Sir John Soane’s Masonic Ark: Building with Symbols
Marking the tercentenary of the foundation of the first Grand Lodge in London 1717, a new exhibition at the Sir John Soane Museum at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3BP, close to Freemasons’ Hall, explores Soane’s masonic work. The Great Hall that Soane designed for Freemasons’ Hall was one of his greatest interiors. At the centre, underneath a dramatic hanging ceiling, stood Soane’s monumental ‘Ark of the Masonic Covenant’, a piece of ritual furniture built in honour of the unification of Antient and Modern Masonic Lodges in 1813. Sadly nothing of this architectural ensemble now survives. The Great Hall was lost during remodelling of the site in the 1860s and the Ark was destroyed by fire in 1883.
The centrepiece of Soane’s Ark: Buildings with Symbols is a re-creation of Soane’s Ark by Master Woodcarvers Houghtons of York. Around the Ark are displayed others works that together offer insight into Soane’s broader engagement with freemasonry. These include a watercolour by J.M. Gandy, Soane’s masonic apron and gloves, and books on freemasonry from Soane’s personal library.
To accompany the exhibition, Factum Foundation is publishing a new book edited by exhibition curator, Ferdinand Saumarez Smith. The book begins with an account by Saumarez Smith describing the process of re-creating Soane’s Ark and includes contributions from two members of Quatuor Coronati Lodge: Douglas Burford, a former Grand Superintendent of Works, and the leading architectural historian, Dr James Campbell.
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