Mares of the Craft
In former times, Operative Masons, the Steinmetzen, or Stone Cutters, of Germany, were accustomed to place some mark or sign of their own invention, which, like the monogram of the painters, would seem to identify the work of each. They are to be found upon the cathedrals, churches, castles, and other stately buildings erected since the twelfth century, or a little earlier, in Germany, France, England, and Scotland. As Professor George Godwin has observed in his History in Ruins, it is curious to see that these marks are of the same character, in form, in all these different countries. They were principally crosses, triangles, and other mathematical figures, and many of them were religious symbols. Specimens taken from different buildings supply such forms as are here illustrated.
The last of these is the well-known vesica pisces, the symbol of Christ among the primitive Christians, and the last but one is the Pythagorean pentalpha. A writer in the London Times (August 13, 1835) is incorrect in stating that these marks are confined to Germany, and are to be found only since the twelfth or thirteenth centuries. More recent researches have shown that they existed in many other countries, especially in Scotland, and that they were practiced by the builders of ancient times. Thus Ainsworth, in his Travels (ii, 167), tells us, in his description of the ruins of Al-Hadhy in Mesopotamia, that "every stone, not only in the chief building, but in the walls and bastions and other public monuments, when not defaced by time, is marked with a character which is for the most part either a Chaldean letter or numeral."
M. Didron, who reported a series of observations on the subject of these Masons' Marks to the Comity Historique des Arts et Monuments of Paris, believes that he can discover in them references to distinct schools or Lodges of Freemasons. He divides them into two classes: those of the overseers, and those of the men who worked the stones. The marks of the first class consist of monogrammatic characters; those of the second are of the nature of symbols, such as shoes, trowels, mallets, etc.
A correspondent of the Freemasons Quarterly Revieto states that similar marks are to be found on the stones which compose the walls of the fortress of Allahabad, which was erected in 1542, in the East Indies. He says: The walls are composed of large oblong blocks of red granite, and are almost everywhere covered by Masonic emblems which evince something more than mere ornament. They are not confined to one particular spot, but are scattered over the walls of the fortress, in many places as high as thirty or forty feet from the ground. It is quite certain that thousands of stones on the walls, bearing these Masonic symbols, were carved, marked and numbered in the quarry previous to the erection of the building.
In the ancient buildings of England and France, these marks are to be found in great abundance. In a communication, on this subject, to the London Society of Antiquaries, Professor George Godwin states that, "in my opinion, these marks, if collected and compared might assist in connecting the various bands of operatives, who, under the protection of the Church--mystically united--spread themselves over Europe during the Middle Ages, and are known as Freemasons." Professor Godwin describes these marks as varying in length from two to seven inches, and as formed by a single line, slightly indented, consisting chiefly of crosses, well-known Masonic symbols, emblems of the Trinity and of eternity, the double triangle, trowel, square, etc. The same writer observes that, in a conversation, in September, 18U, with a mason at work on the Canterbury Cathedral, he "found that many Masons, all who were Freemasons, had their mystic marks handed down from generation to generation; this man had his mark from his father, and he received it from his grandfather."
They're traced in lines on the Parthenon Inscribed by the subtle Greek And Roman legions have carved them on Walls, roads and arch antique Long ere the Goth, with vandal hand Gave scope to his envy dark The Mason Craft in many a land Has graven its Mason Mark. The obelisk old and the pyramids, Around which a mystery clings,-- The hieroglyphs on the coffin lids of weird Egyptinn kings,-- Syria. Carthage and Pompeii buried and strewn and stark, Have marble records that will not die, Their primitive Mason Mark. Upon column and frieze and capital, In the eye of the chaste volute-- On Scotia's curve, or an astrogal, ()r in triglyp's channel acute-- Cut somewhere on the entablature, Old oft, like a sudden spark, Flashing a light on a date obscure, Shines many a Mason Mark. These Craftsmen old had a genial whim, That nothing could e'er destroy With a love of their art that naught could dim, They toiled with a chronic joy; Nothing was too complex to essay, In aught they dashed to embark; They triumphed on many an Appian Way, Where they'd left their Mason Mark. Crossing the Alps like Hannibal, Or skirting the Pyranees On peak and plain, in crypt and cell On foot or on bandaged knees,-- From Tiber to Danube, front Rhine to Seine, They needed no "letters of marque ";-- Their art was their passport in France and Spain, And in Britain their Mason Mark. The monolith gray and Druid chair, The pillars and towers of Gael, In Ogham occult their age they bear, That time can only reveal. Live on, old monuments of the past, Our beacons through ages dark! In primal majesty still you'll last Endeared by each Mason Mark. --Anonymous.
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