Monday, 29 April 2013

St Matthew's, Rosslyn Chapel

St Matthew’s, Rosslyn Chapel
Quietness by Candlelight, Sunday 28th April 2013, 5pm
Led by: a woman who didn’t introduce herself by name

When I looked on the website for St Matthew’s, Rosslyn Chapel, a few weeks ago, it said that during British summer time the Office of Compline would be celebrated at 5pm on the last Sunday of every month. What could be more sublime than hearing “Before the Ending of the Day” echoing round the ornate vaults of that architectural gem? I was looking forward to this.

When I looked at the website again last Saturday, it had been updated and what was now billed was “Quietness by Candlelight, a reflective service with music and meditation”. Nothing daunted, I decided to give this a go, but it turned out to be a much lower-key affair than I’d been expecting.

Have the traditional liturgical offices fallen out of favour, or was it the priest’s night off? I don’t know, but here’s what Quietness by Candlelight involved. The theme was “peace”.
  • some hesitant arpeggios on an electric organ 
  • reading from Revelation 21:1-6 
  • reading from a book called “All will be well” by Joan Wilson, whose daughter Marie was killed in the Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen in 1987 
  • seven minutes of “quiet time” during which we were invited to light candles – I didn’t 
  • a prayer for peace in Syria, Afghanistan, Korea and elsewhere, followed by another trite little prayer in badly scanned greetings-card rhyme format 
  • more hesitant organ music, this time with crunchy little chords

Lacklustre is the word that springs to mind. Luckily it was all over in 22 minutes.

There were eight of us altogether: the leader, the organist, the page turner, two regulars and three visitors. Would Compline have drawn a bigger crowd?


  1. Bizarrely the chapel was built by my great, great etc grandfather 12 generations back, William Sinclair. I have not ever visited twice and never for a service. It was built so mass could be said for my dead ancestors who are buried under it.

  2. I didn't realise I had an aristocrat following my blog! Your ancestors certainly had a taste for the florid.

    By contrast with the very quiet service, the place was absolutely thronged with visitors earlier in the afternoon. When the wardens came to hurry us along because the chapel was about to close, I asked, "What if we want to stay for the service?" Ah, well in that case I'd be allowed to stay. Maybe if they just let the last of the visitors linger there would be a bigger congregation of an evening ... and a few more coppers in the collection bowl. I don't know how separate the St Matthew's parish side of things is kept from the visitor attraction, but you'd think any church would want to cash in on the Da Vinci Code connections.

  3. I believe that both sides are kept seperate. I am descended from William Sinclair's youngest son, so I am not at all aristocratic.

  4. Hello - not sure if this blog is still active but thought I'd be in touch! We very much welcome your comments and hope that you have attended again since then? As the Rosslyn Trust site and our site (St Matthew's) points out it is a working church and we have a regular congregation. We are always delighted to have visitors and I hope nobody felt rushed out the door?? At Evensong this summer (2015) we have had a regular stream of visitors attending and have improved out website, social media etc so hopefully it is better known that we are a working church and not just an historic building.

    1. I don't add to the blog any more, but I still get notified when someone comments, so thank you for doing so.