Five of Nine – the legend, the facts and the story behind our name.
By Bro. G. Ross.
The story behind the Five of Nine name is a story of political, military and religious one-upmanship, forgetfulness and very often poor or “too literal” translation throughout time.
The Legend behind the Name
Our name comes from close inspection of the Legend of the Quatour Coronati - The Four Crown Ones . According to manuscripts held in the British Museum concerning Arundel [Ar: MSS, 91, f. 2186 and [Harleian MSS, No. 2802, f 99] the Quatour Coronati were not actually four crowned ones at all.
The name given to this group of martyrs by the church at the time only referenced four Christian soldiers. At the time of their death, these soldiers lived in a Pagan society where Christianity was outlawed and as such, they were seen as occult. Only after Rome switched to Christianity were their deaths remembered and they became martyrs. The name “Quatour Coronati” has therefore become a name synonymous with the church but is also remembered in stone masonry, particularly in Germany and Italy  – which leads to a forgotten part of history relevant to Freemasonry. Indeed, we have our very own Quatour Coronati Lodge (Number 2076) .
Even in the Haliwell Manuscript or Regus Poem as it’s known, we as Freemasons refer to the Four Martyrs:
“As did these holy martyrs four,
That in this craft were of great honour;
They were as good masons as on earth shall go,
Gravers and image-makers they were also.”
What was forgotten?
Admittedly, as Freemasons we are encouraged to investigate nature and science, and not history in particular – but there is a lot of error due to human nature that is recorded scientifically as fact in our history books. The Five of Nine name has developed out of a particular instance of human error and forgetfulness regarding the Qautour Coronati.
In AD 298 five stonemasons (at the time called Artificers of “mirificos in arte quadrataria” – or stone squaring) named Claudius, Castorius, Nicostratus, Simphorianus and Simplicus were approached by Emperor Diocletian (AD245-313) who ordered them to create a statue in the form of Æsculapius – a Pagan God of Health.
Being of Christian faith the five refused, and as Christianity was outlawed at the time, they were stripped, beaten with scorpions and placed in lead lined coffins, and summarily thrown in the river Tiber. A man named Nicodemus (also a Christian and believed to be a mason) recovered their coffins and took them to his house where they were given a Christian burial.
Two years later, the statue was completed by others, and the Emperor Diocletian ordered his Roman army to march past the statue and pay Pagan style homage to it by burning or throwing incense over it. Four of those soldiers who again were secretly Christian (Severus, Severianus, Carporferus and Victorianus) refused.
Emperor Diocletian once again ordered them to be put to death from strokes of the Plumata (short iron headed and lead weighted arrows designed to be thrown or used to stab) in front of the statue. Their bodies were then thrown into the streets to be eaten by dogs as a warning to others . Their bodies were also recovered and buried alongside the five stonemasons.
When Christianity became widely accepted, Pope Melchiades (AD310 to 314) removed their relics and created a specially built Basilica for them, with the following dedication:
“The Four Crowned Ones and the Five sculptor martyrs”
Almost immediately the lengthy name for the basilica was shortened in-use to simply “The four crowned ones”, or as we know in Latin “The Quatour Coronati” and all nine have been wrongly referred to as that ever since.
The reason for the name
Put very simply we aim as Freemasons to remember those forgotten five stonemasons, whilst not making the same historical mistakes by forgetting the four soldiers, and by holding them as a whole – nine in total.
Our full name should therefore be “Four Crowned Martyrs and Five artificers of stone – Nine” which in Latin translates to:
“Quinque artificesque lapidum et Quatuor Coronatorum Martyrum – Novem”
Or in its shortened form “The Five of Nine” or
“Quinque autem ex novem”
Written by Bro. Gary Ross, March 2016.
Download a copy of the full text here: Five of Nine – the legend, the facts and the story behind our name.
- Quatour meaning “four” and Coronati meaning “crowned” – which is where we get our word “coronation”.
- The Church of the Four Crowned Martyrs was built in 619 AD and is now the site of St Alphege’s Church in Canterbury.
- Operative Stonemasons still revere “Ars Quatore Coronatum” (the art of the four crowned men) in Italy and Germany.
- The website for the Quatour Coronati Lodge 2076, which expertly describes the history of the Quatour Coronati, can be found here: http://www.quatuorcoronati.com/the-legend.html
- An alternative version of these deaths is that they were thrown into the River Tiber, after being scourged with leaden thongs and encased in lead cases. In this version, the five masons were beheaded and scourged to death.
- Baldwin, R. (2007) Social History of Art. Connecticut College. Available from http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/ARTH206-1.2.4-Baldwin-Renaissance-Humanism-an-Overview.pdf (Accessed on 29/03/2016)
- Baxter, R. (1918) The Legend of the Quatuor Coronati. The Manchester Association of Masonic Research. United Kingdom: E Wrigley & Sons Ltd.
- Carr, H. (1977) The Freemason at Work. London: Printed Privately.
- In Italy. (no date) The Basilica of the Santi Quattro Coronati. InItaly.com. Available from http://www.initaly.com/regions/latium/church/4cor.htm (Accessed on 29/03/2016)
- Johnstone, M. (2014) Freemasons – An ancient brotherhood revealed. London: Arcturus Publishing
- Pick, F. and Knight, G. (1954) The Pocket Handbook of Freemasonry. London: Frederick Muller Ltd.
- QCL. (no date) The Legend of the Quatuor Coronati. Quatour Coronati Lodge 2076. Available from http://www.quatuorcoronati.com/the-legend (Accessed on 29/03/2016)
- SQC. (no date) Santi Quattro Coronati. Available from http://www.santiquattrocoronati.org/index_enn.htm (Accessed on 29/03/2016)
Many thanks are given and reference made to the following in preparation of this document.