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What is freemasonry

Inside a Masonic Lodge

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Masonic Lodges, Explained


A Masonic “lodge” refers to both the local chapter of Masons and also the room in which they meet. Sometimes, multiple groups of Masons, or lodges, will share one lodge room, meeting on different days of the week. Use our Lodge Locator to find a lodge near you.

In California, there are more than 330 local lodges organized under the Grand Lodge of California, plus even more organized through the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of California, the Women's Grand Lodge of California, or one of several other bodies. (Each has its own slightly different customs and traditions.)

Masons meet in lodge for two things: To hold monthly “stated meetings” where they discuss the business of the lodge, which operates as a non-profit entity, and to progress candidates through the degrees of Freemasonry. These are private events that are open only to fellow Masons. To learn more about the principles of Freemasonry, download this digital booklet, or visit the explainer site at the link below.

Freemasons’ Hall at the California Masonic Memorial Temple


The lodge room housed inside the California Masonic Memorial Temple is inside the newly built Freemasons' Hall, which opened in 2019. In addition to the lodge room, Freemasons’ Hall also includes a bar and dining area and a library and lounge (seen here).

The design of the lodge room is based on “sacred geometry” and includes countless nods to Masonic symbolism. For instance, behind the lodge master’s chair, on the eastern wall, a sculpture of the dawn wall features a gradient moving from rough to polished marble—a reference to the Mason’s lifelong work of “perfecting their ashlar.” Learn more about the symbolism of the lodge room at the link below.

The Square and Compass


The Masonic square and compass is probably the most common symbol in Masonry, used to represent Freemasons and Masonic lodges around the world. Ancient stonemasons used these tools to create 90-degree angles and test the accuracy of their work. In “speculative” Masonry (as modern Freemasonry is known), the square is an emblem of morality. The compass represents the relationship between the individual and society.

The letter “G,” which is not always depicted within the square and compass, stands for geometry—the basis upon which stonemasonry is built.

Freemasonry includes a wealth of symbolism. Learn more about it at the link below.


Masonic Columns


A pair of white, marble, 23-foot-tall columns mark the entrance to the California Masonic Memorial Temple. The column on the left is topped by the terrestrial globe; the column at the right is topped by the celestial globe.

These columns are common to every Masonic lodge room, everywhere. (Typically, they are found just inside the entrance to the lodge space.) The pillars are meant to replicate those found at the entrance to King Solomon’s Temple—the foundational allegory upon which speculative Freemasonry is based. The pillars are said to represent strength and establishment.

Inside the Lodge


Masonic lodge rooms can vary widely, from large, elaborate halls to small and spartan meeting spaces. Some aren’t even indoors. But they all have a few things in common.

In many cases, Masonic lodge rooms are virtually unchanged from more than a century ago—like the interior of San Diego Masonic Lodge No. 35, seen here circa 1885.

The Altar and Lights of Freemasonry


At the center of each lodge room is an altar, a holy book (often but not always a bible), square, and compass. These are referred to as the three “greater” lights of Freemasonry. Next to the altar are three candles—the “lesser lights” of Freemasonry—representing the sun, moon, and the master of the lodge. They are meant to invoke constancy and regularity. In many lodge rooms, the candles are represented with light bulbs, often blue.

The Officer’s Chairs


Each lodge is run by elected officers, including the lodge master and senior and junior wardens. (Among several other positions are the lodge secretary, treasurer, and tiler—a position that's part guard, part front-desk person, and part protocol officer.)

The officers of the lodge are seated in specially designated stations within the lodge room. The master of the lodge is always seated in the room’s east. During ritual ceremonies, members who are not officers sit in rows along the northern and southern flanks, and are called sideliners.

The Mosaic Floor


Among the other “adornments” of the lodge room is the mosaic floor, or pavement (as it’s known in Freemasonry). The alternating black and white tiles represent good and evil, while the tesselated border that often surrounds the checkerboard is said to represent God’s blessings.