top of page

Crime of Passion – Lessons Carved in Stone

In Rosslyn Chapel, in Scotland, stands a memorial to the remarkable skill of the stonemason’s art. Called the Apprentice Pillar, it might also be called the Pillar of Beauty, for it is an exquisite example of freestone carving by and operative mason. The legend, which may not be as old as the pillar itself, tells of the tragic end of the craftsman who carved it, and the jealousy that caused his murder.

Crime of Passion

It begins with a Master Mason who assigns an Entered Apprentice the task of carving the third, and most beautiful, of the central pillars in the chapel. He does not give the Entered Apprentice any instruction in how to carve the pillar, perhaps because he wants the Entered Apprentice to fail at the task.

The Master Mason then sets off for a foreign land, ostensibly to study a famous pillar and then bring the design back to the chapel, where he will complete the pillar that the failed Entered Apprentice could not carve. However, upon his return, he discovers that the Entered Apprentice has completed the pillar, and that he has done so with a skill that the Master Mason could never hope to achieve. In his anger, the Master Mason strikes the Entered Apprentice on the forehead with a setting maul, felling him dead at his feet.

As punishment for his crime, the other stonemasons carve a stone head representing the Master Mason along the inner wall of the chapel, with its gaze forever fixed on the Apprentice Pillar. And across from this, they7 carve another head – one representing the slain Entered Apprentice, with a great wound on his forehead, gazing forever at the stone head of his murderer. The crime and its consequences were carved in stone for all time.