Father and son discover the Holy Grail of music hidden away for 600 years on the columns of Rosslyn Chapel
A father and son codebreaking team have discovered music’s Holy Grail – hidden in intricate carvings at Rosslyn Chapel for almost 600 years.
Music teacher Thomas Mitchell, 75, strived for 27 years before he and pianist son Stuart, 41, deciphered symbols in the chapel which featured in the Da Vinci Code book and film.
The pair will reveal the secret songs in a special concert at the Midlothian chapel next month.
Thomas, of Edinburgh, said: “The music is the result of years of painstaking research, recreating secret notes hidden for almost 600 years in carvings on the arches within the chapel itself.
“We believe this is the Holy Grail of music and, unlike the Da Vinci Code, it is absolutely factual.”
Thomas was intrigued by the sculpted angels and hundreds of intricately carved cubes in the arches of the Lady Chapel.
Using skills learned as an RAF code-breaker during the Korean War and his lifetime knowledge of classical music, he finally realised they depicted the vibrations of musical notes. He said: “It was a Eureka moment to end all Eureka moments.
“Many angels were carrying musical instruments and some were even grouped as if they were a choir.
“But one angel gave me the biggest problem. He was carrying something and at first I thought it was musical instrument which had been lost in the mists of time.
“It was only when I realised that he was carrying a musical stave, the blueprint for all musical composition, that I knew I was looking at a secretly coded piece of music.
“By recreating the patterns on each of the carved cubes, with Stuart’s help, we unlocked the notes to find a haunting piece of music had been hidden in the arches for centuries.
“For the choral sections, we’ve used the words from the hymns to St John the Baptist taken from Matthew in the Old Testament which is fitting because the chapel itself is dedicated to St Matthew.”
Stuart, a classical composer and pianist, used computers to decipher the carvings’ secret music.
He has named the mediaeval music the Rosslyn Motet.
He said: “I also used authentic mediaeval instruments to recreate the music exactly and it truly is a masterpiece.
“While the Da Vinci Code was full of red herrings to make it a thrilling work of fiction, the Rosslyn Motet music is a tangible work people can listen to. For centuries, scholars have been convinced Rosslyn holds the key to many different areas of knowledge.
“We think we’ve cracked one particularly fascinating code, although we’re convinced Rosslyn holds many, many more.”
Four singers will join eight musicians playing mediaeval instruments to perform the Rosslyn Motet at Rosslyn on May 18.
Simon Beattie, of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust, said: “We’re looking forward to the event as this is a such an exciting and intriguing piece of work.
“The music is particularly haunting and we cannot help feel this is yet another of the many puzzles that make Rosslyn such an astonishing place.”
Rosslyn Chapel was built by Sir William Sinclair and Sir Gilbert Haye in the 15th century.
Steeped in the history of the Knights Templar and Freemasonry, Rosslyn’s mysteries are famous worldwide.
Among the theories surrounding Rosslyn is that it is the secret resting place of the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant and even the mummified head of Christ.
HEAR IT @: To hear the music, click on to www.stuart-mitchell.com and follow the links to Music of Rosslyn Chapel. For concert tickets call Rosslyn Chapel 0131 440 2159.
HOW THEY DID IT..
1 Carved angels and blocks above their head in arches of chapel baffled Thomas until he realised this one was holding a musical stave – and that the blocks signified notes.
2 Using this specially enhanced photo, Thomas and Stuart worked out that the carvings above the angel represent A, B and C.
3 Thomas and Stuart used this metal plate to recreate the ancient method of making notes. The plate is vibrated and sand poured on until it forms a particular pattern – indicating the correct pitch. The patterns match those carved into the arches of Rosslyn Chapel.
By Marion Scott