Roman Artificers

[1]Roman colleges of artificers.

“It was the German writers on the history of the institution, such as Krause, held man, and some others of less repute who’s first discovered, or at least first announced to the world, the connection that exists between Roman colleges of architects and the Society of freemasons.

The theory of Krause on this subject is to be found principally in his well-known work entitled Die rei altesten Kunsterkunden.  Either advances the doctor that Freemasonry as it is now exists is indebted for all of its characteristics, religious and social, political and professional, it’s interior organization, it’s modes of thought and action, and it’s very design and object, to the college artificum of the romans, passing with but little characteristic changes through the Corporations von Baukunstlern, architectural gilds, but the middle ages up to English organization of the year 1717; so that he claims and almost absolute identity between the Roman colleges of Numa, 700 years before Christ, and the Lodges of the 19th century.  We need not, according to his view, go any farther back in history, nor look to any other series of events, nor trouble ourselves with any other influences for the origin and the character freemasonry.

This theory, which is perhaps the most popular one on the subject, requires careful examination semicolon and in the prosecution of such an inquiry the first thing to be done will be to investigate, so far as authentic history affords us the means, the true character and condition of these Roman colleges.

It is tonuma, the second king of Rome that historians, following after Plutarch, ascribe the first organization of the Roman colleges; although as Newman reasonably conjectures, it is probable that similar organizations previously existed among the Alban population, and embrace the resident Tuscan artificers.  But it is admitted that Numa gave to them that form which they always subsequently maintained.

Numa, on ascending the throne, found the citizens divided into various nationalities, derived from the romans, the sabines, and the inhabitants of neighboring smaller and weaker towns, who, by choice or by compulsion, I had removed her residence to the banks of the Tiber.  Hence resulted at disseverance of sentiment and feeling, and a constant tendency to disunion.  Now the object of Numa was to obliterate these contending elements into establish a perfect identity of national feeling so that to use the language of Plutarch the distribution of the people might become a harmonious mingling of all with all.   For this purpose he established one common religion, and divided the citizens into curiaen tribes, each curia and tribe being composed of an admixture in differently of Romans, sabines, and the other denizens of Rome.

Directed by the same political essay gacity, he distributed the artisans into various gilds or corporations, under the name of collegia, or colleges.  To each collegium was assigned the artisans of a particular profession, and each had its own regulations, both secular and religious.  These colleges grew with the growth of the republic; and although Numa had originally established but nine, namely, the college of musicians of goldsmiths, of carpenters, of dyers, of shoemakers, of tanners, of smith’s, of potters, and a 9th composed of all artisans not embraced under either of the proceeding heads, they were subsequently and greatly increased and number.  80 years before the Christian era they were, it is true abolished, or sought to be abolished, by a decree of the senate, who looked with jealousy on their political influence, but 20 years afterward they were revived, new ones established by a lot of the Tribune clodius, which repealed the senatus consultum.  They continue to exist under the empire, were extended into the provinces, and even out last decline and fall of the Roman power.

Now let us inquire into the form and organization of these colleges, and in so doing, trace the analogy between them and the Masonic Lodge is, if any such analogy exists.

Indispensable was this rule that the expression of tres facing collegium, three make a college, became a maxim of the civil law.  So rigid too was the application of this rule that the body of consoles, although calling each other colleagues and possessing and exercising all collegiate rights were because they consisted only two members never likely recognize as a college.  The reader will very readily be struck with the identity of this regulation of colleges and that of freemasonry, which with equal rigor requires three Masons to constitute a lodge the college and the lodge each demanded three members to make it legal great number might give it more efficiency, but it could not render it more legitimate.  This then is the first analogy between the lodges of Freemasons and the Roman colleges.

These colleges had their appropriate officers who were singularly were assimilated in stations and duties to the officers of the Masonic Lodge.  Each college was presented over by a chief or president whose title of Magister is exactly translated by the English word master.  The next officers were the decuriones.  They were analogous to the Masonic wardens, for each decurio presided over a section or division of the college, just as in the most ancient English and in the present Continental ritual we find the lodge divided into two sections are columns, over each of which one of the wardens presided, though whom the commands of the master were extended to the brethren of his column.  There was also in the colleges a scriba, or secretary who recorded his proceedings; Thesaurensis, or treasurer, who had charge of the common chess; a Tabularius, keeper of the archives equivalent to the modern archivists; and lastly as these colleges combined peculiar religious worship with their operative labors, there was in each of them a sacerdos, or priest, who conducted the religious ceremonies, and was this exactly equivalent to the chaplain of a masonic lodge.  All this we find another analogy between these ancient institutions are Masonic bodies.

Another analogy will be found in the distribution or division of classes in the Roman colleges.  As the Masonic lodges have their Master masons, their fellow crafts, and their apprentices, so the college has had their Seniores, elders, or chief men of the trade their journeyman and apprentices.  The members did not, it is true, like the Freemasons call themselves brothers, because this term, first adopted in the gilds or corporations of the middle ages, is the offspring of a Christian sentiment; but, as Krause remarks, these colleges were, in general conducted after the pattern or model of a family; what now and then be found among the family appellations.

The partly religious character of the Roman colleges of artificers Constitutes a very peculiar analogy between them and the Masonic lodges.  The history of these colleges shows that an ecclesiastical character was bestowed upon them at the very time of their organization by Numa.  Many of the workshops of these artificers were erected in the vicinity of temples, and their curia, or place of meeting was generally in some way connected with the temple.  The deity to whom such Temple was consecrated was peculiarly worshiped by the members of the adjacent college, and became the patron God of their trade or art.  In time, when the pagan religion was abolished and the religious character of these colleges was changed, the pagan gods gave way, though the influence of the new religion, to Christian saints, one of whom was always adopted as the patron of the modern gilds, which in the middle ages took the place of the Roman colleges; and hence the Freemasons derived the dedication of their lodges to St John from a similar custom among the corporations of builders.

These colleges held secret meetings in which the business transacted consisted of the initiations of neophytes into their fraternity, and of mystical and esoteric instructions to their apprentices and journeyman.  They were in this respect, secret societies like the Masonic lodges.

There were monthly or other periodical contributions by the members for the support of the college by which means a common fund was accumulated for the maintenance of indigent members or the relief of destitute strangers belonging to the same society.

They were committed by the government to frame a constitution and to enact laws and regulations for their own government.  These privileges were gradually enlarged and their provisions extended, so that in the latter days of vampire the colleges of architects especially were invested with extraordinary power is in reference to the control of builders even the distinction so well known in Masonic jurisprudence between legally constituted and clandestine lodges, seem to find a similitude or analogy here; for the colleges which had been established by a lawful authority, and were, therefore, entitled to the enjoyment of the privileges according to those institutions, were said to be collegialicita, or lawful colleges.  While those which were voluntarily associations, not authorized by the express decree of the Senate or the emperor, were called collegia illicit a, or unlawful colleges.  The terms licita and illicita were exactly equivalent in their import to the legally constituted and the clandestine Lodges of freemasonry.

In the college is the candidates for admission were elected, as in the Masonic Lodge is, by the voice of the members. In connection with this subject, the Latin word which was used to express the art of admission or reception is worthy of consideration.  When a person was admitted into the fraternity of a college, he was said to be coopiatus in collegium.  Now, the verb cooptare, almost exclusively employed by the Romans to signify an election into a college, comes from the root ‘op’ which also occurs in the Greek { } to see to behold.  The same word gives origin, in Greek to epoptes, a spectator or beholder, one who has attained to the last degree in the Eleusinian mysteries, in other words and initiate.  So that, without much stretch of etymological ingenuity, we might say that cooptatus in collegium meant to be initiated into a college. this is, at least singular.  But the more general interpretation of cooptatus is admitted or accepted in a fraternity, and so made free of all the privileges of the gild or corporation.  And hence the idea is the same as that conveyed among the Masons by the title free and accepted.

Finally it is said by Krause that these colleges of workman made a symbolic use of the implements of their art or profession in other words, that they cultivated the science of symbolisms; and in this respect therefore, more than in any other, is there a striking analogy between the collegiate and the Masonic institutions.  The statement cannot be doubted; for as the organization of the colleges particular, as has already been shown, other religious character, and as it is admitted, that all the religion of the paganism was imminently and almost entirely symbolic, it must follow that any association which was based upon or cultivated the religious or mythological sentiment, must cultivate us the principle of symbolism…

“I shall confine myself to the collegia artificum, the college of Art attacks, as they only one whose condition in history are relevant to the subject consideration.”

The colleges of architects occupied in the construction of secular in religious edifices, spread from the great City to municipalities and the provinces.  Whenever a new city, a temple, or palace was to be billed, the members of these corporations were convoked by the emperor for the most distant points, that with a community of labor they might engage in the construction.  Laborers might be employed like the bearers of burdens of the Jewish temple, and the humbler and courser tasks, but the conduct and the direction of the works were entrusted only to the accepted members the cooptati of the colleges.

The colonization’s of the Roman empire were conducted through the legionary soldiers of the army.  Now, to each legion there was a touch of college or corporation of artificers, which was organized with the legion Ette Rome, and pass with it through all its campaigns, and camped with it where it encamped, march with it where it marched, and when it colonized, remained in the colony to plant the seeds of the Roman civilization, and to teach the principles of Roman art.  The members of the college erected fortifications for the legion in times of war and in times of peace, or when the legion became stationary, constructed temples and dwelling houses.

When England was subdued by the Roman arms, the legions which went there to secure and to extend the conquest, carried with them of course their colleges of architects.  One of these legions for instance under Julius Caesar, advancing into the northern limits of the country, established economy, which ended the name of eboracum, gave birth to the city of York, afterwards so celebrated in the history of masonry. Existing inscriptions in architectural remains a test how much was done in the island of Britain by these associations of builders.

Druidism was at that time the prevailing religion of the ancient Britons.  But the toleration of paganism soon led to a harmonious admixture of the religious ideas of the Roman builders with those of the druid priests.  Long anterior to this Christianity had dawned upon the British islands for, to use the emphatic language of the Tertullian, Britain and accessible to the Romans was subdued by Christ.  The influences of the new faith were not long and being felt by the colleges, and the next phase and their history is the record of their assumption of the Christian Life and doctrine.

But the incursions of the northern barbarians into Italy demanded the entire force of the Roman armies to defend the integrity of the empire at home.  Britain was abandoned, and the natives, with the Roman colonists who had settled among them, were left to defend themselves.  These were soon driven, first by the Picts, they are savage neighbors, and then by the Saxon Sea-robbers in the English had incautiously summoned to their aid, into the mountains of wells and the islands of the Irish Sea.

The architects who were converted to Christianity, and who had remained when the legions left the country went with them and having lost their connection with the mother institution, they became thenceforth simply corporations or societies of builders, the organization which had always worked so well being still retained.

Whenever we read the extension and barbarous or pagan countries of Christianity, and the conversion of their inhabitants to the true faith, we also hear of the propagation of the art of building in the same places by the corporations of architects, the immediate successors of the legionary colleges, for the new religion required churches, and in time cathedrals and monasteries, and the ecclesiastical architecture, speedily suggested improvements in the civil.

In time all the religious knowledge and all the architectural skill of the northern part of Europe were concentrated in the remote regions of Ireland and Scotland, Wentz missionaries were sent back to England to convert the pagan Saxons.  Thus the venerable b e d e tells us (Eccl. Just., Lib. III., Cap. 4,7), that West Saxony was converted by a gilbert, and Irish bishop, in East Anglia, by Fursey, a scotch missionary.  From England these energetic missionaries, accompanied by their pious architects, passed over into Europe and eventually labored for the conversion of the Scandinavian nations, introducing into Germany, Sweden, Norway, and even Ireland, the blessings of Christianity and the refinements of civilized life.

It is worthy of note that in all the early records the word Scotland is very generally used as a generic term to indicate both Scotland and Ireland.  This era arose most probably from the very intimate geographical and social connections of the scotch in the northern Irish and perhaps, also, from the general inaccuracy of the historians of that period.  Thus has arisen the very common opinion, that Scotland was the germ when spraying all the Christianity of the northern nations, and that the same country was the cradle of ecclesiastical architecture and operative masonry.

This historical error, by which the glory of Ireland has been merged in that of her sister country, Scotland, has been preserved in much of the language and many of the traditions of modern freemasonry.  Hence the story of the Abbey of Kilwinning as the birthplace of masonry, a story which is still the favorite of the Freemasons of Scotland.  Hence the tradition of the apocryphal mountain of heroden, situated in the Northwest Scotland, where the first or metropolitan Lodge of Europe was held semicolon hence the high degrees of Ecossais or Scottish master, which play so important apart in modern philosophical masonry semicolon and hence the title of Scottish mystery, apply to one of the leading rights of freemasonry, which has however no other connection with Scotland then that historical one, through the corporations of builders which is common to the whole institution.

It is not worthwhile to trace the religious contests between the original Christians of Britain and the papal power, which after years of controversy terminated in the submission of the British bishops to the Pope. As soon as the papal authority was firmly established over Europe the Roman Catholic hierarchy secured the services of the builder’s corporations, and these, under the patronage of the Pope and the bishops, wherever we are engaged as traveling freemasons, in the construction of ecclesiastical and regal edifices.

Henceforth we find these corporations of builders exercising their art in all countries, everywhere proving, as Mr. Hope says, by the identity of their designs that they were controlled by universally accepted principles and showing in every other way the characteristics of a corporation or gild.  So far, the chain of connection between them and the collegiaartificum at Rome has not been broken.

In the year 926 a general assembly of these builders were held at the city of York, in England.

Four years after and 930, according to rebold, Henry the Fowler brought these builders, now called masons, from England into Germany, and employed them in the construction of various edifices, such as the cathedrals of mag de Berg, meissen, and merseburg.  Krause, who is better and more accurate as the historian then rebold, says that, as respects Germany, the first account that we find of these corporations of builders is at the epoch when, under the direction of Edwin Steinbach, the most distinguished architects had congregated from all parts at Strasburg for the construction of the cathedral in that city.  There they held their general assembly, like that of their English brother at York, enacted constitutions common in established, at length, a grand lodge, to those decisions numerous lodges or hutten, subsequently organized Germany, Bohemia, Hungary, France, and other countries, yielded obedience. George Kloss, in his exhaustive work entitled, Die Freimaurerei in three wahren Bedeutung, has supplied us with a full coalition of the statutes and regulations adopted by the Strasberg Masons.  (See Stone Masons of Germany).

We have now reached recent historical ground and can readily Trace these associations of builders to the establishment of the Grand Lodge of England at London, in 1717, when The Lodges abandoned their operative charters and became exclusively speculative.  The record of the continued existence of Lodges of free and accepted masons from that day to this and every civilized country of the world is in the hands of every Masonic student.  To repeat it would be a tedious work of supererogation.

Such as the history and now what is the necessary deduction?  It cannot be doubted that Krause is correct in his theory that the incunabula the cradle or birthplace of the modern Masonic lodges is to be found in the Roman colleges of architects.  That theory is correct, if we look only to the outward form and mode of working of the lodges.  To the colleges are they indented for everything that distinguished them as a guild or corporation, and especially are they indebted to the architectural character of these colleges for the fact, so singular in freemasonry, that it is religious symbolism that by which it is distinguished from all other institutions is founded on the elements, the working tools, and the technical language of the stonemasons art.

When we view Freemasonry in a higher aspect, when we look at it as a science of symbolism, the whole of which symbolism is directed to but one point, namely, the elucidation of the great doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and the teaching of the two lives, the president of the future, we must go beyond the colleges of Rome, which we’re only operatives associations, the speculative craft has borrowed from the older type to be found in the ancient mysteries, or the same doctrine was taught in a similar manner. Krause does not, it is true, altogether omit a reference to the priests of Greece, who, he thinks, or in some way the original once the Roman college is derived their existence; but he has not pressed the point.  He gives in his theory a preeminence to the colleges to which they are not, and Truth entitled.

[1] Albert Mackey:  Encyclopedia of Freemasonry 1916, Pg. 187

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