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A Masonic Temple in Montréal

For the week of Monday February 9, 2004

On February 12, 1930, the Masonic Memorial Temple, dedicated to the memory of the soldiers who fought in the First World War, was opened in Montréal. This impressive building is one of the very last to be built in the Beaux Arts style in Canada, a popular style until the 1930's. Architect John S. Archibald designed this building for the Freemasons, a fraternal society which many have written about over the centuries.

Montréal Masonic Temple
Montréal Masonic Temple's façade
© Parks Canada / Andrew Waldron

The Memorial Temple has a number of Beaux Arts architectural characteristics. Its façade showcases, among other things, light-coloured dressed stone siding and classic ornaments. Above the main entrance, four ionic columns are capped with a finely undefined sculpted pediment. A frieze, with the Latin inscription Fides, Caritas, Veritas, Libertas and Spes (loyalty, love, truth, freedom and hope), and an entablature with the name of the building dominate this grandiose façade.

Emerging in Europe in the late 17th century, Freemasonry went through a renaissance period in the 18th century due to the values of the Age of Enlightment and Isaac Newton’s ideas. In Canada, this movement existed since at least the 18th century, but flourished in the 19th century. Freemasons traditionally expressed their moral and spiritual principles in their temple architecture. They believe God is the great architect of the universe and that Solomon’s legendary Temple was the first structure built in this world by divine will. This temple, described in the Old Testament, is an inspiration for Masonic lodges built worldwide.

Montréal Masonic Temple
Montréal Masonic Memorial Temple
© Parks Canada / Andrew Waldron
Following this blueprint, a number of symbols expressing Masonic origins and values were incorporated into the architectural elements of the Memorial Temple. Freemasonry aims to bring men together into one great brotherhood and believes that in order to do this, four great principles must be followed: the belief in a Supreme Being, the essential worth of man, respect for the law, and an obligation to serve. Consequently, the temple’s cornerstones symbolize these four principles. In addition, the blue colour of three of the four lodges represents the sky, and the letter “G,” suspended in the centre of the fourth lodge, represents God and geometry.

The Masonic Memorial Temple of Montréal was designated a national historic site in June 2001 because of its noteworthy architecture and metaphorical meaning.

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