Some Patron Saints of
W. BRO. GORDON P. G. HILLS, P.M.
Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No.2076 (E.C.)
Published in The
Treasury of Masonic Thought, Dundee 1924
Looking back to the mediæval guilds through
whose usages we may trace the descent of our present Speculative Craft, we
find that the Patron Saints associated with various callings and trades had
usually been chosen on account of some affinity, often more or less remote,
with the pursuits of the members. Some cases in which the reason for this
association baffles explanation are really to be accounted for by the
accidental grouping together of several callings under a patron properly
belonging to one in particular, or through a purely practical consideration
dictated by convenience, which decided that the members should attend a church
dedicated to a Saint whose history had no special relation to the Craft in
question. Many Saints, owing to several different incidents in their lives,
were claimed as Patrons by a large number of callings which had no Craft
associations with one another.
An invocation of the Holy Trinity
always formed the religious foundation of such guilds, and to this might be
added the names of Saintly Exemplars, but, in many cases the Triune
Mystery stood alone as the title of the guild — God Himself
was the Patron of the fraternity, and this seems to have been the case in the
Fifteenth Century with the Masons’ Company of London. More than one cause may
have been a factor in this particular choice, as the Company had special
relations with the Priory of the Holy Trinity at Aldgate, whilst the idea of
the Great Master Craftsman of the World, so familiar to us, was also present
to the minds of those days. Illustrations contemporary with the connection I
refer to, and also of much earlier date are extant, in which The Great
Architect Of The Universe is represented creating the World, as was
described by Milton[i] when be wrote how
the Omnific Word
took the golden compasses, prepared
In God’s eternal store, to circumscribe
This universe, and all created things.
One foot He centred, and the other turned
Round through the vast profundity obscure,
And said, “Thus far extend, thus far thy bounds,
This be thy just circumference, O world.”
Turning then to the consideration of the
earthly Patron Saints of Masonry, and dismissing the names of those the exact
reason of whose connection with the Craft is uncertain, we are left with three
remarkable legends relating to St Thomas the Apostle,
St Barbara, and the Four Crowned Martyrs.
Each of these legends illustrates a somewhat
different point of view, and their main characteristics may aptly be described
as being respectively mystical, symbolical, and historical. All three stories
alike are coloured, more or less, by such influences, and are calculated, by
means of allegory and symbol, to lead the Operative Craftsmen to the
contemplation of the highest principles of piety and virtue.
Let us briefly review the leading particulars
of these legends in this light: — When St Thomas was at
Caesarea, Our Lord appeared to him and said,
The King of
the Indies, Gondoforus, hath sent to seek for workmen well versed in the
science of Architecture, who shall build for him a palace finer than that of
the Emperor of Rome. Behold now, I will send thee to him. The Apostle went
on his mission, but whilst the King was absent in a distant country, instead
of building a palace, he distributed all the treasures which the King had
accumulated to the sick and poor. When the King returned he was full of wrath
and cast St Thomas into prison to await a fearful death. Meanwhile a brother
of the King died, but after four days he returned to life and warned the King
The man whom thou wouldst torture is a servant of God, and told him
that in Paradise angels had shown him a wondrous palace of gold and silver and
precious stones which Thomas the Architect had built for the King. The Saint
was loosed immediately from his bonds, and exhorted the King,
not that those who would possess heavenly things, have little care for the
things of this earth? There are in heaven rich palaces without number, which
were prepared from the beginning of the world for those who purchase the
possession through faith and charity. Thy riches, O King, may prepare the way
for thee to such a palace, but they cannot follow thee thither.
It is in allusion to this legend that, in all
devotional representations which are not prior to the thirteenth century, St
Thomas cames as his symbol the square or builder’s rule, and that he is
claimed as the Patron Saint of Architects and Builders.
I venture to fancy that an old-time Operative
seeing an English Worshipful Master's apron of to-day would, in its T square
emblems, expect to find a reference to St Thomas.
The point of view reminds one of St Laurence
and his production of the sick and poor as the treasures of the Church.
The beauty and significance of the allegory
will be appreciated by those whose craft it is to build a spiritual edifice in
Saint Barbara was the daughter
of an Eastern Noble, a pagan who dwelt in Heliopolis. The father, fearing that
her beauty would lead to her being sought in marriage, and that so he would
lose his only and beloved child, confined her in a high tower. There
contemplating the stars of heaven in their courses, the future Saint
apprehended the Omnipotence of a Power vastly superior to the idols of the
heathen; to her mind so prepared came tidings of the true faith, and her
conversion followed. Her directions to the builders to put three instead of
two windows in her chamber, brought the knowledge of her conversion to her
father. His love changed to fury, which eventually led him to be himself the
instrument of her martyrdom.
In association with the Tower and its Builders
St Barbara is claimed as the Patroness of Architects and Builders, and more
especially in connection with castles, fortifications, and the military arts.
Her emblem in this connection is a Tower.
The legend seems to have originated in Eastern
Christendom and to have been brought by the Crusaders to Western Europe, where
the Saint acquired great popularity, in mediæval times; as the Patroness of
the Knight and man-at-arms.
A mystical tower where Truth is to be found is
a symbol not unknown to some of our Brethren.
We now come to the legend of the Four
Crowned Martyrs which really commemorates Nine Saints
comprising two separate groups, a company of Five excellent Masons —
four friends soon joined by another — and a fellowship of Four
When the Emperor Diocletian went to Pannonia to
visit the stone quarries he found, among the craftsmen there employed, four
skilled above all others in the stone-squarer’s art. Their names were
Claudius, Castorius, Sempronianu,
and Nicostratus; they were secretly Christians, and the
motive of their good work was that it was all done in the Name of their Lord.
To these was joined by their example a fellow craftsman, Simplicius,
who also embraced their faith. By declining to make a statue of the heathen
god Æsculapius they forfeited the favour of the Emperor, and eventually were
done to death by being fastened up alive in leaden coffins and cast into the
river. Thence a fellow Christian raised the poor remains and carried them to
his own house. On his return to Rome the Emperor directed a temple to be made
to Æsculapius in the Baths of Trojan, where some time later on, on its
completion, the soldiers, and more especially the City Militia, were ordered
to present themselves and offer incense before the image of the god. Four
Christian soldiers refused to sacrifice to the idol: they were scourged to
death with leaden-weighted thongs, and their bodies, thrown to the dogs, were
recovered by their friends and laid to rest with other Saints. Twelve years
later the Bishop founded a church on the Cælian Hill, under the title of the
Four Crowned Martyrs, dedicated to commemorate these nine
Saints all equally to be accounted winners of the Martyr’s Crown Celestial.
Later on the names of the soldiers were given as Seyerus,
Severianus, Carpophorus, and
The Church of the Quatuor Coronati has survived
through many vicissitudes and re-buildings to the present day, and the legend,
too, has passed through many parallel stages, but as regards the main points,
it is agreed that the story rests upon an historical foundation, and some of
the difficulties and discrepancies, which I cannot now enter into, have only
served to confirm the general credibility of the legend.
The relics of the Martyrs were not deposited in
the church until many years had elapsed since their Martyrdoms, which in the
case of the Five Worthy Masons may be dated on November 8th, A.D. 302, and as
regards the Four Soldiers in the year A.D. 304.
There was a special significance in this case
in the title Coronati, beyond its aptness to apply to all Saints, for the
soldiers might have gained the distinction denominated ‘crowned’ in the Roman
Army, yet they chose the Heavenly Crown. Crowning, too, would have, in the
minds of mediæval guildsmen a familiar association with some election
ceremonies as maintained in the London City Companies to these days.
Both in England and on the Continent the Four
Crowned Martyrs were widely recognised as the Patron Saints of the Masons’
Craft, but as the representations of them show, the memory of the military
element seems to have been largely eclipsed by the commemoration of the Masons
who appear grouped alone with the usual emblems of their calling. These
symbols, which were easily recognised, and the simple story of how the Saints
worked worthily in the Name of their Master, and were faithful even unto
death, made a direct appeal easily understood by folk of all classes, and, no
doubt, most of all appreciated by those who were practising the same craft.
The historical legend of the Quatuor Coronati
was essentially the legend of the Operatives. That of St Barbara contains in
its symbolism elements of romance and chivalrous associations; whilst the
mystical allegory relating to St Thomas has clearly a savour of the cloister.
We know that the building operations of the middle ages necessarily involved
special relations between the clergy and the craftsmen in ecclesiastical work;
there must have been a very analogous association between military experts and
craftsmen with regard to castles and works of fortification, and I think it is
to such influences that we owe the association with building of these two
legends, which both appeal to builders in general, but in each case have a
particular interest in addition, either for the soldier or the priest.
We of the Speculative Craft have a very real
bond of union with the martyred Masons in that our labours, like theirs, are
always undertaken under the Divine Invocation, and we have also, besides
actual associations past and present, a symbolic link with the Soldier Saints.
For, as the material building is exposed to the war of the elements, so in the
moral sphere combat is the necessary accompaniment of building, and so it will
ever behove all worthy Masons to labour trowel in hand and sword by side, as
did the ancient craftsmen at the building of the Holy Temple, until the
designs laid down by the Great Architect Of The Universe on
the Tracing Board of His Divine Providence are brought to perfect completion
in the Grand Lodge above.
We are told that the great purpose of
Freemasonry is to build character. What is character but a reflection of
God? The trouble with Freemasonry is that it is not understood. The need of
the world to-day is a better setting forth of the object and the principles
of this fraternity, a need for keener analysis of that which is behind the
teachings of this great society in the hope that men may be brought to
realise the function and purpose of life.