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more light #322

Orders Of Architecture

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

Dear Masonic Student,

Sometimes it seems to be difficult to get a handle on emails. Sometimes an email is remembered but can’t be located. I continue to work on answering emails as quickly as I can; cataloging them in easy to remember files, thus being able to recall them when I find the information asked about in the email.

One email I can’t locate, asked about two of the orders of architecture; the Tuscan and Composite. The question was something like ‘why does the ritual attribute them to the Romans?’ The answer is that they were actually contrived by the Romans – this is a matter of history. Masonry does not teach history, it uses allegories to convey a truth, so sometimes there is poetic license used in allegories just as there is in parables and fables, but in the case of the five orders of architecture the five orders are as stated in the lecture.

Learning more about architecture in some good books for the layman is interesting and informative, but some good useful information can be found on the Internet too. For instance, at the following article can be found. When you read the article the orders are listed with some information regarding them. I thought I would share it with the readers of Mehr Licht in the hopes that the Brother Mason who asked me the question will see it. I send it with my apologies for not being able to locate the email so I could respond with this information personally. However, I hope everyone will enjoy seeing the information – Some questions received are of the kind many Masons are interested in, and I think this is one of them. One practice I’ve recommended over the years is to take a tour of a town or city and observe the columns found on some of the older buildings and to observe the kinds of pillars used on them; I find that kind of thing a great way to get acquainted in a town or city I happen to be visiting. Below is the article – Ed


In classical styles of architecture the various columnar types fall, in general, into the five so-called classical orders, which are named Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan, and Composite. Each order comprises the column with its base, shaft, and capital and the supported part or entablature, consisting of architrave, frieze, and cornice. Each order has its own distinctive character, both as to relative proportions and as to the detail of its different parts. The entablature height is generally about one quarter that of the column; a pedestal, when used, is about one third the height of the column. For the Doric order, the Ionic order, and the Corinthian order, originally developed by the Greeks, the Roman writer Vitruvius attempted to formulate the proportionings of their parts. In Greece the Doric was the earliest order to develop, and it was used for the Parthenon and for most temples. The Corinthian was little used until the Romans adapted it. They employed it more than they did any other order and introduced brackets, or modillions, in its cornice. The Roman orders made greater use of ornament than the Greek, and their column proportions were more slender. In the 15th cent. Alberti revived an interest in the work of Vitruvius. At the same time, architects made drawings of Roman ruins and applied the Roman orders rather arbitrarily to building design. In the 16th cent. a more systematic use of orders was practiced. Architectural writers, notably Serlio, Scamozzi, Vignola, Palladio, and Sanmichele crystallized the Roman versions and additions (Tuscan and Composite) into the five definitely formulated orders, with minute rules of proportion. Philibert Delorme, Claude Perrault, Abraham Bosse, and Sir William Chambers were among those who composed treatises on the subject. Using the classical orders as a basis, the designers of the Renaissance and of subsequent periods created many variations. However, during the classic revival, a strict adherence to the proportions of the original Greek and Roman models became the rule. Though 20th-century architects are aware of the orders, they no longer use them.

“You are walking by the tomb of Battiades, Who knew well how to write poetry, and enjoy Laughter at the right moment, over the wine” Callimachus

Callimachus (ca. 305 BC – ca. 240 BC) was a native of Cyrene and a descendant of Battiadae. He was a noted poet, critic, and scholar of the Library of Alexandria, and enjoyed the patronage of Ptolemy II; although he was never made chief librarian, he was responsible for producing the catalogue of all the volumes contained in the Library. His Pinakes (tablets), 120 volumes long, provided the complete and chronologically arranged catalogue of the Library, laying the foundation for later work on the history of Greek literature. As one of the earliest critic-poets, he typifies Hellenistic scholarship.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014