Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library
There is no character in the annals of Freemasonry whose life is so dependent on tradition as the celebrated architect of King Solomon's Temple. To fill up the space between his life an his death not recorded in the Vol. of S.L. we are compelled to resort to oral legends that has been handed down from the ancient Masons to their successors. Considering their character the authenticity of some must be in doubt.

Most of them were probably at first symbolical in their charac­ter; the symbol in the lapse of time having been converted into a myth, and the myth, by constant repetition, assumed the formal appearance of a truthful narrative. Such has been the case in the history of all nations. But whatever their true character, they are interesting, and a vehicle of instruction.

When King Solomon was about to build the Temple, the difficulty of obtaining skilful workmen to superintend and execute the archi­tectural part of the undertaking was such, that he found it necessary to request of his friend ,Hiram, King of Tyre, the use of some of his most able builders; for the Tyrians and Sidonians were celebrated artists, and at that time were admitted to be the best in the world. Hiram willingly complied with this request, and dispatched to his assistance an abundance of men and materi­als, to be employed in the construction of the Temple, and among the former, a distinguished artist, to whom was given the super­intendence of all the workmen, and who was in possession of all the skill and learning that were required to carry out, in the most efficient manner, all the plans and designs of the king of Israel.

Of this artist, whom Freemasons recognise sometimes as Hiram the Builder and sometimes as the Widow's Son, but more commonly as Hiram Abif, the earliest account is found in the first Book of Kings (vii. 13, 14). He is next mentioned in the second Book of Chronicles, (ch. ii. 13, 14) in a letter from Hiram of Tyre to King Solomon.

In reading these two descriptions you will find that his father was a man of Tyre, and that his mother was of the tribe of Dan who  married first a man of Naphtali, by whom she had this son; and when she was a widow, she married a man of Tyre, who is called Hiram's father for he brought him up and was the husband of his mother.

Hiram Abif undoubtedly derived much of his knowledge in mechanical arts from that man of Tyre who had married his mother, and we may justly conclude that he increased that knowledge by assid­uous study and constant interlocution with the artisans of tyre, who were greatly distinguished for their attainments in architec­ture. tyre was one of the principal seats of the Dionysiac fra­ternity of artificers, a society engaged exclusively in the construction of edifices, and living under a secret organisation, which was subsequently imitated by the Operative Freemasons. Of this association, it is not unreasonable to suppose that Hiram Abif was a member, and that on arriving at Jerusalem he intro­duced among the Jewish workmen the same exact system of disci­pline which he had found of so much advantage in the Dionysiac associations at home, and thus gave, under the sanction of King Solomon, a peculiar organisation to the Masons who were engaged in building the Temple.

Upon the arrival of this celebrated artist at Jerusalem, which was in the year B.C. 1012,  he was at once  received into the intimate confidence of  Solomon, and intrusted with the superintendence of all the workmen, both Tyrians and Jews, who were engaged in the construction of the building. He received the title of "Principal Conductor of the Works," an office which previous to his arrival, had been filled by Adoniram, and, according to Masonic tradition, formed with Solomon and the King of Tyre, his ancient patron, the Supreme Council of Grand Masters,  in which every thing was determined in relation to the construction of the edifice and the government of the workmen.

This inspired master was, without question, the most cunning, skilful, and curious workman that ever lived; whose abilities were not confined to building only, but extended to all kinds of work, whether in gold, silver, brass or iron; he could also work in linen, tapestry or embroidery; whether considered as architect, statuary, founder or designer, separately or together he equally excelled. From his designs and under his direction, all the rich and splendid furniture of the Temple and its several appendages were begun, carried on, and finished.

According to Masonic tradition, which is in part, supported by scriptural authority, Hiram was charged with all the architectural decorations and interior embellishments of the building. he cast the various vessels and implements that were to be used in the religious service of the Temple, as well as the pillars that adorned the porch, selecting as the most convenient and appropriate place for the scene of operations, the clay grounds which extended between Succoth and Zaredatha; the whole interior of the house, its post and doors, its floor and ceilings, which were made of the most expensive timber, and overlaid with plates of burnished gold, were by his exquisite taste, enchased with magnificent designs and adorned with the most precious gems.

The tracing board used by him in drawing his designs is said to have been made, as the ancient tablets were, of wood, and covered with a coating of wax. On this coating he inscribed with a pen or stylus of steel which old tradition says was found on when he was raised. the same tradition says that this stylus was used for the first time at the laying of the foundation-stone.

In the character of the chief architect of the Temple, one of the peculiarities which most strongly attract attention, was the systematic manner in which he conducted all the extensive operations which were placed under his charge. In the classification of the workmen, such arrangements were made, by his advice, as to avoid any discord or confusion; and although about two hundred thousand craftsmen and labourers were employed, so complete were his arrangements, that the general harmony was never once disturbed. In the payment of wages, such means were, at his suggestion, adopted, that every one's labour was readily distinguished, and his defects ascertained, every attempt at imposition detected, and the particular amount of money  due to each workman accurately determined and easily paid, so that, the disorder and confusion that might otherwise have attended so immense an undertaking was completely prevented.

It was the duty of Hiram Abif to superintendent the workman, and the reports of his officers were always examined with the most scrupulous exactness. At the opening of the day, when the sun was rising in the East, it was his constant custom, before the commencement of labour, to go into the Temple, and offer up his prayers to Jehovah for a blessing on the work; and in like manner when the sun was setting in the West. And after the labours of the day were closed, and the workman had left the Temple, he returned his thanks to the Great Architect of the Universe for the harmonious protection of the day. Not content with this devout expression of his feelings, he always went into the Temple at the hour of high twelve, when the men were called from labour to refreshment, to inspect the work to draw fresh designs upon the trestle-board, if such were necessary, and to perform other scientific labours. These religious customs were faithfully performed for the first six years in the secret recesses of his Lodge and for the last year in the precincts of the most holy place.

While assiduously engaged in the discharge of these arduous duties, seven years passed rapidly away, and the magnificent Temple at Jerusalem was nearly completed. The fraternity were about to celebrate the cope-stone with the greatest demonstrations of joy; but, their joy was soon interrupted by the sudden death of their dear and worthy master, Hiram Abif. Tradition says, on the very day appointed for the celebrating the cope-stone of the building, he repaired to his usual place of retirement at the meridian hour.


The Landmarks of the Order

In ancient times, it was the custom to mark the boundaries of lands by means of stone pillars, the removal of which, by malicious persons, would be the occasion of much confusion, men having no guide other than these pillars by which to distinguish the limits of their property. To remove them, therefore, was considered a heinous crime. Hence those peculiar marks of distinction by which we are separated from the profane world. In the four corners of the Lodge room we have placed four of these Landmarks and have named each accordingly:


This is one of the four cardinal virtues, the practice of which is inculcated upon the Entered Apprentice in the north-east Charge. When first introduced these cardinal virtues were known also as the four principal signs, and later as the perfect points of entrance. Prudence is the true guide to human understanding, and consists of judging and determining with propriety what is to be said and done upon all occasions, what dangers we should endeavour to avoid, and how to act in all difficulties.


The second mentioned virtue is for the Mason who properly appreciates the secrets which he has solemnly promised never to reveal, will not, by yielding to the unrestrained call of appetite, permit reason and judgement to lose control, and subject himself, by the indulgence in habits of excess, to discover that which should be concealed, and thus merit and receive the scorn of his brethren. Lest any brother should forget the danger to which he is exposed to in unguarded situations, the virtue of temperance is wisely impressed upon his memory, by its reference in one of the most solemn portions of the ceremony of initiation. Some Masons, very properly condemning the vice of intemperance and abhorring its effects, have unwisely led to confound temperance with total abstinence in Masonic applications and resolutions have sometimes been proposed to Grand Lodge which declare the use of stimulating liquors in any quantity a Masonic offence. But the law of masonry authorises no such regulation. It leaves to every man the indulgence of his own tastes within the limits, and demands not abstinence, but only moderation and temperance, in anything not actually wrong.


It not only instructs the worthy Mason to bear the ills of life with becoming resignation, "taking up arms against a sea of trouble," but, by its intimate connection with a portion of our ceremonies, teaches him to let no dangers shake, no pains dissolve the inviolable fidelity he owes to the trusts reposed in him. Or, in the words of an old Ritual, it is "a fence or security against any attack that might be made upon him, by force or otherwise, to extort, from him any of our Masonic Secrets." Another writer when describing the moral virtues, says of Fortitude:  "She may be easily known by her erect air and military dress, the spear she rest on with one hand, and the sword which she holds in the other. She has a globe under her feet; I suppose to show that the Romans, by means of this virtue, were to subdue the whole world."


The Mason who remembers how emphatically he has been charged to preserve an upright position in all his undertakings with mankind, should never fail to act justly to himself, to his brethren, and to the world. This is the corner-stone on which alone he can expect "to raise a superstructure perfect in all its parts and honourable to the builder" In iconology, Justice is usually represented as a matron with bandaged eyes, holding, in one hand a sword and in the other a pair of scales at equipoise. But in Masonry the true symbol of Justice, as illustrated in the first degree, is to stand perfectly erect with your feet in the form of a square.