The Scottish Rite Cathedral

The Scottish Rite Cathedral at 650 North Meridian Street in downtown Indianapolis is a majestic example of Tudor Gothic architecture. Financed by a small membership of Masons who saw the need for a larger center, or “Valley,” the Cathedral was designed by architect George T. Schreiber, and construction began in 1927. The building was completed at a cost of $2,500,000 in February 1929 and dedicated on September 10 of the same year. Upon completion of the exterior, other features such as the library, carillon, and pipe organ, along with the extensive interior ornamentation, were added to the Cathedral through various gifts and memorials.

The Cathedral serves as a monument to the meaning and purpose of Freemasonry, and represents the ancient rite of one branch of the Masons. In brief, a master mason may proceed in this branch after he has completed the first three degrees symbolic of Blue Lodge Masonry. Founded in the 17th century in Bordeaux, France, the Scottish Rite consists of the 4th to the 32nd advanced degrees of Masonry, all of which are rooted deeply in the Bible and history. Today, 32 degree Masons meet in similar centers or “valleys,” as a fellowship of men devoted to the strengthening of the community. The primary purpose of this brotherhood is “In effect to be better than ourselves,” by supporting the family, community, charity, and philanthropy through honor and virtue, in strength and wisdom.

There are ornate carvings in the woodwork and ceilings, reflecting the history and symbolism of the Masons, throughout the interior of the Scottish Rite Cathedral. In accordance with the 33 years of the life of Christ and the 33 degrees of the Scottish Rite, the building was designed in multiples of 33 feet each. Bronze medallions of each of the 12 signs of the Zodiac and the four principal degrees of the Scottish Rite, representing the universality of their beliefs, are set in the marble floors at the south and east entrances. The impressive “Singing Tower,” with the 54-bell carillon weighing 56,372 pounds (one of the largest in the world), rises 212 feet above the sidewalk. The top of the tower has 12 fleurs-de-lis, which appear as crosses when viewed from below, as each lobe extends to the North, South, East, and West.

More symbolism, depicting the three scoundrels of Masonic lore who attempted to steal the plans for King Solomon’s temple from Hiram, King of Tyre, can be found over the main entrances. Carved in the limestone façade above the Cathedral doors is the Scottish Rite motto, “Spes Meo In Deo Est,” or “our faith is in God.” Situated within, there is a splendid two-story ballroom and surrounding balcony, and an auditorium that will seat an audience of 1,100. In 2004, 19 Meyer loudspeakers were placed in the auditorium from two small openings in the ceiling and in clusters suspended on each side of the stage. The historical significance of the Cathedral, a once hidden treasure, has been preserved for the thousands of visitors who enter each year from the U.S. and over 46 foreign countries. Many more attend the many cultural events, receptions, award programs, and other public and private functions in this magnificent performance venue. The Cathedral hosts popular community-wide events such as the annual commemoration of George Washington’s birthday, one of America’s famous Masons, tours for school groups, and Sunday afternoon concerts featuring local musicians and talent, as well as sponsoring classes and speakers on Freemasonry. In addition, the Double Eagle cafeteria is frequently used by members of the Optimist, Kiwanis, and Sojourners Clubs.

A foundation has been put in place for endowments and bequests to ensure the continued preservation of this magnificent edifice. The Scottish Rite Cathedral stands as a treasured landmark of Masonic and community pride for future generations.

Admission is free. Tours 10:00 a.m. — 2:00 p.m. on weekdays. Public lunch available in the Double Eagle Café, 11:00 a.m. — 2:00 p.m. Closed Sat, Sun, and holidays.

Note: The Cathedral is included as a historic attraction in the Historic Landmark Walking Tours in Indianapolis.

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