"The Broken Column"
The broken column carefully laid
on the third step of the base completes the symbolic legend of the Third
Degree in Freemasonry.
The sculpture consists of a
weeping virgin, holding in one hand a sprig of acacia and in the other an urn;
before her is a broken column, on which rests a copy of the Book of
Constitutions, while Father Time behind her is attempting to disentangle the
ringlets of her hair.
The broken column denotes the
untimely death of our Grand Master Hiram Abiff; the beautiful virgin weeping,
the temple unfinished; the book open before her, that his virtues lie on
perpetual record; the sprig of acacia in her right hand, the timely discovery
of his body; the urn in her left, that his ashes were then safely deposited to
perpetuate the remembrance of so distinguished a character; Time unfolding the
ringlets of her hair, that time, patience, and perseverance accomplish all
Pictured above is an original
statue created by MARBLECast® Products, Inc. depicting Jeremy Cross' "The
Broken Column" monument. It teaches Freemasons in the lecture
of the Third Degree the symbolic expression of the idea that veneration should
always be paid to the memory of departed worth. The great moral lessons
inculcated by this legend are many and very instructive, teaching us, that we
should live virtuous and upright lives, ever walking in the paths of truth and
justice, even though our lives be endangered thereby.
In its symbolic
representations, it answers every argument in our faith, and insures safety,
eternal and never ending, and is in strong contrast with the development of
those passions which debase and ruin all who indulge in them.
We are further reminded that
though these frail bodies must die and return to dust, we may indulge the hope
that through the merits of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, our disembodied
spirits shall be raised and be carried to realms of bliss, there to remain in
God's paradise forever.
Made of marble material, this beautifully sculpted
original is signed and numbered by the artist. It stands 12" tall on a
9" x 9" base. It is currently in limited production, only 500 statues
will be made and is available now for $129.00 plus $32.00 shipping/handling
(within the 48 contiguous United States). Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery
as these statues are individually made when they are ordered.
Order one for yourself and
one for your Lodge to use in their Third Degree Lecture!
Also makes a nice presentation gift for a retiring Lecturer or Secretary!
Please make all checks or money orders payable to:
MarbleCast Products, 947 Folsom Avenue West, Salt Lake City, Utah 84104. To pay by credit card we accept PayPal payments to: email@example.com
Utah residents add 5.95% state
sales tax. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. We ship Via FedEx
so please include your physical address. No P.O. Boxes please!
Biography of Brother Jeremy L. Cross
Brother Cross was a teacher of
the Masonic ritual, who, during his lifetime, was extensively known, and for
some time very popular. He was born June 27, 1783, at Haverhill, New
Hampshire, and died at the same place in 1861. Cross was admitted into
the Masonic Order in 1808, and soon afterward became a pupil of Thomas Smith
Webb, whose modifications of the Preston lectures and of the advanced Degrees
were generally accepted by the Freemasons of the United States. Cross,
having acquired a competent knowledge of Webb's system, began to travel and
disseminate it throughout the country. In 1819 he published The True
Masonic Chart or Hieroglyphic Monitor, in which he borrowed liberally from
the previous work of Webb. In fact, the Chart of Cross is, in
nearly all its parts, a mere transcript of the Monitor of Webb, the
first edition of which was published in 1797. Webb, it is true, took the
same liberty with Preston, from whose Illustrations of Masonry he
borrowed largely. The engraving of the emblems constituted, however, an
entirely new and original feature in the Hieroglyphic Chart, and, as
furnishing aids to the memory, rendered the book of Cross at once very
popular; so much so, indeed, that for a long time it almost altogether
superceded that of Webb. In 1820 Cross published The Templars Chart,
which, as a monitor of the Degrees of chivalry, met with equal success.
Both of these works have passed through numerous editions.
Cross received the appointment
of Grand Lecturer from many Grand Lodges, and traveled for many years very
extensively through the United States, teaching his system of lectures to
Lodges, Chapters, Councils, and Encampments.
He possessed few or no scholarly
attainments, and his contributions to the Literature of Freemasonry are
confined to the two compilations already cited. In his latter years he
became involved in an effort to establish a Supreme Council of the Ancient and
Accepted Rite. But he soon withdrew his name, and retired to the place
of his nativity, where he died at the advanced age of seventy-eight.
Although Cross was not a man of any very original genius, yet a more recent
writer has announced the fact that the symbol in the Third Degree, the
broken column, unknown to the system of either Preston or Webb, was
invented by him.
THE BROKEN COLUMN
Bulletin - Vol. 34, February 1956,
No. 2 -
The story of the broken column
was first illustrated by Amos Doolittle in the "true Masonic Chart" by Jeremy
Cross, published in 1819.
Many of Freemasonry's symbols are
of extreme antiquity and deserve the reverence which we give to that which has
had sufficient vitality to live long in the minds of men. For instance, the
square, the point within a circle, the apron, circumambulation, the Altar have
been used not only in Freemasonry but in systems of ethics, philosophy and
religions without number.
Other symbols in the Masonic system are more recent. Perhaps they are not the
less important for that, even without the sanctity of age which surrounds many
Among the newer symbols is that
usually referred to as the broken column. A marble monument is respectably
ancient - the broken column seems a more recent addition. There seems to be no
doubt that the first pictured broken column appeared in Jeremy Cross's True
Masonic Chart, published in 1819, and that the illustration was the work of
Amos Doolittle, an engraver, of Connecticut.
Amos Doolittle was one of the
earliest American copperplate engravers. He spent his life in and around New
Haven, Connecticut. Initially apprenticed to a jeweler and silversmith, he
taught himself engraving and became a prolific producer of historical and
satirical engravings, bookplates, portraits and biblical illustrations. His
first major project was a famous series of four engravings after Ralph Earle,
portraying the Battles of Lexington and Concord. These were among the very
earliest historical prints done in America, preceded by only two others.
Doolittle had himself been present at these events as a Connecticut
militia-man, and the prints are noteworthy for the lack of romanticization
found in later prints of the subject. He freely expressed his patriotism in
his satires, however, stating that such prints "will have a tendency to
inspire our countrymen with confidence in themselves, and eradicate any
terrors that they feel as respects the enemy they have to combat." Doolittle
trained at least one of his sons as an engraver, as well as James Wilson
(1763-1855), who went on to become the first globe maker in America. The
papers of Doolittle and his family are in the archives of Yale University,
which also owns a number of his engravings.
That Jeremy Cross "invented" or "designed" the emblem is open to argument. But
there is legitimate room for argument over many inventions. Who invented
printing from movable type? We give the credit to Gutenberg, but there are
other claimants, among them the Chinese at an earlier date. Who invented the
airplane? The Wrights first flew a "mechanical bird" but a thousand inventors
have added to, altered, changed their original design, until the very
principle which first enabled the Wrights to fly, the "warping wing", is now
discarded and never used.
Therefore, if authorities argue
and contend about the marble monument and broken column it is not to make
objection or take credit from Jeremy Cross; the thought is that almost any
invention or discovery is improved, changed, added to and perfected by many
men. Edison is credited with the first incandescent lamp, but there is small
kinship between his carbon filament and a modern tungsten filament bulb.
Roentgen was first to bring the "x-ray" to public notice-the discoverer would
not know what a modern physician's x-ray apparatus was if he saw it!
In the library of the Grand Lodge
of Iowa in Cedar Rapids, is a book published in 1784; "A BRIEF HISTORY OF
FREEMASONRY" by Thomas Johnson, at that time the Tiler of the Grand Lodge of
England (the "Moderns"). In this book the author states that he was "taken the
liberty to introduce a Design for a Monument in Honor of a Great Artist." He
then admits that there is no historical account of any such memorial but cites
many precedents of "sumptuous Piles" which perpetuate the memories and
preserve the merits of the historic dead, although such may have been buried
in lands far from the monument or "perhaps in the depth of the Sea".
In this somewhat fanciful and
poetic description of this monument, the author mentions an urn, a laurel
branch, a sun, a moon, a Bible, square and compasses, letter G. The book was
first published in 1782, which seems proof that there was
at that time at least the idea of a monument erected to the Master Builder.
There is little historical material upon which to draw to form any accurate
conclusions. Men write of what has happened long after the happenings. Even
when faithful to their memories, these may be, and often are, inaccurate. It
is with this thought in mind that a curious statement in the Masonic
newspaper, published in New York seventy-five
years ago, must be considered. In
the issue of May 10, 1879, a Robert B. Folger purports to give Cross' account
of his invention, or discovery, an inclusion, of the broken column into the
marble monument emblem.
The account is long, rambling and
at times not too clear. Abstracted, the salient parts are as follows. Cross
found or sensed what he considered a deficiency in the Third Degree which had
to be filled in order to effect his purposes. He consulted a former Mayor of
New Haven, who at the time was one of his most intimate friends. Even after
working together for a week, they did not hit upon any symbol which would be
sufficiently simple and yet answer the purpose. Then a Copper-plate engraver,
also a brother, was called in. The number of hieroglyphics which had been this
time accumulated was immense. Some were too large, some too small, some too
complicated, requiring too much explanation and many were not adapted to the
Finally, the copper-plate engraver said, "Brother Cross,
when great men die, they generally have a monument." "That's right!" cried
Cross; "I never thought of that!" He visited the burying-ground in New Haven. At last he got an idea and told his friends that he had the foundation of what
he wanted. He said that while in New York City he had seen a monument in the
southwest corner of Trinity Church yard erected over Commodore Lawrence, a
great man who fell in battle. It was a large marble pillar, broken off. The
broken part had been taken away, but the capital was lying at the base. He
wanted that pillar for the foundation of his new emblem, but intended to bring
in the other part, leaving it resting against the base. This his friends
assented to, but more was wanted. They felt that some inscription should be on
the column. after a length discussion they decided upon an open book to be
placed upon the broken pillar. There should of course be some reader of the
book! Hence the emblem of innocence-a beautiful virgin-who should weep over
the memory of the deceased while she read of his heroic deeds from the book
The monument erected to the memory of Commodore Lawrence was placed in the
southwest corner of Trinity Churchyard in 1813, after the fight between the
Chesapeake and Shannon, in which battle Lawrence fell. As described, it was a
beautiful marble pillar, broken off, with a part of the capital laid at its
base. lt remained until 1844-5 at which time Trinity Church was rebuilt. When
finished, the corporation of the Church took away the old and dilapidated
Lawrence monument and erected a new one in a different form, placing it in the
front of the yard on Broadway, at the lower entrance of the Church. When Cross
visited the new monument, he expressed great disappointment at the change,
saying "it was not half as good as the one they took away!"
These claims of Cross-perhaps made for Cross-to having originated the emblem
are disputed. Oliver speaks of a monument but fails to assign an American
origin. In the Barney ritual of 1817, formerly in the possession of Samuel
Wilson of Vermont, there is the marble column, the beautiful virgin weeping,
the open book, the sprig of acacia, the urn, and Time standing behind. What is
here lacking is the broken column. Thus it appears that the present emblem,
except the broken column, was in use prior to the publication of Cross' work
The emblem in somewhat different form is frequently found
in ancient symbolism. Mackey states that with the Jews a column was often used
to symbolize princes, rulers or nobles. A broken column denoted that a pillar
of the state had fallen. In Egyptian mythology, Isis is sometimes pictured
weeping over the broken column which conceals the body of her husband Osiris,
while behind her stands Horus or Time pouring ambrosia on her hair. In Hasting's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RELIGION AND ETHICS, Isis is said sometimes to be
represented standing; in her right hand is a sistrum, in her left hand a small
ewer and on her forehead is a lotus, emblem of resurrection. In the Dionysaic
Mysteries, Dionysius is represented as slain; Rhea goes in search of the body. She finds it and causes it to be buried. She is sometimes represented as
standing by a column holding in her hand a sprig of wheat, emblem of
immortality; since, though it be placed in the ground and die, it springs up
again into newness of life. She was the wife of Kronus or Time, who may
fittingly be represented as standing behind her.
Whoever invented the emblem or symbol of the marble monument, the broken
column, the beautiful virgin, the book, the urn, the acacia, Father Time
counting the ringlets of hair, could not have thought through all the
implications of this attempt-doubtless made in all reverence-to add to the
dignity and impressiveness of the story of the Master Builder.
The urn in which "ashes were safely deposited" is pure invention. Cremation
was not practiced by the Twelve Tribes; it was not the method of disposing of
the dead in the land and at the time of the building of the Temple, but rather was
the burning of the dead body reserved as a dreadful fate for the corpses of
criminals and evil doers. That so great a man as "the widow's son, of the
tribe of Naphtali" should have been cremated is unthinkable. The Bible is
silent on the subject; it does not mention Hiram the Builder's death, still
less the disposal of the body, but the whole tone of the Old Testament in
description of funerals and mournings, make it impossible to believe that his
body was burned, or that his ashes might have been preserved.
The Israelites did not embalm their dead; burial was accomplished on the day
of death or, at the longest wait, on the day following. According to the
legend, the Master Builder was disinterred from the first or temporary grave
and reinterred with honor. That is indeed, a supposable happening; that his
body was raised only to be cremated is wholly out of keeping with everything
known of deaths, funeral ceremonies, disposal of the dead of the Israelites.
In the ritual which describes the broken column monument, before the figure of
the virgin is "a book, open before her." Here again invention and knowledge
did not go hand in hand. There were no books at the time of the building of
the Temple, as moderns understand the word. there were rolls of skins, but a
bound book of leaves made of any substance-vellum, papyrus, skins-was an
unknown object. Therefore there could have been no such volume in which the
virtues of the Master Builder were recorded.
No logical reason has been advanced why the woman who mourned and read in the
book was a "beautiful virgin." No scriptural account tells of the Master
Builder having wife or daughter or any female relative except his mother. The
Israelites reverenced womanhood and appreciated virginity, but they were just
as reverent over mother and
child. Indeed, the bearing of children, the increase of the tribe, the desire
for sons, was strong in the Twelve Tribes; why, then, the accent upon the
virginity of the woman in the monument? "Time standing behind her, unfolding
and counting the ringlets of her hair" is dramatic, but also out of character
for the times. "Father Time" with his scythe is probably a descendant of the
Greek Chromos, who carried a sickle or reaping hook, but the Israelites had no
contact with Greece. It may have been natural for whoever invented the marble
monument emblem to conclude that Time was both a world-wide and a time
immemorial symbolic figure, but it could not have been so at the era in which
Solomon's Temple was built.
It evidently did not occur to the
originators of this emblem that it was historically impossible. Yet the
Israelites did not erect monuments to their dead. In the singular, the word
"monument" does not occur in the Bible; as "monuments" it is mentioned once,
in Isaiah 65 - "A people...which remain among the graves and lodge in the
monuments." In the Revised Version this is translated "who sit in tombs and
spend the night in secret places." The emphasis is apparently upon some form
of worship of the dead (necromancy). The Standard Bible Dictionary says that
the word "monument" in the general sense of a simple memorial does not appear
in Biblical usage.
Oliver Day Street in "SYMBOLISM OF
THE THREE DEGREES" says that the urn was an ancient sign of mourning, carried
in funeral processions to catch the tears of those who grieved. But the word
"urn" does not occur in the Old Testament nor the New.
Freemasonry is old. It
came to us as a slow, gradual evolution of the thoughts, ideas, beliefs,
teachings, idealism of many men through many years. It tells a simple story-a
story profound in its meaning, which therefore must be simple, as all great
truths in the last analysis are simple.
The marble monument and the broken column have many parts. Many of these have
the aroma of age. Their weaving together into one symbol may be-probably is-a
modernism, if that term can cover a period of nearly two hundred years, but
the importance of a great life, his skill and knowledge; his untimely and
pitiful death is not a modernism.
Nothing herein set forth is
intended as in any way belittling one of Freemasonry's teachings by means of
ritual and picture. These few pages are but one of many ways of trying to
illuminate the truth behind a symbol, and show that, regardless of the dates
of any parts of the emblem, the whole has a place in the Masonic story which
has at least romance, if not too much fact, behind it.