Rosslyn Chapel’s Ancient Bee Sanctuary

Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel, founded in 1446, is a mediaeval treasure in stone located at Roslin, Midlothian, Scotland.

eclipse above Rosslyn Chapel pinnacles
Rosslyn Chapel’s pinnacles during an eclipse

Back in 2010,  when the chapel was being restored, workers found surprises among its pinnacles. When they took the  pinnacles apart for repair, two of them enclosed hollow spaces the size of a gas tank. One of them also had an entrance through a carved stone flower on its exterior. And inside that pinnacle was a deserted bee hive. (The other hollow pinnacle had no stone-flower entrance.)

I imagine that carved flower facing the camera is the entrance

No-one knows why this sanctuary was purposefully built in a place where the bees and their honey are inaccessible.

One stonemason, Allan Gilmour, said that he had seen bees create hives within soft sandstone. They buried into the sandstone and created honeycombs. This weakened the stone. In the 15th century, hives were usually woven skeps. Did the monks hope that if they provided a haven in the pinnacle the bees would not colonise and weaken other stone in the building?

And did the original builders coat the stone in the pinnacle with a substance to protect it from the bees? Local beekeepers were to investigate.


The pinnacles had been covered for a while and that may be why the bees left.


In early 2105, on the Rosslyn Chapel Facebook page, it was reported that the pinnacle is now restored “and since the construction work at the chapel stopped we’ve seen the bees return”.

This image of two medieval bee skeps accompanied the report.

from a medieval manuscript

I’ve never visited the Rosslyn Chapel, but am intrigued by images of its ceiling. It looks almost woven. It’s curved. It reminds me of the medieval bee skeps in the image.

Rosslyn Chapel's ceiling

And because of this, and because of the hive with no entrance, I wonder if the pinnacle hives had other meanings for those ancient monks. Rosslyn Chapel featured in the bestseller The Da Vinci Code (2003) and its film adaptation (2006). It seems a mysterious place and the bee spaces remain part of that mystery.

in the mist

But as I think about bee-centred beekeeping and about bee sanctuaries, I treasure this kind of mystery. Rosslyn Chapel’s hive inspires me.

With warm thanks to Rosslyn Chapel for images and other assistance. 

16 thoughts on “Rosslyn Chapel’s Ancient Bee Sanctuary”

  1. “No-one knows why this sanctuary was purposefully built in a place where the bees and their honey are inaccessible.” A sanctuary means “a place of refuge or safety”. It’s for bees to live in, away from people who want to steal their babies’ food.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Cymraes's Corner and commented:
    One of my favourite Chapel’s – this discovery surely points to yet more Occult knowledge known at the time – the building is a treasure trove of Gnosis hidden in plain sight and this is yet another gem. Click through to read more ->

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The late John Ritchie (‘Rosslyn Chapel Decoded’) said that the NE corner of the chapel once held an altar to St. Matthew, who the chapel is dedicated to; and the pinnacle in the roof above it, which is directly under the beehive, used to drip honey onto the altar. There is much occult symbolism connecting bees and honey with Rosslyn.


  4. Thank you for the images of the bee turrets at Roslyn . You may be interested to know that if you stand next to a busy hive and listen it produces a calm harmonic . Could it be possible that this harmonic may be sensed within the chapel ?.


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