IT is one of Scotland's most intriguing attractions, yet for years its true beauty has remained a mystery to the thousands of visitors who flock there each week.
• Rosslyn Chapel can now be seen in all its glory after 14 years hidden under a 'cage' of scaffolding. Pic: Greg Macvean
But now Rosslyn Chapel, which shot to international fame after featuring at the climax of the best-selling novel and film The Da Vinci Code, can finally be seen in all its glory again after the final pieces of its protective "cage" were removed.
For 14 years the architectural masterpiece in Midlothian was surrounded by tonnes of scaffolding and a steel canopy to protect its crumbling roof.
Visitors had to clamber up a steel walkway to get a close look at the building, which will have newly landscaped grounds in the next few weeks to celebrate its restoration.
The grounds of the chapel may still resemble something of a building site as the building is still halfway through the 9 million programme, but the trust responsible for its upkeep heralded yesterday's removal of the last major scaffolding from the chapel as key milestone.
Colin Glyne-Percy, director of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust, which started planning the refurbishment in the wake of a surge in visitors after the success of Dan Brown's 2004 novel and the subsequent Tom Hanks blockbuster movie, said: "It's a hugely exciting moment for us. No-one has had a proper view of the building for 14 years as the protecting covering had to be kept in place for so long to ensure the original roof was dried out, while we put a fundraising plan together.
"We went right back to the original stonework to ensure it was fully restored and the new watertight roof ensures that the roof is properly preserved underneath. We think the removal of the canopy structure and the scaffolding will generate more interest in the chapel.
"We had just 40,000 visitors a year before then, and although it reached a peak of 175,000 visitors we still had 136,000 through the doors last year, and we can still attract 1,100 visitors on a good day."
By next spring, when a new visitor centre next is due to be unveiled, the chapel's stained-glass windows and organ will be fully restored, and new heating and lighting equipment will have been installed. By the end of the following year, all the stonework in the building will have been repaired.
Painstaking work to restore the original 15th-century roof has recently been completed, while a new metal covering has been installed to fully protect it from the elements.
Extensive weatherproofing was installed in 1996 after experts found the chapel, which dates from 1446, was decaying badly because of water leaking through its ornate roof.Damage due to dampness was found throughout the building, which has been linked to the Knights Templar, the Holy Grail and Freemasonry.
Nic Boyes, an Edinburgh-based stone conservation expert who has masterminded restoration efforts, said: "A temporary protective covering had been over the chapel roof in the 1950s, but the asphalt had cracked and shrunk since then and was letting in quite a lot of water, and making the building really damp and cold. You have to remember that we are talking about a 550-year-old building and it really was beginning to suffer a lot of decay. It really was in a poor condition 14 years ago."
WORK to safeguard the chapel's future began in 2004. Scaffolding, put in place eight years earlier, was only seen as a protective measure. Such was the fragile condition of the building, that the scaffolding and roof canopy had to remain in place during the filming of The Da Vinci Code, leaving film-makers to use computer graphics to show the chapel.