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C.2.4 The Origin of Geometry

Four Crowned Martyrs
Four Crowned Martyrs - Florence

All manuscripts begin with a similar invocation to the Trinity. There are, of course, some minor differences, probably due to the copyists, but these are not important. This shows the Christian character of the building corporations of the middle Ages that is also corroborated by historical evidences. In Germany, the invocation was also directed to the Virgin Mary and to the Four Crowned Martyrs; this indicates the Catholic influence on the regulations. In England the Virgin and the Martyrs are not mentioned due to the Protestant character of these organisations in this country.

There is then a description of the seven liberal Arts and Sciences and the text is again similar in all the manuscripts, Halliwell MS included. These Arts and Sciences were taught in most schools and universities of the Middle Ages, and even to day Speculative Masonry still reveres them as symbols in the second degree. The importance given to these Arts and Sciences by the Operative Masons is an indication that they wanted to improve the education of their members above the average level reached by most people these days.

Geometry is then said to be identical with Masonry, and this affirmation has been held since the origin of Masonry until now. In other words, Geometry, in this sense, means the whole art of Freemasonry. This also explains why Masonry has adopted mathematical figures such as angles, squares, triangles, circles, etc. as important symbols. In the eighteenth century a Speculative Mason was also known as “Geometrical Mason”.

The Operative Masons of the Middle Ages, who are said to be the heirs of the Architects of Lombardy from whom they acquired their art and organisation, knew some secrets, which allowed them to erect buildings everywhere according to the same principles. They also corresponded with each other to exchange the latest improvements in the building art. One of these secrets was the knowledge of the science of symbolism, and the other the application of the principles of Geometry to the art of building. The geometrical symbols found in the ritual of modern Freemasonry are the remaining traces of the lost geometrical secrets of the Medieval Masons. The importance of Geometry in the building trade was such that architecture was identified with it, and Geometry and Masonry were said to be synonymous.