There are numerous books on the shelves which are at best entertaining, claiming all manner of strange items in the crypt of Rosslyn chapel ranging from secret gospels to the mummified head of Jesus. What do we know for fact, what could be present in reality?
Like almost every chapel of this type, the crypt was built to house the remains of the Lords who built the chapel: the Earls of Rosslyn. From the Chapel's foundation, in 1446 by Sir William St Clair, third and last St Clair Prince of Orkney, until the death of another William in 1650 almost all the earls are believed to have been buried there in full armour. Sir Walter Scott mentions the earls buried in full armour in his 'Lay of of the Minstrel' in 1805:
...Where Roslin's chiefs uncoffine'd lie
Each Baron, for a sable shroud,
Sheathed in his iron panoply...
are twenty of Roslin's barons bold
Lie buried within that proud Chapelle...
There are records that the Holy Rood (part of the 'true' cross) was taken to Scotland by the Saxon Princess Margaret. At one point it was taken to Rosslyn for safety during at attack by the English around 1545. Could it remain at Rosslyn? This is one possibility with some historic basis.
Unfortunately the authenticity of the 'true cross' can be called into question, being one of the many dubious finds of Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, who discovered the site of the crucifixion, birth site of Jesus, cave with skeletons from the massacre of the innocents etc. She was perhaps the world's greatest archaeologist - or greatest archaeological fraud.
The crypt, being the lowest part any church was the first to be constructed and was often used by the masons in much the same way as a site office is used today. Perhaps we could find further Mason's marks or sketches as there are in the sacristy.
The plinths and niches for the chapel's statues all appear undamaged, yet the statues themselves are missing. This suggests they were removed and stored for safe keeping at the time of the Reformation. The most likely place they would have been taken to is the crypt below the chapel. Perhaps they lie interred with the earls to this day.
One thing is sure: the trust makes a lot of money to fund restoration to the chapel from the hoards of increasingly rather weird visitors coming in the hope of uncovering the mystery of the chapel. Should the crypt be opened, the mystery would end, one way or another and this funding would dry up, so we can expect the lure to remain for many years to come.
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