"LOST SYMBOL" PICTURES: Masonic Symbols Decoded

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September 15, 2009--The Freemasons' square-and-compasses symbol adorns a wall in Washington, D.C.'s Masonic House of the Temple--the scene of strange rituals in Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown's new book, The Lost Symbol (exterior picture and facts about the Masonic temple).

The square-and-compasses symbol has its roots, as modern Freemasonry may have, in the craft of stonemasonry. Most of the trade's tools are represented somewhere in the symbols of the Freemasons, the world's largest international secret society, founded in 17th-or-18th century Britain.

Masonic scholars explain that the square reminds Masons to ensure that their actions conform to a "square of virtue," while the compasses symbolize self-control over their passions.

The symbol-rich House of the Temple, designed by Jefferson Memorial architect John Russell Pope, is one of two national headquarters for the United States' 550,000 Scottish Rite Masons. A decidedly non-secretive attraction, the Masonic temple hosts regular children's concerts, public tours, and the Burl Ives Collection—artifacts of the 20th-century singer, actor, and narrator of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special.

--Brian Handwerk

More on the History and Symbols Behind Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol
"The Lost Symbol" and the Freemasons: 8 Myths Decoded
"LOST SYMBOL" PHOTOS: Real Places From Dan Brown's New Book
"LOST SYMBOL" PICTURES: Masonic Symbols Decoded
—Photograph by Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images
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