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Orders of Architecture

An order in architecture is a system or assemblage of parts subject to certain uniform established proportions regulated by the office which such part has to perform, so that the disposition, in a peculiar form, of the members and ornaments, and the proportion of the columns and pilasters, is called an order. There are five orders of architecture, the Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan, and Composite--the first three being of Greek and the last two of Italian origin (see each in this work under its respective title). Considering that the orders of architecture must have constituted one of the most important subjects of contemplation to the Operative Masons of the Middle Ages, and that they afforded a fertile source for their symbolism, it is strange that so little allusion is made to them in the primitive lectures and in the earliest catechisms of the eighteenth century. In the earliest catechism extant, they are simply enumerated, and said to answer "to the base, perpendicular, diameter, circumference, and square" but no explanation is given of this reference. Nor sire they referred to in the Legend of the Craft, or in any of the Old Constitutions. Preston however, introduced them into his system of lectures, and designated the three most ancient orders--the Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian--as symbols of wisdom, strength, and beauty, and referred them to the three original Grand Masters. This symbolism has ever since been retained; and, notwithstanding the reticence of the earlier ritualists, there is abundant evidence, in the architectural remains of the Middle Ages, that it was known to the old Operative Freemasons.

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