There is almost nothing anywhere in the early records of Speculative Lodges to suggest either a history or an interpretation of the Pavement, which is represented by a series of black and white squares inside a rectangular frame; nor does there anywhere appear an explanation of why a Blazing Star was set in the middle of it, or why a rope with a tie and tassels in the corners was combined with it. By general consent Masonic symbologists have treated these as separate svmbolisms, yet there must belong together or they would not have been shown together on old Tracing Boards.
Despite this paucity of data the Pavement is one of the most interesting of Masonic symbols, and that interest is heightened with each discover) of news facts. As a design the Pavement itself, whether set from the sides in a system of squares or from a corner in a system of diamonds, is one of the oldest and most universally liked of decorative designs--old as Egypt, or as China, and found at the ends of the earth; and especially beloved by Indians in both N orth and South America w ho have found numberless adaptations of it; checker-work w as one of the favorite motifs of Byzantine artists; and from early Roman times has been so much used in Italy that walls as w ell as floors are decorated with it, outside as w ell as inside. It is one of the few symbols in which non-Masonic meanings and uses correspond with or are identical with Masonic meanings; and it also is one of the few symbols which is Operative and Speculative at one stroke, because Operative builders used a board of floor or tracing paper (or cloth) divided into squares in laying out plans--as architects and engineers still do. In it many types of symbolism converge.
"The Pavement," writes Pike in his Morals and Dogma, " alternately black and white, symbolizes, whether so intended or not, the Good and Evil Principles of the Egyptian and Persian creed. It is the warfare of Michael and Satan . . . " (Perhaps Pike should have written " a creed " because both Egyptians and Persians had many creeds; nevertheless, and apropos of the latter, the dualism was a cardinal doctrine in Zoroastrianism. htithraism, Manicheeism, etc.?
The Pavement also suggests the correct position of the feet; and the fact that in Circumambulation the turns are at right angles, which in itself impresses upon a Candidate the fact that in a Lodge no member can run to and from at will, and that goings and comings are ordered.
The checkered design may be thought of as inlay work or as mosaic work, but in Masonry it is described by the latter word. "Mosaic" is believed by some etymologists to derive from the Latin, by others from the Greek mousa, muse; in either event it passed from Latin into Italian, thence into French, and finally into English (it had no reference to Moses). The Greek artisans of the Byzantine Period used mosaic 60 extensively and so skillfully that it also came to be called in memory of them opus alexandrium, and opus graecanicum; and occasionally it was called opus sedile. But as a Greek art it died out in the Seventh Century, a short time before Charlemagne, and when the Western Empire was about to sever its last ties with the Eastern. In the Eleventh Century it was revived in Italy, and in the great Twelfth Century (which has a better right than the Thirteenth to the title of "greatest of centuries"--granted that there ever was a "greater"!) the extraordinarily talented Cosmati family made their mosaic work so famous that it came to be called Cosmati work.
If, as the majority of Masonic symbologists believe, the black and white squares symbolize day and night, the Pavement is a member of a recurrent theme--the Twenty-four Inch Gage represents the twenty-four hours, the Sun and Moon are day and night, the East is the place of light and the North is the place of darkness, the Master's station is at the beginning of the day and the Junior Warden's is at the end, the postulant is brought from darkness to light, there are High Twelve and Low Twelve. Masons are to know each other in the dark as well as in the light; in the dark a man needs a guide, in the daylight he can guide himself; a man hexes, or buries, his secrets in the dark where no other can find them. These meanings cluster around the symbolism of the Pavement; perhaps the sun is meant by the Blazing Star (as it was once called) and is in the center because it makes the day by its shining and the night by the shadow it casts; and perhaps the rope around the perimeter reminds men that while for the world day and night go on endlessly they do not for him, and only a few days are going to be tied together in his span of them, so that it is good for him, as is the Masons' creed, to work while it is called of day for soon the night cometh when no man can work.
(For an interesting account of the mosaic work of the Cosmati family see Cathedral Builders, by Leader Scott; p. 314 and p.406. Goodyear, in his Roman and Medieval Art, says "The Siena Cathedral is famous for its pavement, the most remarkable in Europe." For a crowded and learned essay on mosaics see page 95 ff of Vol. I, of Porter's Medieval Architecture. There is a chapter on "Italy and Mosaic," in Arts and Crafts of the Middle Ages, by Julia De Wolf Addison. Kugler writes with authority on Cosmati work in Part I, p. 11 ff., of his The Italian Schools of Painting.)
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