The article discusses the author’s exploration of Washington D.C., where they reflect on the city’s Masonic legacy and parallels with the Masonic history in Lisbon, Portugal. The author’s curiosity about Freemasonry was piqued by the movie ‘National Treasure,’ which depicts a treasure hunt tied to Masonic secrets and symbols in Washington D.C.
Author: Jay Costa Owen
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The United States, though a relatively young nation, is steeped in history, with stories and events that have shaped its identity. A recent visit to Washington D.C. sparked reflections on the nation’s connections with the Freemasons, a secret society whose legacy can be traced back to ancient times, including the builders of Solomon’s Temple, associations of artists in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and medieval stonemason guilds. The modern form of Freemasonry took shape in 18th-century England and soon spread to Portugal, where it served as a platform for the exchange of Enlightenment ideas, underpinned by principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
Despite its clandestine nature, Freemasonry couldn’t escape the scrutiny of Salazar, Portugal’s dictator who banned the society in 1935. Even under prohibition, society found support in figures like poet and writer Fernando Pessoa. Rumors also suggest that the Marquis of Pombal, the de facto ruler of the Portuguese Empire in the mid-18th century, was a Freemason. Pombal oversaw the modernization and reconstruction of Lisbon following the catastrophic 1755 earthquake, implementing reforms that echoed Enlightenment ideals in areas such as education, commerce, and urban planning.
The influence of Freemasonry is visible in Lisbon’s architectural landscape and is speculated to be a part of Pombal’s legacy. Its mark is also evident in Washington, D.C., where prominent Founding Fathers like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were known as Freemasons. The city’s wide avenues, intersecting diagonal streets, and grand public spaces, imbued with concepts of harmony, balance, and proportion, reflect Masonic symbolism. Iconic structures like the U.S. Capitol and the White House draw from ancient civilizations, mirroring the Masonic affinity for historical tradition.
A tour of Washington, D.C. reveals striking monuments, with the Lincoln Memorial standing out for its magnitude and solemn atmosphere. The monument is a poignant reminder of President Lincoln’s role in abolishing slavery, a topic deeply interwoven with Portugal’s history. Despite its early declaration to end slavery in 1761, Portugal’s enforcement was ineffective, and the practice continued in its colonies until 1869, making it one of the last European nations to officially abolish it.
The journey through America’s capital also included visits to the towering Washington Monument, the presidential residence—The White House, and the Capitol Building, each symbolizing a unique chapter in the nation’s history. The stories behind these iconic landmarks are vast, each meriting a separate exploration.