Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Masonic Graffiti at the Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard has acquired a large amount of graffiti over its long life, starting with Roman workers who would carve the occasional phallus as a good luck totem.

One sub type of graffiti is the Masonic type, left behind by the many stone masons who worked on the site, especially during the major consolidation work in the 1850s.

The use of symbolism typical of Freemasonry confused me a bit.  Here in the States Catholics were forbidden to join the Masons, and in fact a parallel organization the Knights of Columbus was formed.  I figured that France being at least nominally Catholic even after the anti-Clerical Revolutionary era might have the same prohibition.  But my brief look into this rather tangled issue suggests that in France the Papal Bull banning Freemasonry was never accepted, and that there has been an active Masonic community since the 1700s.  I should also note however that it seems to have been, and to be, a more upper class organization, and that simple stone masons may not have been likely members in spite of the obvious vocational link. 

Perhaps the Freemasons have just been borrowing symbolism common to the masons.

Another thing I had read was that apprentice stone masons in France were expected to visit the Pont du Gard as part of their apprenticeship.   This seems to be true, as building trades in France have an unusual "Tour de France" that requires novices to visit different parts of the country to study. 

And here is the evidence, written in stone.

This was actually on a stone railing adjacent to the aqueduct.  None of the Masonic graffiti I saw on the actual structure appeared to be later than 1910.

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