– by Terry Melanson, April 24th, 2012 (Introduction here)
Main sources: Otto Karmin, “L’Influence du Symbolisme Maçonnique sur le Symbolisme Révolutionnaire,”Revue historique de la Révolution français, (avril-juin 1910); Hennin (Michel), Histoire numismatique de la Révolution Française, Paris, 1826.
“What was the influence of Freemasonry on the French Revolution? The clerical world has always maintained that the latter was the result of a conspiracy of the lodges; the Masonic world has always fought against this thesis. For political reasons, some Masonic authors have denied any, or mostly any, influence their society may have had on revolutionary events, [while] others – concerned with historical truth – have shown the important role played by the lodges, and particularly by their members, on the progress of the Revolution. […] To symbolize its principles and ideals, the Revolution drew upon two sources: the symbols and trappings of classical antiquity, and the rituals of Freemasonry. In the first category belong the goddesses of Liberty, Hercules, the Phrygian caps, fasces, clubs, vanquished hydras, etc.; the second borrowed the square, compass, level, trowel, the triangle with and without a radiant eye, the sun, moon, intertwined hands, knotted tassels, the mirror, the pelican, the eagle bearing its young, the beehive, circumference, etc.” (Karmin, pp. 3, 10)
N 15. Radiant Triangle
. Election of Jean-Silvain Bailly (a Freemason) as Mayor of Paris; Goddess Liberty and Phrygian cap, fasces, compass, scroll, etc.
. Estates General; Otto: “Henning did not notice the Masonic inspiration of this piece; in fact you not only see the square and compass but the [Masonic ‘Jachin and Boaz’] ‘two column’ [motif] surmounted by the sun and moon. It is true that the latter is very skillfully represented by a bishop’s miter, placed somewhat obliquely.” (p. 11)
N 68. Henning
: “An astronomical trophy consisting of a globe, a compass, a scale, a quarter circle, a square, a mirror and laurels. Above, the moon and sun.” Otto: “Henning was mistaken; the mirror he is talking about is the handle of a trowel. It is true that the mirror is also a Masonic symbol, introduced by the ‘Strict Observance
’ in 1782.” (p.11)
N 124. Pelican. A common masonic symbol usually reserved for Rosicrucian degrees (compare with this
N 155. Radiant triangle.
N 172. Masonic imagery on both the obverse and reverse; in particular, notice the square and compass displayed in precisely the manner of Freemasonry. The upside-down triangles are a mystery; Otto speculates that it may have been an anti-Christian sentiment. Owl of Minerva
is present as well.
N 184. Radiant triangle
N 282. ‘Chiffones d’Arles’ Medallion: Anti-revolutionary piece; Serpent eating its tail (Ouroboros).Catalogue of the Mayer collection
: “A society of Royalists, in the city of Arles, assembled every night, during the early part of the revolution, at the house of a man named Giffon. This name was ultimately corrupted into Chiffon, which, in the patois of Arles, signifies a siphon. In theTresor Numismatique
, plate xxxi., figure 9, is a medal with this figure of a siphon upon it, and the legend, CHIFFONNE D’ARLES. The society was dissolved by a decree of the Legislative Assembly, in 1792.”
N 305. Gold medallion, very rare. Philippe-Frédéric de Dietrich (mason and Illuminatus), the first mayor of Strasbourg; Minerva. Obverse: an eagle, bearing its young, soaring towards the sun.
N 370. Liberty cap; level.
N 374. Minerva seated, with level (on a cornerstone
, perhaps).Nearly identical with this
masonic medal from the Lodge “Centre des Amis” in 1793, who’s Master was Roëttiers de Montaleau
N 392. Beehive
of industry utilized in the 3rd degree); radiant sun with a human face. Very similar to the medal struck in 1788 (below), commemorating the scientific society, Cercle des Philadelphes
, whose founders and majority of its members, were Masons and anti-Mesmerists. Mesmer himself, ironically enough, was a member of
the occult-MasonicPhiladelphes de Narbonne
N 398. Liberty holding level.
N 423, 424, 425. The Genius of France, holding the scepter of Reason (all-seeing eye at its extremity
), etching the word Constitution on a tablet, flanked by Phrygian cap and triangle.
N 455, 458. Liberty, Phrygian cap, and triangle.
N 565. Hope wearing a Liberty cap; exergue: the level.
N 566. Liberty standing; left, a broken column and a glowing eye.
N 573. School of Sorèze Medallion. Minerva; children playing around a tree of liberty; square and compass at their feet.
N 575. Triangle with all-seeing eye.
N 579. Pelican feeding young.
N 604. Minerva holding a level.
N 608. Nature, in the guise of the goddess Isis; exergue: the level.
N 611. Ark with constitution, supported by Egyptian looking females who in turn flank an Ouroboros; exergue: the level.
N 613, 614, 615, 616 same as 423, 424, 425.
N 618. Cubic Stone
surmounted by fasces, serpent, and winged Petasos of Hermes
(the latter not mentioned by Karmin).
N 629. Level.
N 630. Winged liberty holding level; all-seeing eye atop a mountain, referring to the Montagnards during the Terror — i.e., the panoptic
totalitarianism of the Committee of Public Safety.
N 636. Convention, Robespierre and Cecile Renault. Level.
N 679. Republic of France. Level.
N 681. Council of Five Hundred. Level.
N 748. Hercules, Liberty and Equality (holding level).
N 789 and 790. Level and Ouroboros.
N 792. Cisalpine Republic. Level.
N 796. Not noticed by Karmin, the medallion is dedicated to the painter Nicolas Poussin. Compass in support of a pentagram (both masonic symbols).
N 810. Level.
N 845, 846, like 789, 790.
N 866 like 748.
N 873. Level.
N 884, 886, like 889 890.
N 887. Spirit bearing a map in his right hand and the square and compass in his left hand.
N 911. Liberty holding level.
N 913. Liberty holding level.