Monthly Archives: January 2016

A SHORT OUTLINE OF ARCHITECTURAL MASONRY (Part 3 of 4)

First Published in 1950

By Bernard E Jones

Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies

The Saxons, on becoming Christians, built some churches, usually if not always of wood, but the Venerable Bede tells of the building of stone churches in the county of Durham about 680, this being regarded as the starting-point of the history of architecture in England. There were stone churches at York, Ripon, and Hexham late in the seventh century.

Saxon church builders went back to the Temple of King Solomon for some of their ideas, the buildings being preserved and ornamented by the use of plates of precious metals, and in particular of bronze. (Centuries later Glastonbury had its church of wood covered inside with plates of gold and silver, and outside with plates of lead.)

Until late in the seventh century there were few English buildings that were not of wood and thatch, and not until about the year 1000 did English architecture evolve into anything very definite – a sturdy form of Romanesque, having over – thick walls and columns and semi-circular arches-but something better was to develop before the Conquest.       King-Cnut                                                               Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great, late in the ninth century, and Canute, a few generations later, visited Rome, and it is more than likely that they were influential in bringing to England foreign craftsmen; masons may have come from Germany, Burgundy, and France, and carvers from Italy. Says one writer with great truth, “The world was surprisingly small in those days, notwithstanding the difficulty of travelling.”

 King-Cnut

Canute

The work of the builder suffered a setback in the tenth century owing to a general belief among Christians of the day that the world was to come to an end in the year 1000. Before the Conquest there was in England a style which we may call the Anglo-Saxon or pre-Conquest-Romanesque, and even after the Conquest, for some years, churches were being built in that style.

Norman masons occasionally worked on English churches during the pre-Conquest period, and it should be remembered that it was probably easier to travel from Normandy to England than to make any long journey by road in England itself.

Following the year 1000 an enormous number of churches and monasteries began to be built in Italy, France, and England. Canute, coming to the throne in 1017, restored the monasteries and built churches, his work being carried on by Edward the Confessor, who started the building of Westminster Abbey, not completed until after the Conquest.

The Norman masons were more skilled than the Saxons, but had no thorough grasp of constructional principles. The thickness of the masonry joint tells the story of one age or style succeeding another. In England and Northern France the joint is wide and badly made in eleventh century work, but there is a great improvement in the following century. The early Norman masons apparently knew very little of the use of the sculptor’s chisel, and did their decorative cutting with an axe; as the cutting grew deeper the chisel was used.

William-I-of-England                                                        William the Conqueror

The coming of William the Conqueror, and with him of great numbers of Norman churchmen and skilled operatives, led to a most astonishing increase in the building of churches, unparalleled in number in any similar period in any other country. The existing Saxon churches were rebuilt under the auspices of Norman ecclesiastics. For example, Canterbury Cathedral, started by a Saxon king, had much of the work razed to the ground and rebuilt in the period 1096-1110.

The use of the freestone of Caen, Normandy, was one of the causes of Normandy’s leading the revival of building in the eleventh century, it being easier to send stone from France to riverside towns in England than to send it by road through France, and often easier to get sea-borne Caen stone at English cathedral sites than horse-drawn stone from English quarries. When we call ourselves freemasons we may be harking back over all the centuries to the importation and use of French freestone.

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A SHORT OUTLINE OF ARCHITECTURAL MASONRY (Part 2 of 4)

First Published in 1950

By Bernard E Jones

Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies

Rome. Rome’s contribution to architecture was its study and general employment of the arch and its adoption of the Greek orders in modified designs. Rome had no real architecture of its own when it conquered Greece about 146 B.C., but the Romans were quick students, and were not long in becoming great architects and mighty builders. Professor Simpson remarks that the Romans, if they had had the artistic sense of the Greeks, would have been the greatest architects the world has ever seen, for their work is vast and strong, grand and lavishly decorated, but not refined, often incomplete and carelessly finished.

There are only two ways of spanning an opening: one is to put a beam across it, the other to build an arch into it.

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Uprights and Lintels

The Greeks did not use the arch in their principal buildings; instead they used columns, but had to place them close together, because the length of the beam or lintel that spanned them was limited by its own weight and the maximum load it would bear.

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Arches

The Romans in using the arch could space their columns farther apart. They made their buildings many storeys in height, and designed them as a combination of column, arch, and lintel; but it is the arch, and not the lintel, that as a rule gives quality to the design.

The Romans built great show palaces, fine baths, great triumphal arches, enormous amphitheatres. They built them not only in Rome and Italy, but in the colonies which they established in many parts of the known world. The Coliseum at Rome, built in the first century A.D., was 61 acres in extent.

The five orders of architecture familiar to the freemason were completed by the Romans. They took the three Greek orders, the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, and very slightly modified them, without adding to their refinement. They thickened the shaft or column of the Doric and made it into the Roman Tuscan order. They mingled the ornaments of the Ionic and Corinthian by replacing with small scrolls a part of tile foliage carved on the Corinthian cap, and in this way formed the Composite.

So now we have the Doric, dignified and simple, with tapered, fluted shafts; the Ionic, with its scrolls on the capital; the Corinthian, with its carved deep foliage; the Tuscan, hardly to be distinguished from the Doric, except by its thicker shaft; and the Composite, combining the scrolls of the Ionic with the foliage of the Corinthian. There are other differences, but these are the outstanding ones.

Early Christian Architecture

The Roman Emperor Constantine the Great legalized Christianity in the year 313, and founded Constantinople in 330, but not until two hundred years later did there emerge a style of architecture peculiar to the Roman occupied Eastern lands.

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St Sophia, Constantinople

In 532 the Emperor Justinian began the building of the many-domed church of St Sophia in Constantinople and dedicated it to Eternal Wisdom. St Sophia marked a new style, to which was given the name Byzantine, from the ancient Byzantium, the site on which Constantinople was built; this combined Roman and Mohammedan traditions with the beauty of Greek architecture, the East providing the domes, the rich colour, and material, and the West the large scale, the bold construction, and the perfect proportion. The Byzantine style spread quickly in the East, and strongly influenced architecture in the West.

 Roman and Saxon Architecture in England

The Romans gave architecture to Britain, but it did not survive. We knew little or nothing about the art before they came. At one time we thought that we knew little of anything British in pre-Roman days, but the archaeologists have taught us that the Romans did not come to an entirely barbarous country. Glyn Daniel, in a B.B.C. broadcast address published in The Listener, says: “We know now that the first inhabitants of Britain lived over half a million years ago, that the first farmers and stockbreeders came to our shores about 2000 B.C. We know, too, that by the time Caesar came to Kent some of the Britons were exporting to the Continent metal, slaves, and fat stock, leather, corn, and hunting dogs, and in return were importing wine, bronzes and Gaulish pottery. They were using a minted coinage as well as currency bars, and maintaining, artists in metal and pottery. You can see some of their splendid and complicated patterns on the Battersea Shield, for example, the Witham Sword, or the Desborough Mirror on view in the British Museum. We can see now that Caesar and the Romans do not begin the drama of British history.”

The Romans built magnificent villas and many public buildings in England, but little more remains of them to-day than a few mosaic floors, some fragments of walls, and the broken systems of piping forming part of their bath installations; their upper storeys were usually of wood. The Roman basilica, or hall, is the original type of the Christian church. The domus, also known as a basilica, was the large room of the house. Any Christian churches in England when the Romans went were soon pulled to pieces by the Saxon hordes.

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A Short Outline of Architectural Masonry (Part 1 of 4)

First Published in 1950

 By Bernard E Jones

Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies

The allegories that veil freemasonry, as also the symbols that illustrate it, are, as readers of this book well know, drawn from the lore of architecture and building. Freemasonry has two histories – the one, legendary and traditional, going back almost to the dawn of architecture; the other, authentic, covering a period of a few hundred years and deriving in some part from the ancient craft guilds and fraternities whose fortunes rose and fell in England with the Gothic period; in that particular period are believed to lie the main roots of world freemasonry.

The freemason can well afford to spare a few minutes in which to acquaint himself with a mere outline of architectural development and see for himself how ‘English Gothic’ came into being. (Many authorities have been consulted for the detailed information presented in this articler, and mention must particularly be made of the 1909 edition of Professor F. M. Simpson’s three-volume History of Architectural Development (Longmans Green), a brilliant and valuable treatise.)

When the draughty hovels of prehistoric man, roughly built of stones or thrown together with boughs and mud, began in the course of ages to assume some vestige of form and proportion, then was architecture born, and civilization started on its long journey. “The perception of beauty and deformity is the first thing which influences man to attempt to escape from a grovelling, brutish character.”

Old-fashioned writers used to say that the Egyptians learnt architecture from the cavern, the Chinese from a bamboo-framed tent, the Greeks from a flat-roofed hut, and the Gothics from a grove of trees. This is no more than plausible, even if it be that, but it can be shown that architecture soon outdistanced any mere copying of natural and other simple forms, and grew, through six thousand years or so, to become the world’s supreme art, comprising in its ultimate development a whole group of subsidiary arts. Masonry, which is associated chiefly with building in stone, is one of the chief of those arts.

An extremely brief glance at prehistoric masonry suffices to show that from the very dawn of the mechanical arts thousands of years ago the mason was active. Remains of a few of the more massive examples of his work have come down to us.

Carnac

Carnac, Brittany

The monoliths are upright stones, one of which in Brittany is 63 feet high and weighs about 250 tons; sometimes they support table stones, or cromlechs, weighing up to 10 tons. Ti

      Ancient City of Tiryns

In the ancient cities of Tiryns and Mycenæ stone walls 25 feet thick and 60 feet high, built with blocks 9 feet long and surfaced in such a way as to make very tight, thin joints, even without the help of mortar. We call the unknown builders of these great walls giants, or Cyclops.

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The great temple at Palenque

There was much mighty building in Mexico and Peru thousands of years ago. The great temple at Palenque was 230 feet long and do feet wide; some retaining walls discovered in Peru are said to be no less than 225 feet thick and 108 feet high, and in walls elsewhere are found built-in stones as long as 27 feet, 14 feet deep, and 12 feet high, weighing about 28 tons, cut, shaped, and placed in position with extreme accuracy.

Eastern Architecture

So far as we know, Babylonia and Assyria were among the first of all the Eastern builders, but, unfortunately, in their very early days they built in brick of poor quality which returned in the course of centuries to the clay from which it had been made. When at a later stage they used more permanent materials we know from the remains brought to light by excavation that, as builders, these early people were of considerable worth. The proportions of their narrow, rectangular buildings, their handsome columns and lintels-all these are regarded as the real inspiration of Greek architecture.

In Babylon there was a great temple with alabaster floor-slabs measuring nearly 20 feet by 12 feet. The ancient Persians built in timber, but when their descendants built in stone they produced some massive work; the palace Chehil Minare, for example, had retaining walls over 1400 feet long, built of immense stones and supporting a raised platform, approached by what is regarded as the finest double staircase in the world.

Egypt. Building in Egypt must have been among the earliest in the world, and is the first of which we have written record. As builders, the Egyptians had both material and labour in their favour. Unlimited material – if not in their own country, then in bordering countries, such as Arabia, from which came, or so we are told, the great blocks of stone with which the Pyramids were built. Unlimited labour – slaves and serfs compelled by brute force to do work at considerable risk to life and limb. Overseers and artificers were well trained and highly skilled; the rest was simply the organized and ruthless direction of slave labour. In honour of the dead whom they worshipped the Egyptians built great tombs, the Pyramids, the largest of which has a base 768 feet square and a height originally of 490 feet, some of the stones of which it is built being 30 feet long and of enormous weight. For this one pyramid, it is said, it took twenty years to bring the stones from Arabia.

Long before written history the Egyptians were building temples in each of which a forest of columns supported a flat stone roof, the arch not then being used in great buildings, although the Egyptians did have arches, elliptical ones of brick, probably restricted to use in minor buildings. All architecture may be divided into the styles of the entablature (the joist and flat roof) and that of the arch, and we shall see later that it was the clever development and use of the arch that led to the Gothic construction with which the medieval working freemason was familiar.

Greece. The Greeks were a nation of merchants and mariners doing business with all the known world over a long period of time, and they must at an early date have learnt from Assyria, Egypt, and other countries of the East all that could then be taught them of architecture, an art in which they themselves soon became adept, and in which they are acknowledged to-day as the greatest masters. Their judgment with regard to proportion and symmetry has never been questioned. Of the early Greek temples and other buildings nothing much is known, as they were of timber and have long since disappeared. It is supposed, but sometimes questioned, that the horizontal timber lintel, or beam supported by posts (constituting for the Greeks a rude emblem of fraternal unity), was the inspiration of the outstanding feature of later Greek architecture – the pillars of exquisite design and beautiful workmanship supporting the entablature (the horizontal architrave, the frieze, and the cornice). It will be understood that the two parts of the sloping timber roof, meeting at the ridge, produced a triangular space back and front, and this had to be filled by what is known as the pediment, another Greek characteristic.

Although the arch was not used by the Greeks in the grand manner, they were well aware of its purpose, but were content to use it in a minor way; for example, over a lintel, itself supported by columns, they would place what we now know as a discharging arch, its purpose being to prevent the weight of the masonry above bearing direct upon the lintel.

It is the Greeks who originated or developed the orders of architecture to which the attention of the freemason is often directed. By “orders” are known certain arrangements of construction and ornament as applied to columns and the lintels over them; the three greatest of them – the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian – are illustrated. The idea of the Doric came from Egypt, and that of the Ionic from Assyria but the Greeks so largely redesigned these two orders as to be regarded as their originators.

Doric

The Doric Column

The order which the Greeks most loved was the Doric, the most massive of the three, but more delicate, more refined, and more dignified; generally it had a fluted shaft standing on a series of steps and having no base of its own, and the tapering of that shaft, together with the slight convexing of the horizontal lines of the lintel above, was intended to correct an optical illusion. Its capital, where the shaft supports the lintel, is moulded. The Ionic shaft, on the other hand, had a base, and on the capital were carved scrolls or volutes; this shaft was lighter than the Doric. In the Corinthian order the shaft was lighter still, and a bell-shaped capital was deeply carved with foliage; very occasionally a scroll or volute was added.

 

 

 

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