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2 August 2015

Of Mice and Masons

I was asked the other day whether I am a Freemason. No, but I do seem to have a bit of an eye for spotting their work. I'm intrigued by the art and also some of the history of this group. I'm no expert by any stretch, but I do enjoy bumbling through their mystery.

Today's post is a bit random, but I'm going to share with you some shots from a recent trip to Dublin... where I found myself sleeping with the Masons... :-O

I start with a shot of the magnificent Bewley's Hotel in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Under ominous skies you can see the imposing tower of what was once the Masonic Female Orphan School of Ireland.

The school was founded in 1879 by Chevalier Bartholomew Ruspini, an Italian who made his home in England, and who eventually wheedled his way into becoming the state dentist to His Majesty King George III,

After a failed attempt to join the Bear Lodge (meeting at the Bear Inn, Bath) in 1759, Ruspini was later accepted into the Burning Bush Lodge (1762).

Although perhaps more famous for his work founding the Royal Masonic School for Girls in Rickmansworth, as we can see from the photo, Ruspini was also doing the same here in Dublin.

I do like the philanthropist angle to the Masons.

'Tis not enough to help the feeble up,
But to support him after. ~ Timon of Athens

Only that part of the building in the middle (with the tower) is original. Notable Dublin Architects John McCurdy and William Mansfield Mitchell were responsible for designing the building which went on to act as a school at this site for the next 90 years.

In its day this building was right up there in terms of innovative engineering. It now forms the centrepiece for a larger hotel with extensions on three sides.

Of course, I knew none of the history of this wonderful old building as I checked in for the weekend. The first hint I had that I was onto something special was in the front entrance...

Check out this fantastic tile emblem with mosaic border. I love the vibrant colours and strong lines of the design. And of course... look at the gold! This piece simply screams wealth and authority. It was huge. You couldn't walk into the building without stepping onto it.

See the crack running down the middle. I love this as much as everything else. For me, this represents age... the ravages of time... and experience.

I rushed back outside to see if there was any other hints of the Masons and sure enough, I'd walked right past a huge Masonic hexagram set into a circular window.

"The triangle pointing downward "is a female symbol corresponding to the yoni and the upward pointing triangle is the male, the lingam ... When the two triangles are interlaced, it represents the union of the active and passive forces in nature; it represents the male and female elements." ~ Mackey, The Symbolism of Freemasonry, 1869, p195, 219, 361; also Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p13

Around the corner I spotted a founding stone with the date 1881. And in the middle of the square and compass you'll see a "G"...

"The Letter G
The Masonic G
For Almighty God and Geometry"

I'm not a religious man myself, but the Freemasons are and this is their reminder that every act is done in the sight of the Great Architect of the Universe. So let them be good acts!

My research suggests that the school was opened on St John's Day 1880 by "his Grace" the Duke of Abercorn who himself was a Grand Master Mason. I get the impression that though open, building was still ongoing and this may be why the stone above is dated slightly later.

Here's different type of star with a different meaning.

The pentagram is often used for protection and more likely in this context to represent the race of Man created by God.

The letters around the circle represent different things to different people but they all essentially boil down to the same message. One interpretation is "Hiram The Widow's Son Sent To King Solomon". Another interpretation is "He That Was Slain Soars To Kindred Spirits". Both remind the Masons of the sanctity of brotherhood and the importance of loyalty to one another.

The tale of Hiram Abiff as passed down in Masonic Lodges underpins the third degree. It starts with his arrival in Jerusalem, and his appointment by Solomon as chief architect and master of works at the construction of his temple. As the temple is nearing completion, three fellowcraft masons from the workforce ambush him as he leaves the building, demanding the secrets of a master mason. Hiram is challenged by each in turn, and at each refusal to divulge the information his assailant strikes him with a mason's tool (differing between jurisdictions). He is injured by the first two assailants, and struck dead by the last His murderers hide his body under a pile of rubble, returning at night to move the body outside the city, where they bury it in a shallow grave marked with a sprig of acacia. As the Master is missed the next day, Solomon sends out a group of fellowcraft masons to search for him. The loose acacia is accidentally discovered, and the body exhumed to be given a decent burial. The hiding place of the "three ruffians" is also discovered, and they are brought to justice. Solomon informs his workforce that the secrets of a master mason are now lost. He replaces them with substitutes (based on gestures given and words spoken upon the discovery of Hiram's body).Such is the general legend as related in the Anglo-American jurisdictions. ~ Wikipedia

This is on the front of one of the extensions and shows the date 1892 inside a pentagon. The olive branches around the pentagon represent purity, peace and innocence, no doubt a reference to the girls who attended the school.

You'll also see the square and compass on the keystone above the door.

Isn't this great! A Masonic stained glass window.

Again, it's from an extension rather than the main building. I don't know how old this is, but to my eye it doesn't look that old

And that's it from Dublin and the Master Masons. I don't know if I shared this with you, but here's a shot from the Masonic lodge in Virginia City. You wouldn't have thought that the town would have been big enough to service a lodge, but there you go.

Be vigilant people... the Masons are everywhere! ;-)

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