Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sights and Places: Pennsylvania Grand Lodge

Last year I had the pleasure of visiting the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge and I would encourage all to visit it, it is a beautiful building. This building is an amazing building that has been described as "one of the wonders of the Masonic world."

This Masonic jewel is located on Broad Street just adjacent to City Hall Plaza in Philadelphia.

The land for this building was purchased on July 1, 1867, by the Grand Lodge for $156,793.16. The building was designed by Bro. James H. WIndrim of Philadelphia Lodge No.72.

The cornerstone was laid on St. John the Baptist's Day (June 24th) of 1868 in the Northeast corner of the foundation wall by the Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother Richard Vaux. According to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania's website, the cornerstone was from the Havre-de-Grace quarries, and its dimensions were 5-feet 6.5-inches long, 2-feet 4.5-inches deep, and 4-feet 9.5-inches wide. This cornerstone weighed around 19,000-lbs. To dedicate this cornerstone the Grand Master used the same gavel used by George Washington used to lay the cornerstone of the Nation's Capitol at Washington, DC.

Once completed, the Temple cost $1,600,000, not including the decorations and furnishings. It was dedicated on September 26, 1873, on the 87th anniversary of the independence of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. The dedication included a Masonic parade, divided into 26 divisions and included 14,000 marchers.

The stone used on the exterior is different with each street it faces. From the website:
The exterior of the building at Broad and Filbert Streets is of Cape Ann syenite, which takes its name from Syne in Upper Egypt, where it was quarried for monuments by the ancient Egyptians. The Juniper and Cuthbert Street exteriors are of Fox Island granite from the coast of Maine. In accordance with Masonic tradition, the stones were cut, squared, marked and numbered at the quarries and brought to the Temple ready for use.
Prominent in the Philly skyline are the two Grand Towers (also known as the Southwest and Northwest  Towers).  the Southwest Tower at Broad and Filbert Streets is 250-feet tall.

The building contains a private suite for the Right Worshipful Grand Master; offices for the Grand Secretary and Grand Treasurer; administrative offices; offices for the Grand Holy Royal Arch Chapter of Pennsylvania, Grand Commandery of Knights Templar, and the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite's Valley of Philadelphia; the Benjamin Franklin Room, a private dining room; a Grand Banquet Hall; several Lodge rooms (Oriental Hall, Corinthian Hall, Renaissance Hall, Ionic Hall, Egyptian Hall, Gothic Hall, and Norman Hall); Masonic Library and Museum; and Giftshop. The stairwell walls are decorated with murals from the masterpieces of ancient Egypt, Assyria, Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, Rosslyn Chapel, Temple of the Dioscuri, and Temple of Vesta.

John Wanamaker Dining Room

This formal dining room was created in 1998 to provide an Executive Dining Room for the Grand Master to use when entertaining dignitaries at the Masonic Temple. Even though it is one of several dining rooms, it is by far the nicest of them all.

The Masonic Library and Museum

This museum contains a lot of Masonic treasures such as one of George Washington's apron (donated by the Washington Benevolent Society), letters written by Washington addressed to his Brothers, Ben Franklin's Masonic sash worn when he was Master of the Lodge of the Nine Muses in Paris, and a book written before 1501. The museum is of Byzantine architecture with several Latin phrases on the frieze.

On the North Wall of the museum are depicted the figures of human knowledge: medicine, philosophy, poetry, history, astronomy, and mathematics. On the South Wall, you will see the sources of natural happiness: charity, peace, industry, internal trade, commerce, and reflection/meditation. On the East Wall, are figures depicting the four great cities of the ancient world: Rome, Alexandria, Corinth, and Athens. On the West Wall, the symbolized cities continue to be depicted and they are Byzantium and Ravenna. On the West Wall are also seen figures depicting Fidelity guarded by a St. Bernard dog and Virtue guarding herself with the shield of Purity and the sword of Courage, with the lion crouched next to her representing Fortitude and Strength of Character.

Grand Banquet Room

From the website:
The rich decorations can be enjoyed by as many as five hundred during the dinners. The hall features the Composite style of architecture. There are eighteen fluted columns, whose capitals are adorned with birds, flowers and fruits. Murals and oil portraits decorate the walls, while the floor is laid in small tile patterns.  The hall is ninety-five feet long, forty-nine feet wide and twenty-five feet high.

Benjamin Franklin Room

At the eastern end of the Grand Foyer, the huge bronze doors open into the Benjamin Franklin Room, furnished and decorated from 1903 to 1904. This room is for the leisure of the Brethren and their guests. Upon the wall hangs oil portraits of the living Right Worshipful Past Grand Masters as well as 11 murals: Meditation, Marriage, Mother Love, Mealtime, Music, Tradition, Feeding the Young, The Madonna, The Teacher, and Night.

Renaissance Hall

Renaissance Hall is seventy-three feet long, forty-six feet wide, and fifty feet high, and the furniture is walnut inlaid with mahogany and California redwood. It used primarily by Royal Arch Chapters, but is also used for conferring the Blue Lodge degrees. Since the room is primarily used by the Royal Arch Chapter, the prevailing color of the room is scarlet.

Along the walls are paintings of characters important to the Craft and Capitular degrees. On the North wall are paintings of Moses and King Solomon.  On the South wall are paintings of both Hiram, King of Tyre, and Hiram Abiff.  On the East wall is a full-length painting of Joshua, the High Priest. A painting of St. John the Evangelist is on the West wall.

The columns come in two stages, one stacked on another.  The lower columns are Corinthian with elaborate ornamental detail and the upper columns are foliated capitals.  From these upper columns springs the vaulted ceiling.  The ceiling is divided into three sections; the center is a skylight with elliptical panels on either side. Throughout the walls and ceiling are emblems of Royal Arch Masonry.

Corinthian Hall

This room is mostly known as the meeting place of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Finished in 1903, the room is designed around the Grecian classical architecture, mostly notably Corinthian for which the room takes its name.

The columns and capitals are modeled after the ones found at the monument of Lysicrates in Athens. The seats on the platform in the East are modeled after those found in ancient Theater of Dionysus.

From the website:
Pictorial representations in the panels on the large frieze running around the four enclosing walls of the room are copies of historical fragments from Greek mythology relating mostly to spiritual life.
The color scheme of the room is dull ivory, gold to accentuate certain details, and shades of deep blue to give a sky effect.

On the South, West, and East walls, there are also to be found murals and Latin phrases written upon the frieze.  On the Eastern Wall, one will see "Fiat Lux" (Let there be Light) inscribed on the frieze below the pediment. There are 5 murals on the eastern wall:  depicting the Rising of the Sun (a young Hellos rising from the waves in a chariot drawn by 4 horses); Aurora pouring dew upon the Earth; the Psychotasia (weighing of the souls in Greek mythology); Apollo seated on a high tripod; and Triptolemus, holding a patera in his right hand and heads of grain in his left.

In the West, bears "Fide et Fiducia" (By Fidelity and Confidence) is written upon the wall. On this wall there are 3 murals, depicting: Jason and Hercules, with the help of Medea, attacking the dragon which is said to have guarded the Golden Fleece; Orestes (son of Agamemnon) guarded by Apollo in a shelter at Delphi; and Eumolpus (son of Poseidon, one of the first priests of Demeter, and one of the founders of the Eleusinian Mysteries) seated with a scepter in his hand with other Greek gods and goddesses around him. One will also see several medallions over doors and on pedestals which are copied from ancient coins and medallions and are described as follows:
Above the door to the left, looking toward the west wall: center, taken from a bronze coin, are the eight Phoenician Kabeiroi. Left, from a bronze coin of Ephesus, is the effigy of Marcus Aurelius. Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius stand at the lighted altar before the statue of Artemis of Ephesus. Right, from a coin of Ariathes, is the Baal of Gazioura. Seated, his left hand resting on a scepter, he holds an eagle in his right hand. Above the door to the right: center, from a bronze medallion, is the Temple of Zeus at Pergamos. Under the portico is Zeus, before him is a priest holding a patera, about to sacrifice a bull. Left, from a coin of Chios, Dionysus, crowned with ivy, stands holding a thyrsus (a staff or spear tipped with an ornament). Right, from a gold coin of Alexander, is a winged Victory; in a field is a thunderbolt, also a letter, which is a mint mark. On the pedestal to the right: from an Athenian coin, A.O.E., the names of magistrates. The owl is a symbol of wisdom; the lion of strength.
"Labore et Honore" (By Labor and Honor) is the inscription upon the Southern Wall. There are 5 murals depicting the following: the birth of Athena, being brought forth from the head of Zeus after being split by Hephaestus (or Vulcan) with many Greek gods and goddesses in attendance; Nike, the goddess of victory and success, pouring wine for libation into a cup, and is accompanied by two assistants carrying a wand and a flute player following them all; the Judgement of Paris; the Three Sirens seeking to attract Odysseus and his companions; and Greece personified by Hellas standing between Zeus on his throne and Athena. Beneath the first (and center) mural is a pilaster that has more coins upon it.

The Corinthian Hall, Renaissance Hall, and the Benjamin Franklin Rooms are examples of rooms that were decorated and completed under the direction of a Committee.

Gothic Hall

Early on, the Gothic Hall, dedicated on September 30, 1873, was decorated largely by contributions collected by Commanderies meeting in Philadelphia. The Gothic Hall is primarily used by the Knights Templar, but is also used by the Scottish Rite. The room is 87-feet long, 50-feet wide, and 26-feet high.

As its name implies the architectural style of this room is Gothic to include its furniture which is covered in black leather. There are 4-rows of benches on each side of the room. Above the chair of the Eminent Commander hangs the Crown and Cross.  Upon the walls hang the pictures of Past Grand Commanders.

Egyptian Hall

Completed in 1889, this room as the name implies is decorated in ancient Egyptian motifs, particularly of the Nile Valley. The room is 51-feet long, 43-feet wide, and 22-feet high.

There are 12 columns that stand along the four sides of the room.  Each column is a replica of an original column in Egypt.  The columns are surmounted by capitals peculiar to famous Temples and other ancient Egyptian edifices such as the Luxor, Karnak, and Philae. The columns have borders of reeds and rushes, and at their base are lotus flowers. In between the columns at their tops are panels that display pyramids.

The furniture is also in Egyptian styles.  The Worshipful Master's throne is gilded ebony and his pedestal is flanked by Sphinxes (the Sr. and Jr. Warden's pedestals are similar).

Along the walls are murals depicting domestic life in Ancient Egypt as depicted in hypogeum (underground chambers or tombs) and sepulchral chambers.

The ceiling is blue to represent the sky and the heavens. Above the Worshipful Master's, on the ceiling, is a lighted sun disk from which emanates rays that are tipped with the ancient Ankh. Along with the ceiling, the seven planets are represented as are the symbolic representation of the 12-months as seen in the Temple of Ramses at Thebes, and on the intersection of the crossbeams are ancient Mason Marks. Along the frieze are depictions of the seasons and the hours of the day

The Eastern Wall is beautifully decorated and the website describes it best as:
On the east wall, the cornice of the pylon contains as its central figure the all-seeing eye of Horus. The sloping jambs of the pylon represent the adoration of a Theban deity by Egyptian kings. The panel above the door depicts the goddess having jurisdiction over the east bank of the Nile. The soffits of the pylon contain the names of the principal gods.
In the room, there are 12 columns and 14 panels.  In the East, the 1st column is divided into two parts where the upper represents the sovereign (and family) adoring the Sun and the lower depicts Horus and Thoth purifying Amenophis II. The next column is also split into two sections where the upper depicts the Judgement of the Dead while the lower section shows Horus, Osiris, and Isis. Four of the panels are on this wall and they depict the four great Egyptian deities: Osiris, Horus, Isis, and Amon-Ra.

On the North Wall, the first column represents King Sheshonk worshiping the great triad of Memphis: Ptah, Sekhet, and Imhotep. The next column depicts Ramses II praying to the Theban triad: Ammon-Ra, Mut, and Khonsu. The third column of this wall is illustrated with Amenophis II offering floral tributes to the gods of Elephantine and Cataract, Khnum, and his two female companions. The last column represents King Seti making a milk offering to Osiris, Isis, and Horus. There are 5 panels on this wall and they illustrate the following: the child King Amenophis sitting on the lap of a goddess, a man, and his family, hunting in the marshes, Seti I striking prisoners of war with a mace, and a Harper as depicted in Ramses III tomb in Thebes.

In the West, the pylon is dedicated to the industrial arts. As in the East, the West has two columns. The first column displays the following deities: Selk, Hathor, Seb, and Sebek. The second column represents Thoth. Above the Sr. Warden's chair on the wall is a bronze relief of Right Worshipful Brother Thomas R. Patton, Past Grand Treasurer of Pennsylvania and benefactor of the Thomas Ranken Patton Masonic Institution for Boys, now the home of the Pennsylvania Youth Foundation.

Finally upon the Southern wall are depicted the rest of the columns and panels. The first column is dedicated to Neith and Tanen (an avatar of Ptah). The second column is consecrated to Maat (goddess of Truth), Thoth, and Sefekh. The third column represents a form of Horus and Set. The last column represents Osiris, Isis, and Anubis. The panels displayed on this wall illustrate another Harper, Ramses in his war chariot, a bari (or sacred boat) from the Temple of Elephantine, Ramses II celebrating a festival, and Anubis presiding over the dead holding symbols of life and death in his hands.

Oriental Hall

This hall is decorated like that of Alhambra (Arabic for "the red castle") in Granada, Spain, which is a Moorish style. This hall is 53-feet long, 41-feet wide, and 23-feet high.

This room is so decorated and ornamented (like that of its original counterpart) that it is to give the idea of grandeur and magnificence.

The ceiling is divided into 7,000 panels of various shapes and sizes copied from the Hall of Ambassadors. The border that surrounds the ceiling has a lotus flower pattern is copied from the Salon of Tribunals.

The screens between the arches and the panels above the columns are copies of those found in the Court of the Fish Pond. The soffits of the arches and the spandrels above them are from the "Hall of the Two Sisters." The borders on the lines of the capitals were copied from the "Hall of the Abencerrages."  

Ionic Hall

This room is 64-feet long, 41-feet wide, and 21-feet wide, and is designed in the elegant characteristics of the Ionic style.

The columns of this room are decorated in cream-tone ivory and their capitals are enriched with gold, vermillion, and blue. Between the pillars are full-length portraits of Past Grand Masters. The walls themselves are of a delicate blue.

The ceiling as with other Halls represents the blue vault of heaven.  In the center blazes a representation of the midday sun and is surrounded by the 12 Signs of the Zodiac which represent the twelve portions of the heavens through which the sun courses during the year.

Norman Hall

This hall was finished in 1891 and the style is Rhenish Romanesque, and the term "Norman" is used for the round-arch architecture found in this room. This room is 51-feet long, 41-feet wide, and 23-feet high.  The decorations are patterned after those found in ancient Ireland and Scandinavia.

The walls are divided into bays by broad piers with heavy arching. For the East, West, and South, the bays have pedimented niches carried on short columns with foliated caps. The curved ribs support the beams which divide the ceiling into 25-panels.

The piers are deep olive green and gold. The panels between the piers have life-sized figures on a gold mosaic background.  These figures are carrying the working tools of Freemasonry: Plumb, Trowel, Square, Mallet, and Compasses. The ceiling panels are deep blue and the border is tinted chocolate brown. The rug has a background of deep greenish-blue, necked with figures in shades of gold, red and black. The result is interlacing designs that produce the effect of a larger room.

Grand Staircase

The Grand Staircase is just off the main entrance from North Broad Street. This staircase is made up of Tennessee marble. From beneath the staircase, one may look up to see the Seal of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, the Great Seal of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and a large plaque encircled with the representations of the Four Cardinal Virtues: Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice.

On the second floor of the Grand Staircase, one can see a beautiful stained glass window depicting the Burning Bush where Moses received instruction from God. At the top of the window, within the stained glass rose, are emblems of the Masonic fraternity.  At the base of the window are portrayed the four cardinal virtues.

Above the Grand Staircase are 4 large paintings. On the North wall is Demeter, the Greek goddess of vegetation and fruits, riding in a chariot. On the South wall is a depiction of "Bringing in the Harvest". On the Western wall, the "Woodlands". On the East wall, "Group of Singers," with heads uplifted toward the heavens, singing praises to the Lord for the bountiful crops at harvest time.


1. History of the Masonic Temple of Philadelphia. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania:

2. Masonic Temple (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:,_Pennsylvania%29

3. Self-Guided Tour. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania:

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