Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Masonic Stained Glass

It's been a while since I've highlighted Masonic art for art's sake. So it seems as good a time as any to do so again. Previously, The Hedge Mason has focused on Masonic Neon Signs, lodges, Libations, and a variety of other items. Today, we will take a brief glance at Masonic Stained Glass art. We will not provide any definitive history of the use of Stained Glass in relation to Freemasonry. Although there probably is a history that could be written, I haven't done that research, and I just wanted to collect some Masonic Eye candy to share. The sole justification for this is that it is beautiful and I love Masonic Symbolism as well as Stained Glass.

Window in Lodge in Vermont
No doubt the origins of the use of stained glass art in masonic temples, homes, and hospitals has its origins in the use of stained glass in European religious architecture. That it reaches back to the construction of the grand cathedrals of Europe is only appropriate. That gives its use in Masonic contexts a greater authenticity.  It would appear, if only from a romanticist perspective to have a more ancient foundation than simply a form of 19th Century Romantic Revivalism.

Whether that is true or not, what can be said without fear of contradiction is that at least in modern times, the use of stained glass to ornament masonic buildings is to be found throughout the world, and the use of masonic imagery in the stained glass found even in Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals is, at least in some countries, documented.

Iglesia de San Ildefonso, Mexico
One such perhaps unexpected example is the presence of masonic symbolism in the stained glass windows which can be found in chapels, churches, and cathedrals in Mexico. This is notable because, although one would not normally expect Masonic symbolism in (at least relatively modern) Catholic places of worship, Freemasonry also experienced governmental persecution in Mexico until the establishment of the Mexican state after it achieved independence from Spain. In fact, members of the first documented Masonic Lodge in Mexico were arrested, brought before the Inquisition, and one of these was sentenced to death. Yet, here we find Masonic symbolism clearly present in Roman Catholic religious architecture.

Uíbh Eachach in Uladh
And while I have not heard of stained glass displaying Masonic symbolism in any religious architecture in Ireland, we find some beautiful examples of its effective use in Masonic temples there. One shown here is a gorgeous and innovative use of stained glass in a Lodge in Sciobairín, Co. na Corcaigh. Another example, more prosaic and memorial in function comes from Uíbh Eachach, Condae an Dúin, in Northern Ireland. 

There is much more to be found in Ireland, but we will turn our eyes elsewhere in order not to be accused of playing favorites. And there is a great diversity, and embarrassment of riches to be found in Masonic Lodges through out the world.

David R. Clarke Window in Scotland 

It would hardly seem fair to note several Irish examples if we were to slight her northern sister, Scotland. Scotland, foremost in Masonic history for having been the birthplace of the modern  tradition of Freemasonry, is not without her own treasures. Here we show one such example, a window in the Pollokshields Burgh Hall, near Glasgow. in Scotland. The Pollokshields Burgh Hall was originally designed by H. E. Clifford in the Scottish renaissance style. The hall first opened in 1890 and served for many years its original function of a Masonic Lodge. The window was commissioned to the accomplished stained glass artist, David. R. Clarke.

Kingston Parrish, Jamaica

In the Caribbean we also find Masonic symbols being intentionally displayed in a Parrish church. This time the church is to be found in Kingston, Jamaica. A few stunning examples come from this location, including one which bears an all-seing eye within a triangle, and another with pathagorean symbolism in high relief.

These two Jamaican windows are only two of a larger collection of harmoniously designed window, totaling no less than ten or eleven distinct panels which prominently display Masonic symbolism.  We will return to look further at this particular church in another post, as it merits more attention.

When we turn our eyes toward the United States, we do not fare any worse.

We will end this posting with some North American examples. The first is from the famous Masonic Temple in Washington, DC.  and represents a beautifully crafted example of 20th Century art.  This example includes an image of the temple, the eagles and a stylized border suggesting the Columns of Jachim and Boaz. All in all, it is a beautifully crafted window and evokes many of the myths and symbols dear to Freemasons of all descriptions.

This piece, both due to its subject matter, its choice of color and elongated shape as well as it's positioning which is at the end of a passage, gives a distinctly Egyptian feel to the window. Even the thoroughly modern lighting fixtures above help to reinforce this sensation and blend in well. All in all, a superb installation. 

An interesting image utilizing the Masonic All seeing eye is installed in Saint Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. It uses a more abstract pattern suggesting both geometrical shapes and elements of architectural detail whose chaotic placements serves to draw attention to the more calm eye in the center of the work. This work demonstrates the eclectic vision which has guided the creation of Masonic stained glass where ever it is found. Certainly there is a diversity of vision, style, and approach, the only consistant trait to all of them being that of solid craftsmanship and design. 

In Tappan, NY there exists a deserted Masonic home, which was mentioned in  an earlier post concerning Masonic ruins. In the chapel connected to the deserted nursing home remains a beautiful example of stained glass art. We include it here, even though it has been reproduced elsewhere on the Hedge Mason, as it is worthy of a second look. Unfortunately, such derelict pieces are unlikely to have a bright future, unless someone who appreciates their worth and historical significance does something to protect them. Given the current state of Freemasonry in the United States, that is quite unlikely. The best we can hope for is that someone who likes stained glass may decide it is marketable.

We will leave on what I consider to be one of the most pleasing use of the Masonic symbol of the beehive that I have seen in quite some time. Here we are treated to an image of a beehive from a Masonic Lodge in Baltimore, Maryland.  It should serve as a reminder that with such treasures to preserve, we need to get busy.

1 comment:

Stuff and Thoughts said...

Professor Ballard, in reference to the Masonic Beehive, yes it is very nice but I have a picture of a Masonic Beehive that is 4x the size and is one of the oldest ones
in America.
My name is Carlos my email is send me a message and I will send you the pictures and the info.
Sincerely: Carlos Carvalho