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The Architecture and Masonic Symbols of the Memorial

The immense physical structure of the George Washington Masonic Memorial and the beauty of its interior and exterior are grand. But we must remember that the Memorial is symbolic of the character and greatness of the man it memorializes. That was the reason for its creation. It was what first inspired our founders to envision such an endeavor more than 100 years ago and is what impels us to celebrate and maintain the Memorial today.

Built of granite, the Memorial is a symbol of the strength, perseverance and courage of George Washington. Designed to express the ideals that inspired classical Greek and Roman architecture, it is symbolic of the democratic principles upon which our country was founded. Standing tall and pointing to the heavens, it symbolizes the Divine Guidance that Washing-ton firmly believed was shepherding the creation of the new nation.

The three classical orders of architecture—Doric, Ionic and Corinthian—are featured throughout the Memorial. The Doric order, with its solid and unadorned style, is also a symbol of strength. The Doric traditionally has no base; it is fluted and crowned with an unadorned capital. The Memorial’s magnificent Portico entrance, which was inspired by the Athenian Parthenon, is Doric, as are the marble columns in the Memorial Theater. Doric pilasters are also used on the exterior of the first level of the Memorial tower. In Masonry, the Doric column is associated with the Senior Warden.

The Ionic column has a base and is surmounted with a volute, or scroll–like, capital. Ionic columns were used by Erechtheum, which is a temple to Athena Polias, Poseidon and Erechtheus on the Acropolis in Athens. Ionic pilasters are used on the exteri-or of the second level of the Memorial Tower. The Ionic column is symbolic of knowledge and wisdom and is associated with the Master.

The Corinthian order is the most ornamental of the three. A Corinthian column is fluted, has a base and capital richly adorned with leaves of the acanthus, olives or other such decoration. Corinthian columns were used in the monument of Lysicrates in the Temple of Zeus in Athens. Corinthian pilasters are used on the exterior of the third level of the Memorial Tower. In Mason-ic terms, the Corinthian column is symbolic of beauty and is associated with the Junior Warden.

Two other orders of architecture are used in the Memorial: Tuscan and Composite. Eight massive Tuscan columns in Grand Masonic Hall support the entire Tower .

Tuscan is the simplest order; the columns are not fluted and do not have a base. The Composite order, a combination of Corin-thian and Ionic, can be seen in the more than 40-foot columns in Memorial Hall.

The Memorial Tower is capped with an Egyptian pyramid and surmounted with a stylized flame-like finial as a refer-ence to ancient lighthouses, particularly the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Freemasonry was a guiding light to Washington as he was the guiding light of the American Revolution and the formation of our country. The Memorial is a Lighthouse, spreading the light and knowledge of Freemasonry to the world.‖

An article written by George D. Seghers, Executive Director of the George Washington Masonic Memorial. Copied in Toto from Light of the George Washington Masonic Memorial. Alexandria, Virginia Volume 17, Number 1, 2011 

Submitted by Richard Mullard, PM, Secretary Gateway Lodge # 339, Brea

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