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Sir Walter Scott joins Da Vinci Code Trail

ALISON HARDIE
bulletSir Walter's house is latest site for Da Vinci theorists to visit
bulletWriter's library is copy of Rosslyn Chapel interior
bulletDid he know the secret of the Grail?!?

THE historic home of Sir Walter Scott has unexpectedly found itself on the Da Vinci Code trail after fans of the blockbuster discovered its library is a remarkable copy of Rosslyn Chapel.

The writer commissioned craftsmen in 1812 to create a replica of the Midlothian church - now inundated with visitors from around the world after featuring in Dan Brown's novel - for Abbotsford House, near Melrose.

Experts believe Scott may have chosen Rosslyn's design to reflect his passion for medieval history.

But a controversial theory has taken root among fans of the book that Scott may have taken the secret of the Holy Grail with him to the grave.

They have grown convinced of Scott's link to the Grail because of the library design and the many references in his works to a "casket" and the Knights Templar - two of the key clues in The Da Vinci Code, which was released as a star-studded film.

Like many prominent citizens Scott was also a Freemason having been initiated in Lodge St Davids No 36 in Edinburgh. Freemasonry and Rosslyn Chapel are also inextricably linked. Freemasonry ran in Scott's family as he has been genetically linked to one of his forebears a Walter Scott who was a member of a very unusual Scottish Lodge - The Haughfoot Lodge - which operated from 1702 -1762. Walter Scott was related to the Scott of Gala Family - The Laird of Gala being the Head.

An influx of visitors to Abbotsford could not have come at a better time for the historic building.

Its trustees warned earlier this year that it may have to close to the public permanently after low visitor numbers left it in need of a 10 million donation to ensure its future.

However, despite the interest many fans of The Da Vinci Code are showing in Abbotsford, the trustees admit they have failed to find a conclusive link between Scott and the Holy Grail.

Jacquie Wright, the administrator at Abbotsford, said yesterday: "We have had a number of people try to make the connection between Sir Walter Scott and the Da Vinci Code.

"It's been a very interesting time for us here at Abbotsford. Obviously we've known all along that the ceiling of the library is a detailed representation of Rosslyn, but it's only been in the run-up to the release of the film that people have started to call us and suggest there is a link."

The scepticism of the trustees has not deterred numerous Da Vinci Code sleuths, who believe Scott is the "missing link".

One website states: "The old legend that the mummified corpses of St Clair Knights Templar are lying in their full armour on plinths in the vault, with no coffins, is referred to by Sir Walter Scott in The Lay of the Last Minstrel."

According to experts, there is no doubt Scott was fascinated by Rosslyn because of it's masonic associations which as a Freemason he would be better enabled than most to understand and the myths and legends of the Knights Templar.

Ms Wright went on: "We have looked at the connections people are making between Scott and the claims in The Da Vinci Code very closely indeed.

"However, we're sorry to say we were not convinced there was a real connection. After all, the book is a work of fiction which makes some pretty big claims about the life of Christ.

"But anyone interested in The Da Vinci Code would find Abbotsford fascinating. Not only is the library ceiling a replica of the Rosslyn Chapel, but there are other symbols of freemasonry around the house."

Professor Douglas Gifford, an expert in Scottish literature and one of the trustees of Abbotsford, confirmed Scott, as well as fellow arts figures of the day including Turner and Wordsworth, had a deep interest in Rosslyn.

He revealed: "We actually almost lost Scott at Rosslyn as he fell badly there and only saved himself by clinging on to a tree.

"I have looked through the claims very carefully, but unfortunately for all the conspiracy theorists I have to conclude there is nothing much in it.

"However, the stories don't do any harm, especially if people follow their noses to Abbotsford to see what all the fuss is about.

"After all, Dan Brown's book is a work of fiction and people are coming in their droves to Rosslyn so there's absolutely no reason why they shouldn't continue their Da Vinci Code trail to Scott's home at Abbotsford."

Gabi Rigardo, a tour guide who regularly brings Italian visitors to Abbotsford, said: "More and more visitors I bring here know there is a link. They think it is fascinating.

"But I don't tell them Sir Walter Scott is directly connected to the Da Vinci Code, but whenever I show visitors the ceiling in the library the first thing they ask is about the book."

The trustees of Abbotsford may have to invest in a new car park if the predicted rush to Melrose materialises this summer. Halifax Travel Insurance predicted last night that 700,000 new UK visitors will flock to Rosslyn Chapel following the release of the film.

 

Larry Furlong, curator at Abbotsford, in the...

Larry Furlong, curator at Abbotsford, in the library, where the ceiling is a copy of the one in Rosslyn Chapel.
Picture: Ian Rutherford

 

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