The Music of the Cubes

Slate has just published an extensive feature on everyone's favourite home of the head/body of Jesus/Mary Magdalene, Rosslyn Chapel. Once an obscure site referenced only by fans of 'hidden history', the small Scottish religious landmark shot to international fame in 2003 when it was included as an important location in Dan Brown's mega-seller, The Da Vinci Code. After the amount of ink spilled on the topic in the wake of the Da Vinci media frenzy, you you might think there would be nothing left to write on the topic. However, this new article targets one particular, 'recent' mystery related to Rosslyn: the 213 cubes with strange designs on them that can be found throughout the chapel:

The Rosslyn Chapel's 213 stone cubes were carved when Leonardo da Vinci and Christopher Columbus were schoolboys. Construction on the chapel began in 1456, about 50 years before the printing press arrived in Scotland. Rosslyn Cubes on PillarThe Stewart kings ruled the country at the time, and most historians credit James IV—who took the throne in 1488—for ushering in an era of scholarship and scientific inquiry. By that time, the chapel's founder, William St. Clair, had died, and construction on what was meant to be a much larger structure had come to a halt.

Given the era in which Rosslyn Chapel was built, then, it would be surprising to learn that someone encoded scientifically inspired symbols on the walls. But that's exactly what Tommy and Stuart Mitchell came to believe. The chapel's stone cubes, they were convinced, looked like Chladni patterns, the images that form when musical frequencies vibrate along a two-dimensional surface. Now, they just had to confront the inconvenient fact that Ernst Chladni was not born until 1756. far as Tommy and Stuart were concerned, they could test their hypothesis without tracking down Chladni's Scottish predecessor. If they could match each of the 12 distinct symbols repeated across the cubes to a Chladni pattern—assigning each symbol to a musical pitch—they would have a 213-note sequence. The proof would be in the melody: If it sounded like something other than an incomprehensible jumble of sound, the Mitchells would have compelling evidence that the chapel's designer had transcribed a song in Rosslyn's stone walls.

The feature is in five parts, each with multiple pages. You'll also find plenty of debate (and skepticism) in the comments below the article.


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JeffN's picture
Member since:
1 May 2004
Last activity:
9 weeks 4 days

Thanks for at least mentioning the comments to this series. Unfortunately, most of the readers of the series (and most of the readers of this TDG announcement) will not read the comments.

Once again, "a lie can travel around the world before the truth has got its boots on."

Here is the LAST comment I left to the writer of the piece, along with a list of links that should be required reading for anyone interested in the veracity (or lack thereof) of The Rosslyn Motet.

Note, especially, the link to a several-year-old TDG post of mine.




Judging by the search results your five-part series already gets, it'll be some time before the Motet Genie is back in his bottle. You're not the first journalist to let him out. Let's hope you're the last.