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When we speak of a Masons’ mark, we are referring to the symbol of Freemasonry that is most often found on dressed stone in buildings and on other public structures. Masonic analogies to stonemasonry make use of marks in some of the degrees of the fraternity.
For instance, within the Mark Master Mason degree, a brother will be asked to create his own Mark, which acts as a type of unique signature or identifying badge. Commonly, such marks are complex and elaborate and carry their own symbolic meaning.
In this post, we will explore what the Marks of Masons reveal, and understand the place of such marks and designs within the fraternity of Freemasonry as a whole.
The marks of the stonemasons
If we are to understand the significance of the Masons’ mark, we must first look back to the marks of the stonemasons, as it is from here that the marks of modern Freemasonry take significance.
The stonemasons traditionally used three different types of marks, which were:
- Banker marks: These were made on stones before they were sent to be used by walling masons. They were used to identify the banker mason who had prepared the stones to their paymaster. Banker marks make up the majority of Masons’ marks.
- Assembly marks: They were used to ensure the correct installation of important pieces of stonework and were often more elaborate in detail than banker marks.
- Quarry marks: These were used to identify the source of a particular stone, and in some instances, they were used to determine the quality of a stone.
Overall, as with many of the facets of stonemasonry that have been utilized symbolically by Freemasonry, the marks had a practical use and were a way of identifying a stone when it was used to form a particular building.
The Order of Mark Master Masons
The Order of Mark Master Masons is an appendant body of Freemasonry that is present in some Masonic jurisdictions in different parts of the world. In a similar way to craft Masonry, Mark Masonry teaches moral and ethical lessons by utilizing allegories based upon the building of King Solomon’s Temple.
The key theme running through Mark Masonry teaches brothers how to earn wages, how to prove his work to be his own, and what the penalty of fraud was when it came to building the Temple. Within the Order, a brother is helped to choose a Mason’s mark and introduced to a further extension of the Hiramic myth, relating to finding the Keystone of the Royal Arch.
The marks of the stonemasons already introduced take on symbolic meaning within the Order of the Mark Master Masons’ teachings and rituals and are utilized in different ways as part of related allegorical teachings.
The teaching of the Keystone.
In the modern-day, any Mason who has advanced through the degrees of York Rite learns the phrase’s significance to mark well. Arguably the most meaningful symbol introduced within the Rite is that of the Keystone, which to Masons, is an important symbol of completion.
There is an interesting link to the cathedral builders of ancient times within the teaching of the Keystone. According to Brother G. Mackey, this significance can be understood in the following way:
“The stone placed in the center of an arch which preserves the others in their places, and secures firmness and stability to the arch […] so the keystone was most likely to receive the most prominent mark, that of the Superintendent of the structure.”
With this understanding, we know that the Keystone in the symbolic arch signifies the completion of the individual Temple that each craftsman erects. Regarding the Keystone, ‘leaving a mark’ means putting ones stamp on the future and making a lasting contribution that will be enjoyed by future generations.
How does a Freemason leave his mark?
Masons take a lot of meaning from the practice of leaving their mark. If we look back to the practices of the stonemasons, they left their marks quite literally on the stones, so that they could be identified when contributing to the construction of a building.
These marks enabled the owner of the building to trace the source of the stone and learn about its transition from being made to being placed within the structure of a building. From a literal perspective, this made sense and was an easy way to identify the stones during that time.
In modern-day Freemasonry, the ways in which stonemasons left marks takes a significant symbolic meaning. A Mason can decide to carry out a particular action in the name of Freemasonry that he is particularly proud of. This could be something like donating to charity or helping out a brother in need.
When a Mason completes a virtuous action or task, he is essentially leaving his mark on the world in a similar way to the stonemasons that went before him. Of course, in most instances, a Mason does not literally leave his mark, but it’s the symbolic act that is more significant. Moreover, by attending his lodge and contributing to discussions and rituals, a Mason is once again leaving his mark and building his Masonic legacy. Such practice is vitally important to Masons the world over and is a big part of modern-day Freemasonry.
Conclusion: what do Masons’ marks reveal?
As we have explored, Masons’ marks today have evolved from the medieval practice of stonemasons literally leaving their marks on stones as a way of identifying the source of a particular stone when it was used to construct a building.
As with many symbolic teachings of Freemasonry, this practice has been reflected in modern-day Masonry, as brothers seek to carry out actions that represent them leaving their mark on the world they live in.
Also, an appendant body of Freemasonry, the Order of Mark Masons educates brothers on some of the individual stories of Masonic marks that are related to the building of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.
However they are regarded, Masons’ marks form an important part of modern-day Freemasonry and should be understood as such.