The Ancient Craftsmen

When the period of cathedral building commenced in the late 10th century, lodges of Masons were formed to provide an orderly establishment for the erection of a particular building. In addition to the lodges of stonemasons, there were similar organizations for carpenters, workers in glass, sculptors, artists, etc. A number of the cathedrals were under construction for periods exceeding 100 years. It is therefore apparent that many workmen spent their lifetime at one location. They worked from sunrise to sunset, six days a week and this obviously became their “way of life”.

While Guilds existed in many other crafts at this early period, employment for skilled stone masons was isolated and sporatic in any given locality. At a much later date than our story, The London Company of Freemasons was organized, the only group of its type in England. However, it has never operated on the Guild system.

The Church, King or Nobleman desiring to erect a cathedral, castle, or palace, a project that could conceivably take several generations, would employ a Master of the Freemasons who would establish his own organization, and usually serve as Chief Architect for the building.

This group of Freemasons first built a temporary structure for a headquarters and storage house. In the early stages of construction, the craftsmen also had their meals and slept in this building which was called a “lodge”. After a time, the organization itself acquired the title od “a lodge”.

From the earliest period, the lodge organization provided for apprentices, who were learning the craft; fellows of the craft, who were journeyman workmen; and a Master.
The basic laws, rules and regulations for the government of each lodge were carefully written down. In many respects these were the laws that governed the life of the individual workman. The Cook Ms, from the early 15th century, relates charges for the Master and charges for the craftsman that affected their personal conduct.

In addition to the laws, there were many “trade secrets” which were held by each rank of the craft. Only a Master knew and understood all of these secrets, which were primarily a knowledge of Geometric formulae and the ability to apply it to the work at hand.

Excerpted from: A History and Hanbook, The York Rite of Freemasonry, by Frederick G, Speidel
Posted in Excerpts.

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