PILLARS AND GLOBES, COLUMNS AND CANDLESTICKS – Part 2 of 4

PILLARS AND GLOBES, COLUMNS AND CANDLESTICKS Part 2 of 4

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Harry Carr

 CHAPITERS, GLOBES AND BOWLS

The biblical descriptions of Solomon’s pillars give rise to many problems, especially as regards their dimensions and ornamentation. For us, the chapiters, bowls or globes which surmounted them are of particular interest, because of ritual developments and expansions during the eighteenth century.

In this particular problem a great deal depends on the interpretation of the original Hebrew text. The chapiters appear in 1 Kings, VII, 16: “…and he made two chapiters…” The word is Ko‑thor‑oth = chapiters, capitals or crowns. Later, in verse 41, without mention of any further works, the text speaks of “…the two pillars and the two bowls of the chapiters…” The Hebrew reads Gooloth Ha‑ko‑thor‑oth, and the word Gooloth is a problem. Goolah (singular) means a ball or globe; also, a bowl or vessel, and various forms of the same root are used quite loosely to describe something round or spherical.

Our regular contacts with modern lodge Tracing‑Boards and furnishings have accustomed us to the idea that Solomon’s two pillars were surmounted by chapiters or capitals, with a globe resting on each, but that is not proven. The early translators and illustrators of the Bible were by no means unanimous on this point, and the various terms they used to describe the chapiters, etc., show that they were not at all certain as to the appearance of the pillars. To take one example, the Geneva Bible, of 1560, a very handsome and popular illustrated Bible, which provided the interpretation for some of the proper names and seems to have been much used by the men who framed the Masonic ritual.

At Kings, VII, v. 16, “…and he made two chapiters…”, there is a marginal note, “Or pommels”, i.e. globular features. At this stage the Geneva Bible clearly indicates that the chapiters were globes or spheres, and not the crown‑shaped heads to the pillars that we would understand them to be.

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Among the illustrations to this chapter in the Geneva Bible there are several interesting engravings of the Temple and its equipment, including a sketch of a pillar, surmounted by a shallow capital, with an ornamental globe poised on top. A marginal note to this illustration speaks of “The height of the chapiter or round ball upon the pillar of five cubites hight…” So the chapiter was a round ball.

At II Chron., IV, v. 12, the same Bible gives a new interpretation “…two pillars, and the bowies, and the chapiters on the top of the two pillars…” Here it is evident that the ‘bowies’ and the chapiters were two separate features.

Whether we incline to bowls or globes, there is yet another interpretation which would exclude both. The accounts in both Kings and Chronicles refer to the pomegranate decoration which was attached to the “bowies” or bellies of the chapiters (I Kings, VII, v. 41, 42, and II Chron., IV, v. 12, 13), and from these passages it is a perfectly proper inference that the chapiters were themselves “bowl‑shaped”, and that there were neither bowls nor globes above them.

Although the globes were finally adopted in Masonic furniture and decoration as head‑pieces to Solomon’s Pillars, they came in very slowly, and during a large part of the eighteenth century there was no uniformity of practice on this point. The Trahi, one of the early French exposures, contains several engravings purporting to be “Plan”’ of a Loge de Reception; in effect they are Tracing Boards for the 1st and 2nd combined, and another for the 3rd degree. The Apprentice Plan contains illustrations of the two pillars, marked J and B, both conventional Corinthian pillars, with flat tops. There is also, among a huge collection of symbols, a sketch which is described in the Index as a “sphere”, a kind of lattice‑work globe (actually an armillary sphere) used in astronomy to demonstrate the courses of the stars and planets.

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The Lodge of Probity, No 61, Halifax (founded in 1738), was in serious decline in 1829, and an inventory of its possessions was taken at that time. One item reads: “Box with Globes and Stands”. The Phoenix Lodge, No 94, Sunderland (founded in 1755), has a pair of eighteenth‑century globes, each mounted on three legs, standing left and right of the Master’s pedestal. All Souls’ Lodge, No 170 (founded in 1767), had until 1888 a handsome pair of globes, each mounted on a tripod base, clearly of eighteenth‑century style, similarly placed left and right of the WM. The Lodge of Peace and Unity, No 314, Preston (founded in 1797), in a recent sketch of its lodge‑room, shows a pair of globes on low, three‑legged stands, placed on the floor of the lodge, left and right, a yard or two in front of the SW.

Among the unique collection of lodge equipment known as the “Bath Furniture” is a pair of globes, “celestial and terrestrial”, on low four‑legged stands, and the minute’s show that they were presented to the Royal Cumberland Lodge in 1805. It is interesting to observe that the equipment also includes a handsome pair of brass pillars, each about 5ft 9in in height, standing as usual in the west, and each of them surmounted with a large brass bowl. These date from the late eighteenth century.

In this case especially, as in all the cases cited above, there is no evidence of globes on top of the B & J pillars; the globes formed a part of the lodge equipment entirely in their own right.

The frontispiece to Noorthouck’s Constitutions of 1784 is a symbolical drawing in which the architectural portion represents the interior of the then Free Mason’s Hall. At the foot of the picture, in the foreground, is a long table bearing several Masonic tools and symbols, with two globes on tripod stands, and the description of the picture refers to “…the Globes and other Masonic Furniture and Implements of the Lodge”.

All this suggests that the globes were beginning to play some part in the lodge, or in the ritual, although they were not yet associated with the pillars. But even after the globes or bowls had begun to appear on the pillars, there was still considerable doubt as to what was correct. This is particularly noticeable in early Tracing Boards and decorated aprons, some showing “bowls”, and others “globes”. (See illustrations, pp 1‑41 in AQC, vol lxxiv, for pillars with bowls, and ibid, p 52, where the pillars are surmounted by profuse foliage, growing presumably from bowls.)

To summarise:

(1) In the period of our earliest ritual documents, 1696 to 1730, there is no evidence that the globes formed any part of the catechism or ritual, and it is reasonably certain that they were unknown as “designs” or as furnishings in the lodges.

(2) Around 1745 it is probable that the sphere or globe had been introduced as one of the symbols in the “floor drawings” or Tracing Boards. There is no evidence to show that it appeared in the catechism. There are several highly‑detailed catechisms belonging to this period, 1744 and later, but globes are not mentioned in any of them. The appearance of the sphere in the 1745 exposure is the only evidence suggesting that it played some part in the more or less impromptu explanations of lodge symbolism which probably came into practice about this time, or shortly afterwards.

(3) In the 1760s and 1770s, Solomon’s Pillars with globes appear frequently in illustrations of lodge equipment and on aprons, but there is no uniformity of practice. In some lodges (as we have seen and shall see below) the globes were already a recognised part of the lodge furniture; elsewhere they surmounted the pillars, and were probably being “explained” in “lectures”. In other places the globes were virtually unknown.

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Filed under Freemasonry, Harry Carr, Masonic, Masonic Ritual, Masonic Traditions, Two Pillars

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