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Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews (III, vii), gives the stones in the following order: Sardonyx, topaz, emerald; carbuncle, jasper, sapphire ; ligure, amethyst, agate; chrysolite, onyx, beryl. Kalisch, in his Colmmentary on Exodus, gives a still different order: Cornelian (or sardius), topaz, smaragdus; carbuncle, sapphire, emerald; ligure, agate, amethyst; chrysolite, onyx, jasper. But perhaps the Vulgate translation is to be preferred as an authority, because it was made in the fifth century, at a time when the old Hebrew names of the precious stones were better understood than now. The order given in that version is shown in the diagram Fig. I. A description of each of these stones, with its symbolic signification, with be found under the appropriate head.
On the stones were engraved the names of the twelve tribes, one on each stone. The order in which they were placed, according to the Jewish Targums--various ancient forms of the Hebrew Scriptures in Aramaic or Chaldee language, was as Fig. 2, having a reference to the respective ages of the twelve sons of Jacob.
A description of the breastplate is given in chapters xxviii and xxxix of Exodus. From the former, authorized version of the Bible, we take the following four verses (17-21) : "And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones ; the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle : this shall be the first row. And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst.
And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper : they shall be set in gold in their enclosings. And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve according to their names, like the engravings of a signet ; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes." In the margin the word ruby is given instead of sardius in the first row of stones. The revised version suggests that ruby be substituted for sardius, emerald for carbuncle,
carbuncle for emerald, sardonyx for diamond, amber for ligure or jacinth, chalcedony for beryl, and beryl for onyx, in the list found in Exodus xxviii.
Students of the Scriptures conclude that from the dimensions of the breastplate, given in Exodus (chapter xxviii ), a span which would be equivalent to eight or nine inches, the twelve stones even after allowing some reasonable space for their setting must have been of considerable size and therefore of only moderate rarity. Furthermore, as they were engraved with the names of the twelve tribes they could have been of only moderate hardness; and finally, preference may well be given to stones which research has shown to have been actually used for omamental purposes in early bible times. In regard to this matter the article by Professor Flinders Petrie is of especial importance (see Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, iv, pages 619-21).
The breastplate which was used in the first Temple does not appear to have been returned after the Captivity, for it is not mentioned in the list of articles sent back by Cyrus. The stones, on account of their great beauty and value, were most probably removed from their original arrangement and reset in various ornaments by their captors. A new one was made for the services of the second Temple, which, according to Josephus, when worn by the High Priest, shot forth brilliant rays of fire that manifested the immediate presence of Jehovah. But Josephus adds that two hundred years before his time this miraculous power had become extinct in consequence of the impiety of the nation. It was subsequently
carried to Rome together with the other spoils of the Temple.
Of the subsequent fate of these treasures, and among them the breastplate, there are two accounts: one, that they were convoyed to Carthage by Genseric after his sack of Rome, and that the ship containing them was lost on the voyage; the other, and, as King thinks, in Antique Gems (page137), the more probable one, that they had been transferred long before that time to Byzantium, and deposited by Justinian in the treasury of Saint Sophia.
The breastplate is worn in American Chapters of the Royal Arch by the High Priest as an essential Part of his official vestments. The symbolic reference of it, as given by Webb, is that it is to teach him always to bear in mind his responsibility to the laws and ordinances of the Institution, and that the honor and interests of his Chapter should be always near his heart.
This does not materially differ from the ancient symbolism, for one of the names given to the Jewish breastplate was the memorial, because it was designed to remind the High Priest how dear the tribes whose names it bore should be to his heart.
The breastplate does not appear to have been original with or peculiar to the Jewish ritual. The idea was, most probably, derived from the Egyptians.
Diodorus Siculus says (in his book 1, chapter 75), that among them the chief judge bore about his neck a chain of gold, from which hung a figure or image , composed of precious stones, which was called Truth, and the legal proceedings only commenced when the chief judge had assumed this image.
Aelian (book xxxiv), confirms this account by saying that the image was engraved on sapphire, and hung about the neck of the chief judge with a golden chain.
Peter du Val says that he saw a mummy at Cairo, round the neck of which was a chain, to which a golden plate was suspended, on which the image of a bird was engraved (see Urim and Thummim).
BREAST, THE FAITHFUL.
One of the three precious jewels of a Fellow Craft. It symbolically teaches the initiate that the lessons which he has received from the instructive tongue of the Master are not to be listened to and lost, but carefully treasured in his heart, and that the precepts of the Order constitute a covenant which he is faithfully to observe.
BREAST TO BREAST.
See Points of Fellowship.
This word, being the plural of Brother in the solemn style, is more generally used in Masonic language, instead of the common plural, Brothers. Thus Freemasons always speak of The Brethren of the Lodge, and not of The Brothers of the Lodge.
BRETHREN OF HARMONY.
Identical with the Fréres Noirs, or Black Brethren.
BRETHREN OF THE BRIDGE.
See Bridge Builders of the Middle Ages.
BRETHREN OF THE MYSTIC TIE.
The term by which Freemasons distinguish themselves as the members of a confraternity or brotherhood united by a mystical bond (see Mystic Tie).
BRETHREN ROSE CROIX OF THE EAST.
See Marconis, also Memphis, Rite of.
BREWSTER, SIR DAVID.
See Lawrie, Alexander.
A most significant symbol in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Degrees of the Scottish Rite, at which an important event transpires. The characteristic letters which appear on the Bridge, L. O. P., refer to that liberty of thought which is ever thereafter to be the inheritance of those who have been symbolically captive for seven weeks of years.
It is the new era of the freedom of expression, the liberation of the forrner captive thought. Liberty, but not License. It is also a symbol in the Royal Order (see Lakak Deror Pessah; also Liber; also Liberty of Passage).
BRIDGE BUILDERS OF THE MIDDLE AGES.
Before speaking of the Pontifices, or the Fraternity of Bridge Builders, whose history is closely connected with that of the Freemasons of the Middle Ages, it will be as well to say something of the word which they assumed as the title of their brotherhood.
The Latin word pontifex, with its equivalent English pontiff, literally signifies the builder of a bridge, from pons, meaning a bridge, and facere, to make. But this sense, which it must have originally possessed, it seems very speedily to have lost, and we, as well as the Romans, only recognize pontifex or pontiff as significant of a sacerdotal priestly character.
Of all the Colleges of Priests in ancient Rome, the most illustrious was that of the Pontiffs. The College of Pontiffs was established by Numa, and originally consisted of five, but was afterward increased to sixteen. The whole religious system of the Romans, the management of all the sacred rites, and the government of the priesthood, was under the control and direction of the College of Pontiffs, of which the Pontifex Maximus, or High Priest, was the presiding officer and the organ through which its decrees were communicated to the people.
Hence, when the Papal Church established its seat at the City of Rome, its Bishop assumed the designation of Pontifex Maximus as one of his titles, and Pontiff and Pope are now considered equivalent terms.
The question naturally arises as to what connection there was between religious rites and the building of bridges, and why a Roman priest bore the name which literally denoted a bridge builder. Etymologists have in vain sought to solve the problem, and, after all their speculation, fail to satisfy us.
One of the most tenable theories is that of Schmitz, who thinks the Pontifices were so called because they superintended the sacrifices on a bridge, alluding to the Argean sacrifices on the Sublician Bridge.
But Varro gives a more probable explanation when he tells us that the Sublician Bridge was built by the pontifices; and that it was deemed, from its historic association, of so sacred a character, that no repairs could be made on it without a previous sacrifice, which was to be conducted by the Chief Pontiff in person.
The true etymology is, however, undoubtedly lost ; yet it may be interesting, as well as suggestive, to know that in old Rome there was, even in a mere title, supposing that it was nothing more, some sort of connection between the art or practise of bridge building and the mysterious sacerdotal rites established by Numa, a connection which was subsequently again developed in the Masonic association which is the subject of the present article.
Whatever may have been this connection in Pagan Rome, we find, after the establishment of Christianity and in the Middle Ages, a secret Fraternity organized, as a branch of the Traveling Freemasons of that period, whose members were exclusively devoted to the building of bridges, and who were known as Pontifices, or Bridge Builders, and styled by the French les Fréres Pontifes, or Pontifical Brethren, and by the Germans Brückenbrüder, or Brethren of the Bridge. It is of this Fraternity that, because of their association in history with the early corporations of Freemasons, it is proposed to give a brief sketch.
In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the methods of intercommunication between different countries were neither safe nor convenient. Travelers could not avail themselves of the comforts of either macadamized roads or railways. Stage-coaches were unknown. He who was compelled by the calls of business to leave his home, trudged as a pedestrian wearily on foot, or on horseback, if his means permitted that mode of journeying; made his solitary ride through badly constructed roads, where he frequently became the victim of robbers, who took his life as well as his purse, or submitted to the scarcely less heavy exactions of some lawless Baron, who claimed it as his high prerogative to levy a tax on every wayfarer who passed through his domains. Inns were infrequent, incommodious, and expensive, and the weary traveler could hardly have appreciated Shenstone's declaration, that
Whoe'er has travelled life's dull round,
Where'er his stages may have been,
May sigh to think he still has found
His warmest welcome at an inn.
But one of the greatest embarrassments to which the traveler in this olden time was exposed occurred when there was a necessity to cross a stream of water.
The noble bridges of the ancient Greeks and Romans had been destroyed by time or war, and the intellectual debasement of the dark ages had prevented their renewal. Hence, when refinement and learning began to awaken from that long sleep which followed the invasion of the Goths and Vandals and the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the bridgeless rivers could only be crossed by swimming through the rapid current, or by fording the shallow places.
The earliest improvement toward a removal of these difficulties consisted in the adoption of rafts or boats, and gilds or corporations of raftsmen and boatmen, under the names of Linuncularii, Lintrarii, and Utricularii, were formed to transport travelers and merchandise across rivers.
But the times were lawless, and these watermen oftener plundered than assisted their patrons.
Benevolent persons, therefore, saw the necessity of erecting hostelries on the banks of the rivers at frequented places, and of constructing bridges for the transportation of travelers and their goods.
All the architectural labors of the period were, as is well known, entrusted to the gilds or corporations of builders who, under the designation of Traveling Freemmons, passed from country to country, and, patronized by the Church, erected those magnificent cathedrals, monasteries, and other public edifices, many of which have long since crumbled to dust, but a few of which still remain to attest the wondrous ability of these Operative Brethren.
Alone skilled in the science of architecture, from them only could be derived workmen capable of constructing safe and enduring bridges.
Accordingly, a portion of these Freemasons, withdrawing from the general body, united, under the patronage of the Church, into a distinct corporation of Fréres Pontifes, or Bridge Builders. The name which they received in Germany was that of Brückenbrüder, or Brethren of the Bridge. A legend of the Church attributes their foundation to Saint Benezet, who accordingly became the patron of the Order, as Saint John was of the Freemasons proper. Saint Benezet was a shepherd of Avilar, in France, who was born in the year 1165.
"He kept his mother's sheep in the country," says Butler, the historian of the saints, "being devoted to the practices of piety beyond his age; when moved by charity to save the lives of many poor persons, who were frequently drowned in crossing the Rhone, and, being inspired by God, he undertook to build a bridge over that rapid river at Avignon. He obtained the approbation of the Bishop, proved his mission by' miracles, and began the work in 1177, which he directed during seven years. He died when the difficulty of the undertaking was over, in 1184.
His body was buried upon the bridge itself, which was not completely finished till four years after his decease, the structure whereof was attended with miracles from the first laying of the foundations till it was completed, in 1188.''
Divesting this account, which Butler has drawn from the Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandists, of the miraculous, the improbable, and the legendary, the naked fact remains that Benezet was engaged, as the principa1 conductor of the work, in the construction of the magnificent bridge at Avignon, with its eighteen arches. As this is the most ancient of the bridges of Europe built after the commencement of the restoration of learning, it is most probable that he was, as he claimed to have been, the founder of that Masonic corporation of builders who, under the name of Brethren of the Bridge, assisted him in the undertaking, and who, on the completion of their task, were engaged in other parts of France, of Italy, and of Germany, in similar labors.
After the death of Saint Benezet, he was succeeded by Johannes Benedictus, to whom, as Prior of the Bridge, and to his Brethren, a charter was granted in 1187, by which they obtained a chapel and cemetery, with a chaplain.
In 1185, one year after the death of Saint Benezet, the Brethren of the Bridge commenced the construction of the Bridge of Saint Esprit, over the Rhone at Lyons. The completion of this work greatly extended the reputation of the Bridge Builders, and in l189 they received a charter from Pope Clement III. The City of Avignon continued to be their headquarters, but they gradually entered into Italy, Spain, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark.
The Swedish chronicles mention one Benedict, between the years l178 and l191, who was a bishop and bridge builder at Skara, in that kingdom. Could he have been the successor, already mentioned, of Benezet, who had removed from Avignon to Sweden?
As late as 1590 we find the Order existing at Lucca, in Italy, where, in 1562, John de Medicis exercised the functions of its chief under the title of Magister, or Master. How the Order became finally extinct is not known; but after its dissolution much of the property which it had.accumulated passed into the hands of the Knights Hospitalers or Knights of Maita.
The gild or corporation of Bridge Builders, like the corporation of Traveling Freemasons, from which it was an offshoot, was a religious institution, but admitted 1aymen into the society. In other words, the workmen, or the great body of the gild, were of course secular, but the patrons were dignitaries of the Church.
When by the multiplication of bridges the necessity of their employment became less urgent, and when the numbers of the workmen were greatly increased, the patronage of the Church was withdrawn, and the association was dissolved, or soon after fell into decay; its members, probably, for the most part, reuniting with the corporations of Freemasons from whom they had originally been derived.
Nothing has remained in modern Freemasonry to preserve the memory of the former connection of the Order with the bridge builders of the Middle Ages, except the ceremony of opening a bridge, which is to be found in the rituals of the last century; but even this has now become almost obsolete.
Lenning, who has appropriated a brief article in his Encydopädie der Freimaurerei to the Brückenbrüder, or Brethren of the Bridge, incorrectly calls them an Order of Knights. They took, he says, vows of celibacy and poverty, and also to protect travelers, to attend upon the sick, and to build bridges, roads, and hospitals.
Several of the inventors of advanced degrees have, he thinks, sought to revive the Order in some of the degrees which they have established, and especially in the Knights of the Sword, which appears in the Ancient and Accepted Rite as the Fifteenth Degree, or Knights of the East; but Brother Mackey could find no resemblance except that in the Knights of the Sword there is in the ritual a reference to a river and a bridge.
He was more inclined to believe that the Nineteenth Degree of the same Rite, or Grand Pontiff, was once connected with the Order we have been considering; and that, while the primitive ritual has been lost or changed so as to leave no vestige of a relationship between the two, the name which is still retained may have been derived from the Fréres Pontifes of the twelith century.
This, however, is mere conjecture, without any means of proof. Accordingly Brother Mackey was of the opinion that all that we do positively know is, that the bridge builders of the Middle Ages were a Masonic association, and as such are entitled to a place in all Masonic histories.
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