Saturday, February 5, 2011
Legend of the Quatuor Coronati
The Legend of the Quatuor Coronati is very interesting to Freemasons because in the legend, as in the Arundel MS.—a transcript of the more important portions of which follows—the Quatuor were originally four Craftsmen by name Claudius, Castorius, Simphorianus, and Nicostratus, "mirificos in arte quadrataria," which though it is translated the "art of carving," is literally "the stone-squarer’s art," or the art of stone-squaring. They are distinctly called "artifices," artificers, although as the legend shows us, to the four artificers are joined four milites; whilst one Simplicius, converted to Christianity by the four during the progress of events narrated by the legend, is added to the stone-squarers, making nine in all. They are declared to be Christians, "occulte," secretly. Diocletian ordered an image of Æsculapius to be made, and after a contest and dialogue with "quinque Philosophi" Simphorianus, who appears to be the leader and spokesman, adds Simplicius to the number—now five—and refuses, on their behalf and with their consent, to make the image. They are brought before Lampadius the Tribune, who after reference to Diocletian orders them to be stripped and beaten with scorpions, "scorpionibus mactari," and then, by Diocletian’s order; they were place in "loculi plumbei," leaden coffins, and cast into the Tiber.
A certain Nicodemus is said to have raised the coffins and taken them to his own house; levavit says the legend.
Two years afterwards Diocletian ordered the soldiers to pay homage to a Statue of Æsculapius, but four "Cornicularii," or wing-leaders of the city militia, refused. They were ordered to be put to death in front of the image of Æsculapius by strokes of the Plumbata, "ictu plumbatarum." and their bodies cast into the streets to the dogs, where they lay five days.
The Arundel Legend is taken from a fine MS. of the 12th century, in the British Museum. Its proper reference is Ar: MSS., 91, f. 2186. There is another copy of the legend in the British Museum, Harleian MSS., No. 2802, f 99. There is also a short notice of the Quatuor Coronati in Regius MS., 8, c, 7 f 165, of the 14th century.
A variation on the legend:
When in 298 A.D. the Emporer Diocletian was building his baths on the necks of the Quirinal and Virminal hills he included within its vast circuit a temple to Æsculapius, the god of health. He ordered the five sculptors, Claudius, Nicostratus, Sinforianus, Castorinus, and Simplicius to execute the decorative work and make the statue of Æsculapius. Being Christians they refused to fashion the statue of a pagan god, and in consequence they were put to death on the 8th November, 298. Three were beheaded and two were scourged to death. Other artists were found who executed the work for the Emporer. On the return of Diocletian to Rome in 300, finding the works completed, he issued an order for their dedication, and commanded that all the soldiers in Rome should be present, who, as they marched past, were to throw incense over the alter of Æsculapius. As soon as this command was propagated, four brothers, who were master masons, and held the position of Corniculari, or wing-leaders of the city militia, met to decide what they should do under the circumstances. These brothers were named Severus, Severianus, Carporferus, and Victorianus, who, besides being Masons, had embraced the christian faith. They all agreed to abstain from throwing the incense over the alter, it being against their principles to assist in any way at pagan ceremonies of a religious nature. This determination they made known to their centurion, who communicated it to the tribune, Lampadius, who reported the matter to Diocletian. The emporer ordered them either to sacrifice or suffer death. They, steadfast to their faith, suffered death by being scourged with leaden thongs. Their bodies were then enclosed in leaden cases and thrown into the river Tiber. A brother, Nicodemus, recovered their bodies from the river, and they were interred by the side of the five sculptors previously martyred, and other saints, in the catacombs on the Via Labricana, which from the four Master Masons are to this day known as the Catacombs of the Quattro Coronati.