Category Archives: Cathedral Builders

Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees? A four-part article by Mike Lawrence – Part Two

We commence the second part of this article with a look at the term ‘Lodge’. A word often found in old manuscripts and spelt in a variety of ways for example: logia, logge, loygge, luge, ludge, a word derived from old French Gallic, meaning hut and which appears to have been used both in England and Scotland in three different senses:

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A) In both countries, the term lodge was used to designate a mason’s workshop that was generally erected in connection with all building operations. Hence, we read in the Vale Royal Abbey building accounts of 1278, that carpenters were paid to erect lodges. The same goes for masons’ lodges and workshops at Catterick Bridge in 1421, Kirby Muxloe Castle in 1481. Then we have details of repairs to masons’ lodges at Beaumaris Castle in 1330 and Westminster Abbey in 1413.

 

The lodge was in fact a workshop where masons cut, dressed and carved stone and it would be fair to say that they would also have taken their permitted breaks within its walls, as at the lodge attached to York Minster in 1370 and St Giles, Edinburgh in 1491. It is also most likely that within its walls, questions affecting the masons trade were discussed along with difficulties experienced during work, techniques, grievances and without doubt, superstitions, fables and stories passed down from the beginning of English squared stone building. We must bear in mind that the Regius MS c.1390 and the Matthew Cooke MS c.1450, our earliest MS contain both charges and the legendary history of the craft.

B) In both countries, the term lodge was often used to describe a group of masons working together on the same building operation. Thus we find references to them at York in 1352 which refers to by-laws and ordinances, Canterbury in1429 which refers to its members as the “masons of the Lodge“, Aberdeen in 1481 which refers to conditions of employment and Edinburgh in 1491 which refers to written statements of old established customs. In effect, it is highly probable that the lodges were in fact much older than the respective dates shown which is only the earliest traceable evidence and not necessarily the start or formation dates.

C) In Scotland, the word Lodge was also used to describe an organised body of masons associated with a particular town or district. In the Schaw Statues of 1598 &1599 we read that “Edinburgh shall be the first principle lodge and Kilwinning the second.” From the St. Clair Charters of 1601 & 1628 we learn of other territorial lodges at St. Andrews, Dundee and Glasgow to name but three. These lodges carried out certain official duties of a trade nature including the regulation of Apprentices, keeping records of the reception and entry of Apprentices, the admission of Fellow Crafts and assigning marks to members. Other duties included settling disputes between Masters and their servants, ensuring no cowans were employed, ensuring Masters did not employ Apprentices or Journeymen of other Masters, collecting funds by way of fees and fines, relief of the distressed, feasting at the expense of the candidate and conferring the Mason Word on qualified members.

But the organizational set up in both England and Scotland were different. Scotland had “Incorporations”. Very briefly, these existed in certain Scottish burghs for the ruling and governing of particular crafts. Established under what is called the “seals of cause”, they were rules and statutes made by the craftsmen and approved by the municipality. Part of the role of the Incorporations was to protect the public or consumer by seeing that the work was properly carried out by authorised and qualified craftsmen to an good quality level.

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In England there were “Craft Gilds”. Surprisingly, the term “Craft Gild” was an invention by 19th century historians who used it to distinguish a particular type of medieval municipal organisation which was concerned, like the Incorporations, with industrial trade regulation and quality, from that other municipal organisation, the “Merchant Gild” which was more concerned with the trading of goods for the whole town.

In medieval documents the organisation which we call a “Craft Gild” is described as a fellowship or mystery, the term has nothing to do with secrets or mysteries of ancient mythology as has long been believed, but the mystery of the craftsman’s trade or his skill, which he long considered his ‘secrets’ and which he would only pass on to an accredited apprentice.

However, since the beginning of the belief that there is a transitional link between stone/operative masons and non-operative or accepted masons, Masonic writers have wrongly devoted considerable space and time to the stone workers fraternities and their mysteries by mistakenly overlooking the fact that the secrets and mysteries of an artisan was his professional skill and not ritualized secrets or mysteries from an ancient civilization.

In essence, there is little evidence to prove that a mason’s fraternity of this kind existed at all in London before the13th or 14th centuries. For example, the names of those elected and sworn in, in 1328 from the various Mysteries in London to represent the government of these organisations included no masons whatsoever. But things change and in 1356, the introduction to the “Regulations for the Trade of Masons” state that, “unlike other trades, Masons had not been regulated in due manner by the folks of the trade” actually implying that there were no craft guilds or mysteries up to that date. However, it was another twenty years later in 1376, that we find the first specific reference to a permanent organisation of masons in London, when four masons were elected to the Common Council to represent the Mystery and the probability is that an organization for masons was established sometime between 1356 and 1376.

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There is some belief that mason’s organisations existed in towns like Chester and Newcastle, because of the evidence we have that masons participated and performed miracle plays in those towns. The trade regulations in the “York Memorandum Book” of 1376 to 1419, contains details of over forty trades, but no reference to masons, and the same is for Coventry. In Chester there is evidence of the participation in such plays appears in the late 16th century, while at Newcastle a Masons Company was incorporated in 1581 with certain duties which included the presentation of a Corpus Christi play. However, we do find specific mention of wallers, bricklayes, daubers and slaters who were granted Charters under Henry VI 1422-1471.

From the Ordinances of 1481 and 1521 it is clear that we have the London Masons Company, a medieval fraternity or mystery with an oligarchy formed or forming within it, as had happened in many other trades.

Interestingly we note here that “foreigns” or non-freemen were not allowed to be employed, while freemen are available. Restrictions were placed on apprentices, one allotted per member and two for liverymen or those that had twice been wardens. Restrictions on the employment of “foreigns” or non-freemen applied up to 1666, when the rebuilding of London, after the great fire, changed the monopolies once held by the mason’s trade.

One of the problems relating to the mason’s trade which one might have considered part of their “ordinances and records” might concern the control or issue of mason’s marks. The Blacksmiths, helmet makers, bladesmiths and braziers of London were all subject to regulation by way of the maker’s marks, but certainly in London no provision regulating the use of marks has been traced in the Masons ordinances, nor has any book survived in the archives, although masons marks can be found on the earlier built Westminster Abbey.

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Having said that, documents dated 1452 do in fact refer to marks and we are told: “A fellow who has learned the work may appear before his Master and, on exhibiting proof of his skill, the Master may award him a mark…and…the master shall within 14 days of his becoming a Fellow, deliver to the new craftsman his mark.”

End of part two.

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Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees? A four-part article by Mike Lawrence – Part One

Being a review of the long-held belief that the Mark Degree, more than any other, appears to be connected to or resembles operative masonry and therefore predates the Craft in its practice.

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For over twenty-five years I have been researching, writing and lecturing on the subject of Freemasonry. During my time of study, I have purposely stayed within the confines of realistic fact, actual records and authors that are generally regarded as bona fide Masonic historians and not sensationalists. Many of these authors to whom I refer are now dead, but their aims were to promote Masonic knowledge for knowledge sake, not purely for monetary gain.

Therefore, as boring as it may sound, I have never allowed and do not submit myself to read 90% of Masonic publications both old and new, that took or continues to take Freemasonry into the realms of pure fantasy, romantic hypothesis and sheer speculation, and which are and always have been, detrimental to the craft. I guess we cannot blame these authors for writing such things as our first “Books of Constitution” (1723 & 1738), which were sanctioned by Grand Lodge, were no more than historical works of fiction.

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These as we know, were freely exported to America, translated into French and German and as masonry is universal, probably reached every corner of the world. Ultimately, these innocent books infiltrated all Masonic belief, indoctrinated scores of Masonic writers and underpinned the belief that Freemasonry was something that it was not. I personally believe it was the cleverest unintentional hoax of all time.

Incidentally, the copyright of these two “Books of Constitution” belonged to James Anderson, and although as explained sanctioned by Grand Lodge, he was the sole financial beneficiary. In fact, in 1735, when a certain book entitled, “A Pocket Companion for Freemasonry” was published by William Smith, Anderson not only persuaded Grand Lodge to allow him to produce a second copy of his work, particularly as copies of the first edition were now exhausted, but encouraged Grand Lodge to resolve that the Masters and Wardens of the Lodges should discourage their members from buying Smiths book.

But this article is not about Dr. James Anderson, but rather to examine the question:

“Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees?”

Born from the assumption that brethren who are advanced to the rank of a Mark Master Mason make, soon after their admission, which is that the Mark Degree, more than any other, would appear to be connected to or resemble Operative Masonry, and therefore predate the Craft. Of course, by Operative Masonry I mean that class or fraternity of men that by their skills during the Middle Ages built those wonderful cathedrals and churches which have stood against all odds and in many cases defied the laws of gravity and continue to grace England’s skyline to this very day. Therefore, we can honestly say that in the whole Masonic system, no Degree seems to lay claim to having a greater antiquity than the Mark Degree as it appears to connect or forge links between the modern day system and the much older operative system?

Let us begin by looking at the start of the squared stone building industry in England in the early Middle Ages. Early medieval buildings in Britain consisted mainly of wood and clay (wattle and daub); therefore, the artisans engaged in these buildings were general carpenters and daubers, not masons. In fact, both Britons and Scots were unfamiliar with stone building which involved the use of squared stone and mortar.

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It was probably the Church that introduced the art and it was evident from early in our history that craftsmen from abroad had to be brought to England to do any form of squared stone work. For example, in 674, Benedict Biscop brought craftsmen from Gaul to help build a stone church, in the Roman style, at Wearmouth Abbey. In 709, St. Wilfred, according to a 12th century chronicler, brought masons from Rome to build his church. Further records by Bede in the 7th century, make references to stone churches in Lastingham and Lincoln.

Now there is little doubt that once this art of building and carving was introduced some knowledge was acquired by native artisans, but the likely hood that early building work was performed by local masons, as their own specialist occupation is probably untrue, as their main occupation was connected with agriculture, as in England, stone working during the first millennium was more a by-occupation of farming.

At that time the French were more architecturally advanced than the English, and it took the Norman Conquest before we begin to see the substitution of stone, for wood and clay. In was the Norman influence that led to the development of stone building in this country which started almost immediately after the invasion of 1066 with the building of, cathedrals and castles, followed by abbeys and priories.

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The use of stone and brick in domestic architecture was a later development still, at first used only for chimneys. In was not until the 17th century that they were commonly used in house building.

So the first records we have of a group of stone cutters being brought together as a group or brotherhood was at the building of Magdeburg cathedral in Germany in 1211. This coincides with Milners “History of Winchester” which tells us that in 1211, Bishop Lucy established a company of workman to further the building of the cathedral.

The erection of abbeys, priories, cathedrals, churches and castles implies that the Church and the Crown were the principle employers of masons and this had a profound effect on the organisation of the industry. For example, the typical medieval artisan was his own master, he owned or purchased his own material, worked it with the assistance of an apprentice or journeyman and sold what he had produced. It was his own business.

However, the medieval mason was, by design, a wage earner, who was employed by an agent acting on behalf of the church or crown for whom the building was being erected. Occasionally called a contractor, or in some cases an independent small-scale employer who specialised in supplying rough-dressed stone, ashlars, and moldings.

Records show us that in general medieval building sites had a “Clerk of the Works” who would oversee the financial operation and the “Master of the works” who would oversee the technical side and in many cases prepare the plans and drawings. There were generally two or three types of stone-workers employed on the work and these were:

1) Hewers or Freemasons, who dressed the stones with mallet and chisel.  The superior craftsmen belonging to this category and were able to elaborately carve and shape stone.  They were also occasionally employed as setters. Their work was mainly carried out on site.

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2) Layers or Roughmasons, who laid ashlars. They often roughly dressed stones with an axe or scappling hammer and also laid finished stone, these could work on site if laying or at the quarry.

3) Quarriers, who mainly uncovered the stones, split and broke them and in some cases carried out some rough hewing or dressing with broaching axes and obviously worked at the quarry.

 

As a final note to this section, work on a medieval building site stopped during the winter months which was generally around November through to March and the majority of those employed where either dismissed or suspended. This was because the mortar used was subject to low temperatures, frosts and snow. Having said that, Freemasons who were responsible for caving and shaping often continued their work throughout the winter in their site hut.

So, this ends the first section which sets out to show how the stone building industry first started in England and how this trades’ employment conditions were quite different from most other trades. Next, we look at the organisation of Masons in England and Scotland in the high Middle Ages.

Approximate Historical Periods

Dark Ages                                                            4th – 7th Century

Early Middle Ages                                            8th – 10th Century

High Middles Ages                                           11th – 13th Century

Late Middle Ages                                             14th – 15th Century

Medieval Period                                               5th – 16th Century

The Reformation                                              1517 – 1648

The Renaissance                                              14th – 17th Century

Opening up of the New World                      16th Century

End of part one

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I Greet You Well! By Mike LAWRENCE

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All profits go direct to the TLC Appeal http://tlcappeal.org/

£14.99 from http://www.lewismasonic.co.uk/i-greet-you-well-.htm

 This book contains twelve easy to read lectures packed with all manner of Masonic facts and information. Read at home to establish a good Masonic knowledge base or present to the Lodge on nights when you are without a candidate. Time tested and performed many times by the author, these thought provoking, fascinating talks will definitely incite discussion as they explore many of our more popular subjects by explaining the origin of some of our traditions and exploding the myths and legends of others.

With over 60 illustrations and ranging from 20 to 25 minutes in duration, the lectures were primarily designed to suit Freemasons of all levels of understanding and rank.

With titles including: Stealing History – Surviving History – Those Twenty Nine Words – English Accepted Masonry versus Scottish Non-Operative Masonry and Why the Knights Templar were not the Founders or the Custodians of the Secrets of Freemasonry; there is something for everyone.

 

£14.99 from http://www.lewismasonic.co.uk/i-greet-you-well-.htm

 

All profits go direct to the TLC Appeal http://tlcappeal.org/

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The Christian origin of Freemasonry By Michael Lawrence

A short paper dispelling the suggestion that our ritual is of Jewish origin.

I was very interested to read the following statement found recently on a Masonic Facebook page to which I subscribe, it was followed by the question, “What is your opinion?”

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Old Gothic Constitutions 1390 – 1690

From the earliest of recognised English Masonic documents, i.e. the Regius Poem c.1390 and the Matthew Cooke MS, c.1450, which were in fact, Trade Documents written for the control and behaviour of Operative Masons, there is a distinct Christian emphasis. This emphasis is repeated in all the later documents generically called the “Old Gothic Constitutions”, which are of a similar nature, This pre-reformation Trinitarian influence which is Catholic in its inference, is soundly and securely based on the religion of the realm at that time, which was Christian.

An example being the Invocation or Opening prayer in each document, which always runs along these lines:

“The might of the Father of Heaven, with the wisdom of the glorious Son, through the grace and goodness of the Holy Ghost, that be three persons in one Godhead, be with us at out beginning, and give us grace so to govern us here in our living that we may come to His Bliss that never shall have ending. Amen.”

Certainly, no Jewish influence there.

The following link may be helpful.

http://www.masoniclibrary.org.au/research/list-lectures/86-gothic-constitutions.html

Having made that statement, an important point to make relates to the Edict of Expulsion. In 1290, Edward 1, issued the edict expelling all Jews from the Kingdom of England. The edict remained in force for the rest of the Middle Ages. The edict was not an isolated incident but the result of over 200 years of persecution of the Jews in England. It is generally accepted that the Middle Ages ran for about 1000 years, approximately from the fall of the Western Roman Empire, to the rise of the Ottoman Empire.

Therefore, initially we can dispute the original statement on two counts because:

1) The Jewish people were expelled from England at that time.

2) The Operative Masons were erecting Cathedrals to the Glory of a Christian God.

So we can say that there was no Jewish influence within these documents and as there is no suggestion or even direction by any of the writers, that the contents should remain secret. I therefore propose that there is no hidden Jewish message found in the same.

Early Masonic Exposures, 1696 – 1730

The main foundation of early ritual in England is based on a group of three Scottish documents dated between 1696 and 1714, written out laboriously by hand and possibly used as a guide or aides-memoir. They are:

 1) The Edinburgh Register House MS, 1696 – Found in 1930, in the Old Register House, Edinburgh, among a number of papers transferred there in 1808 and was in no way related to any of the papers or records which it was stored with.

2) The Chetwode Crawley MS, c.1700 – Found in a collection of volumes purchased as a lot, c.1900, from a second-hand book collector.

3) The Kevan MS, c.1714 – Found in 1954, among a collection of old legal documents belonging to a firm of Solicitors practising in Berwickshire.

The problem with these MS is that without validation, they can only be seen as interesting or curious artefacts of a bygone age. However, by a very rare stroke of luck, an interesting discovery led students to the possibility of validating the previously three mentioned documents.

Haughfoot, was a hamlet near Stow, Galashiels, in the Scottish Lowlands and at the end of the 17th century, it consisted mainly of a staging post for horses and carriages and would have been the most unlikely place for a Lodge to be established as the region consisted mainly of gentry and local land owners, not stone works or masons. But it was in fact, the place where Scotland’s first wholly non-operative Lodge was founded, on 22nd December 1702 and here’s the twist of fate, it would appear that at the commencement of that Lodge, the ceremonies were written in the first several pages of the Lodge minute book to the extent that the last twenty-nine words of the ceremony commenced at the top of a new page and at the completion of the written ritual text we find the following words:

 “The same day”

Indicating that the ritual text was written and completed before the first meeting of the Lodge which was held on the same day.

These four documents agree closely with eleven others, generically known as the “Early Masonic Exposures” and continue the exact same pre-reformation Christian influence.

Dr James Anderson

It was during the Grand Mastership of the Duke of Montagu that when “finding fault with all the copies of the old Gothic Constitutions, order’d Brother James Anderson A.M. to digest the same in a new and better method” (Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones, The Genesis of Freemasonry, published by Q.C. Correspondence Circle Ltd., 1978 edition, p.160)

One unforeseen problem which also occurred is taken up by Wallace Mcleod in the 1986 Prestonian lecture.

“…At the Annual Festival on 24 June 1718, when the Grand Lodge was one year old, the new Grand Master, George Payne, “desired any brethren to bring to the Grand lodge any old Writings and Records concerning Masons and Masonry in other to shew the Usages of antient Times; And this Year several old copies of the Gothic Constitutions were produced and collated.”

                Even in those early days there were reticent Masons who did not choose to risk disclosure. In a narrative of the incident Anderson wrote, “This Year, at some private Lodges, several very valuable Manuscripts…concerning the Fraternity, their Lodges, Regulations, Charges, Secrets and Usages…were too hastily burnt by some scrupulous Brothers, that those Papers might not fall into strange hands.”

It is generally agreed however, that of the few London lodges that formed part of George Paynes Grand Lodge at that time, between them they would only have held a small amount of texts or paperwork regarding “the Fraternity, their Lodges, Regulations, Charges, Secrets and Usages”.

How valuable to the Craft from an historic stand point they might have been, we shall never know, but the general consensus is that they were more probably one, or possibly two copies of the Gothic Constitutions that were destroyed which in any case would have been hand written reproductions of existing copies.

The main object of Andersons role was to bring some sort of order to the current manuscripts available to him at that time and in doing so he produced the first Book of Constitution, 1723. Anderson, being a Presbyterian Minister his Constitutions were influenced in that manner.

Presbyterian theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures and the necessity of Grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Its roots lie in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.

Anderson, refined the basic Christian influence of the existing documents and produced the following statement:

Concerning GOD and RELIGION.

A Mason is obliged by his Tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid ATHEIST, nor an irreligious LIBERTINE. But though in ancient Times Masons were charged in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ’tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honor and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguished ; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remained at a perpetual Distance.

Freemasonry therefore became Deistic, that being the belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe, like that of Natural Religion, which is based on reason rather than divine revelation. It is a system of advocating or emphasizing morality. Morality being one of the founding principles Freemasonry was founded upon.

This now took Freemasonry away from that pre-reformation or Catholic ethos, and all but began the process of de-Christianisation.

Conclusion

The reason why people have give traction to the opening statement,  is because in order to tell the Masonic story and illustrate the message of fidelity, the vehicle chosen was the building of King Solomon’s Temple, but that does not make the story Jewish.

Stories, passwords, quotations and various inferences, were all taken from Christian Bibles, not the Talmud, especially the message of the Third Degree, which has caused some Jewish lodges to make the following change to the ritual:

From – “…lift our eyes to that bright Star, (inferring Jesus. See Revelations 22:16) whose rising brings peace and salvation…”

To – “…and lift our eyes to Him whose divine Words brings Peace and Salvation to the faithful…”

The purpose being the Jewish creed does not recognise the Christian belief that Jesus is their Saviour,

The stories and scriptures of the Old Testament were alogorically used to illuminate salient points of our discipline and no more.

Therefore our Freemasonry is founded on the simple premise, i.e. that we have a belief in a Supreme Being, not what religion or creed we follow and that is why we must be:

“…good Men and true, Men of Honor and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions we may be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remained at a perpetual Distance.”

Therefore the suggestion that our ritual was influenced by Judaism is incorrect, as is the general belief that Freemasonry in general, is Christian. Our society in multi-denominational, and long so may it remain so.

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

First Published in 1950

By Bernard E Jones

Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies

 English Gothic

English Gothic Architecture

The twelfth century had opened up the way for the coming of the Gothic style, but there is no sharp and precise date at which one style succeeded another. A change of style took half a century or more to establish itself. In general, the Romanesque or Norman style changed in the second half of the twelfth century to the Early English or Gothic style, of which the Decorated period was from the second half of the thirteenth century until late in the fourteenth century. The Perpendicular style of Gothic came from the Decorated style in the fourteenth century, went right through the fifteenth century with some changes, and continued into the sixteenth.

Evidence as to how England achieved its Gothic style is conflicting. Some people think that Gothic was but the maturing of the English Romanesque style, but obviously it was something much more than that. It is safer to regard English Gothic as the strongly Anglicised rendering of a great architectural movement which swept over Western Europe and reached England via the western and northern provinces of France. It was architecture with pointed arches, and succeeded the architecture of round arches, the chief influence leading to the introduction of the pointed arch being undoubtedly the discovery of a method of building vaulting over wide and often uneven spaces.

“The architecture of every people is an essential part of its history” it has been said. English Gothic is a thoroughly national style despite the fact that it was inspired from abroad, and has been labelled “more perfect, more pure, more systematic, better proportioned, more consistent, than the Gothic of any other country.”

The Norman Conquest, by bringing about the mingling of two different peoples, was the great historic fact influencing the development of English Gothic. It must be remembered that by about 1150 roughly one-third of what now constitutes France was under English rule, and that Normandy was architecturally part of England from soon after the Conquest until late in the twelfth century. From the Continent came a deep sense of religion, a higher culture, a far greater skill in architectural construction, than the Saxons had enjoyed; by the end of the twelfth century this fact and the still greater one that the Saxons and Normans were in course of becoming one people-the English people must have made inevitable a more individual growth from the old Norman-Romanesque. But G. M. Trevelyan makes clear that “the birth and general acceptance” of the English language and the happy blending of Saxon and French words into “English tongue” which “all understanden” did not come until Chaucer’s lifetime (1340-1400). It was then that “the English people first clearly appear as a racial and cultural unit.”

The Crusades at the end of the eleventh century appear to have contributed something to the architecture of France and England, for in their long and tedious travels through Europe the Crusaders must have stored up many impressions to be remembered and applied on their return home.

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Lancet Window

By the turn of the twelfth century we see the early stage of Gothic in the simple lancet arch, to which were added, as the style evolved, clustered pillars, window mullions, and tracery, which, in the opinion of many architects, produced “a degree of perfection and refinement never before dreamt of.”

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Tracery

“The Gothic columns, with their simple moulded capitals, carried the mind back from our provincial cathedrals to the Parthenon at Athens” says Professor Banister Fletcher. Gothic had those beautifully proportioned columns, with their dignified capitals, it had in particular, the pointed arch and the ribbed vaulting of the roof; and often externally the flying buttress to give strength to the walls and carry the weight and thrust of the roof.

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Ribbed Vault Ceiling

The Gothic arch was a great step forward in technical design. The reduction of side-thrust on pillars and walls meant that the pillars could be slighter and the walls thinner, less expensive, and much better built, for the old thick walls had often been mere casings of good masonry filled in with rubble and mortar. Externally the style could be distinguished not only by its narrow lancet-shaped pointed windows, but by the bold buttresses to take some of the thrust, the light pinnacles and spires, the acute pitch of the roof.

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Flying Buttresses

Improvement in technical design making for the growing use of vaulting over large and often unusual spaces helped the introduction of the pointed arch. Vaulting is the great pride of the Gothic masons, as in Norwich and Durham Cathedrals-the rib vaulting of worked stone as distinct from the rough barrel vaults of earlier days. True, the Normans had invented the vaulting, but their knowledge of construction was not always sufficient to provide properly for the outward (destructive) thrusts, and as a result many examples must have disappeared. Gothic architecture of the later (Perpendicular) period glories in its open timber roofs, many fine examples of which are to be found in the old Norfolk churches.

The Gothic period was remarkable for its building activity; cathedrals, castles, churches, were built in numbers, and no other period in English history can vie with it. Of all countries, says Professor Simpson, England is the most remarkable for the number, variety, and beauty of its parish churches. The whole of England was dotted with villages, and each had its own church, whereas in France, Germany, and other countries villages were few and far apart, and the people, for safety, were forced within walled cities.

It was in this great period that freemasonry had its true foundation. Gould, a conservative assessor of masonic history, believes that “in all lodge constituent elements and appointments, the track is broad and direct to a Gothic origin.” Another historic fact was to play its part, an unfortunate one. In 1349 came the Black Death, the terrible plague that destroyed nearly half the population and had its serious consequences in every phase of national and domestic life; the shortage of labour and high prices of food led to the operatives trying to get higher wages, but legislation kept wages within very restricted limits. Much building work was still proceeding in the seventy years following 1450 some of the finest of England’s churches were built-but by the middle of the sixteenth century the Gothic style of architecture was dying. It is true that even to the end of that century we get here and there a Gothic building and many Gothic details, but by 1600 the great medieval period known as Gothic had reached its close.

The marked similarity in style in the Gothic architecture of all the Western European countries, including England, has prompted the idea that the masons in all the countries concerned must have been guided by a secret principle handed down from one generation to another. It is this similarity that has lent plausibility to the legend of the organised bands of travelling masons, armed with Papal authority, passing from one country to another, building churches here, there, and everywhere, and into all of them pouring their own spirit of design and introducing their own exclusive secrets of construction. In later pages will be shown how much this legend is worth, but in the meantime it will merely be pointed out that some architectural writers have advanced the attractive theory that the monastic schools of masonry founded in Normandy sent forth, at the behest of kings, nobles, and great churchmen, many clever Master Masons, who took charge, artistic and practical, of the erection of a number of the most notable buildings in England, and that, inevitably, these graduates, all of the same school, produced buildings having strong family likenesses. The English, perhaps more than any

other people in the world, had and have a genius for absorbing any new and foreign influence reaching their shores. Thus, all over Western Europe buildings were conforming to a ‘Gothic’ style; here, in this country, there was Gothic with a difference, an English difference.

 The Successor to English Gothic

The Reformation in the sixteenth century strongly influenced Gothic and ensured its death, but the style had lost some of its purity following the reign of Henry VII when it started to introduce Italian features. In course of time Gothic developed into the Elizabethan style of mixed Gothic and Italian, and then into what we know now as the Renaissance: a style less natural, or, rather, less national, than the Gothic, but extremely graceful, reproducing something of the old classic spirit of the Greek and Roman architecture; a style of much interest to the architectural but less to the masonic student. The work of England’s great architect Sir Christopher Wren was largely based on the Gothic, to which, however, he added from his own genius the classic lightness and elegance which transformed it into a style which can best be described as, Wren.

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