Two ancient havens for bees discovered in roof at Rosslyn Chapel

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IT IS the latest mysterious discovery to cause a buzz among visitors to Rosslyn Chapel.

• Conservation workers discover one of the ancient

beehives carved into the stonework in the roof's pinnacles at Rosslyn Chapel

But the find is not linked to any of the myths surrounding The Da Vinci Code – it is altogether more bee-lievable.

Skilfully carved out in the stonework of two pinnacles on the roof are two ancient hives, thought to be about 560 years old.

The recent discovery was made during stone conservation work at the chapel, which involved dismantling and rebuilding the roof's pinnacles.

Malcolm Mitchell, project architect for Glasgow-based Page(Park Architects, the company carrying out the conservation work, said: "From the research that we have done, this is a unique situation in Europe. We haven't found any precedent of this type of hive before. It's very unusual.

"In Scotland, hives are so often made of baskets which can be lifted and moved around.

"It was particularly a surprise because the hives themselves were constructed purely as a haven for the bees – they weren't built to harvest honey.

"We have discovered that the north pinnacle was occupied by bees, which gained entry through a small hole in a beautifully carved flower in the stone."

However, the south pinnacle doesn't seem to have ever been occupied by bees because an entry hole was never formed.

"It's just another of Rosslyn's mysteries," said Mr Mitchell.

Inside the dismantled pinnacle from the north end of the chapel were abandoned honeycombs.

Mr Mitchell, who said the hollowed out area in both pinnacles was the size of a gas cylinder, added: "The north pinnacle was full of honeycombs which had been abandoned for some considerable years. The honey had all dried up."

It is thought the interior of the hives were lined with a coating to prevent the wild bees from gnawing away at the stonework.

There is anecdotal evidence that visitors to the chapel, which dates back to 1446, used to be disturbed by bees while walking on the gantry, which was installed when the canopy was erected over the building.

Mr Mitchell said some of the staff at the Rosslyn Trust were previously aware that there had been bees going into the cavity when the canopy was first erected 12 years ago, but that this had been forgotten over the years.

Mr Mitchell said: "We were quite taken aback.

The pinnacles possibly haven't been opened up for certainly hundreds of years."

The hives have been reinstated within the rebuilt pinnacles on the roof of the chapel.

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