from the book Encylcopedia of Freemasonry & its Kindred Sciences
by Albert C. Mackey M. D.
This book is in the public domain. The text was duplicated from the book using Optical Character Recognition software and errors may be present.
Mosaic Pavement - Mosaic work consists properly of many little stones of different colors united together in patterns to imitate a painting. It was much practiced among the Romans, who called it museum, whence the Italians get their musaico, the French their mosaique, and we our mosaics The idea that the work is derived from the fact that Moses used a pavement of colored stones in the tabernacle has been long since exploded by etymologists. The Masonic tradition is that the floor of the Temple of Solomon was decorated with a mosaic pavement of black and white stones. There is no historical evidence to substantiate this statement. Samuel Lee, however, in his diagram of the Temple, represents not only the floors of the building, but of all the outer courts, as covered with such a pavement. The Masonic idea was perhaps first suggested by this passage in the Gospel of Saint John xix, 13, "When Pilate, therefore, heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment-seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha." The word here translated Pavement is in the original Lithostroton, the very word used by Pliny to denote a mosaic pavement.
The Greek word, as well as its Latin equivalent is used to denote a pavement formed of ornamental stones of various colors, precisely what is meant by a Mosaic Pavement. There was, therefore, a part of the Temple which was decorated with a mosaic pavement. The Talmud informs us that there was such a pavement in the Conclave where the Grand Sanhedrin held its sessions. By a little torsion of historical accuracy, the Freemasons have asserted that the ground floor of the Temple was a mosaic pavement, and hence as the Lodge is a representation of the Temple, that the floor of the Lodge should also be of the same pattern. The mosaic pavement is an old symbol of the Order. It is met with in the earliest Rituals of the eighteenth century. It is classed among the ornaments of the Lodge in combination with the indented tassel and the blazing star. Its parti-colored stones of black and white have been readily and appropriately interpreted as symbols of the evil and good of human life. (see also Mosaic Symbolism)