The Secrets of the Building Huts

From 1951 to 1958 Farwerck and others created the periodical Nehalennia. In the III-2 issue of 1958 a text by Farwerck that proves that he was still investigating the heathen origins of Freemasonry, but he came in with a slightly different angle.

Once again I scanned the article, threw it through an online OCR program and after some corrections, through the Google translator.


The secrets of building huts

by F.E. Farwerck

In ancient times it was customary in northern Europe to build with wood, because the rich forests contained more than enough suitable types of wood. In southern Europe people also built with wood, but stone was already used there as a building material in a very distant past and when the various Germanic tribes went on their journeys in search of good arable land, with which the northern European wooded landscape had endowed them only scantly, who entered the collapsing Roman Empire with the so-called migration period, they also learned to build with stone there.

The erection of stone structures had, of course, until then been in the hands of Roman, Greek and Byzantine master builders, and the first Germanic builders to build with stone were the Lombardian Magistri Comacini. They have become known to us from the regulations which Rotharis, the king of the Lombards then settled in Italy, gave, in which he established the relationship between master builder and master builder. From the name by which the builders were referred to therein, it is inferred that they were Roman builders who had continued to practice their trade in the Lombardian Empire, but wrongly, for the Latin name was only due to the fact that all laws in the Langobard Empire were written in Latin. The name probably meant: the collaborating (co)masters (magistri) masons (macini), but this is not certain and there are many other explanations. Be that as it may, as soon as we hear names that these magistri bore, they turn out to be Lombardic names, sometimes more or less romanized.

The Magistri Comacini did not limit their activities to Italy, but were also called by various Germanic princes to other European countries, where they not only erected buildings, but also taught the natives the art of stone architecture. Thus groups of builders arose in Northern Europe, who, led by a master builder, went everywhere where churches and other structures had to be erected. Under the master builder a number of “stone masons” were employed, masters in the craft of working stone and building with it, and these had a number of apprentices and apprentices, who under their guidance became proficient in the trade. The work always started with the erection of a “building hut”, where the discussions took place, the drawings were made, strange journeymen were received and the pupils were made apprentices and the journeymen masters. In time, the name of the wooden building passed on to the collaborating builders themselves.

Some say that in the Middle Ages church building had been wholly in the hands of the clergy. However, this has not turned out to be correct. We do often read that this or that bishop built a church, but this almost always means that he had the church built: he was the builder and not the builder. master. It is true that there were also bishops and abbots of whom it is certain that they acted as architects, but laymen are also mentioned early on as master builders. We also hear from monks practicing handicrafts, especially when it comes to building monasteries, but an accurate one study of the available material shows that the lay building huts have been responsible for a very important part of the construction work. In the northern regions of Europe, large-scale church building only started after Christianization, of course, after wooden churches had first been built in a native way. Then, inspired by the Lombardian master builders, came building in stone and as early as 804 we read of the layman Odo, who built the cathedral in Aachen. We cannot here enumerate all the lay builders of whom we hear of in the early centuries of church building, but their number far exceeds that of bishops and abbots, of whom it can be said with certainty that they acted as master builders and had works done by monks or lay brothers. to carry out.

Each building hut formed a closed circle, and except for those who received their entire training in the same building hut, admission to a building hut was subject to certain conditions, of which professional competence was of course one of the most important. to create certain guarantees that unauthorized persons could not enter the building hut and for this purpose – in addition to testing the professional competence – certain means of recognition were required. In the craft guilds, which were a later continuation of the building huts, these consisted of a sign, a handle and a word. The sign there consisted of the laying of the outstretched right hand on the throat with a rectangularly projecting thumb, and that this sign also already existed at the building huts is proved by a sculpture at the Stefansdom in Vienna from 1147 or 1258, when the cathedral was rebuilt after a fire (fig. 1). However, there were no craft guilds at that time, the cathedral was built by a building hut and the same sign was apparently already in use there too.

The grip in the masons’ guilds was applied by placing the thumb on the knuckle of the index finger of the other and pressing it three times. We can assume that the guilds had also adopted this handle from the building huts. The word has not come down to us, but a special way of knocking on the door, which a strange journeyman had to use when he requested access to a construction hut. It was two knocks in quick succession and then a third at a slightly longer interval. Some other means of identification have also come down to us and these probably all date from the building hut period.

The secrets also included the initiation rites, but little has become known about these, and then again mainly from the time of the craft guilds. To what extent these exactly took over the actions, we do not know, and moreover they give the impression of being more or less degenerate, but given the former existing views, certain initiation rites may also have existed at the building huts.

The obvious secrets, as mentioned, also included the trade secrets, which the students and journeymen were gradually taught and which they had to master as masters. These were in the first place the technical secrets of the correct working of the stone, giving it a perfect cubic shape, making sculptures, etc. of building huts were recorded by printing. In it it is said, for instance, that neither master, nor overseer (parlierer), nor companion shall instruct anyone who does not belong to them in anything that belongs to the handicraft.

But more important than these secrets were the architectural ones. the geometrical foundations on which they started and the proportions in the structure‚ which arouse our admiration in the Romanesque and later Gothic churches, Something about these proportions has been passed down to us in obscure words, sometimes in verse, but although these poems were in earlier times probably understandable to colleagues, for us they are not and many have tried with more and less success to find the basis of the relationships.

It is probable the secrets also belonged to the symbolic meanings of the various tools, such as chisel, hammer, compass, measuring stick and cleat hook. What this meaning was has not come down to us, but in medieval prints with alchemical representations, the compass is already has been associated with the spirit (the sun and the day) and the square and the measuring stick with matter (moon, night and funerary urn) (fig. 2), a symbolism, which must have been taken from the building huts.

The building huts did not stand alone, but together formed a number of unions, which were able to obtain special privileges from the emperors and the pope. One of these was that their members were not under the spiritual or secular jurisdiction, but under that of the building huts themselves. All offenses therefore had to be tried by the construction huts, while an appeal was open to the management of the construction huts organization The builders therefore felt much safer than the other citizens and since they formed a closed circle, it was inevitable that within this circle they also proclaimed religious and political views which could not be expressed in the outside world. Of course something of this also leaked out, but on the one hand because of the privileges they possessed, and on the other hand because of their monopoly in the so important field of architecture, we do not hear of persecutions, in the last days of the building huts it occasionally happens that heretical master builders are persecuted for their faith.

The security which the builders possessed in their closed circle must have been the reason that members of other closed circles, who had been condemned by the church for heresy, resp. persecuted for the persecution of heathen customs, took refuge in the building huts, We mean by this, the remnants of the pagan initiation societies, of the cultic unions of men, about which more has gradually become known. At the time of the Christianization these were of course forbidden, because they consisted of those who were consecrated to Wodan, but they must have continued their rites in secret until they had made this completely impossible.
became. They probably reappeared then as neighbor guilds, whose official purpose was to help neighbors with each other, but these too were misunderstood by the government and they were repeatedly banned. Then they found their continuation in certain guilds, which usually go to a called saints — especially from Scandinavia quite a lot has been passed down to us about these guilds — and finally the members of these unions and guilds found peace and protection in the building huts. We know this, among other things, because we find all kinds of things in the building huts and the later masons’ guilds, which clearly come from
of the earlier men’s unions and neighboring guilds and, moreover, there are various indications that the members of the building guilds were not ordinary craftsmen. mentions: stone masons, singers and poets.

After Christianization, of course, paganism was not suddenly over in these regions, and the struggle against it is evident from the numerous, time and again issued prohibitions against pagan ideas and pagan customs, which apparently had a very tough life. population it If this were the case, the survival of these old forms of faith will have existed to a greater extent in the building huts, which are surrounded by an atmosphere of secrecy. We therefore have many indications of the persistence of the pagan spirit in the building huts and one of these is a 750 decree of Pope Gregory VI to the bishops and abbots in Hesse, in which he says: “The German builders working on churches and monasteries must well cared for and no violent attempts at conversion should be applied to them, as they would leave the work.” Apart from the realistic view of this pope, who thought it more important for church building to progress than for people to be converted, this precept gives cause for important inferences. The Hesse, when it was issued, had been Christians for at least a century, but apparently lived with them, at least among the builders, still much of the heathen faith. Evidently, attempts had been made here and there to violently eradicate this belief, whereupon the builders left the work. Furthermore, it can be concluded, and this confirms what has been said above, that church building in Hesse was apparently not in the hands of the clergy, but was practiced by lay builders, for the monks or lay brothers certainly did not need to be converted.

That the pagan ideas survived among the lay builders of the Romanesque churches is apparent from various representations they had applied to those churches. In the first place, mention should be made here of the letters of Germanic antiquity, the runes, which we find in the walls of many churches, also in the later Gothic churches, such as in Dordrecht, Leersum, Soest and elsewhere. church of Borculo, part of which was destroyed by the storm disaster of 1926 destroyed are very remarkable. That people were aware that these were “heathen” signs, is apparent from the crosses with which, for example, the ing-rune in the church of Borculo is christianized.

More important, however, are the sculptures. apparently pertaining to pagan myths of the gods and heroic legends. Except in Iceland, where the attitude of the church was more tolerant than in Europe, it has tried to replace as far as possible the old stories about gods and both with Christian legends, but it appears that they have survived among the population and that the builders were aware of it. As the building huts, as said, were more inviolable than the populace, their members did not have to keep these myths and sagas–as well as probably much of the pagan belief in addition–wholly in secret out of the reach of the priests, but could afford to do so. to declare it more openly and even to remind them of it in ecclesiastical architecture, although, of course, they always kept a certain reserve. They had free rein, especially if a more or less Christian explanation could be given to the performance, even if these explanations were somewhat distorted. But now and then they also created sculptures. for which no Christian explanation can be found, and these further confirm the view that the old pagan spirit in the building huts lived on for a long time.

It is of course not possible here to reproduce the countless images in churches inspired by ancient myths of gods and heroic legends, so we must limit ourselves to a number of images of three types of images: episodes from the legends of Diederik van Bern, images of gods with these sacred animals and memories of the Fenriswolf.

Diederik van Bern’s sagas refer to Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths, who settled in Italy in 490 with his people. The legends woven around him are ancient pagan traditions, though they have been given a Christian tinge here and there. In one of these sagas his battle with a dragon occurs, derived from the god myth, which describes Thor’s battle with the Midgard serpent. In the Christian world this saga passed on to St. George and St. Michael, but the population also attached it to the increasingly legendary Diederik van Bern. Now in the saga of Diederik with the dragon there is a motif that the other variants are missing, n1. half devouring his servant Sintram, who is then rescued by him at the last moment. A Christian explanation of such a representation is of course obvious: Diederik represents the Christ, the dragon is the devil and Sintram is the human soul, who is saved at the last minute. But whether this was the sculptor’s intention is another matter.

A scene related to this saga is in the church of St. George in Bacherville near Rouen (fig. 4). According to the description it is St. George in battle with the dragon, but curiously he does not use, as is usual in such Christian representations, a spear or a sword, but a hammer. Now the pagan slayer of the dragon was, as said, Thor and his weapon was always the hammer Miölnir, so that we are obviously dealing here with a representation influenced by the pagan myth of the gods,

Odin (Wodan), the king of the gods, was always accompanied in the mythological stories by a pair of wolves or dogs and his two ravens brought him tidings of all that was happening in the world, and whispered them in his ear. We often see this god depicted with his guide animals in the churches, and a particularly beautiful representation of this can be found in the church of Alpirsbach, in Wurttemberg, where the animals are fused together to form wolf ravens (fig. 5). As is told of Odin’s ravens, these animals seem to whisper messages in his ear.

The two animals also occur separately, apparently as decorative motifs, so that no objection could be made to the application. This is the case, for example, on one of the capitals of the church in Quedlinburg (fig. 6). There we see a wolf and a raven, and the first has a cord tied around the body. The knot is also an old symbol, which is especially common with Woden as a death guide and with his death horse, and from this we may deduce that we are indeed dealing with Wodan’s guide animals.

Among the mythological animals was the Fenris wolf, who was bound by the gods after many futile attempts. As a guarantee of their promise to untie him again if he could not free himself, the god Tiwaz had put his arm in the mouth of the wolf and it was bitten off by the beast, when the gods did not keep their promise. The gods rejoiced greatly that the wolf was at last bound, thus averting great dangers to mankind and to the gods themselves, and so it is said in the relevant myth: “Then all the gods laughed except Tiwaz, who laughed not.” what we can imagine The bound wolf was placed under the guard of the harp-playing Eghtir. In the cloister of the church in Berchtesgaden, this legend is depicted (fig. 7) on a column that is slightly heavier than the others. We see on the left Tiwaz, who grabs with the right hand the stump of his missing left arm and on the right the wolf with the harp playing guard underneath.

We find a similar representation. the Bankhead cross. which still stands today at Duplin Castle, Shire of Perth, in Scotland (aib 8). We may assume that this cross was made by Norse settlers after their Christianization (or at least according to their instructions) by a sculptor belonging to a construction cabin or related institution. We see on it a rider with a spear on horseback, which presumably must represent Odin, in view of the four warriors depicted below, but especially the two dogs appearing on the side, under which two warriors can be seen again. They should probably be warriors of Odin’s heir of the dead, the Einheriar, proposals of which the dead, apparently notwithstanding Christianization, it was apparently still believed, would be a part of, To the On the back a scene has been cut out, which was probably too pagan, but on the other side we see the wolf again with Eghtir playing the harp below.

Finally, we give a picture of a column in the crypt of the church at Freising, which depicts some scenes of Odin’s battle with the Fenriswolf and of the latter’s killing by Widar (fig. 9). At the twilight of the gods the wolf will have broken loose and will fight for supremacy on the side of the powers of destruction with the gods, einheriar, light-elves and all other powers benevolent to man. In this battle Odin is killed by the beast, but his son Widar avenges him. He tears open the beast’s mouth by placing his foot in it, on which a shoe made of the leather that is cut off and thrown away during the making of the shoes (which is why the shoemakers are not allowed to keep these pieces either!) and then kills it. The artist has tried to show as many details as possible in the depiction, which is why in our view the depiction is somewhat strange, because the different moments of the story occur simultaneously and interchangeably on the sculpture. On the one side we see Odin, who has been largely devoured by the wolf, and Widar, whose shoe is very clearly marked, who stabs the animal to death, On the other side Widar has his foot in his mouth
of the animal, while at the same time encompassing it and, moreover, as a third phase, inserting his sword into the body.

These examples can be multiplied by dozens of others, but from the given it will be clear enough that in the building huts in Christian times much was still alive which came from the pagan times and which undoubtedly belonged to the “secrets” of the building huts.

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