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Masonic Petersburg


medn-vsadnikPeter I, a great reformer, founded the capital city of his empire in a deserted, as it may seem, place, in the bogs of the Neva river delta. It was in 1703.

Five years earlier, when Peter I visited London, he was planning the composition of the new northern capital and was very interested in architecture. The tsar paid great attention to the new buildings, including the recently erected houses by Christopher Wren — one of the founding fathers of the New England masonry.

Christopher Wren developed a project to reconstruct London, and according to Alexander Rappaport, an architectural theorist, this first ever European plan to create a city out of empty space influenced the layout of Saint-Petersburg. Wren’s basic principles were absence of church (assuming faith in the Higher Being) and apoliticism.

In 1666, after a terrible and devastating fire in London, Wren presented to Charles II a new plan for the capital of England. He proposed to destroy everything, both the parts of London affected by the fire, and the ones that survived. Instead of the medieval natural maze of narrow streets, Wren offered a rectangular network of clearly defined districts separated by wide avenues. This plan was never realised. Nevertheless, St. Petersburg was not the only capital built under Wren’s influence — 130 years later and five thousand kilometres to the West of London, Wren’s ideas laid the foundation for the capital of a new country. Thus Washington was born, and later more American cities followed the tune.

It is well known that England was the motherland of modern freemasonry. According to Umberto Eco, arrangement of the permanent masonic lodges was stimulated by the Great Fire of London in 1666, that destroyed 4/5 of the wooden capital. Tens of thousands of stoneworkers came to the huge construction site, and in the 18th-19th centuries, nine out of ten English architects belonged to the masonic fraternity.

What could symbolise creation of a new society better than construction of a new building? Therefore masonic ideas materialised in architecture.

We can claim that today’s art of construction follows two main trends, set by two pillars of modern architecture — Christopher Wren and John Soane.

Soane joined freemasonry when he was young. As an architect he quit order decoration and imitation of classical forms, relying on pure architectonics. His buildings are an exception in the history of architecture, showing classicism without order, without imitations, without excess decorum. Wren and Soane inspired Ledoux and Boullée, brilliant Empire style maestros. We know for sure that Claude-Nicolas Ledoux was a member of a masonic lodge. Though we do not have such information about Étienne-Louis Boullée, the masonic influence is evident in his works.

Emperor Alexander I and his sister Jekaterina Pavlovna Duchess of Oldenburg during their visit to London in 1814 examined the Bank of England built by Soane.

The strict pragmatism of Soane’s exterior designs, and free interior spaces, are widely used by modern architecture too.

Saint Petersburg is a mystical and masonic city. It is a city of traditions and conservatism, remarkably amalgamated with reforms and revolutions. The city of the renaissance of antique culture, where Prometheus riots and plots ripped and continue to ripen. The city of two alternative columns of the Sun Temple.

kazanHere in the centre of the city, Count Alexander Stroganov, a notable mason, decided to build a temple similar to St. Peter’s temple in Rome, that is why the temple does not have a traditional Russian bell tower. Another mason Andrei Voronikhin built the Kazansky temple and put a big triangle with the Eye of Omniscience on the pediment.

There are a lot of places in St. Petersburg bearing secret masonic symbols. We often see monuments with square and compasses at the old cemeteries, roofs of some old buildings are covered with frustum pyramids symbolising dragon scales, and Hermes’s caduceus decorate facades. Egyptian masonry is one of the most popular masonic forms, while the architecture of St. Petersburg has plenty of Ancient Egyptian symbols and images — sphynxes, gryphons, pyramids, four-edge monuments… “Egyptian style” elements are a popular decorum of dwelling houses.




Let us try to follow the mental flow of the original plan to create St. Petersburg, the Great City of Stone, of the Philosophy Stone

It is well known that Peter I began building the city with Peter and Paul Fortress. Then his stoneworkers crossed the Neva river and began the construction of the Admiralty Fortress, that later became the symbol of the sea power, dominating the oceans.

Studying the sacral geometry of the Peter and Paul Fortress, we easily detect an alchemic formula of transformation, a merger of the main masonic tools, square and compasses. The basis of the Peter and Paul Fortress is a hexagram construed by the Golden Ratio, the merging of two triangles, or the Solomon’s seal. If we take a better look at the scheme of the Peter and Paul Fortress, we will note that each of the bastions forms a pentagram.

petro-pavelThe pentagram in hexagram is one of the most important signs of medieval alchemists and kabbalists, it is the key to their teachings. This double sign is over the entrance to every lama sanctuary. And this is the symbol of masonry — crossed square and compasses, with a glowing star in the centre: microcosm in the matrix of the Universe, a foetus inside the macrocosm, supported by three forces.

Meanwhile, if we fly over the Neva river, we will see that the centre of the city is a gigantic triangle formed by two avenues (Nevsky Prospect and Voznesensky Prospect), that start from the Admiralty, and Sadovaya Street.

The proportions of the triangle are the same as those of the Cheops pyramid, that has two chambers inside — the King’s chamber and the Queen’s chamber. Our triangle also has two chambers — its King’s chamber is drawn by the Moyka river, the Queen’s chamber — by Griboedov’s channel and Kazansky Temple represents the entrance of the tomb.

The three parts of the St. Petersburg triangle, formed by the channels, symbolise the three worlds — the worlds of Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason.

Crossing the Queen’s channel, we enter the new world, dominated by the Great Temple with the Eye of Omniscience on the façade.

These three hierarchical worlds are connected by eight bridges over the Queen’s channel (Griboedov’s channel), and three bridges over the King’s channel (Moyka river). The golden spire of Admiralty flows over the vertex of the triangle. The 11 material and one spiritual bridges symbolise the 12 stages that a soul goes through in the afterworld (described in the Egyptian “Book of the Dead”) and 12 hermetical stages of European alchemy.

Eight bridges cross the Queen’s channel. At the eighth stage the soul of the recently dead renders offerings to the souls stuck in the caves of the Kingdom of Death. For alchemists this is a sedimentation or separation stage, where liquid is separated from the suspended matter. Meaning that for the recently initiated Apprentice to enter the World of Fellow craftsmanship he must prove the lack of lucre and his devotion to the fraternity. He must sweat many times.

Once in the World of Fellow craftsmanship, the brother traveller sees the Grand Temple with the Eye of Omniscience — Kazansky Temple. This temple has a unique architectural solution: as the altar has to face the east, the lateral side of the temple faces the Nevsky Prospect. In order to improve the impression, a titanic semicircle colonnade of 96 columns was built along the northern façade, resembling Charon’s boat.

To enter the World of Master Masons one has to understand the symbolism of the columns, that represent two notions of Strength and Wisdom. Dividing the total number of the columns by three we get Kabbalistic 32 = 10 sephirot and 22 letters of foundation, of which three are mother letters, seven double and 12 ordinary letters. You will not open the triadic bridges without knowing the Divine anatomy.

The names of the three bridges over the Moyka river are Red, Blue and Green. Only by crossing one of these bridges can you enter the World of Master Masons, and find yourself in the triangle formed by Malaya Morskaya Street. We cross the street and enter Admiralty park with a fountain in the centre. The fountain sprays water, the source of life, to all sides, like the Eye of Omniscience. It is here, at the twelfth stage, where the Soul enters the Sun Temple. The Philosophy Stone touches the transmuted metals.

Lodge Muses No.33 in ST. Petersburg