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Architecture and Speculative Masonry

An illustrated series, in five parts, explaining unusual terms and the Five Orders of Architecture

by Most Worshipful Brother Ralph E. Legeman
Grand Master of Indiana


Most Worshipful Brother Legeman is a professional architect of national repute. It was a natural development therefore that, as Master of Evansville Lodge No. 64 in 1945, he should prepare for the Craft a series of illustrated articles concerned with the unfamiliar terms we hear in the Fellow Craft lecture--thereby bringing "further light" to a much neglected subject.

THE FIVE PARTS which comprise Grand Master Legeman's series on "Architecture and Speculative Masonry" are here reproduced exactly as they appeared in "The Indiana Freemason," official monthly publication of the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of Indiana.

THE FIVE PARTS which comprise Grand Master Legeman's series on "Architecture and Speculative Masonry" are here reproduced exactly as they appeared in "The Indiana Freemason," official monthly publication of the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of Indiana.




THE middle chamber lecture of the Fellow Craft degree is one of the least understood of all Masonic lectures. Yet, from the standpoint of the Ancient Craft Operative Mason, it is one of the most essential parts of our work.

A study of this lecture reveals that it is a masterpiece of condensation of facts into a minimum of words. From the standpoint of the Speculative Mason, it is merely essentials boiled down to a minimum, and should serve to create a desire for further elaboration through intensive study.

While there are many parts to the Middle Chamber lecture, this series of articles will consider only one--that part which deals with the Five Orders of Architecture. It briefly describes the Five Orders and mentions many of the essentials and details only by mere technical terms. To the student of architecture, these technical terms are sufficient to enable him to grasp the intent of this part of the lecture. To the candidate who is without a knowledge of architecture, they are merely a "jumble" of words. Should the words be delivered by a Senior Deacon who does not understand them himself, they become even more confusing.

In this series we literally will take apart this section of the Middle Chamber lecture and analyze it; and we start with the first statement, which is only a generalization:

By order in architecture is meant a system of all the members, proportions, and ornaments of columns and pilasters. Or it is a regular arrangement of the projecting parts of a building, which, united with those of a column, form a beautiful, perfect, and complete work.

The first question which arises in the mind of the student is, "What is meant by order?"

While it will take a complete discussion of the Five Orders of Architecture to complete the answer to this question, we might state in a general way that order in this instance is the general term applied to a system of columns (free-standing vertical supports) and pilasters (a simulation of a column built integral with the wall behind it), supporting an architrave (that portion of the entablature which comprises the horizontal structure supported by the columns), together with the other members completing this entablature. Reference is made to Figure 1 for identification of these parts.

Order is basic, and is further classified into five types: the Tuscan, the Doric, the Ionic, the Corinthian, and the Composite. Details of the component parts of the order determine the classification into which it should be placed. Such details include the proportions of the columns, (height compared to diameter), the type of column base and cap, and certain specific details of ornament in connection with the entablature.

The next statement in the lecture elaborates upon this:

From the first formation of society, order in architecture may be traced. When the rigors of the seasons obliged men to contrive shelter from the inclemency of the weather, we learn that they first planted trees on end, and then laid others across, to support a covering. The bands which connected these trees at the top and bottom, are said to have given rise to the idea of the base and capital of pillars; and from this simple hint originally proceeded the more improved art of architecture.

From this let us visualize the earliest form of shelter. When it is stated that "We learn that they first planted trees on end," we do not necessarily interpret this to mean that they planted living or growing trees, but that they probably cut such trees and stood them on end. This meant that they had to anchor them at the bottom, perhaps by some form of tying--hence the column base. Then they had to place other cut trees across the tops of these vertical trees, with the first layer across the vertical supports and another layer at right angles to the first layer. This would require some form of tying together, which can be imagined as the suggestion for a column capital. These ties, as well as the projecting ends of the timbers, could easily give a suggestion for the ornament of the architrave.

Figure 2 indicates this primitive method, as well as the late development which it suggests. It will take only a little thought to visualize the possible though unrecorded development from this primitive suggestion down to the current century.

Should it be said that this is purely romance and conjecture, for want of a better explanation, let us consider that architecture or building (whichever you wish to call it) is generally developed through the experience of adding innovations to something already tried. As a rule these innovations are normally a result of trying to solve a new problem where there has been no precedent.

We might consider the early Greek temples. Quite often they consisted of a colonnade or colonnades surrounding a small center enclosure. They were windowless. The center enclosure was small and had small openings in either the side walls or in the roof, to allow the sun to enter. The form of worship did not require a large room for the assembly of a crowd. These temples were designed for a definite purpose.

The same order was applied to other buildings, but it necessitated changes or innovations. When the Romans applied it to the Coliseum it took on quite a change in both shape and form, yet it retained the same basic proportions and details.

The whole development was a case of using ingenuity and applied common sense. When the Greeks started using marble for their temples, they used the marble in accordance with its natural strength. In the columns and in the solid walls, the marble was laid on its natural bed as taken from the quarries, to best resist the vertical stress. When placed across the columns to form the architrave, the blocks of marble were placed on their sides for more strength as a beam.

They originally smoothed the joints of the blocks and laid them dry. Later, with the development of mortar, they were laid on mortar beds, with mortar joints.

After the period of Mediaeval and Gothic architecture in Europe, the orders were revived in almost every part of the Continent in a type of architecture known as the Renaissance. Naturally every country developed its own interpretation, as did the architects in the United States of America. In almost every community in this country will be found at least one public building founded on one of the Greek or Roman orders.

Many of our Masonic Temples have followed this type of design. Even our modern or contemporary architecture, where applied to a strictly formal type of building, is influenced by the proportions of the orders, if not by the detail.

Because this statement might be construed as implying that the orders are basic in all architecture, let it be said that the Five Orders form a basic guide for one type of architecture only; and that there are many other types and, from a strictly personal observation, equally as good. If architecture was limited to the Five Orders there would be no need for imagination or creative ability with respect to design. There are basic rules and proportions to follow in connection with these orders. The result is either right or wrong, depending upon how these basic rules or proportions are followed.

The following quotation is from a book called The. Five Orders of Architecture According to Giacomo Barozzio, dated 1896:

"Classic art, in possessing a standard whereby all proportions may be gauged, has a great advantage over Gothic and other arts in which fancy, compatible with strength, is unrestricted. The value of this standard to the designer and student is inestimable. It acts as a guide to him from the beginning and holds up to him the ideal, at which he will aim as closely as circumstances permit. In many cases exact adherence to the model is impossible; the heights of stories, the sizes of ground, the necessities of the occupants of the building, often make anything like a near approach to it exceedingly difficult. Nevertheless it remains as a help in comparison, and is to a designer what his bearings are to a mariner, however far he may drift away."

This is the same as saying, "We will determine the facade of the building according to definite rules and proportions. We will select an exterior and then try to make the plan fit the needs."

While there are some people today who hold to this attitude, to the creative type of architect these would be fighting words. He reveres the orders as they should be revered -- for their beauty, their proportions, and for their development to a sort of perfection in a very early day of this world. Yet in creating a building today, to serve today's needs, he feels that he can use ingenuity and creative ability just the same as the Greeks did when they started building with marble instead of using trees!

Again proceeding with the Middle Chamber lecture:

The Five Orders are thus classified: the Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite

For a generalization of this statement, let us examine the Frontispiece of Anderson's Constitutions of 1723 (Figure 3). This is reputed to be the oldest illustration in Speculative Masonry.

It is very interesting to observe that at this early date a Masonic illustration should be so complete and perfect in detail, when considered from the standpoint of architecture.

In this illustration we have a composite picture of the Five Orders, true in their proportions. It illustrates the Tuscan, the Doric, the Ionic, the Corinthian and the Composite in sequence. Furthermore, as indicated by the superimposed lines, it shows the relative proportions of the columns, assuming all columns in this illustration to be of the same diameter. Each column capital is carefully detailed as is the entablature above it.

From an architectural standpoint, there might be criticism. Although the Composite columns are carefully drawn, with the proper fluting, none of the others are so indicated; and while the lines in the next three sets of columns might be construed as indications of fluting, the Tuscan columns at the rear have the same lines, and they certainly should be plain shafts. This, however, can all be readily attributed to the small-ness of the drawing as the orders recede in the background. This type of freedom in depicting detail is still a common practice today among delineators.

Again, on careful scrutiny, the student of architecture might observe that the shafts of the columns are straight, without entasis. (Entasis is explained by Sir Bannister Fletcher in his History of Architecture as "a slight swelling on the shaft of a column which prevents a hollow appearance.") This, then, might be a clue to the possibility that this illustration was made by a speculative rather than an operative Mason (known to us today as an architect).

As a further elaboration of the meaning of entasis, the Greeks developed a system of correcting optical illusions in their temples. If we stand at the base of a tall shaft or a tall chimney with straight sides, and look upward, the shaft will appear to be larger at the top. We can look at the photograph of a large object, taken with a normal camera without a corrective type of lens, and we will see that the object is distorted. It is all the same.

Here let us refer to Figure 4. To correct this optical illusion, the Greeks found that the outer or end columns should lean inward. They also found that the base of the building, which was normally a porch edge with several steps, should be higher at the center than at the ends for the same reason. In the Parthenon at Athens, according to Sir Bannister Fletcher, the base has an upward curvature toward the center of 2.61 inches on the east and west fronts. The axes of the outer columns lean inwards 2.65 inches and would meet if projected to a distance of a mile above ground. The entasis of the columns amounts to about % inch in a height of 34 feet.

While we are not ready to consider the detailed proportions of the various orders, or the ornamentation applied to each, it is suggested that Figure 3 be saved. Thus as each order is presented and discussed in the remaining articles of this series, reference can be made to this illustration. In this way, its authenticity can be determined.

Consistent with speculative Masonry in general, this illustration is truly symbolic of the Five Orders of Architecture as presented in the Middle Chamber lecture. While the Romans did combine the orders in the same structure, as have all architects throughout the ages, there is no known example where they were combined in this particular way. Rather, the illustration originally could have been prepared to present a visual demonstration of the Middle Chamber lecture, with respect to that portion pertaining to the Five Orders of Architecture.

The second part will start with a detailed examination of the Five Orders, and will then consider the Tuscan and the Doric.

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It would seem proper, in any detailed discussion of the Five Orders of Architecture, to first present a description and comparison of the Greek orders and then the relationship and comparison between these and the Roman orders. The Middle Chamber lecture defers this until after each order is discussed. It will be helpful to state briefly a few facts concerning this point and then defer further comment until we reach that part of the lecture in which the subject is discussed more fully.

Although we refer to the five orders, originally there were only three, all attributed to the Greeks.

The Romans used these same three in their own version and development, and then added two more.

the tuscan order

The Tuscan is one of the two added orders, and if the natural sequence was followed it would be deferred until after the three Greek orders were discussed; yet we find it mentioned first in the lecture.

The Tuscan is the most simple and solid of the five orders.

As each order is discussed we find a natural progression from the stubbier, solid and plain type to the tall, stately and highly ornamented orders.

It was invented in Tuscany, whence it derives its name. Its column is seven diameters high; and its capital, base and entablature have few mouldings.

Figure 5 identifies the various parts here mentioned, and shows the relationship of diameter to height. It also shows the extreme simplicity of this order. The column shaft is plain, without the fluting which we are accustomed to see. The column base and capital are very plain for a Roman order. As our discussion proceeds, we will discover that the Romans elaborated upon column bases and capitals in the various orders.

The simplicity of the construction of this column renders it eligible where ornament would be superfluous.

The Greeks were known for their one-story structures. The Romans, although they built some one-story structures, found a need for a multi-story type of building to satisfy their later day requirements. It is in these multi-story structures that we find the use of the Tuscan order. It was used for the first story of such structures, supporting the other orders in the order of their refinement. Thus, as used for the first story, supporting the other orders, it justified its stubbiness, its appearance of strength, and its simplicity.


The Doric, which is plain and natural, is the most ancient, and was invented by the Greeks.

The Doric, while used by both the Greeks and the Romans, was the first of the three Greek orders, and it also is the most simple and sturdy of the three. Its use as an order in the construction of a temple was almost limited to the Greeks, and there are many well known examples. Perhaps the best known is the Parthenon at Athens (Figure 6). It was built about 454-438 B.C.

Some idea of the magnitude of the Parthenon can be gained by this brief description. It was built on a base composed of three steps. The upper formed a base 102 feet wide and 228 feet long. Each step was about 1 foot 8 inches high, and 2 feet 4 inches wide. The Doric columns were 34 feet and 3 inches high, 6 feet and 3 inches in diameter at the base and 4 feet and 7 inches at the top. The entablature was 11 feet high.

Another well known Greek example is the Theseion at Athens (Figure 7). In appearance it is much the same as the Parthenon and, although it is the best preserved Doric example in Greece, both the date of completion and its name are matters of doubt.

While the Middle Chamber lecture attributes the invention of the Doric to the Greeks, it is like most inventions, in reality a development. In the Greek Doric we find enough evidence in the columns of Egyptian architecture to be certain that the Greeks must have had some precedent for the development of the Doric order. Figure 8 pictures a tomb at Beni-Hasan, Egypt, and clearly shows columns suggestive of the Greek Doric.

The Doric order was little used by the Romans, not being suited to their ideas of splendor and magnificence. The Temple of Hercules at Cora is the only Roman temple built in this style. Yet, like the Tuscan, the Romans did make use of the Doric in their multistory structures; it being used for the second story, supported by the Tuscan. Since the columns were somewhat thinner, it was more graceful and carried more ornaments and elaborations, as we find by continuing with the lecture:

Its column is eight diameters high, and has seldom any ornaments on base or capital, except mouldings; though the frieze is distinguished by triglyphs and metopes, and triglyphs compose the ornaments of the frieze.

Referring to Figure 9, we find an identification of the parts mentioned, as well as a comparison of this order as developed by the Greeks and the Romans.

When we consider the statement, "Its column is eight diameters high," we must remember that this is a generalization. It applies particularly to the Roman Doric rather than to the Greek, even though the previous quotation credits its invention to the Greeks. By referring to Figure 9, we notice that the Greek Doric column is much thicker in proportion to its height. This drawing is based upon the proportions as found in the Parthenon, where we find the columns about five and one half times their diameter in height. Later Greek examples show the columns to be somewhat thinner in proportion to their height.

In like manner, we can consider the column base and capital. The Greek Doric had no base. The Romans developed a base which was a little more elaborate than the Roman Tuscan base. It had more mouldings, yet they were plain. The Greek Doric capital consisted of a block at the top (known as the abacus), finished with a plain moulding (known as the echinus) where it joined with the column. The Romans elaborated the abacus and added another moulding on the neck of the column. (Figure 9).

The triglyphs are similar in both the Greek and the Roman. The essential difference lies in the placing with respect to the corner columns. In the Greek they were placed at the corner, with equal spacing throughout the frieze, and with intermediate columns always centered under a triglyph. This resulted in the fact that the two corner columns were closer together than the intermediate columns. This is noticeable in the pictures of the Parthenon and the Theseion (Figures 6 and 7).

In the Roman Doric all triglyphs were centered over the columns. Thus all columns were equally spaced. By referring back to Figure 2 in the October issue, these triglyphs can be thought of as ornaments expressing the ends of the trees in the primitive structures, supporting the frieze.

The metopes are the square spaces between the triglyphs. Webster defines this as an opening or a hole, as derived from the Greek. In the early Greek examples the metopes were usually plain, without any ornament whatsoever, and could therefore justify the definition. In later examples these metopes were often ornamented with carving or a form of sculpture, quite like our present day murals.

The numerous parts of the entablature each have a name, and in an architectural discussion would justify a description. In this discussion, however, all names other than those mentioned in the lecture will be omitted.

The next statement in the lecture has been covered by the previous comments:

The solid composition of this order gives it a preference in structures where strength and a noble simplicity are chiefly required.

It will be sufficient to add that most of the important Greek structures are of this order.

The Doric is the best proportioned of all the orders. The several parts of which it is composed are founded on the natural position of solid bodies.

This is undoubtedly occasioned by the fact that the Greeks built with large stones, placed in their natural position as taken from the quarries, without benefit of mortar or the use of other materials to gain strength and unity.

It remained for the Romans, in their desire for refinement of detail, to develop an early form of cement. They used their cement to form an early type of concrete for structural use; and they then used the stone and marble as a face veneer rather than as a structural material.

Again we return to the lecture:

In its first invention it was more simple than in its present state. In after times, when it began to be adorned, it gained the name of Doric; for when it was constructed in its primitive and simple form, the name of Tuscan was conferred on it. Hence the Tuscan precedes the Doric in rank, on account of its resemblance to that pillar in its original state.

This statement must be analyzed to be understood. If the three Greek orders were the original, to which were added two Roman orders, this statement cannot be accepted in the light of chronological order. The Greek Doric preceded the Roman Doric, and the Romans added the Tuscan! The meaning becomes plain when we consider the use of the Tuscan and the Doric by the Romans.

The first floor columns in multistory Roman buildings were of the Tuscan order; the second floor columns were of the Doric order. Hence, when used together the "Tuscan precedes the Doric in rank," when considered from the standpoint of use. We must consider also that when a mason cuts a fluted shaft, he must first make a plain shaft and then cut the fluting. Therefore the plain shaft of the Tuscan column resembles the Doric column in its original state, before it is fluted.


Pronunciation (Phonetic)

  • abacus--ab'a-kus (first "a" short)
  • doric--Dor'ic
  • echinus--ee-ki'nus ("i" long)
  • entablature--en-tab'la-ture (both "a's" short)
  • frieze;--freeze
  • metopes--met'o-peez
  • triglyphs--tri'glyphs ("i" long; "y" as short "i")
  • tuscan--Tuss'kan

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part III

the ionic order

As we continue with the study of the Middle Chamber lecture, we come to THE IONIC Order.

The lecture starts with a generalization:

The Ionic bears a kind of mean proportion between the more solid and delicate orders.

We have seen that the Tuscan was the heaviest and the stubbiest order, with a column seven diameters high. Then we had the Doric, with a column eight diameters high. Now we have the Ionic, and we continue:

Its column is nine diameters high.

We have found that the entablature is basically the same in the various orders, merely varying in proportions (with relationship to the column), and detail, such as mouldings and ornaments. While in the Tuscan and the Doric we have found no great variation in the column capital, we now come to the first major variation:

Its capital is adorned with volutes.

These volutes form the major mark of identification of the Ionic order. They are the ornaments on the upper portion of the column capital. (See Figure 10)

The origin of these volutes can be attributed to several sources. Some similarity can be seen in the lotus leaf of Egyptian wall paintings. There is some similarity to the nautilus shell, also to the horns of a ram. Thus it may have been influenced by nature, yet it could have been strictly a geometrical form. There is a very complicated formula by which the Ionic volute can be drawn, and there is a very simple way of using a string and a shell, as shown by Figure 11.

And its cornice has dentils.

The dentils are the ornamental squares in the entablature, as shown in Figure 12.








This same Figure 12 shows a comparison between the Greek and the Roman, and it identifies all parts mentioned in the lecture.

There is both delicacy and ingenuity displayed in this pillar, the invention of which is attributed to the lonians, as the famous temple of Diana at Ephesus was of this order.

The delicacy can be explained by the reduced diameter of the columns and the reproportioning of the entablature, as already explained. The ingenuity can be explained by the addition of ornament, based either upon natural form or a geometrical pattern as explained in connection with the volutes of the column capital.

The major difference between the Greek and the Roman Ionic, as shown by Figure 12, lies in the placement of these volutes. In the Greek examples they were usually placed parallel with the line of the entablature above, showing directly on two sides of the capital. In the Roman examples they were usually turned to form a 45 degree angle with the entablature, thereby showing the same on all four sides of the capital. This also is shown by Figure 10.

The Middle Chamber lecture attributes the invention of the order to the Ionians. It further refers to the famous Temple of Diana at Ephesus, which is on the mainland across the Agean Sea from Greece proper. This Temple was also known as the Temple of Artemis, and was built in 330 B.C. on the site of two previous Temples. It was regarded as one of the seven wonders of the world, yet there is nothing left of this Temple. Our conception of it is limited to the imagination of the restorationists who have delved into the buried ruins. Materials from this Temple have been utilized in the erection of later buildings in several different parts of the world.

As to a visual presentation of the Ionic Order, as found in the early examples, a view of the Erectheion on the Acropolis at Athens is shown in Figure 13. This building was unusual for more than one reason. It was of irregular planning, without the usual formality of Greek Temples. Furthermore, it consisted of three distinct elements, each as a separate and distinct shrine. Figure 13 shows this Temple from the west. Both the eastern portico and the northern portico were distinctly Ionic in design. The southern portico, (shown to the right in the picture) is known as the Caryatid portico, and it might be a clue to the next statement in the lecture:

It was said to have been formed after the model of an agreeable young woman, dressed in her hair, as in contrast to the Doric order, which was formed after that of a strong, robust man.

In this southern or Caryatid portico, six draped female figures were substituted for the usual columns. (See Figure 14.) These figures were about seven feet and nine inches high and similarly spaced to the columns on the north portico, but resting on a solid marble wall above the level of the ground. All figures face southward, the three western leaning on their right (outer) legs, and the three eastern on their left legs, thus correcting a possible optical illusion that would have been presented if they all had been alike, or straight.

In the January issue this series will continue with the detailed description of the other two orders, the Corinthian and the Composite.

Pronunciation (Phonetic)

  • caryatid--kari-at'id (both "a's" short; both "i's" short)
  • dentils -- den'tils ("e" and "i" short)
  • diana--Di-an'a ("i" long; "ana" as Anna) [or "Dee-ah'-nah" -Ed.]
  • ephesus -- Eff'e-sus (first "e" short, the second long)
  • ionic--I-on'ic (first "i" long, second short; "o" short)
  • volutes---vo-lutes' ("o" and "u" long)

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Corinthian and Composite Orders

AS WE continue with the study of the Middle Chamber Lecture, we come to


The Corinthian, the richest of the five orders, is deemed a masterpiece of art.

One has only to look at the stateliness of this order, enriched with the elaborate capital of the column, to appreciate this statement.

Its column is ten diameters high;

(Figure 15 shows the general proportions of the Corinthian Order.)

And its capital is adorned with two rows of leaves and eight volutes, which sustain the abacus.

(Figure 16 shows the column capital, as well as the entablature above the capital.)

The column capital is the distinguishing detail of the Corinthian order. The leaves undoubtedly have their origin in the acanthus leaf, which varies somewhat between the Greek and Roman versions. While the lecture refers to the eight volutes of this capital, the volutes are not as large as those of the Ionic orders,, and can probably better be described as scrolls. The eight volutes are in pairs, with one pair merging at each corner of the capital. The abacus is the top cap of the capital, and is also shown in Figure 16.

The frieze is ornamented with curious devices,

This is particularly applicable to the Roman Corinthian. Examples can be found in the various friezes of all kinds of figures, animals, and ornaments. Figure 16 shows one type of treatment of the frieze with such ornament. A typical treatment often consists of a series of ox heads connected with garlands, the origin of which was influenced by the actual skulls and garlands hung on the altars after such beasts had been slain.

The cornice with dentils and modillions.


The dentils are similar to those found in the Ionic. The modillions are the brackets under the cornice, and while they do express a form of support for the cornice, they are mainly ornamental. Figure 16 shows these details.

The better known examples of the Corinthian order are found in the Roman style. Figure 17 shows the Pantheon at Rome, one of the better known examples of the Roman Corinthian. The portico shown in this view is supported by eight Corinthian columns.

The origin of the Corinthian column capital is attributed to several sources, and the one given in the lecture seems to be a Masonic version. It can be just as true as any other version.

This order is used in stately and superb structures.

It was invented at Corinth by Callimachus, who is said to have taken the hint of the capital of this pillar from the following remarkable circumstance: Accidentally passing by the tomb of a young lady, he perceived a basket of toys, covered with a tile, placed over an acanthus root, having been left there by her nurse. As the branches grew up they encompassed the basket, till, arriving at the tile they met with an obstruction and bent downward. Callimachus, struck with the object, set about imitating the figure. The vase of the capital he made to represent the basket, the abacus the tile, and the volutes the bending leaves.

(Figure 18 gives a visual presentation of this version of the origin.)

We now come to the last of the five orders:


The Composite is compounded of the other orders, and was contrived by the Romans. Its capital has the two rows of leaves of the Corinthian, and the volutes of the Ionic.

It is rather hard to distinguish between the Corinthian and the Composite orders. As we find here, the main difference is in the column capital.

As for the capital, the main difference is in the fact that the volutes of the Corinthian order are enlarged in the Composite order to the point where they are about the same as the volutes of the Ionic order. Figure 19 shows the Composite column capital.

Its column has the quarter-round as the Tuscan and Doric orders, is ten diameters high, and its cornice has dentils or simple modillions.

This statement shows the justification of the name Composite. Webster gives the definition of Composite as "Made up of distinct parts or elements." The description in the lecture mentions the Tuscan and the Doric, the ten diameters as well as the dentils and modillions suggests the Corinthian, and we already have found that the capital has the volutes of the Ionic. Hence the Composite order is compounded of parts of all of the other orders.

This pillar is generally found in buildings where strength, elegance and beauty are displayed.



The principal use of the Composite order by the Romans was in the construction of their triumphal arches, a symbol of strength and, of course, where they would want beauty to be displayed. Figure 20 shows a view of the Arch of Septimius Severus at Rome, built in 204 A.D. to commemorate Parthian victories. It is an example of the Composite order, applied to a triumphal arch.

We now come to the final portion of the lecture, which is a general summary of the orders, which will be the subject of the fifth and last of this series, to be published in the February issue of The Indiana Freemason.


Pronunciation (Phonetic)

  • acanthus--a-can'thus (first "a" as in about; second "a" short)
  • callimachus--kal-lim'a-kuss (first "a" as in about; second "a" short; "i" short)
  • composite--kom-poz'it
  • corinthian--ko-rin'thi-an (both "i's" short)
  • modillions--mo-dil'lions ("o" long; remainder of word rhymes with millions)
  • pantheon--pan'the-on ("a" short; "eon" as in neon

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AS WE COME to the last part of the Middle Chamber Lecture, we find a general summary.

The first statement under this heading summarizes the discussion previously presented under Part 2 of this series:

The ancient and original orders of architecture revered by Masons are no more than three: The Doric, Ionic and Corinthian, which were invented by the Greeks. To these the Romans have added two: The Tuscan, which they made plainer than the Doric, and the Composite, which was more ornamental, if not more beautiful than the Corinthian.

Referring to the Frontispiece of Anderson's Constitutions of 1723 (Figure 3, Part 1), we find a Masonic version of all five of these orders combined in one drawing, showing relative proportions and the respective ornamentations. For the purpose of a direct comparison, Figure 21 shows the orders, both Greek and Roman. No attempt has been made in this drawing to name and distinguish the various parts of the orders,, for all of these were noted and defined in the detailed discussion of each order.

Before commenting upon the Tuscan and Composite orders, as mentioned in the lecture, we should continue with the next statement, which in many respects is a repetition of the first:


The first three orders alone, however, show invention and particular character, and essentially differ from each other, the two others have nothing but what is borrowed, and differ only accidentally. The Tuscan is the Doric in its earliest state, and the Composite is the Corinthian enriched with the Ionic.

All orders, both Greek and Roman are basically the same when considered from the standpoint that they consist of columns, an architrave, and an entablature. The distinction between them lies in the treatment of the column (more particularly in the treatment of the column capital), and in the elaboration of the entablature.

When considered from this standpoint we can readily see that the three Greek orders are distinct and "essentially differ from each other," and can be considered as the justification for the final statement of that part of the Middle Chamber Lecture dealing with the Five Orders of Architecture:

To the Greeks, therefore, and not to the Romans, we are indebted for what is great, judicious and distinct in architecture.

Yet, going back to that part of the lecture just prior to this final statement, we should consider the position of the Romans in the development of these orders, and their addition of the Tuscan and Composite orders.

When we combine the two statements of the lecture with respect to the Tuscan order we have: "The Tuscan, which they made plainer than the Doric. . . . The Tuscan is the Doric in its earliest state."

While the Greeks confined themselves primarily to a one-story temple, such as the Parthenon (Figure 6, Part 2), the Theseion (Figure 7, Part 2), and the Erec-theion (Figure 13, Part 3), the Romans found a need for an entirely different type of structure-- a structure for sports and other events that required a large seating capacity for spectators. Typical of this type of structure was the Colosseum at Rome, which is shown in Figure 22.

The external facade of the Colosseum at Rome is divided into four stories, the lower of which is treated in the Tuscan order, the second story in the Ionic order, and the third and fourth stories in the Corinthian order. It is in multi-storied structures such as this that the Romans employed the Tuscan order. It can readily be seen that they were desirous of employing a column in this position which had a feeling of great strength. Certainly the plain, simple shaft of the Tuscan order looks more solid and heavier than the Doric with its fluted shaft, and this is where we find the essential difference between the two.

Then when we combine the two statements of the lecture with respect to the Corinthian order we have: "... and the Composite, which was more ornamental, if not more beautiful than the Corinthian .... and the Composite is the Corinthian enriched with the Ionic."

To the student of architecture there is a difference between the Corinthian and the Composite. Others have difficulty in distinguishing between the two. It is true that the Composite capital is "enriched" with the volutes of the Ionic, yet the Corinthian capital has small volutes, and we might conclude that the size of the volutes would perhaps determine whether it would be Corinthian or Composite!

Then, too, when we consider that the employment of the Composite was practically limited to the treatment of the Roman triumphal arches, we might draw the conclusion that for such a purpose the Romans might have felt that the Corinthian (employed in other types of buildings) might have been too "common" for such a great purpose. Thus, in their desire to create splendor, they "enriched" that which they had by combining details from the other orders.

It is well to pause for the observation that quite often we confuse elaboration with beauty, that is, things which are very ornate must be beautiful! Whoever was responsible for this part of the Middle Chamber Lecture must have realized this point, and had much pleasure in that pointed statement of the lecture: ".... and the Composite, which was more ornamental, if not more beautiful than the Corinthian."

By this time the reader may well raise the question as to why Masons as well as others "revere" these "ancient and original orders of architecture," and to what extent they have affected later generations? A treatise on such a subject would become very lengthy, and for the purpose of this discussion a few examples taken at random throughout the ages should suffice.

When we consider the Renaissance architecture of Europe and England we need only to point to that great cathedral by Sir Christopher Wren, St. Paul's of London (Figure 23). This not only shows the influence of the orders, it also shows the connection with Masonry. In this Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren combined two of the original orders in the exterior facades, the lower being Corinthian and the upper Composite. Beauty surmounted by "enriched" beauty!

Speaking of St. Paul's Cathedral, we quote from the March 1950 issue of The Indiana Freemason: "For Freemasons, it stands as one of the great monuments of all time, symbolizing the rise of their Craft and intimately linked with its history and traditions. In the second edition of his Book of Constitutions, Dr. James Anderson indicated that construction of the cathedral was the work of our operative Brethren, under their Grand Master, Sir Christopher Wren, to whom had been entrusted the task after the great fire of London. He was assigned to this monumental undertaking by King Charles II, who laid the foundation stone on June 21, 1675. Thirty-five years later, this great temple was completed and the last stone, on the top of the lantern, was placed by Sir Christopher's son."

We pass now to the early days of the United States of America, and for an example showing the influence of these "ancient and original orders of architecture" on the early days of our country, we need look no further than the original portion of the State House in Boston (Figure 24) for another example definitely linked with the Fraternity.

A Guide Book purchased in Boston contains the following data: "Charles Bullfinch was the architect of this edifice . . . erected for the purpose of holding the Public Councils of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts .... The corner stone was laid with Public Ceremonies July 4, 1795, by His Excellency Samuel Adams, Governor, assisted by the Most Worshipful Paul Revere, Grand Master, and other Brethren of the Grand Lodge of Masons."

The facade of the original portion, referred to above, is adorned with columns and entablature of the Composite order. The upper element, forming the base of the dome, contains pilasters with Ionic capitals, while the columns and pilasters of the cupola or lantern on top of the dome have capitals suggestive of ancient modified Greek Corinthian column capitals. While the Romans perhaps would never have surmounted the Corinthian with the Ionic, this shows the freedom employed by later architects when adapting the orders to newer types of buildings.

Next we can consider the Capitol of the United States of America (Figure 25). This is another good example of the employment of the orders in a building for which the cornerstone was laid by none other than George Washington.

Then, in the Masonic Memorial to George Washington at Alexandria, Virginia (Figure 26), we find the principle employed by the Romans in the Colosseum at Rome, superimposed orders!

Then, as stated in a previous article in this series, many of our Masonic Temples have employed the orders. We need only to refer to the home of the Indiana Grand Lodge at Indianapolis (Figure 27), to see how the Ionic order has been employed to adorn the facade.

Notwithstanding the statement in the lecture that "To the Greeks, therefore, and not to the Romans, we are indebted for what is great, iudicious and distinct in architecture," these examples have all shown buildings influenced by the Roman orders. In defense of this statement, a view of the Coliseum at Evansville, Indiana, is shown in Figure 28. This is an example of the employment of the Greek Doric in the 20th Century, and shows how the Greek orders are generally limited today to a one-story treatment as they were in the original period.

While this series of articles was prepared with the idea of illustrating and interpreting the Middle Chamber Lecture for the benefit of the student of Masonry, it also is hoped that they will serve to arouse interest in the Mason to the extent of recognizing the various orders as employed in buildings throughout the United States. It should be remembered however, in this respect, that much liberty has been taken by architects in their interpretations, and that in many buildings details have been changed to fit the occasion. Thus, column capitals may express a motif rather than display the original form, and when this happens we can only say that the orders influenced rather than dictated the design.

It should be pointed out that Masonry originally was an operative Craft; one that was responsible directly for many of the historical buildings and shrines of the world. The work of this early operative Craft has had a direct influence on many of the buildings of later generations; and though we now consider that Masonry is a speculative Craft, many of the present-day Masons still are operative Masons, influenced by our predecessors, carrying on with the hope of further improvement as well as demonstrating that the honor of the Fraternity can be upheld.


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