The Ups & Downs of the Warden's Columns

Ron Merk

Education Officer: Vancouver & Quadra #2
Victoria, BC Canada

Why are the Senior and junior Warden's Columns raised and lowered when the lodge is at work or rest?

To appreciate fully the answer to this question we must explore some history first.

In Operative Lodges c. 1400 there was only one Warden. By default the Warden could be considered the Senior Warden. It was his duty to see that Operative Masons were kept gainfully busy, that the work flowed smoothly, to serve as mediator in disputes and to see that "every brother had his due."

In the Speculative Lodges, two Wardens were established. By ancient tradition the Senior Warden continued to remain "Incharge" of the Lodge while it was at work. It seems likely that in order to find a corresponding job for the Junior Warden, he was put "Incharge" of the Lodge while at refreshment.

There is no mention of the Warden's Columns in any material prior to 1730. It appears that they were first introduce somewhere between 1730 and 1760. The practice of raising and lowering the columns was introduce during that same period and was officially authorised at the Union of the Ancients and Moderns in 1813.

The columns are said to represent BOAZ and JACHIN, the two columns at the porchway or entrance to King Solomon's Temple. The Warden who is incharge of the Lodge, either at work (Senior Warden) or refreshment (Junior Warden) is the Warden who will have his column raised. The other column should of course then be laid on it's side.

No satisfactory explanation is available in any of the written works to explain the reason for the raising and lowering of the columns. The only valid interpretation in this case would seem to be the simplest of all.......

i.e. During the 18th century there is ample evidence that much of the Lodge work was conducted at table while the Lodge was still open. Toasts and drinking were the norm. When a Lodge was "called off" for the actual meal the Brethren remained seated at the table. There was a need to have some visible - readily recognisable sign or signal to show all who were present whether the Lodge was at work or refreshment. This practical reasoning appears to be the most likely of all explanations for the raising and lowering of the columns.

References — The Freemason At Work, Harry Carr 1976