Quator Coronati: Four Crowned Martyrs
Christian marytrs who became associated with Freemasonry via the operative stonemasons. Also known by the Latin name Quator Coronati, a name associated with a research group in England.
– Source: MasonicDictionary.com
The Quator Coronati or
The Four Patron Saints Of The Order Of Masons
By Bro. C. Purdon Clarke, England
We are indebted to Brother D. D. Berolzheimer, a member of Johnkeer Lodge No. 865, Yonkers, N. Y., for the manuscript of the following address delivered before that lodge by Brother Clarke, a Past Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, while he was director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
IT would be superfluous to enter into the details of the evidence in favor of the history of the four sculptors who, with their recently received apprentice or associate, suffered for their faith a year before the commencement of the last great persecution of the Christians under the Emperor Diocletian.
Bro. Gould’s magnificent research in his History of Freemasonry establishes the general acceptance of the story at a period within a few years of their martyrdom and, moreover, shows that in an age when the Christian Church was becoming a dominant power and able to honor openly those who had fallen in her cause, very marked distinction was, for some peculiar reason, bestowed upon the memory of those four humble craftsmen, although their trials and sufferings do not appear to justify their elevation over many of their comrades in the noble army of martyrs, who had equally been faithful unto death during the many persecutions of the preceding two hundred and forty years.
The solution of this problem which formed itself in my mind was that the popularity of the craftsmen martyrs was due, in some measure, to a democratic undercurrent which had from its commencement been furthering the cause of the Christian religion. Any one who glances, however slightly, at the records of the social and political condition of Rome after the death of Julius Caesar and the break-up of the Commonwealth cannot but realize how welcome the new faith was to the great industrial classes, who found in it a creed representing everything that the better part of their natures felt was good, and a priesthood free from the obviously corrupt practices of the spiritual and temporal upholders of their time-serving and decayed religion.
Romeos first period under martial kings lasted two hundred and fifty years; then a Consular Government was established which, however, was but an oligarchy and involved a constant struggle between the military patricians and the commercial plebians which latter only succeeded after one hundred and twenty years agitation and several civil wars in obtaining a representative from their own ranks. During this second period Rome became a colonizing power and wars for defense became wars of aggression, and, although these are generally attributed to the ambition of popular leaders or the national desire for glory and plunder, it is more probable that they were but the inevitable results of extended commerce.
Victorious commanders returning from time to time in triumph brought back to the Capital the wealth of the then known world, and became in the eyes of the masses heroes who were more to be trusted than the politicians of whose wrangling they were heartily tired. Rome was, therefore, ripe for a change when the Imperial purple was offered to Julius Caesar and afterwards secured by Augustus, but the succeeding three hundred years of military despotism caused a reaction, which paved the way for the introduction of the new cult.
It is to be regretted that Roman history does not record sufficiently the succession of events from the point of view of the burgher or craftsman. The historians either belonged to the patrician casts and did not care to chronicle other events than those in which their class played an important part, or, when the writers were plebians, “the histories of their times were falsified through fear,” or written to please the powers who could regard flattering services.
With such scanty materials to help us we can only assume that as Christianity had permeated none but the artisan classes to any great extent, their ecclesiastics would naturally glorify the martyrs belonging to the industrial plebeian class, who were moreover bound to them by co-fellowship of the Collegium Fabrorum.
The four sculptors must of necessity have been members of the trade society established in the city in which they worked. How far this Collegium was in connection with, or affiliated to, similar Collegia in other towns I cannot say, but of one thing I am sure, and that is, that at the period to which they belonged, where was a dead uniformity of style and ornamentation in building work executed by the Fabri, at places so remote from each other that the only explanation which could be offered is that of a central controlling body, or even more, a central school in which a single style was taught complete in all its parts, whether technical or artistic.
As an illustration I offer mosaic floors, one from Sussex, the second from Carthage, on the north coast of Africa, the other from Balkeish on the Tigris above Baghdad. All might have been designed and executed by the same hand. Wherever the Romans colonized and built in their enduring method, the remains of their walls present the same features and show how little local styles interfered with their established system.
Therefore it may be assumed that our four craftsmen belonged to an important trade organization which at that time extended from Persia to Great Britain, in which latter country alone there were fifty-three important cities each with its Collegium Fabrorum. This connection with a powerful society probably accounts for the extreme leniency and patience with which these sculptors were treated by Diocletian, who only ordered their destruction after their commission of “lese-majeste” by refusing to make the statue of the Assculapius when ordered by their Emperor.
The barbarous execution of four members of a corporate body, which was connected, at least by the bond of common interests, with the other trade societies, must have at that peculiar period made a deep impression on the minds of their fellows, and, as it was but eighteen years later that the Emperor Constantine openly favored the Christian religion, the memory of the martyrs was then still preserved by men who had known them and they became the favorite saints of the solid industrial classes whose wholesale conversion to Christianity had alone made it possible for the Emperor to forsake the old religion and, within another ten years, order the destruction of all the heathen temples.
The connection between these Roman Collegia which we know to have existed in all the countries between England, Spain and Persia and the trade gilds of medieval Europe, may never be satisfactorily proved. Similarities in organization would naturally arise from the requirements of similar circumstances, but it is certain that in all portions of the great Roman Empire, however completely the tidal wave of barbarian removed the traces of that marvelous, complex civilization, the impress of Roman customs and Roman laws remained deeply and securely rooted in many centres, to spring up into life, little by little, through the dark ages, until culminating in the great period of the Renaissance, which commenced the history of modern civilization.
Nothing could throw more light on the connection between the Roman Collegia and the medieval Gilds, so far as England is concerned, than the discovery of some earlier history of the Church of the Four Crowned Martyrs at Canterbury, and the mention by Bede of its existence in A. D. 619, at the time of the great fire which nearly destroyed the city and only stopped when this church was reached.
I cannot pass over the inference that this church withstood the fire better than the other buildings and churches owing to its having been built in Roman times in either brick or stone, whereas the rest more probably belonged to the period of wholesale building of churches and monasteries which followed the conversion of the Saxons in A. D. 597, and were principally constructed in wood.
If this supposition be correct, the Church of the Quatuor Coronati at Canterbury had survived the destruction of everything Roman- British, after the defeat of Vortimer by Hengist at Crecanford, in Kent, in 457. Such an escape is possible and can well be accounted for when we consider that after the Saxons landed in Thanet in A. D. 449 they dwelt on friendly terms with the Britons for five or six years, during which time they would naturally avail themselves of the services of craftsmen, and probably prefer to spare them for their usefulness at the time of the general massacre of the Britons a few years later. Such an incident is not uncommon in the histories of barbarous invasions.
It must also be conceded to the Saxons that they possessed a sufficient amount of civilization to appreciate the value of the workers in iron, brass and wood, the potters, weavers and others who inhabited these polytechnic cities. In their own countries they had already become acquainted with the productions of the Roman craftsmen, who were attached to the military colonies and actually formed part of each legion. The cruel devastation of the country after their first great success against the British was, in their eyes, justified by necessity, as they, the great founders of the AngloSaxon race, had not as yet acquired the patience which is so necessary in dealing with Celtic races.
It is also beyond doubt that members of the Collegia Fabrorum in the British towns had, for a hundred years before the Saxon invasion, become Christians and that, therefore, the Church of the Quatuor Coronati, the popular Saints of several trades, was more likely to have been built at the time when Canterbury possessed a large community of Christian craftsmen than to have been founded by St. Augustine immediately after his arrival, in 597, although the church may have been desecrated during the one hundred and forty years which had elapsed since the destruction of the British rule in Kent.
From the date of Bede’s record of the existence of this church in Canterbury in A. D. 619 until the foundation of a fraternity of sculptors and masons in Rome in 1406, we find, at various intervals of time, references to the history of the original Basilica, founded in memory of the Quatuor Coronati by Pope Melchiades within twelve years of the date of their martyrdom. About the same time as the fire at Canterbury the Roman Basilica was rebuilt by Honorius I (in A. D. 622) and in A. D. 847 the Cardinal titular of the Basilica, who had become Pope, rebuilt it with greater magnificence. In the year 1116 it was again rebuilt by Paschal II, who added a palatial residence to it, and when the Lateran Palace was destroyed in A. D. 1308, the Popes for some time made it their residence. Then in the 15th century we find that in “the very ancient Oratory of St. Sylvester, in the portico of the Basilica, was the Chapel of the Confraternity of Sculptors and Masons founded in the time of Innocent VII, 1506 A. D. ‘under the invocation of the Holy Quatuor Coronati and the other five Holy Martyrs who had followed the profession of sculptors:’ The members of the Confraternity wore a dress of red with blue sashes.”
Here we arrive at the foundation of a medieval gild with the nine martyrs as their patron saints and, moreover, a mention of their livery or distinctive clothing.
A few years later, the Gild of Smiths, Carpenters and Masons (l’Arti dei Fabbri e Legnaioli) in Florence instructed Nanni di Banco, an amateur sculptor, to execute a memorial niche for or San Michele, the Church of the Trade Gilds of that city. This building had been constructed in the previous century as the Gildhall, and, in 1339, two years after the laying of its foundation stone, the Gild of Silk Merchants were allowed to undertake the decoration of one of the niches with the statues of their patron saint, St. John the Evangelist.
Other gilds followed, and the fourteen niches which were evenly spaced around its external walls, were allotted to the Companies representing the Professions, Merchants and Artizans of Florence.
The Company became so wealthy after the plague of 1338, owing to legacies and rich gifts, that they resolved to convert the Loggia, or Gildhall, into a Church, which was finished in 1359, but the filling of the niches was not completed for two centuries later. That of the Smiths, Carpenters and Masons, was finished about the middle of the fifteenth century. This niche does not occupy a symbolical position, but is the second of four, counting from the west on the north front. Two excellent photographs, by Alinari Brothers, of Florence, show the whole niche with the statues of the Four Martyrs in a group in ancient Roman costume, with an under panel representing three of them working as medieval sculptors, whilst a fourth is constructing a wall; in the background, conspicuously placed, are the plumb rule, level, compass and square. A cast from this panel is in the South Kensington Museum in London.
From Italy the fashion for adopting the Quatuor Coronati as patron saints spread to Germany and France, but in the latter country a single individual of the four became a popular saint in a manner to the exclusion of the others.
The “Martyrology” of Du Saussay stated that the bodies of the five Martyrs Claudius, Nicostratus, Simphorianus, Castorius and Simplicius “were afterwards brought from Rome to Toulouse and placed in a chapel which was erected in their honor in the Church of St. Sernin. Subsequently the greater part of the relics of St. Claudius were taken from Toulouse to the FranceComte. In 1049 these relics were honored in the Church of Maynal, one of the oldest in the Jura. When Pope Leo IX came to the Council of Rheims in 1049, he confirmed the Archbishop of Becancon, Hugh the First, in possession of this domain. Also in his Bull, dated 14th of November, he mentions the Church of Maynal ‘where reposes the body of St. Claudius. . .’ The most ancient traditions of Maynal attest that St. Claudius was always honored there as a martyr. He is represented on the parochial banner in the attitude of a man invoking heaven, with his face brightened with a ray of light; he holds a chisel in one hand and in the other a hammer, and by his side is shown a bust of which the white color imitates marble. It is evident that the painter intended thus to represent one of the five sculptors who, according to the old legend, worked with great perfection, invoking the name of Jesus Christ.” “This martyr Saint was generally named St. Clod, or Cloud which is the name under which he is generally designated in various documents relating to the Parish of Maynal.”
Du Saussay further states that “a chapel was also built in honor of St. Claudius by the monks of Ilay upon the summit of a rock near the village of Denezieres where some portion of his relics was placed, having been taken from the Church of Maynal. The surrounding territory from this time was named ‘Terre. de St. Cloud’ and it is under this title that it is designated in several charters of the 12th century.” The Palace of St. Cloud, near Paris, does not owe its name to St. Claudius the Martyr, but to St. Cloud the grandson of Clovis.
It should be noted that in DuSaussay’s account no mention whatever is made of any connection between St. Claudius and the other martyrs with any Craft Gilds, nor does he mention that they were in any way patron saints of the Crafts. This strengthens Bro. Gould’s statement that there is no authority for any connection between the Quatuor Coronati and the European Trade Gilds until the 15th Century.
I have nothing to add to the list of German Cathedrals, Churches and Breviaries which are mentioned by Bro. Gould in connection with shrines and other memorials of the Martyrs, but during a visit to Brussels I found a very interesting representation of these martyr sculptors in a large picture belonging to the Municipal Museum, in which they are depicted as masons rather than sculptors. This picture is of great interest to those studying the manner of operative work amongst medieval craftsmen; and I noticed a peculiarity of dress which distinguished the sculptors from the burgesses and others shown in the picture. They are dressed in very short tunics and tight hose whereas the other people are in long gowns.
I must give a few details of the Societies of Builders which exist in some parts of the East and probably throw some light upon the inner working of the Roman Collegia and the craft gilds of medieval Europe.
In various forms craft gilds are to be found in all the principal cities of Asia, and there is evidence that the various trades have been accustomed to form themselves into societies for mutual protection and for the proper regulation of their commerce. These gilds vary considerably in their organization and powers and, generally, do not openly take any part in municipal government for the very good reason that in the East countries are ruled by officials, created by the Sultans or the Padishas, who again appoint subordinate officers, generally men who have been able to buy from them the position and right to get as much as they possibly can out of the people, in the same manner that they, the upper officials, pay the Sultan for the privilege of retaining their posts. There is, therefore, little similarity between the trade gilds of the East and the free Roman Collegia, and less so with the medieval gilds of Europe of the period when municipalities obtained great political powers.
The present condition of the builders’ gild in Persia. has beep enquired into by General A. H. Schindler, who has spent nearly thirty years in the country and is the best living authority in all matters concerning it. He informs us that a trade gild is called “Senf,” and possesses a Chief, or “Syndic” named the Ra’is, who represents the gild in matters concerning municipal regulations, payment of taxes, etc. It is not necessary that the Ra’is should be a master of the craft of his gild. The ordinary term for a master craftsman is “Ustad”; for an apprentice, or pupil, “Shagird.” In the building trades the names “Ma’mar” and “Bana” stand indiscriminately for architect, builder and mason, but a superior Bana a master builder is called a Ma’mar, and a superior Ma’mar affects the title of “Ma’mar-Bashi,” the latter being a Turkish title denominating a Chief or Head. The title “Ustad” has not the same value as master in Europe, but is applied to the master- builder in charge of the building of a palace, as well as to a man who cannot correctly put half a dozen bricks in a line. As far as can be ascertained at present, no ceremonies are used in accepting a new comer into a craft. Any boy may become a “Shagird,” but good builders will only accept him upon the condition of his agreeing to remain a certain number of years. Other “Shagirds” do not bind themselves, but receive daily wages from the beginning. When the Ustad starts on his own account he becomes a “Bana,” or builder, but as there is nothing to prevent anyone calling himself a master builder you may meet with men who are known as Ustad, Bana, who cannot do more than construct a mud hut. These, however, are not recognized as members of the gild, and are seldom seen in towns. Sometimes masters of the craft are restricted to certain quarters of a town and are not allowed to work outside of the quarter in which they reside.
In the winter of 1894 I showed General Schindler a large collection of Persian architectural drawings, which I had purchased from the State Architect in Teheran; on his return to Persia in 1895 he made many efforts to obtain some but without success. When asking for some technical terms and their explanation, he found the men exceedingly reticent respecting them and he concluded that they regarded these matters as secrets which they were obliged to keep to themselves.
In a recent paper read by Yoshitaro Yamashita, Chancellor to the Imperial Japanese Consulate in London, before the Japan Society, he mentions the “Hiden” (secret tradition), the “Hijutsu” (secret art), and the “Okugi” (inner mysteries) as terms in common use and applied to nearly every undertaking, and he goes on to explain that there is nothing absolutely mysterious or supernatural about them, and that these terms are used with respect to valuable secrets which are carefully guarded by Professors on account of the peculiar benefit they receive for imparting them to their pupils.
Here we have arrived at the key note of the bond of fellowship in operative gilds in all periods. Their secrets have always been valuable possessions requiring every protection to prevent them becoming common property. Then, to prevent undue competition, the interest of the community of a gild was placed before that of its individuals, and lastly, in its relations with the Government, the gild was better able, especially when supported by the gilds of other crafts, to secure an equitable adjustment of taxation as a strong united body.
It is on these grounds that I form the conclusion respecting the origin of the popularity of the Quatuor Coronati as the patron Saints of the Masons and Sculptors. The early Christian Church consisted principally of members of the industrial classes, all of whom were of necessity “magistri” or “operarii” of their respective trade Collegia. The four sculptors and their associate were not only martyrs to the new faith, which by that time was professed either openly or in secret by the bulk of their fellow-craftsmen, but were regarded as victims of tyrannical interference with the privileges of the Collegia which most probably possessed powers to deal with all matters relating to the due execution of the work of each craft.
Either from jealousy or fear, several of the Roman Emperors had already attempted to suppress the Collegia both in Rome and in her colonies, and even the just and broad-minded Trajan objected to the trade gilds and charitable benefit societies upon the ground that they became turbulent and factious. Christianity was first brought to his notice as still another of these societies forming in a distant colony, and was duly reported upon by Pliny in the same manner as when he was requesting direction from the Emperor in dealing with a volunteer fire brigade and a society for old age pensions.
The gilds of medieval Europe were similarly disliked by arbitrary rulers of all kinds, whether Popes, Emperors, Kings or Republican Governments, and in our own times the greatest gilds in the world, those of the City of London, have not been free from molestation from the would-be tyrants of the hour.
But these attempts to destroy Institutions which form the backbone of civic liberty, like the war waged on Freemasonry by the Roman Church, could but end in the discomfiture of the attacking powers. These societies are the outcome of the practical side of human nature, in its hard-headed and sober desire to do its best to obtain freedom to work for due reward, to live in peace and harmony with its neighbors and to combine for mutual protection when the necessity arises.
– Source: The Builder November – 1919
Quator Coronati: Four Crowned Martyrs
The Four Crowned Martyrs
The legend of the Four Crowned Martyrs should be interesting to Masonic scholars, because it is one of the few instances, perhaps the only one, in which the church has been willing to do honor to those old workers in stone, whose services it readily secured in the Medieval ages, but with whom, as with their successors the modern Freemasons, it has always appeared to be in a greater or less degree of antagonism. Besides, these humble but true-hearted confessors of the faith of Christianity were adopted by the Stonemasons of Germany as the patron saints of Operative Masonry, just as the two Saints John have been since selected as the patrons of the Speculative branch of the Institution. Dr. Christian Ehrmann, of Strasbourg who for thirty years had devoted his attention to this and to kindred subjects of Masonic archeology, has supplied us with the most interesting details of the life and death of the Four Crowned Martyrs. The Roman Church has consecrated November 8 to the commemoration of these martyrs, and yearly, on that day, offers up the prayer:
“Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that as we have been informed of the constancy of the glorious martyrs in the profession of Thy faith, BO we may experience their kindness in recommending us to Thy mercy-.”
The Roman Breviary of 1474 is more-explicit, and mentions them particularly by name. It is, therefore, somewhat remarkable, that, although thus careful in their commemoration, the Missals of the Roman Church give us no information of the deeds of these holy men. It is only from the Breviaries that we can learn anything of the act on which the commemoration in the calendar was founded. Of these Breviaries, Ehrmann has given full citations from two: the Breviary of Rome, published in 1474, and the Breviary of Spire, published in 1478. These, with some few extracts from other books on the subject, have been made accessible to us by George Kloss, in his interesting work entitled, Freimaurerei in ihrer wahren Bedeutung, or Freemasonry in its true significance.
The Breviarium Romanum is much more complete in its details than the Breviarium Spirense; and yet the latter contains a few incidents that are not related in the former. Both agree in applying to the Four Crowned Martyrs the title of quadratarii. Now quadratarius, in the Latin of the lower age, signified a Stone-squarer or a Mason. This will remind us of the passage in the Book of Rings, thus translated in the authorized version:
“And Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders did hew them, and the stonesquarers. ”
It is evident from the use of this word quadratarii in the ecclesiastical legends as well as from the incidents of the martyrdom itself, that the four martyrs were not simply sculptors, but stone-cutters and builders of temples: in other words, Operative Masons. Nor can we deny the probability of the supposition, that they were members of one of those colleges of architects, which afterward gave birth to the gilds of the Middle Ages, the corporations of builders, and through these to the modern Lodges of Freemasons. Supposing the legend to be true, or even admitting that it is only symbolical, we must acknowledge that there has been good reason why the Operative Masons should have selected these martyrs as the patron saints of their profession.
Now let us apply ourselves to the legend. Taking the Roman Breviary as the groundwork, and only interpolating it at the proper points with the additional incidents related in the Breviary of Spire, we have the following result as the story of the Four Crowned Martyrs. In the last quarter of the third century Diocletian was Emperor of the Roman Empire. In his reign commenced that series of persecutions of the Christian church, which threatened at one time to annihilate the new religion, and gave to the period among Christian writers the name of the Era of Martyrs. Thousands of Christians, who refused to violate their consciences by sacrificing to the heathen gods, became the victims of the bigotry and intolerance, the hatred and the cruelty, of the Pagan priests and the Platonic philosophers; and the scourge, the cross, or the watery grave daily testified to the constancy and firmness of the disciples of the prophet of Nazareth. Diocletian had gone to the Province of Pannonia, that he might by his own presence superintend the bringing of metals and stones from the neighboring mines of Noricum, wherewith to construct a temple consecrated to the sun-god, Apollo. Among the six hundred and twenty-two artisans whom he had collected together for this purpose were four-by name Claudius, Castorius, Symphorianus, and Nichostratus -said to have been distinguished for their skill as Stonemasons. They had abandoned the old heathen faith and were in secret Christians, doing all their work as Masons in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Breviary of Spires relates here an additional occurrence, which is not contained in the Breviary of Rome, and which, as giving a miraculous aspect to the legend, must have made it doubly acceptable to the pious Christians of the fifteenth century, upon whose religious credulity one could safely draw without danger of a protest. It seems that, in company with our four blessed martyrs, there worked one Simplicius, who was also a mason, but a heathen. While he was employed in labor near them he wondered to see how much they surpassed in skill and cunning all the other artisans. They succeeded in all that they attempted, while he was unfortunate, and always breaking his working tools. At last he approached Claudius, and said to him: “Strengthen, I beseech thee, my tools, that they may no longer break.” Claudius took them in his hands, and said: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ be these tools henceforth strong and faithful to their work.” From this time, Simplicius did his work well, and succeeded in all that he attempted to do. Amazed at the change, Simplicius was continually asking his fellowworkmen how it was that the tools had been so strengthened that now they never broke. At length Claudius replied:
“God, who is our Creator, and the Lord of all things, has made His creatures strong.”
Then Simplicius inquired Was not this done by the God Zeus?” To this Claudius replied:
“Repent, O my brother, of what thou hast said. for thou hast blasphemed God, our Creator, whom alone we worship, that which our own hands have made we do not recognize as a God.”
With these and such sentences they converted Simplicius to the Christian faith, who, being baptized by Cyrillus, bishop of Antioch, soon afterward suffered martyrdom for his refusal to sacrifice to the Pagan gods. One day Diocletian issued an order, that out of a piece of marble should be constructed 3 noble statue of Apollo sitting in his chariot. And now all the workmen and the philosophers began to consult on the subject. and each one had arrived at a different opinion. And when at length they had found a huge block of stone, which had been brought from the Island of Thasos, it proved that the marble was not fit for the statue which Diocletian had commanded, and non began 3 great war of Lords between the masters of the work and the philosophers. glut one day the whole of the artisans, six hundred and twenty-two in number, with five philosophers, came together, that they might examine the defects and the veins of the stone, and there arose a still more wonderful contest between the workmen and the philosophers. Then began the philosophers to rail against Claudius, Symphorianus, Nichostratus, and Simplicius, and said:
“Why do ye not hearken to the commands of our devout Emperor, Diocletian, and obey his will?”
Claudius answered and said:
“Because we cannot offend our Creator and commit a sin, whereof we should be found guilty in His sight ”
Then said the philosophers:
“From this it appears that you are Christians.”
“Truly we are Christians,” thereupon the philosophers chose other masons, and caused them to make a statue of Esculapius out of the stone which had been rejected, which, after thirty-one days, they finished and presented to the philosophers, These then informed the Emperor that the statue of Esculapius was finished, when he ordered it to be brought before him for inspection. But as soon as he saw it he was greatly astonished, and said:
“This is a proof of the skill of these men, who receive my approval as sculptors.”
It is very apparent that this, like all other legends of the church, is insufficient in its details, and that it leaves many links in the chain of the narrative to be supplied by the fancy or the judgment of the readers. It is equally evident from what has already been said, in connection with what is subsequently told, that the writer of the legend desired to make the impression that it was through the influence of Claudius and the other Christian Masons that the rest of the workmen were persuaded that the Thasian stone was defective and unfit for the use of a sculptor; that this was done by them because they were unwilling to engage in the construction of the statue of a Pagan god; that this was the cause of the controversy between the workmen and the philosophers; that the Latter denied the defectiveness of the stone; and, lastly, that they sought to prove its fitness by causing other masons, who were not Christians, to make out of it a statue of Esculapius. These explanations are necessary to an understanding of the legend, which proceeds as follows: As soon as Diocletian had expressed his admiration of the statue of Esculapius, the philosopher said:
” Most mighty Caesar, know that these men whom your majesty has praised for their skill in Masonry, namely, Claudius, Symphorianus, Nichostratus, and Castorius, are Christians, and by magic spells or incantations make men obedient to their will.”
Then said Diocletian:
“If they have violated the lawns and if your accusations he true, let them suffer the punishment of sacrilege.”
But Diocletian, in consideration of their skill, sent for the Tribune Lampadius, and said to him:
” If they refuse to offer sacrifice to the sun-god Apollo, then let them be scourged with scorpions. But if they are willing to do so, then treat them with kindness.”
For five days sat Lampadius in the same place, before the temple of the sun-god, and called on them by the proclamation of the herald, and showed them many dreadful things, and all sorts of instruments for the punishment of martyrs, and then tie said to them:
” Hearken to me and avoid the doom of martyrs, and be obedient to the mighty prince, and offer a sacrifice to the sun-god, for no longer can I speak to you in gentle words.”
But Claudius replied for himself and for his companions with great boldness:
“This let the Emperor Diocletian know: that we truly are Christians, and never can depart from the worship of our God.”
Thereupon the Tribune Lampadius, becoming enraged. caused them to be stripped and to be scourged with scorpions, while a herald, by proclamation, announced that this was done because they had disobeyed the commands of the emperor. In the same hour Lampadius, being seized by an evil spirit, died on his seat of judgment. As soon as the wife and the domestics of Lampadius heard of his death, their ran with great outcries to the palace. Diocletian, when he had learned what had happened, ordered four leaden coffins to be made, and that- Claudius and his three companions being placed therein alive-they should be thrown into the river Danube. This order Nicetius, the assistant of Lampadius, caused to be obeyed, and thus the faithful masons suffered the penalty and gained the crown of martyrdom. There are some books of legends which give the names of the Four Crowned Martyrs as Severus, Severzanus, Carpophorus, and Vidorinus, and others again which speak of five confessors who, a few years afterward, suffered martyrdom for refusing to sacrifice to the Pagan gods, and whose names being at the time unknown, Pope Melehiades caused them to be distinguished in the church calendar as the Four Crowned Martyrs: an error, says Jacob de Voragine, which, although subsequently discovered, was never corrected. But the true legend of the Four Crowned Martyrs is that which has been given above from the best authority, the Roman Breviary of 1474. “On the other side of the Esquiline,” says Mrs. Jameson in her Sacred and Legendary Art (volume ii, page 0324), “and on the road leading from the Coliseum to the Lateran, surmounting a heap of sand and ruins, we come to the church of the ‘Quattro Coronati,’ the Four Crowned Brothers.
On this spot, some time in the fourth century, were found the bodies of four men who had suffered decapitation, whose names being then unknown, they were merely distinguished as Coronati, crowned-that is, with the crown of martyrdom.” There is great obscurity and confusion in the history of these men. Their church, Mrs. Jameson goes on to say, is held in particular respect by the builders and stone-cutters of Rome. She has found allusion to these martyr masons not only in Roman art, but in the old sculpture and stained glass of Germany. Their effigies she tells us, are easily distinguished by the fact that they stand in a row, bearing palms, with crowns upon their heads and various Masonic implements at their feet- such as the rule, the square, the mallet, and the chisel. They suffered death on the 8th of November, 987, and hence in the Roman Catholic Missal that day is dedicated to their commemoration. From their profession as Stonemasons and from the pious firmness with which they refused, at the cost of their lives, to consecrate their skill in their art to the construction of Pagan temples, they have been adopted by the Stonemasons of Germany as the Patron Saints of Operative Masonry. Thus the oldest Regulation of the Stonemasons of Strasbourg, which has the date of the year 1459, commences with the following invocation: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and of our gracious Mother Mary, and also of her Blessed Servants, the Four Crowned Martyrs of everlasting memory.” Such allusions are common in the German Masonic documents of the Middle ages. It is true, however that the English Freemasons ceased at a later period to refer in their Constitutions to those martyrs, although they undoubtedly borrowed many of their usage’s from Germany.
Yet the Regius .Manuscript of the Constitutions of Freemasonry, the oldest of the English records, which is supposed to have been written about the year 1390, under the title of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum gives a rather copious detail of the legend (lines 497 to 534), which is here inserted with only those slight alterations of its antiquated phraseology which are necessary to render it intelligible to modern readers, although in doing so the rhyme of the original is somewhat destroyed: Pray we now to God Almighty And to His .Mother, Mary bright That we may keep these articles here And these points well altogether, As did those holy martyrs four That in this Craft were of great honor. They were as good Mason as on earth shall go Gravers and image makers they were also, For they were workmen of the best, The emperor had them in great liking He willed of them an image to make, That might be worshiped tor his sake; Such idols he had in his day To turn the people from Christ’s law, But they were steadfast in Christ’s law And to their Craft, without denial; They loved well God and all his lore, And were in his service evermore. True men they were, in that day, And lived well in God s law They thought no idols for to make, For no good that they might take; To believe on that idol for their god They would not do so, though he were mad, For they would not forsake their true faith, And believe on his false name. The emperor caused to take them at once And put them in a deep prison. The sorer he punished then in that place, The more joy was to them of Christ’s grace. Then whet e saw no other one To death he let them then go. Who so will of their life more know, By the book he may it show, In the legends of the saints The names of the four crowned ones. Their feast will be without denial, After All Hallows, the eighth day. The devotion of these saints, which led to the introduction of their legend into an ancient Constitution of Freemasonry, shows how much they were reverenced by the Craft. In fact, the Four Crowned Martyrs were to the Stone-cutters of Germany and to the earlier Operative Masons of England what Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist became to their successors, the Speculative Freemasons of the eighteenth century. From them the famous literary Lodge-the Quatuor Coronati, of London, England-has been so named.
– Source: Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry