Mark Master Degree

The following monitorial instructions on the first section of the Mark Master degree appear on pp. 20-25 of “The Book of the Chapter” by Albert G. Mackey.

First Section

The first section exemplifies the regularity and good order that were observed by the craftsmen at the building of the temple, illustrates the method by which the idle and unworthy were detected and punished, and displays the legend which recounts one of the principal events which characterizes this degree.

The attention of the neophyte is particularly directed, in the ceremonies of this section, to the materials of which the temple was constructed, the place whence they were obtained, and the method in which they were inspected and approved, or rejected.

Workmen From the Quarries

The materials of which the temple of King Solomon was principally constructed consisted of the compact mountain limestone which is almost the entire geological formation of Palestine, and which rises above the surface in the rocky hillocks on which the city of Jerusalem is built.

This stone is very solid, of a nearly white color, and capable of receiving a remarkable polish. [A writer in the “Boston Traveller,” who visited the quarries beneath Jerusalem, describes the stones as being “extremely soft and pliable, nearly white, and very easily worked, but, like the stones of Malta and Paris, hardening by exposure.”]

Ancient quarries of this rock still abound in the Holy Land, and, although long since disused, present the internal evidence of having been employed for purposes of building. One of them, beneath the city of Jerusalem, and undoubtedly the very quarry from which Solomon obtained most of his material, has been but lately discovered. Mr. Prime, who visited this quarry in 1856, speaks of it thus:

“That the whole was a quarry was amply evident. The unfinished stone, the marks of places whence many had been taken, the galleries, in the ends of which were marked out the blocks to be cut, and the vast masses cut, but never removed, all showed sufficiently the effect of the cutting. But date or inscription we looked in vain for, and conjecture is left free here. I wandered hour after hour through the vast halls, seeking some evidence of their origin.

One thing to me is very manifest. There has been solid stone taken from this excavation sufficient to build the walls of Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon. The size of many of the stones taken from here appears to be very great. I know of no place to which the stone can have been carried but to these works, and I know of no other quarries in the neighborhood from which the great stone of the walls would seem to have come. These two connected ideas impelled me strongly towards the belief that this was the ancient quarry whence the city was built, and when the magnitude of the excavation between the two opposing hills and of this cavern is considered, it is, to say the least of it, a difficult question to answer, what has become of the stone once here, on any other theory than that I have suggested.” [Prime, William. Tent Life in the Holy Land. p. 113.]

This quarry has received, in modern days, the name of the “Cave of Jeremiah.” It is situated on the Hill of Acra, west of the temple.

Another modern traveler says: “I have roamed abroad over the surrounding hills, even to Mizpeh, where Samuel testified, and into the long, deep limestone quarries beneath Jerusalem itself, whence Solomon obtained those splendid slabs, the origin of which has been so long unknown. It is but four years since the existence of this immense subterranean cavern was known to travelers. I have penetrated it for near half a mile, and seen there many large stones already cut, which were prepared for work, but were never removed. This new discovery is one of the greatest wonders of Jerusalem. It seems to extend under the temple itself, and the stones were all finished and dressed there, and then raised up at the very spot for their appropriation.” [Christian Witness, Sept. 11, 1857.]

It is evident, therefore, that the quarries whence the Mark Masters obtained their materials were situated in the immediate vicinity of the temple.

Stones of a finer quality were also obtained from the mountains of Lebanon, and were prepared by the workmen of Hiram, King of Tyre.

Good Work — True Work — Square Work

The work of all the materials brought up for the building of the temple was required to be good, true, and square, and such only, our traditions inform us, were the overseers authorized to receive.

Good work—made of the best materials, not defective, but accurately and neatly finished, and thus fit and suitable, by its workmanlike appearance, for a place in the magnificent building for which it was intended.

True work—right to precision in all its dimensions and surfaces, neither too long nor too short, too thick nor too thin, but level on its top and bottom, and perpendicular on its sides, so as to be exactly conformable to the copy or pattern which had been inscribed by the master builder on his trestle-board.

Square work—that the joints of the stones might be accurately adapted, and each part fitted with such exact nicety that the whole, when completed, might seem to be “rather the workmanship of the Supreme Architect than of mere human hands.”

And all this is in conformity not only with the traditions of Masonry, but with the teachings of the Scriptures, which inform us that “the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither; so that there was neither hammer nor axe, nor any tool of iron, heard in the house while it was in building.” [1 Kings 6:7. The writer in the “Boston Traveller,” quoted, says, when speaking of the quarry beneath Jerusalem, “the heaps of chippings which lie about show that the stone was dressed on the spot, which accords with the account of the building of the temple.”]

The Regular Mark of the Craft

Oliver says that, at the building of the temple, certain men were employed to mark the materials as they came out of the hands of the workmen, that no false mark might be placed upon an imperfect stone, and to enable them to be put together with greater facility and precision, when conveyed from the quarries to the holy mountain of Moriah. This is not exactly the tradition. Each workman placed his own mark upon his own materials, so that the workmanship of every mason might be readily distinguished, and praise or blame be justly awarded. These marks, according to the lectures, consisted of mathematical figures, squares, angles, lines, and perpendiculars, and hence any figure of a different kind would not be deemed “the regular mark of the craft.” A similar custom was practised by the masons of the middle ages, and many of the stones, both inside and outside of the cathedrals and other buildings of that period were thus marked. Mr. Godwin, in a communication to the Society of Antiquaries, says, that “in his opinion, these marks, if collected and compared, might assist in connecting the various bands of operatives, who, under the protection of the Church—mystically united—spread themselves over Europe during the middle ages, and are known as Freemasons.”

The full text of Mackey’s monitorial instructions on the Mark Master degree may be found at:

Mark Master from Mackey’s “The Book of the Chapter”