions of this article appeared in Solomon's Builders: Freemasons, Founding Fathers and the Secrets of Washington DC)