Medieval Freemasons were organized as a body when employed on a cathedral, a castle, an abbey, or any other large building. This body, or Lodge, though its own officers were members of it, and though it as a body made many decisions, was not a soviet, or commune, nor was it a "democratic" body working through committees, but it worked under and was sworn to obey a chief officer, or Master of Masons (called by a number of titles). This Master of Masons, however, was not an architect, but rather was a superintendent ; the making of plans and specifications was done by the Lodge itself, and in many places it had a separate room or building for that purpose.
In the course of time, however, the development of architectural practices brought about a divorce between the making of plans, designs, and specifications, and the carrying on of the daily work called for by the plans. The modem office of architect came into use.
This architect might have his own quarters at a distance from the building; he need not be a member of the Craft ; after he had made the drawings, models, and plans, the Craftsmen were then to carry them out under a Master who had become merely a superintendent of workmen. It is impossible to mark the new system with a date but the beginning of the office of architect as a profession may be signalized (in England) by the career of Inigo Jones (z.d) This transition to an entirely new basis for the art was essentially brought about by an intellectual advance, which can be best described briefly by comparing it with a similar revolution more than 2,000 years before. In Egypt many trained workmen were employed by the state or by cities to do surveying, to measure the water allotments for irrigation, to lay off building sites, etc. This called for geometry, and especially for trigonometry ; but the Egyptians had their knowledge of these things only in an empirical, piecemeal, rule-of-thumb form, and did not try to dissociate geometry from surveying and empirical measurements and calculations. The Greeks discovered that these surveying formulas and rules could be divorced from surveying land, could be cast in abstract form, and could then be used for countless purposes. They transferred geometry from the land to the mind; found it to power certain necessities in thought; made of it a system of principles; perfected it as a pure science. what had begun as land-surveying became geometry.
The Medieval Mason is comparable to the Egyptian surveyor. He was trained, rather than educated ; was an apprentice rather than a student ; and was taught how to perform certain given tasks. These were empirical. He did not dissociate them from the style and structure of the type of building on which he was working. Then came the discovery that there are a number of principles, formulas, and processes which hold not for one type of building but for any building. Then architecture became independent, free, an art, a science, and men could study it in universities and learn it in architects' offices. In both cases there was, as it were, a transition from an Operative (or empirical) Craft to a Speculative one.
An account of the rise of the profession of architect is invariably given in any one of the modem standard histories of architecture. See in addition The Cathedral Builders in England, by Edward S. Prior; E. P. Dutton & Co.; New York; 1905. The Builders of Florence, by J. Wood Brown; Methuen & Co; London; 1909. Notes on the Superintendents of English Buildings in the Middle Ages, by Wyatt Papworth. An Historical Essay on Architecture, by Thomas Hope ; John Murray; London. Medieval Architecture. by Arthur Kingsley Porter. The Guilds of Florence, by Edgcumbe Staley. Westminster Abbey and the Kings' Craftsmen, and Architecture, both by W. R. Lethaby. Gothic Architecture in England, by Francis Bond ; B. T. Bostfood; London; 1905. A Short History of the Building Crafts, by Martin S. Briggs, Oxford; 1925. The Master Masons to the Croun of Scotland, by Robert Scott Myine; Scott & Ferguson; 1893.
The Encyclopedia Masonica exists to preserve the wealth of information that has been generated over the centuries by numerous Masonic authors. As Freemasonry is now Speculative and not Operative, the work of a Mason is now conducted in the quarries of symbolism, literature, history and scholasticism. Freemasonry encourages intellectual exploration and academic achievement in its members and many Masons over the years have taken up this calling. The result has been that an incredible amount of philosophy, symbolic speculation and academic insights have been created. However, as Freemasonry teaches, human knowledge is frail and fragile. It is easily lost in the turnings of the ages and unforeseen catastrophes can result in great setbacks to human knowledge.
For too long these great works have sat on forgotten shelves, gathering dust and concealing the light that could be shed on the darkness of our ignorance. The Encyclopedia Masonica has been created to act as an ark, sailing through time, to ensure that future generations of Freemasons have access to the same knowledge that inspired the Brethren that came before them. It will contain the works of such Masonic Luminaries as Albert G. Mackey, Manly Palmer Hall, G.S.M. Ward, Albert Pike and many others. The Encyclopedia Masonica is a living work and the volunteers of Universal Co-Masonry will continue to labor until the most comprehensive Masonic reference work the world has ever seen has been created. The Encyclopedia Masonica is open to any who wish to use it and will remain open so that the treasures contained within may increase the wealth of all those who seek its wisdom.
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