Historic City Memories: Secret signs in Plaza


The Mystery of the Northeast Corner

Part I of a three-part series.
Secret Signs within the Plaza de la Constitucion

By Geoff Dobson

Americans love conspiracy theories. In recent years, there have been a plethora of novels, television programs, motion pictures, and blog sites centered on secret signs allegedly giving clues to Middle Age, 18th and 19th Century conspiracies.

The conspiracies supposedly relate to various plots to conceal the existence of the Holy Grail and the lost treasure of the Knights Templar, or to create a “New World Order.” Theories and tales have been advanced of hidden chambers in the United States Capitol and beneath New York’s Trinity Church and secret signs placed within the Great Seal of the United States.

Fifteen Presidents of the United States, five British monarchs, and 15 Governors of Florida including two territorial governors and two British colonial governors have been members of a secret society upon which the conspiracy theories center.

The most important monument within the Plaza is the monument to the Spanish Constitution of 1812. On the finished ashlar located on the east side of the monument is an image of a Square and Compass. An ashlar is a dressed stone, either rough or finished. It has special meaning to Masons. The local Masonic lodge is named “Ashlar Lodge.”

To the north of the Plaza is the cathedral. Above the door are symbols of the Papacy. Above the pediment are the Spanish royal court of arms and a portion of the Great Seal of the United States. To the west of the Plaza on the northeast corner of Government House is another ashlar. It bears no obvious Masonic symbols but nevertheless the stone has a Masonic significance. It has also been alleged that there is hidden within the Plaza the “co-joined” flag of Great Britain as it existed during the American Revolution.

The Spanish coat of arms on the cathedral represents in its castle and rampant lion the union of “Castille and Leon” out of which modern Spain arose. The coat of arms also appears on the northeast side of the World War I monument in the center of Anderson Circle. The castle and rampant lion also appear on the Seal of the City of St. Augustine. The city seal also contains the French Fleur-de-Lis representing the House of Bourbon, and an arm in armor denoting that the City was a military garrison town. The golden cross on the City seal represents the Christian founding of the City.

The papal symbols immediately above the great doorway of the Cathedral include crossed keys and the Triregnum, the three tiered tiara of the Papacy. The crossed keys symbolize the keys of The Kingdom of Heaven entrusted to Simon Peter, the foundational and immovable “living stone” upon which the Church is built. The three tiers of the tiara represent the pope’s three functions as “supreme pastor”, “supreme teacher” and “supreme priest”. The gold cross on a monde (globe) surmounting the tiara symbolizes the Christian nature of the crown.

Many of the conspiracy theories center on the Great Seal of the United States and the emphasis on the number 13 in the number of arrows and olive leaves in the eagle’s talons and the number of feathers in the eagle’s wings and also center upon the pyramid and the “All Seeing Eye” above the pyramid on the reverse of the Great Seal.

It is contended that the number 13 represents the 13 tribes of Israel. For this to work, the House of Joseph must be considered as having broken into two separate tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim. It is argued that the number of feathers represents the thirty-second and thirty-third degrees of the Scottish Rite. Most conspiratorial arguments ignore that the chief designer of the Great Seal was not a Mason and the explanation given to Congress in June 1782:

“The Escutcheon is composed of the chief & pale, the two most honorable ordinaries. The latter represent the several states all joined in one solid compact entire, supporting a Chief, which unites the whole & represents Congress. The Motto alludes to this union. The pales in the arms are kept closely united by the chief and the Chief depends upon that union & the strength resulting from it for its support, to denote the Confederacy of the United States of America & the preservation of their union through Congress.

“The colors of the pales are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valor, and Blue, the color of the Chief signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice. The Olive branch and arrows denote the power of peace & war which is exclusively vested in Congress. The Constellation denotes a new State taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers. The Escutcheon is born on the breast of an American Eagle without any other supporters to denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own Virtue.

“Reverse. The pyramid signifies Strength and Duration: The Eye over it & the Motto allude to the many signal interpositions of providence in favour of the American cause. The date underneath is that of the Declaration of Independence and the words under it signify the beginning of the new American Æra, which commences from that date.”

Many questions have arisen with regard to the Square and Compass on the Constitution Monument which will be discussed in next week’s article.

Next week: The Mystery of the Square and Compass.

Geoff Dobson, a St Augustine resident for the past 32 years, is a western and Florida history writer. He is a former president of the St. Augustine Historical Society and a regular contributor of nostalgic memories to Historic City News. Before his parents moved to Florida, his father was a Black Angus cattleman. Geoff has written extensively on Wyoming history (“Wyoming Tales and Trails”). When Geoff was in high school, his family lived in the cattle country of eastern Sarasota County. The family spread, which his parents called “Wild Cat Slough,” was reachable only by a pair of ruts over the sand hills and through a snake and gator infested slough. Now, it is an area of four-lane roads, expensive subdivisions, shopping centers, and office parks. . His undergraduate degree is in history. Geoff received his post-graduate degree from the University of Florida. He may be reached at horse.creek.cowboy@gmail.com

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