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Freemasonic Symbolism and Georgian Gardens
by Patrizia Granziera
The landscape garden was conceived in England between 1710 and 1730—that is, during the period of the European Enlightenment, which coincides with the diffusion of Freemasonry in England and Europe. Many landlords and intellectuals of the eighteenth century were freemasons. Among them were famous people like Alexander Pope, Arbuthnot, Edward Harley, the Earl of Chesterfield, James Addison, Richard Steele, Jonathan Swift, James Thomson, Lord Burlington, Lord Cobham, William Stuckley, Lord Montague, Voltaire, Montesquieu. It is in fact at this point in its history that Freemasonry develops as a focus for intellectuals, politicians, the gentry, artists and architects, thus fostering a continuous exchange of ideas, aesthetic values and beliefs between English and European intellectuals. Freemasons believed in virtue, progress, equality, and they contributed to the preparation of the soil for the late eighteenth century democratic revolutions. These Enlightenment ideals (tolerance, equality, universalism, civic duty, natural religion, morality) which they helped propagate through their international links were also reflected - by means of its iconography and design—in the early "emblematic" landscape garden (1). Once we understand the important role that Freemasonry had in the eighteenth century and we consider that those intellectuals who belonged or had links with this secret society were also responsible for the developments in the arts - landscape architecture included—we cannot but agree that it is important to research the relation between Freemasonry and the early English landscape garden. But we should begin with an introduction on the history of Freemasonry and its role in the eighteenth century.
Modern English Freemasonry came to be publicly known at a meeting of four London lodges on St. John's Day (June 24) 1717, when it was decided to found a new speculative Freemasonry (2). It is at this point that Freemasonry became a focus for intellectuals, politicians, the gentry, artists and architects. Freemasonry, with its mystical overtones and origins dating back to the Middle Ages, held a fascination for the cognoscenti. Medieval stonemasons were called "freemasons" since they were not bound to a guild in any specific city but were forced to wander from place to place where churches were erected. It was through this that the movement acquired the character of an international society. The first masonic manuscripts, the "Old Charges" (3), explain the nature of the connections of the Craft with myth, Antiquity and a moral system of conduct (4). Two common elements of these works on Masonic history are the reference to God as «Great Architect of the Universe» and the definition of the seven liberal arts (Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Astronomy, Harmony and Geometry) with a particular stress upon Geometry, which was considered to be the source of Knowledge, an art which had the potential to re-create the Divine in building, the lost Temple of Solomon itself (5). According to legend, the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem was built by Hiram, who knew some architectural secrets unknown to all others, but was murdered by three apprentices. The initiation ceremony for the master mason grade commemorates this event (6).
For freemasons the Solomonic Temple was an example of divine architecture. Vitruvian ideas and Classical Architecture derived from this structure, and the three orders (Corinthian, Doric, Ionic) of the Temple were brought to Greece and the West by Pythagoras. According to the legend, after the flood Pythagoras found the two pillars on which the secrets of Geometry were inscribed and he, together with the great geometer Hermes Trismegistus, told these secrets to the Greeks. These pillars, among others, were set up by Solomon to build his temple. The right-hand column was called Joachin and it was associated with establishment and legality; the left-hand column was called Boaz and symbolized strength (7). Thus the idea of Geometry, the root of Masonry, as an exclusive and secret art and science handed down from the deities to an élite of people, originated from these legends, which in the eighteenth century became influential in shaping the characteristic masonic self-conscious mythology embedded in ritual..
However, the Rosicrucian movement also played an important role in bringing Hermetic and esoteric Renaissance traditions into Freemasonry. Rosicrucianism was named after Christian Rosenkreutz, the principal mythical character of two manifestos which were published in Kassel in 1614-1615, written by an anonymous author. The "Fama" and the "Confessio" told the story of Rosenkreutz, an enlightened man who travelled, mainly in the Orient (8). He founded the «bretheren of the Rosie Crosse» an association of learned men who were charged to exchange their knowledge, to heal the sick free of charge and to proclaim that the time was at hand for a great advance in the knowledge of nature (9). This reformation of the world, however, was not only based on Evangelic Christianity with its emphasis on brotherly love, but also on Western esoteric traditions.
The link between this esoteric Hermetic movement and the first system of lodges which emerged in Scotland around 1600 appears even more evident when we consider that the masons had long possessed a tradition, enshrined in the Old Charges, that Hermes had played a major part in preserving the knowledge of the mason's craft and transmitting it to mankind after the flood and that the key development in craft history, the teaching of masonry by Euclid, had taken place in Egypt. Rosicrucianism therefore influenced the early development of Freemasonry, adding to the already mixed masonic lore ( the myth of Egypt, Solomon's Temple, The Hermetic quest), the myth of the secret order of invisible brethren, dedicated to the search of ultimate truths and to the understanding of the mysterious universe (10).
Moreover, emerging Freemasonry was also influenced by the Renaissance concept of the architect (11). In the fifteenth and sixteenth century, the architect came to occupy a remarkably exalted position in Renaissance thought. The Vitruvian concept of the architect and the techniques and styles of architecture detailed by Vitruvius were held not only to be relevant to the education of architects but to be essential elements in the education of a gentleman. In Vitruvius's main work The Ten Books of Architecture (first translated into English in the eighteenth century), the architect is seen as the master of all the arts central to human knowledge, including the mathematical arts, thus becoming the Renaissance ideal, the Universal Man (12). The great Stuart architect Inigo Jones, who first made the English public acquainted with Palladian principles of proportion and design, was thought to possess the Vitruvian pretensions of the architect (13). In 1624, in a satire, Ben Jonson wrote about him :
Thus, since the seventeenth century, the comprehensible world of the Vitruvian architect and mathematician and the occult and mystical world of the followers of Hermes Trismegistus and Christian Rosencreutz became two important elements of the freemasonic thought.
It was only in 1717 when Modern English Freemasonry was finally organized under the Grand Lodge of London, formed by the union of four London lodges, that the philosophical symbolism was officially recognized and with it the moral significance of the tools and methods used in the building trade. Utensils such as the square stood for righteousness, justice and virtue and the compass circumscribed moral behaviour and served as a measurement for harnessing the passions: " keep within the compass and you will be sure to avoid many dangers which others endure (15)." The level symbolized equality, the plumb rule and uprightness, the trowel for " spreading the cement of brotherly love (16)." The unhewn stone, or rough ashlar, that is part of the furniture of every Masonic lodge, is said to represent "man in his infant or primitive state, rough and unpolished", the polished stone or perfect ashlar represented man "in the decline of years, after a regular well spent life in acts of piety and virtue (17)." (Fig. 1)
The aristocratic and middle-class fraternity of the eighteenth century still talked of building "Solomon's Temple" which represented perfected man. It was the task of Freemasonry, of its "apprentices", "companions" and "masters" to reconstruct the original proportions of this "moral edifice" and the procedures of building were often used to illustrate the process of spiritual development (18). Those men who joined the Craft belonged to a variety of ranks and religious beliefs, tradesmen, gentlemen, doctors, merchants, Christians, heterodoxists, anticlericals. Many reasons might have motivated these people to become masons. One was the simple social life and conviviality of the Lodge, but another was that enlightened men were attracted by a society where up-to-date ideas could be discussed. Then there was the appeal of the esoteric, secret, and the mysterious (19).
But one of the strongest motives was the desire of amateur architects to further their architectural education .As a Pocket Companion for Free-Masons laid down:
No man ought to attain to any Dignity in Masonry who has not at least a
competent Knowledge in
Masonic lodges became places where gentlemen could receive instruction in mathematics, listen to lectures on the new science, and be part of an association that claimed to be descended from the earliest masonic architects who constructed the ancient temples, the medieval cathedrals and practised the "Royal Art". The freemason and architect Batty Langley (Fig. 2) ran a building school in Mead's Court, Dean Street, where, together with his brother he gave lessons in drawing, geometry, mechanics, architecture (21). He taught :
Young Noblemen and Gentlemen to draw the Five Orders of Columns in Architecture, to design Geometrical Plans and Elevations for Temples, Hermitages, Caves, Grotto's, Cascades, Theatres and other Ornamental buildings of Delight, to lay out, Plant and improve Parks and Gardens,... (22).
In The Constitutions of the Freemasons (1723), James Anderson identifies the history of speculative Freemasonry with an ideological interpretation of the history of Architecture. According to him the "Arts of Building" attained the highest degree of perfection under the emperor Augustus who was the patron of Vitruvius. Then after the dark period of the Middle Ages one began "...to discover the Confusion and Improperty of the Gothic Buildings, and in the Fifteenth and Sixtheenth Century the AUGUSTAN STYLE was raised from its rubbish in Italy...". Among all the architects of the Renaissance the importance of Palladio and Inigo Jones is stressed: "...above all the Great Palladio who has not been duly imitated in Italy though justly rivaled in England by our great Master-Mason Inigo Jones..." (23) James Anderson is an important figure since his book The Constitutions of the Freemasons, Containing the History, Charges, Regulations of that Most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity. For the use of the Lodges (1722)—in which he reported the history of the society and the Charges and regulations of masonic conduct—remained the major source of masonic ideology throughout the world. Anderson referred to the "Old Charges" but he modernised them.
As far as religion is concerned, he wrote that freemasons had to believe in the "Religion in which all Men agree"—that is, in a Universal Religion or the Religion of Nature (24). The essence of this Natural Religion was based upon the belief in a Supreme Principle Creator and in the understanding of the moral law. In all freemasonic documents we find the expression: "In the name of the almighty Creator of the world". Thus modern Freemasonry was a religious fraternity, where freemasons as individuals could profess any creed except atheism. This opened the way for the admission of members with different religious belief and heterodox ideas resulting in an organization that takes no position regarding creeds or religious beliefs beyond requiring that candidates believe in one supreme Being (25). As increasing numbers of men reacting against the bitter religious conflicts of the mid-century moved towards deism or pantheism, masonic lodges in which by tradition doctrinal religion had no part could not fail to seem attractive. John Toland, one of the leading figures of the radical thinkers of the Enlightenment is known to have belonged to a masonic society (26).
Modern Freemasonry placed itself outside public society and thus it was independent and indifferent to governments policies. The charge which refers to politics reveals this attitude in a subtle, diplomatic way:
A Mason is a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concern'd in Plots and Conspirancies against the Peace and Welfare of the Nation....if a Brother should be a Rebel against the state, he is not to be countenanc'd in his Rebellion, however he may be pitied as unhappy Man; and, if convicted of no other Crime, though the loyal Brotherhood must and ought to disown his Rebellion, and give no Umbrage or Ground of political Jealousy to the Government for the time being; they cannot expel him from the Lodge, and his Relation to it remains indefeasible (27).
A freemason could plot against the state without risking being expelled from the Craft. Freemasons wanted to avoid conflict with the government but at the same time did not support government policy. The lodge sought to make a better society through the virtue of each brother practised within a constitutional. setting derived from British political tradition. The eighteenth-century British masons attempted to recreate the order, civility and harmony they imagined to have been embodied in the practices of the ancient constitutional government enshrined in the Revolution Settlement of 1689. Freemasonry encouraged fraternity and equality, as seen in the following passage:
The whole world is but one great republic, of which every nation is a family and every particular person is a child. To revive and spread abroad those ancient maxims drawn from the nature of man, is one of the ends of our establishment. We wish to unite all men of an agreeable humour and enlightened understanding, not only by the love of the polite arts but still more by the great principles of virtue; and from such a union, the interest of the fraternity becomes that of all mankind (28).
These utopian sentiments could justify demands for concrete reforms, for the translation of those private masonic ideals into public action: the abolition of privileges and corruption and the institution of true fraternity and equality for all men. However moderate and nonconspiratorial it may have been, its belief in civic duty, virtue and the progress of human betterment gradually turned against traditional privileges and established hierarchical authority and prepared the soil for the late eighteenth century democratic revolutions in Europe. Politicians feared that it could supply the focus for any potential revolt against them since its utopian ideals and its rules ( the Charge on government and politics) allowed it without admitting it clearly. This was one reason why princes, kings and politicians of the eighteenth century wanted to participate in Freemasonry and be on good terms with it. Walpole is a typical example of somebody who became a mason in order to secure his position in the government. Being a freemason allowed him to keep check on the radical fringe of the Whig party (29) and on his opponents and to reinforce useful international political alliances (30).
This introduces the problem of the position of British freemasons within the political context of the century governed by Walpole. With the election of Robert Walpole as Finance Minister in 1721 politics were stable but the stability rested on the systematic corruption of the Parliament by the executive. Walpole knew how to manoeuvre his rivals and was able to raise his position from Finance Minister to Prime Minister. He enjoyed the full confidence of the king and had the control of the Crown's extensive patronage. He dominated the political life of his time because he was able to control the members of political society in a network of patronage and influence by awarding government positions and pensions to his supporters in Parliament. By doing so he brought the institutions of government into grave disrepute. This lax political pragmatism proved that one of the most important Whig beliefs on the moral qualities necessary to preserve a free government was no longer respected and this was seen as a threat to the foundations of England's liberty-preserving "mixed" constitution (31).
The development of this separation between power and morality, political reality of the time and ideal socio-political concepts of the English Revolution legacy brought about a gradual dissolution of the old party division as well as the development of a strengthened Parlamentary Opposition party composed of discontented Whigs and reformed Tories (32). By 1711 Shaftesbury had to admit that after 1688 Whigs and Tories could no longer be identified with distinct social classes, because also a: " ..noted friend to Liberty in Church and State an Abhorror of the slavish dependancy on Courts " when in possession of power can, despite his principles, become a " Royal Flatterer, a Courtier against his Nature... (33)." Commonwealthmen like John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon expressed the same conviction in one of their Cato's Letters (1724):
A Tory under oppression or out of Place, is a Whig, and a Whig with Power to oppress, is a Tory (34).
Therefore during the Georgian period the old party division became more a division between the Court party (the party in power) and the Country party, as the Opposition was defined (35). Many people involved in the new experiments of garden design belonged to this Country party (36). Linda Colley, in her study on the Tory party from 1714 to 1760, argues that the Tories simply modified their attitude to meet changing circumstances but preserved their ideological identity despite the necessary alliances with Dissident Whigs. She concludes that a neutral and ideologically homogeneous Country party never existed (37). It is certainly true that in the early Hanoverian period it proved very difficult to organize an effective opposition with a distinctive ideology and coherent policy. The different elements making up the Country Opposition could not agree, for example, about matters of religion or about who should enjoy active political power. Nevertheless, none of the various element of the opposition wished to overturn the constitution. The radical Whigs, described as Commonwealthmen or classical republicans, were not democrats or opponents to the monarchy. The opposition Tories, for their own part, gradually severed all links with Jacobism and reconciled themselves to both the Revolution settlement and the Hanoverian succession. It was the fear of corruption, more than anything else, which united the disparate elements into an ideologically motivated opposition to the political methods adopted by the establishment Whigs (38). Their campaign was as much moral as it was political. They all agreed on an ethic of civic virtue which maintained that society and civil government could only be preserved by the patriotic action and public spirit of man of property. However , the 'ideal' national regeneration they were longing for, was conceived, within a merely utopian framework, as their aim was ( at least at this first stage 1722-1760): " to effect a confrontation of the actual world of Augustan England with a country of the mind (39)."
Therefore, the secret masonic society may have represented the ideal, virtuous, liberal society that the Country party was longing for. It provided an ethical system that emphasized fraternity, friendship and equality as well as the value of liberty. These values were much praised by the Opposition: Lord Cobham erected the Temple of Friendship at Stowe, and here he used to meet his circle of friends, namely those on the side of the patriotic Opposition. This same building was later named the Temple of Liberty in order to express the main belief of those people whom he met there. Freemasonry could also furnish a sufficiently broad religiosity of its memebers to accomodate both the Christian and the heterodox or the anticlerical, and the Opposition was composed both by catholics like Pope and anticlericals like the radical Whigs. Moreover, the masonic emphasis on order, morality, virtue, fraternity and tolerance, naturally put freemasons on the side of the virtuous "country" ideals as opposed to the "court," which in Walpole's era stood for decadence and corruption.
Nevertheless the constitutional order that permitted men to even imagine such perfect civil society was appropriated after 1689 by a landed and commercial oligarchy that identified itself with the court. Eighteenth century British freemasons were caught in a cultural and rhetorical dilemma. They identified with the ideals of the country, but their leadership lived, for the most part, like the court. As a result the lodges never posed a threat to the state. Yet Freemasonry was perceived as a potentially dangerous institution and could house a variety of radical thinkers or people with oppositional political perspectives. Some of these radical Whigs, (40) disillusioned with the outcome of the Revolution of 1688-9 at home, ventured across the channel to seek followers and they found them in the Netherlands (41). These freemasons from the early eighteenth century onward brought their discontent with the post-revolutionary order in England to the Continent and exported into northern Europe an institution that could provide a social nexus for displaced idealists, political agents and subversive thinkers (42). This republican coterie safely tucked away in the Hague was also well connected with the opposition Country party in England (43).
Freemasonry and Garden Architecture
What stands out from this account of Freemasonry is that the importance of the role played by this secret society within the context of the Enlightenment thought was an important one and must be taken into account when considering this historical period. It is significant that all these whom we have noted as influential in the creation of the landscape garden had strong connections with Freemasonry (44).As we have seen this secret society corresponded to a utopian world where they could freely express their virtuous "country" ideals. Having established this, we need now to discuss whether we can detect in the architecture of their gardens any reference to freemasonic ideas. We have discussed above how the Vitruvian concept of the architect and the importance of architecture as a culmination of all other studies and therefore superior to them, reached England in the sixteenth century and at about the same time it became a fundamental concept of Freemasonry. Together with this Renaissance concept of the architect as the master of all the arts central to human knowledge, the other Vitruvian concept, followed by Renaissance architects like Alberti and Palladio, which became a basic ideal of Freemasonry since the seventeenth century, was the dialectic between Architecture and Morality.
The reconstruction of the Solomonic Temple in freemasonic thought, represented both the intention to imitate the rules of a "divine" architecture and to apply the natural laws of proportion and balance as part of the search for an individual and common purification. The Temple was the greatest achievement of Architecture in ancient society, and so the preliminaries to a purification of society and a reconstruction of the last values of that ancient society were achievable by reconstructing the Temple. The Temple became a moral edifice as an example of what was noble and splendid and true in the first ages of the world. In eighteenth century England, Shaftesbury - who most probably was a freemason (45) (Fig. 3) - revived this concept of the moral function of art applying to the Neoplatonic concept of architecture as the first manifestation of the cosmic order, his Moral philosophy of the "beautiful balanced soul" thus asserting the correspondence between the harmony of the soul and the harmony of Architecture (46). As a result, architecture becomes expression of the "Inner Beauty" that is the Morality and Virtue of his creator: "..The beauty and effect of their art consists in representing moral truth (inward numbers) by means of harmonious symbols (outward numbers) (47)."
Shaftesbury 's dialectic between Architecture and Morality and his idea of the "wise man" who following moral behaviour becomes the "Architect of his own life" corresponds to the idea of the reconstruction of an internal moral Temple that each freemason with his behaviour endeavoured to reconstruct.
The purpose of masonic initiation was to lead the probationer to knowledge through inner enlightenment. During the initiation he was transformed symbolically into Hiram, the legendary builder of the Temple. Thus it was not an external Temple that had to be built, but an internal invisible one. It was the life and soul of men that had to be the building material of the "Royal Art". This temple was usually represented in the Renaissance with a circular shape similar to the Pantheon. In 1554 Jean de Tournes in the illustrations of the Bible of Condé (Fig. 4) represented the temple as a "rotunda" with a dome like Von Heemkerk in 1557. In Martin Von Heemkerk's engraving (Fig. 5) of the Temple the two pillars Joachim and Boaz are also represented. (These two pillars signified the entrance to the Temple-Lodge not only as a memory of the Temple of Jerusalem but also as reminder of the seeking, finding and keeping of lost wisdom). Thus Pantheon-like structures found their way into Masonic design as the exemplum of the Solomonic Temple with all its symbolic and allusory properties.(Fig. 6)
The circular building was also for Palladio the best representation of classical architecture and in his Quattro Libri he refers with admiration to Bramante's round temple of S. Pietro Montorio in Rome (48). We know that Palladio had been fascinated by this structure, since he copied drawings of Roman Mausolea like the Mausoleum of Romulus and the Temple of Palestrina and realized his ideal villa (La Rotonda) as a centralized Temple-like form (49). The eighteenth century conception of Palladio's Rotonda as the building which best represents the relationship between Palladio and the ancients can also be detected in the "Capriccio con la Rotonda" painted by Canaletto during his journey to England (1750-55) (50). In this Capriccio, the Rotonda is painted with a structure similar to the Pantheon, thus stressing the link between Palladio and its classical sources. (Fig. 7)
It is no surprise then if the eighteenth century English connoisseurs chose the temple-like building- exemplified in the Rotonda - as the best representation of Palladian classical architecture, probably attributing to it (since they were freemasons) the masonic and allusory properties discussed above. If we consider the influence of Palladio on the most important promoter of English Palladianism, Lord Burlington, we can realize how the Earl was especially interested in reviving the classical purity of Palladio and his famous villa at Chiswick can be considered as an anticipation of the neo-classic style (51). If we compare Chiswick villa (1726-9) with one of its main sources Palladio's Villa Capra (La Rotonda 1570) we see how the Roman character prevails in the former (Fig.8-9). The octagonal dome hall and the thermal windows derive from the drawings of Roman baths which Burlington bought in Italy in 1730 (52).(Fig.10). The ceiling of the Gallery apses and the octagonal dome are coffered somewhat along the lines of the Palladian illustration of the Temple of Venus in Rome (53).(Fig.11-12). At Chiswick these Roman ceiling features are unparalleled in grandeur and variety of forms in spite of the minuteness of the building scale. The dimensions of the house have always been a mystery to the point of wondering if Chiswick is more a garden with a villa or a villa with a garden (54). The interpretation of a garden with a villa is strengthened by the Jane Clarke's latest research on the villa's possible significance as a masonic temple (55).
In the garden, the link with Freemasonry is also reinforced by the presence of two sphinxes on the gatepiers (Fig. 13) and a miniature Pantheon with an obelisk on a circular pond standing in front of it .It was generally believed that the prototypes of initiatory architecture were Egyptian (Fig. 14-15), as Egypt was the home of Hermetic magic developed by the Egyptian priests who venerated Hermes Trismegistus, first Magus (56). In the same way the presence of pyramids and pyramid-like forms in the early English landscape gardens like Cirencester, Castle Howard, Stowe, Rousham, Studley Royal, Castle Hill, at such an early stage - well before the later eighteenth century archaeological explorations of ancient civilisations - could be understood as an expression of masonic ideals of the garden's owner.
Pope's preference for pyramids is testified by his letter to Lord Bathurst where he advised his friend to consider building a pyramid in his park (57). The English architect Hawksmoor designed the pyramid that decorates the landscape of Castle Howard (Fig. 16). In that same garden Lord Carlisle engaged Vanbrugh to design together with the gateway surmounted by a heavy pyramid, an obelisk (1714) on the approach road to Castle Howard (Fig. 17-18). The fact that the obelisk was intended as a reference to Egypt—though it was amply favoured by the Romans as funerary architecture—is clear by the following letter written in 1742 by Pope (who erected an obelisk in his own garden), where he advised his friend Martha Blount to build an obelisk in her garden at Sherbourne Park in Dorset in honour to the family of Lord Digby:
I would sett up at the entrance of'em an Obelisk, with an inscription of the Fact: which would be a Monument erected to the very ruins; as the adorning & beautifying them in the manner I have been imagining, would not be unlike the Egyptian Finery of bestowing Ornament and curiosity on dead bodies (58).
The obelisks in freemasonic symbolism were associated with the sun and mythologized astronomical phenomena. They were symbols of continuity, power, stability, resurrection and immortality. At Stourhead this symbolism of the obelisk was reinforced by a copper sun or"mythra" which surmounted it. The proof of its existence is given by a poem published in the December issue (1748) of The Gentleman's Magazine and by a report given in 1755 by James Hanway which described the obelisk as one hundred feet tall and situated on the highest point at the end of the terrace called Fir Walk (59). An obelisk, situated at the centre of an octagonal pool (Fig. 19), was also present at Stowe (dismantled in 1759) together with a pyramid sixty feet high (Fig. 20) which was probably the last building conceived for Stowe by Vanbrugh. It was already in place in 1724 when Viscount Perceval visited Stowe : "The Pyramid at the End of one of the walks is a copy in miniature of the most famous one in Egypt, and the only thing of its kind I think in England (60)."
William Kent, was probably aware of the meanings associated with the obelisk and the pyramidal form, since, not only did he design an obelisk for Thomas Coke's country estate at Holkham Hall, he also placed a stepped pyramid over the central block of his Temple of British Worthies at Stowe (Fig. 21). Within the oval niche of the aforementioned pyramid was set a bust of Mercury. Mercury was an important figure for freemasons as his Greek name was Hermes, the messenger of the Gods, the herald and keeper of mysteries and also the god of trial and initiation. He was called Trismegistus, the Thrice-Greatest Hermes who was identified with Euclid (and hence with Pythagoras) and after whom Hermetic (or Egyptian) wisdom was named (61).
At Rousham, according to MacClary's letter (1750), a pyramid building was also erected in the garden in 1738/39, while in the Praeneste the presence of a statue of Mercury/Hermes is mentioned. This mythological figure is also present at Chiswick House. As explained by Jane Clarke, the ceiling painting in the Red Velvet Room portrays the resurrection of the arts by Hermes/Mercury. The masonic symbols of mallet, compass and square are all present. The painting is dominated by Hermes accompanied by two putti, one holding a jewel and one a cornucopia, another masonic symbol. The central panel of the ceiling is surrounded by other signs of the zodiac with their Gods. The study of the stars was an important aspect of Hermetic philosophy and key to secret knowledge (62). The signs of the Zodiac adorn the ceiling of many a lodge and this supports Clarke's thesis of the use of Chiswick House as a masonic temple. What may also be interesting is the fact that Burlington based the Assembly Room at York on Palladio's Egyptian Hall and the lodge at Edinburgh and Dublin, to mention but two, are Egyptian Halls.
Furthermore, as mentioned above, Burlington's miniature Pantheon and its obelisk in circular space, also bear a masonic message (Fig. 22). Coustos explained the masonic symbol of the point within a circle: "the Compass being placed with one of its points on the ground cannot fail in the correctness of the circle which the other point describes, thus also the Master should circumscribe his actions so they be without fault, and thus complying set a good example to others (63)." An engraving of Claremont, recently discussed by John Harris and which he dated to the period of Newcastle's patronage of Kent, shows a miniature domed pantheon-like temple (unexecuted) with a four column portico on the top of the garden amphitheatre (64). Similarly to Chiswick, in the centre of the circular pond in front of the Pantheon, was set an obelisk. (Fig. 23) The same pantheon-like building with an obelisk in front of it is shown on the first page of a Masonic song-book published in Berlin. (Fig. 24) and appeared in a text vignette in in Shaftesbury's Characteristik of Men.. (1714) where it was shown as "Templum felicitatis" (Fig. 25).
This tradition appears to have been continued later in the century when neo-classical architects took on what had been established in England before 1750. James Curl has demonstrated that the neo-classicist fascination for Pantheon-like forms combined with pyramids, obelisks and blank walls derived from Piranesi's visions of real buildings of Antiquity, had strong links with Freemasonry (65). Essentially his argument is that the key figures of the neo-classicism were freemasons and they were inspired by masonic symbolism. The same argument could hold true for the revival of Palladianism since this movement was exported to the Continent and to America, through the Lodges, as a first stage of neo-classicism: Algarotti, Fredrich II, Lodoli's circle, Laugier, Ledoux, Boullée and some of the revolution architects were famous promoters of a classical Neo-Palladianism and prominent freemasons (66). The Rotonda as villa temple, for example, became the model of neo-classical French architects like the freemason Ledoux (67). (Fig. 26)
It may be asserted therefore that the eighteenth century enlightened English élite looked at Palladio in search of its classicism because this reflected the order and simplicity of the ancient civilisations who derived their architectural rules from the Temple of Solomon. After all this we can suggest that the presence in the landscape garden of round temples (Temple in the Wood at Holkham Hall (Fig.27), Temple of Ancient Virtue and Temple of Friendship at Stowe (Fig. 28-29) , Mausoleum at Castle Howard (Fig.30), Temple of Apollo at Stourhead (Fig. 31) Rotunda at Hagley Hall, Doric Temple at Rousham) rotunda like buildings (Temple of Four Winds at Castle Howard) (Fig. 32) and Pantheon-like building ( Stourhead, Chiswick) (Fig. 33) could - not only refer to Gaspard or Poussin paintings - but also to the round form of the Solomonic Temple, the prime model from which Vitruvian Classical Architecture derived. The creators of those gardens, most of whom were freemasons, certainly knew that this kind of building had potent symbolic visual properties. We know that Ralph Allen's architect John Wood, when planning the park chapel for the garden at Prior Park, made an explicit reference to the Solomonic Temple as he wrote he would build the chapel : " in the manner in which King Solomon finished the inside of this Temple of Jerusalem" (68). This masonic interpretation would add to the richness of the referents, since the round temple already existed in antiquity, was taken up by Bramante, and in its plan and section represented a model of the perfection of the universe which is probably another reason why freemasons, who were concerned with the perfectibility of the people, took it as the ultimate model of architecture.
(1) See Patrizia Granziera, The Ideology of the English Landscape Garden 1720-1750, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Warwick, 1997. See also Christopher McIntosh, "Gardens of Initiation: Horticulture, Esoteric Symbolism, and the Spirit of Play," in R. Caron, J. Godwin et al., eds., Ésotérisme, Gnoses, and Imaginaire Symbolique: Mélanges offerts à Antoine Faivre, (Leuven: Peeters, 2001): 625-638.
(2) These lodges took their names from London pubs (The Goose and Gridiron Ale-House in St. Paul's Churchyard; Crown Ale-House in Parker's Lane, Apple-Tree Tavern in Charles-Street, Covent Garden; Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Charles Row, Westminster). Douglas Knoop, G.P Jones., The Genesis of Freemasonry, Manchester, 1949, pp.159-163.
(8) Their titles are: Allgemeine und general Reformation der gantzen weiten Welt. Beneben der Fama Fraternitatis dess löblichen Orders des Rosenkreutzes, an alle Gelehrte und Häupter Europas geschrieben e Fama Fraternitatis. Beneben Confession oder Bekantniss derselben Fraternitet, an alle Gelehrte und Häupter in Europa gescrieben. C. Francovich, Storia della massoneria in Italia dalle Origini alla Rivoluzione Francese, Firenze, 1975, p. 5.
(9) Yates, F. A The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1972, pp. 67-70. Yates explains that the Rosicrucian manifestos were connected to Frederick V and contained political and religous allusions to the time when Frederick, head of the union of German Protestant princes, tried to conquer Bohemia and take the place of the Catholic king Ferdinand of Habsburg. This would have been the universal reformation announced in the manifestos that the Bohemian wanted to realize with the help of the Palatinate Elector.
(14) F. A. Yates, Theatre of the World,, London, Routlege and Kegan Paul, 1969, pp. 88-89. In Anderson's Constitutions of Freemasonry, 1721, Inigo Jones is referred to as " Great Master Mason". See also A.A. I. Campagnol, "Le costituzioni dei liberi muratori", Rivista massonica, 56, 1989, p. 187.
(30) His house Houghton Hall was the scene of one lodge meeting, the initiation in 1731 of Francis Duke of Lorraine. That initiation occurred precisely at a time when Walpole was seeking to reinforce Austrian-English relations, for the purpose of preventing a European war. His ambiguous behaviour towards this secret society is also proved by the fact that he financed a newspaper called The Freemason whose first number ( 13 November 1733) issued a satirical article where Freemasonry was ridiculed. See A. Mellor, Unsere Getrennten Bruder die Freimauer, Graz, 1964, pp. 116-117.
(31) Geoffrey Holmes and Daniel Szechi, The Age of Oligarchy, New York, 1993, pp. 12-26; G. V. Bennet, "Jacobitism and the Rise of Walpole" in McKendrick, Neil ed., Historical Perspectives in English Thought and Society in Honour of J.H. Plumb, London, 1974, pp. 70-92; A. S. Foord, His Majesty's Opposition 1714-1830, Oxford, 1964; William Speck, Stability and Strife, London 1977; J. H. Plumb, England in the Eighteenth Century, London, 1950 and Sir Robert Walpole, London 1960; Christine Gerrard, The Patriot Opposition to Walpole: Politics, Poetry and National Myth, 1725-1742, New York, 1994; Linda Colley, In Defiance of Oligarchy, Cambridge, 1982.
(34) Thomas Gordon and John Trenchard between November 1720 and July 1723 published a series of letters signed by " Cato" first in the London Journal , later in the British Journal. These appeared with a number of additions by Gordon as Cato's Letters, 4 Vols., London 1724. These two writers belonged to that group of Whig neo-Harringtonians ( James Tyrell, Andrew Fletcher, Henry Nevile, Walter Moyle, Robert Molesworth, ) who believed in the Whig canon of ideas about political liberty and associated with Shaftesbury's campaign at the time of the Exclusion Crisis. J.A.A. Pocock, Politics, Language and Time, New York, 1971, pp.115-33.
(36) The Opposition was heterogeneous, but we can say that it was composed mainly of two groups: the reformed Tories and later those disappointed Whigs which were often referred to as the Boy Patriots. The group of liberal Tories had Viscount Bolingbroke, owner of Dawley Farm, as a leader. Returned from exile in 1723 after being pardoned for complicity with the Jacobites he was forbidden to resume his seat in the House of Lords. His associates included Lord Bathurst ( 1684-1775), the owner of Cirencester country seat and a member of the Scribblerus club, the centre of the Tory propaganda campaign against Walpole which was led by Swift in 1713 and which included Bolingbroke, Pope , Dr. Arbuthnot and Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford. The latter was another Tory who, after the Whigs' triumph, decided to sympathize with the liberal Tories. He retired to his estate (Dawn Hall, Wimpole) to cultivate the arts and learning, and fraternized with Pope and Swift among others. The Boy Patriots included Lord Cobham (Stowe), Lyttleton, Allen, Pitt, the Whig architects Pembroke and Burlington with their gardeners Bridgemen and Kent, as well as Southcote (Worburn farm) Shenstone (Leasowe) and Dormer (Rousham). Patrizia Granziera The Ideology of the English Landscape Garden 1720-1750 , unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Warwick, 1997.
(42) Shaftesbury journeyed frequently to the Netherlands and was a great friend of Benjamin Furly an English republican who maintained a salon in Rotterdam , kept a library of heretical books and established his home as meeting place between English republicans, Dutch dissenters, French refugees. According to Jacob, Shaftesbury thought of his associates in the Netherlands as the «Holland Whig Party» and endeavoured to distribute copies of Toland's edition of Harrington's work Oceana among them. Ibid., p. 93.
(43) Bolingbroke, a promoter of the Opposition ideals, had friends among the radicals in the Netherlands and endorsed the masonic society called «the Knight of Jubilation» which was founded in 1710 at the Hague ( with the participation of Toland and Anthony Collins) and whose member where mainly pantheists and republicans. Ibid., pp. 93-94.
(45) We know already of Shaftesbury's probable connection with a lodge created in The Hague in 1710, whose members were mostly republicans and pantheists. Further evidence of his membership of the fraternity is the illustration on the first page of his work Characteristicks published in 1714: the emblems of all the arts based on mathematical and geometrical science are here united and the "Royal Art" of Freemasonry is also represented by a brotherly shake of hands over an altar composed of the three geometrical figures of square, circle and triangle.
(51) Richard Boyle 3rd Earl of Burlington (1694-1753), who most contributed to the diffusion of the ancient Roman canons of architecture as formulated by Vitruvius and practised by the apostle Palladio, was a Whig and for the first three years of George I's reign enjoyed the height of his political success, but when in the spring of 1733 Sir Robert Walpole brought in the Excise Bill, he joined the Opposition with Bathurst, Chesterfield and Cobham, and like many of the opposition members, decided to retire to the country : "At once...he ceased to be a Whig thus forfeiting all future chances of favour. Then as though to cast off forever his association with the capital and ministerial functions he packed up the best of his pictures and moved them permanently to Chiswick.." James Lees-Milne, Earls of Creation, London, 1962, p. 59; This book provides the best all-around account of Burlington life. More recent work includes: the exibition catalogue, Apollo and the Arts, Lord Burlington and his Circle, ed. J. Wilton-Ely, University Gallery Nottingham, 1973; Lord Burlington and his Circle (Papers given at a Georgian Symposium on 22nd May 1982) and Lord Burlington: Architecture, Art and Life, London, 1995 ed. by Toby Barnard and Jane Clark.
(52) Burlington published in 1730 "Fabbriche Antiche", a first volume of a planned two volume set, covering the unpublished reconstructions of ancient buildings drawn by Palladio and bought by Burlington during his second Grand Tour. The first volume concentrating mainly on Roman Baths consists of twenty-six engraved plates. The second volume on arches, theatres and temples never appeared. See Dana Arnold, Belov'd by Ev'ry Muse, Essays to celebrate the tricentenary of the birth of Lord Burlington. London, 1995, p. 515.
(55) Jane Clarke, "The Mysterious Mr. Buck", Apollo, 129, 1989, pp. 317-322. In a recent article: "Palladianism and the Divine Right of the Kings", (Apollo, April, 1992) Jane Clark argues that Lord Burlington could have belonged to a Jacobite lodge, thus proving the links between the revival of Palladianism and the Jacobite ideals. As a proof of this she discusses the masonic symbolism of Chiswick with reference to the higher degree of the Royal Arch and the so called « Scottish or Ancient Masonry». But the Scottish Masonry was simply a more elaborate form of masonic philosophizing, it meant all the higher grades which were added to the three authorized by English Freemasonry , it did not come from Scotland and was not all a Jacobite plot, on the contrary , as Jacob maintains it reflected a more radical «country» idealism. The schism between the Ancients and Moderns occurred in 1740 and was a revolt of lesser men against betters. Brothers began to criticize the social exclusivity of some lodges and to demand a more egalitarism. Their literature suggests more democratic tendencies in the English world, included a dedication to virtue and merit and more stress on the cult of Hermes and Hermetic philosophy with its pantheistic and cabalist associations. See J. Roberts, op. cit., pp. 94-100, M.C. J. Jacob, Living the Enlightenment. Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth Century Europe, New York, 1991, p. 54, 60-63; A. E. Waite, A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, London, MLMXXI, p. 403.
(64) Thomas Pelham, Duke of Newcastle was created Master mason of the Norwich Maid's Head Lodge in 1731 together with Philip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield (Chesterfield House), J. Anderson, op. cit., p. 129.
(66) C. Mignot, "Lettura del Palladio nel XVII secolo: una riservata ammirazione" in Palladio e la sua eredita' nel mondo , Milano, 1980, pp. 207-213; M. Gallet and M. Mosser, "Il neo-classicismo o il vero Palladio riscoperto", in ibid., pp.195-206; W. H. Adams, The eye of Thomas Jefferson , Charlottesville, 1981, pp. 234-304.
(67) C.N. Ledoux, E.L. Boulleé, J.J. Lequeu and many architects working in Paris in the 1770 and 1780 were known freemasons and in their architectural design they utilised a vast vocabulary of Masonic or quasi-masonic emblems. See Werner Oechslin, "Premesse all'Architettura Rivoluzionaria", Controspazio , 1970, Gen/feb, pp.2-13; Anthony Vidler, The Writing of the Walls, Princeton 1987, and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, Architecture and Social Reform at the end of the Ancien Regime, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1990.
(68) John Wood, An Essay towards a Description of Bath , Bath, Kingsmead reprints,1749, p. 433. John Wood was a freemason, who in his architectural treatise The Origin of Building: or the Plagiarism of the Heathen detected (1741), derives the origins of the proportional rules and Vitruvian orders from the Solomonic Temple.
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