When a Masonic Hall has been erected, it is dedicated with certain well-known and impressive ceremonies, to Masonry, virtue, and universal benevolence.
Lodges, however, are differently dedicated. Anciently, they were dedicated to King Solomon, as the founder of ancient Craft Masonry, and the first Most Excellent Grand Master. Christian lodges are generally dedicated to St. John the Baptist, and St. John the Evangelist. Thus in every well-regulated lodge, there is exhibited a certain point within a circle embroidered by perpendicular lines which represents these two saints. In those English lodges which have adopted the union system of work, the dedication is to God and His service, and the lines parallel represent Moses and Solomon. This change was adopted by the Grand Lodge of England in 1812 to obviate the charge of sectarianism.
From the building of the first temple at Jerusalem, to the Babylonian Captivity, Masonic lodges were dedicated to King Solomon.; from thence to the coming of the Messiah, they were dedicated to Zerubbabel, the builder of the second temple; and from that time to the final destruction of the temple by Titus, in the reign of Vespasian, Lodges were dedicated to St. John the Baptist. However, because of the many massacres and disorders which attended that memorable event, Freemasonry sunk very much into decay, and at a general meeting of the Craft, held In the city of Benjamin, it was observed that the principal reason for the decline of Masonry was the want of a Grand Master to patronize it.
Masonic leaders of the day then deputed seven of their most eminent members to wait upon St. John the Evangelist, who was at that time Bishop of Ephesus, requesting him to take the office of Grand Master. He responded that although he was well stricken in years, (being upward of ninety) yet having been in the early part of his life initiated into masonry, he would accept the office, He thereby completed by his learning, what the other St. John had completed by his zeal, and thus drew what Freemasons term a line parallel. Since that time Masonic Lodges in all Christian countries have been dedicated both to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.
But the task is not difficult to trace more philosophically. It is believed, more correctly, that the real origin of this custom, in the spurious masonry, so well known as the mysteries of Pagan nations, we may find the most plausible reasons for the celebrations of our festivals in June and December, and for the dedication of our Lodges to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.
In the spurious masonry of the ancient these days were, doubtless, celebrated as returning eras in the existence of the great source of light, and object of their worship. Our ancient brethren adopted the custom, abandoning, however, in deference to their own purer doctrines, the idolatrous principles which were connected with these dates, and confining their celebrations exclusively to their astronomical importance. But as time passed, Christianity came to mingle its rays with the light of masonry, and our Christian ancestors, finding that the church had appropriated two days near these celebrated periods to the memory of two eminent saints, incorporated these festivals in the Masonic calendar, and adopted the Holy Saints John as patrons of our Order.
To this change, the earlier Christian Masons were doubtlessly persuaded by the peculiar character of these Saints. St. John the Baptist, by announcing the approach of Christ, and by the mystic absolution to which he subjected his proselytes, might well be considered as the Grand Hierophant of the church. At the same time, the mysterious and emblematic nature of the Apocalypse was very similar to the Masonic mode of teaching adopted by St. John the Evangelist.
St. John the Baptist, whose Festival falls on the 24th of June, and St. John the Evangelist, whose Festival occurs on the 27th of December, have been selected by Christian Masons as the patrons their Order, and to them, under the appellation of the Holy Saints John, all Christian lodges should be dedicated.