The Baal's Bridge Square

posted Apr 30, 2011, 9:31 AM by Kurt Gazow

Next to the apron, the Square and Compasses are one of the most publicly recognizable symbols of Freemasonry, recognized the world over.  In operative Masonry, the square was used as a device to square their work.  Known as a 'trying square', it typically had a plain surface, its legs used to test the accuracy of the sides of a stone, and to see that its edges subtend the same angle.  

Different speculative Masonic traditions have seen evolutions in the design and adornment of the square  French Masonic Lodges have extended the length of one leg, emulating a carpenters square; lodges in the US and Canada have added graduations of measurement. [1]

A Square also happens to be one of the oldest items of Freemasonry in the world. One of these artifacts from the beginnings of Freemasonry is found in present-day Ireland.  Warrant no.13 was issued to ‘Antient Union Lodge’ in Limerick, on the 22nd November 1732. However, this date only coincides with a time when records began for Antient Union Lodge 13.

Lodge 13 have in their archives a old brass square that was found under the foundations of Baals Bridge. This Square dated 1507 is reputed to be one of the earliest Masonic items in the world.

The old brass square, known as the Baal’s Bridge Square, was recovered from the foundations of Baal’s Bridge in Limerick when the bridge was being rebuilt in 1830. It is inscribed “I WILL STRIVE TO LIVE WITH LOVE AND CARE UPON THE LEVEL BY THE SQUARE” and bears the date, 1507.  You can also see a heart in the center.

This ancient Square, carefully treasured by Lodge 13 is recorded as being presented to Brother Michael Furnell,  Provincial Grand Master, by Brother James Pain, (referred to as the Provincial Grand Architect).  In the Freemasons’ Quarterly Review, 1842, p. 288, Bro. Furnell, under the date of 27th. August, 1842, printed a short note on this relic of antiquity, accompanying which is a facsimile sketch. 

He says that Bro. Pain, in 1830, had been contractor for re-building Baals Bridge in Limerick, and on taking down the old structure, he discovered under the foundation stone at the English town side, this old brass square, much eaten away. In the facsimile sketch, Bro, Furnell puts the date as 1517, which is a mistake, as the square bears the date 1507. A heart appears in each angle.

James Pain, a distinguished architect, was born at Isleworth in 1779. He and his brother, George R, Pain, entered into partnership, subsequently settling in Ireland, where James resided in Limerick and George in Cork. They designed and built a number of churches and glebe houses. Mitchelstown Castle, the magnificent seat of the Earls of Kingston, was the largest and best of their designs. They were also architects of Cork Court-house and the County Gaol, both very striking erections, and of Dromoland Castle, the seat of Lord Inchiquin. James Pain died in Limerick 13th. December, 1877, in his 98th year, and was buried in the cathedral church of St. Mary in that city.” [2]