Open House London 2011: Freemason’s Hall

 

freemason hall london
Front entrance to the Freemason’s Hall
60 Great Queen’s Street, London
© Heather Shimmin

DESCRIPTION

The Freemasonʼs Hall is the headquarters for the United Grand Lodge of England. This is the third Freemasonʼs Hall to be built on this site. The Freemasonʼs Hall is designed in an irregular pentagon pattern with the Grand Temple at the centre. The architects were H V Ashely and F Winton Newman, who also designed the Council House extension and Art Gallery in Birmingham. The Freemasonʼs Hall is built on a steel frame. The steel  pylons are driven 60 feet into the ground to hold to enormous weight of the structure, contributed largely to the weight of the Portland stone cladding.

The clock was installed in the tower in 1967 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the first Grand Freemasonʼs Lodge in 1717. The Freemasonʼs Hall is one of the finest Art Deco structures in England. The principal ceremonial rooms are on the first floor. The Hall contains 21 Lodge Rooms, a library, museum, board and committee rooms, and  administrative offices.

The Freemasonʼs Hall interior and exterior are Grade II* listed. The site is 2 acres one block west of Kingsway.

THOUGHTS

I chose the Freemasonʼs Hall mainly because of my background in growing up in a 98% Mormon community whose roots can be traced back to the Freemasons. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was a Freemason and imported many of the Freemasonʼs ideas into the fabric of the LDS religion. (The Freemasons say that Smith stole their rites and  ceremonies, which is the primary reason for  Smithʼs assassination.) Iʼll admit, I was curious to see the correlation between the two organizations.

I found the connections fascinating and was very surprised at just how much the two have in common. The overall layout and feel of the Hall is very similar to a Mormon Temple and its religious ceremonies. Both organizations use a formal ceremony to initiate its members into the group, as well as to mark an elevation in their rank and status as a member of that organization. The Freemasons move through a series of three rooms – the First Vestibule, the Second Vestibule, and the Grand Temple – each increasing in richness and design. In Mormon Temples, a person also moves through  a set of three rooms – the Telestial, Ceiling of the Grande Temple, the heart of the building.  Terrestrial, and Celestial Rooms- representing the three Kingdoms of Heaven, also a progression of increasing richness and extravagance in design. Entering the Freemason’s Grand Temple or the Mormonʼs Celestial Room, represents an arrival in the presence of the Master Mason, or to God. The progression of moving from room to room, arriving in a grand, central room, signifies a journey from  warth to the presence of God, a reward for the faithful. It is the ultimate end within both organizations.

freemason's hall open house london 2011 ceiling of freemason hall london
Side elevation of the Freemason’s Hall
60 Great Queen’s Street, London
© Heather Shimmin
Ceiling of the Grand Temple, the heart of the building
60 Great Queen’s Street, London 
© Heather Shimmin

The ceiling in the Grand Temple is an elaborate mosaic of the “celestial sky,” a traditional motif in Freemason Halls and obvious parallel to Mormon Temples, whose entire purpose is to prepare to meet God in the Celestial Kingdom, both literally and figuratively. At the end of the Mormon Temple ceremony, the person passes through a veil into the presence of God. This is represented by passing through a white curtain and entering a very posh, white, gold, and cream-colored room in which the person can meditate and think on God. This space is reserved for only the most faithful members of the Church; it is not open to the public and is only available to members who meet the strictest requirements, such as a being a full tithes payer (10% of oneʼs income), weekly church attendance, complete adherence to the dietary rules (no coffee, tea, alcohol), being chaste, and a list of many other strict rules.


During the an official ceremony, the Freemason candidate enters the Grand Temple through a set of bronze doors on the east side of the room. Bas relief depictions of the Ark and the Covenant (very strong symbols in both organizations), and Jacobʼs Ladder (the ladder to heaven) ascending towards the Hebrew character YOD (Jehovah), are two of the reliefs on the bronze doors. Standing on the sides of the bronze doors are King Solomon and King Hiram, builders of the first Temple at Jerusalem. Mormons have very strong connections with Israel, Jerusalem and Solomonʼs Temple, the layout for all Mormon Temples.

The Grand Temple is decorated with several types of marble, plush, red velvet chairs, and a very thick black and white checkered rug that runs the length of the hall, some 100+ feet.

Throughout the building are stained glass windows. In the First Vestibule on the first floor has a series of six windows depicting the six days of creation, a central theme in the Mormon Temple ceremony.

 

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