Corn conspiracy

by Jeremy Cherfas on August 28, 2011

I too am back from my summer holidays, but with a somewhat smaller haul of goodies. Two items only, and this is the first.

Take a look at this carving, part of the arch around a window in Rosslyn Chapel outside Edinburgh, more formally known as the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew.

Maize? in Rosslyn Chapel

Do those things in the wider arch look to you like ears of maize?

And how about this? Do those stylised, possibly spiky three-leaved things look like an aloe, or, as the Rosslyn Chapel Photographic CD would have it, a cactus?

Aloe? in Rosslyn Chapel

If they did, that would be a mystery indeed, because the chapel was completed in 1484, eight years before Columbus sailed to the New World, source of cacti and maize. There is, of course, a simple explanation: Henry I Sinclair, Earl of Orkney and grandfather of the Rosslyn Chapel’s founder, William Sinclair, sailed to North America in around 1398, brought back samples (or at least depictions) of maize and aloe (or cacti), which the chapel masons1 incorporated into these carvings, all subsequent history of the incident being scrupulously hidden from history’s view.

Not having read or seen it, I was unaware that The Da Vinci Code makes much of Rosslyn Chapel and its Masonic and Templar associations, but frankly, I’m not in the least bit convinced that those carvings are what people say they are. And in that, I’m not alone. The BBC pours cold water on the idea too.

Undaunted, however, I’ll be scrutinizing the son-et-lumiere at Machu Pichu for evidence of neeps among the tatties.

Footnotes:
  1. Hint, hint. []
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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

tai haku August 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I’ve always thought the “cacti ones” could just as easily be fig leaves if you squint at them the right way.

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Jacob August 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Your first picture could join this collection:
http://geography.uoregon.edu/carljohannessen/research.html

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Anastasia August 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm

I’m thinking stylized wheat or perhaps tulips.

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Dave Wood August 29, 2011 at 8:48 am

There are aloes all over the place in Africa – why should they be thought to be Agave/cactus? I’ll go along with the BBC report.

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dave August 19, 2012 at 10:45 am

Aloe is native to Africa, not America

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