The Fellow Craft Degree features the Five Orders of Architecture: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan and Composite.

So the question becomes: Where do the Five Orders of Architecture come from? The answer is that they are laid out in a book published in 1562 called the Canon of the Five Orders of Architecture by a Roman architect named Giacomo Barozzi Da Vignola.

Giacomo Barozzi Da Vignola’s three best known buildings were built between 1550 and 1585:

Here is a link to an online edition of Giacomo Barozzi Da Vignola: Canon of the Five Orders of Architecture [note:PDF]

His Canon of the Five Orders of Architecture was first published in Italian in 1562 and was translated into English in 1669.

Vignola’s Canon of the Five Orders of Architecture drew on an earlier work by Sebastiano Serlio, Regole Generali di Architectura (1537) but it was taken primarily from the 10 Books On Architecture by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius. Here is a link to Vitruvius’ 10 Books On Architecture [note: PDF]

Giacomo Barozzi Da Vignola, Canaon Of The Five Orders Of Architecture. Book cover
Giacomo Barozzi Da Vignola, Canaon Of The Five Orders Of Architecture. Book cover

Giacomo Vignola’s purpose in studying Vitruvius and other ancient sources was “To draw from thence some Rule to reduce the said five Orders of Architecture under one brief Rule, easy, and which may readily be put into practice….”

His English translator John Leeke (1669) explained that “I have styled him the Regular Architect, because he sets down One General Rule for the principal numbers in all the Five Orders…”

The rule is based on the Module, which is diameter (or half the diameter) of a column at its base. The height of the column must be X times this measurement, varying according to each of the Five Orders.The module measurement is also applied to the base of each column and the Capitol of each column.

Vitruvius specifically mentions the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian orders in Books IV and VII of his 10 Books On Architecture. Here is how Vitruvius describes them: 


Book IV

Vitruvius, The Ten Books On Architecture. Book cover
Vitruvius, The Ten Books On Architecture. Book cover

…..To the forms of their columns are due the names of the three orders, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, of which the Doric was the first to arise, and in early times. For Dorus, the son of Hellen and the nymph Phthia, was king of Achaea and all the Peloponnesus, and he built a fane, which chanced to be of this order, in the precinct of Juno at Ar­golis, a very ancient city, and subsequently others of the same order in the other cities of Achaea, although the rules of sym­metry were not yet in existence.

Later, the Athenians, in obedience to oracles of the Delphic Apollo, and with the general agreement of all Hellas, despatched thirteen colonies at one time to Asia Minor, appointing leaders for each colony and giving the command-in-chief to Ion, son of Xuthus and Creusa….. Ion conducted those col­onies to Asia Minor, took possession of the land of Caria, and there founded the grand cities of Ephesus, Miletus, Myus (long ago engulfed by the water, and its sacred rites and suffrage handed over by the Ionians to the Milesians), Priene, Samos, Teos, Colo­phon, Chius, Erythrae, Phocaea, Clazomenae, Lebedos, and Melite. This Melite, on account of the arrogance of its citizens, was destroyed by the other cities in a war declared by general agreement, and in its place, through the kindness of King Attalus and Arsinoe, the city of the Smyrnaeans was admitted among the Ionians.

Now these cities, after driving out the Carians and Lele­gans, called that part of the world Ionia from their leader Ion, and there they set off precincts for the immortal gods and be­gan to build fanes: first of all, a temple to Panionion Apollo such as they had seen in Achaea, calling it Doric because they had first seen that kind of temple built in the states of the Dorians.

Wishing to set up columns in that temple, but not having rules for their symmetry, and being in search of some way by which they could render them fit to bear a load and also of a satisfactory beauty of appearance, they measured the imprint of a man’s foot and compared this with his height. On finding that, in a man, the foot was one sixth of the height, they applied the same principle to the column, and reared the shaft, including the capital, to a height six times its thickness at its base. Thus the Doric column, as used in buildings, began to exhibit the propor­tions, strength, and beauty of the body of a man.

Just so afterwards, when they desired to construct a temple to Diana in a new style of beauty, they translated these foot­prints into terms characteristic of the slenderness of women, and thus first made a column the thickness of which was only one eighth of its height, so that it might have a taller look. At the foot they substituted the base in place of a shoe; in the capital they placed the volutes, hanging down at the right and left like curly ringlets, and ornamented its front with cymatia and with festoons of fruit arranged in place of hair, while they brought the flutes down the whole shaft, falling like the folds in the robes worn by matrons. Thus in the invention of the two different kinds of columns, they borrowed manly beauty, naked and unadorned, for the one, and for the other the delicacy, adornment, and propor­tions characteristic of women.

It is true that posterity, having made progress in refinement and delicacy of feeling, and finding pleasure in more slender pro­portions, has established seven diameters of the thickness as the height of the Doric column, and nine as that of the Ionic. The Ionians, however, originated the order which is therefore named Ionic.

The third order, called Corinthian, is an imitation of the slen­derness of a maiden; for the outlines and limbs of maidens, being more slender on account of their tender years, admit of prettier effects in the way of adornment.

It is related that the original discovery of this form of cap­ital was as follows. A freeborn maiden of Corinth, just of mar­riageable age, was attacked by an illness and passed away. After her burial, her nurse, collecting a few little things which used to give the girl pleasure while she was alive, put them in a basket, carried it to the tomb, and laid it on top thereof, covering it with a roof-tile so that the things might last longer in the open air. This basket happened to be placed just above the root of an acanthus. The acanthus root, pressed down meanwhile though it was by the weight, when springtime came round put forth leaves and stalks in the middle, and the stalks, growing up along the sides of the basket, and pressed out by the corners of the tile through the compulsion of its weight, were forced to bend into volutes at the outer edges.

Just then Callimachus, whom the Athenians called κατα­τηξίτεχνος for the refinement and delicacy of his artistic work, passed by this tomb and observed the basket with the tender young leaves growing round it. Delighted with the novel style and form, he built some columns after that pattern for the Cor­inthians, determined their symmetrical proportions, and estab­lished from that time forth the rules to be followed in finished works of the Corinthian order….”

Vitruvius then goes into a lengthy technical explanation of the proportions of the Corinthian order which readers can look up in the PDF link above.


Giacomo Barozzi Da Vignola says he takes the Tuscan Order from Vitruvius, Book IV, Chapter 7, which lays out the proportions for Tuscan temples. Note that Vitruvius is simply describing the proportions of Tuscan temples; he does not identify a separate Tuscan Order.


1. THE place where the temple is to be built having been divided on its length into six parts, deduct one and let the rest be given to its width. Then let the length be divided into two equal parts, of which let the inner be reserved as space for the cellae, and the part next the front left for the arrangement of the columns.

2. Next let the width be divided into ten parts. Of these, let three on the right and three on the left be given to the smaller cellae, or to the alae if there are to be alae, and the other four devoted to the middle of the temple. Let the space in front of the cellae, in the pronaos, be marked out for columns thus: the corner columns should be placed opposite the antae on the line of the outside walls; the two middle columns, set out on the line of the walls which are between the antae and the middle of the temple; and through the middle, between the antae and the front columns, a second row, arranged on the same lines. Let the thickness of the columns at the bottom be one seventh of their height, their height one third of the width of the temple, and the dimi-nution of a column at the top, one fourth of its thickness at the bottom.

3. The height of their bases should be one half of that thickness. The plinth of their bases should be circular, and in height one half the height of the bases, the torus above it and congé being of the same height as the plinth. The height of the capital is one half the thickness of a column. The abacus has a width equivalent to the thickness of the bottom of a column. Let the height of the capital be divided into three parts, and give one to the plinth (that is, the abacus), the second to the echinus, and the third to the necking with its congé.

4. Upon the columns lay the main beams, fastened together, to a height commensurate with the requirements of the size of the building. These beams fastened together should be laid so as to be equivalent in thickness to the necking at the top of a column, and should be fastened together by means of dowels and dove-tailed tenons in such a way that there shall be a space two fingers broad between them at the fastening. For if they touch one another, and so do not leave airholes and admit draughts of air to blow between them, they get heated and soon begin to rot.

5. Above the beams and walls let the mutules project to a distance equal to one quarter of the height of a column; along the front of them nail casings; above, build the tympanum of the pediment either in masonry or in wood. The pediment with its ridgepole, principal rafters, and purlines are to be built in such a way that the eaves shall be equivalent to one third of the completed roof.”


Giacomo Barozzi Da Vignola says the Composite Order is simply the Corinthian with different ornamentation. The Fellow Craft lecture says exactly the same.

There are many other sections of Vitruvius’ 10 Books On Architecture which will be of interest to Freemasons but here are a few highlights. 

Vitruvian Man – from a famous drawing by Leonardo da Vinci (see below) is taken from Vitruvius Book III Chapter 1

Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, taken from Vitruvius' Ten Books On Architecture, Book III, Chapter 1.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, taken from Vitruvius’ Ten Books On Architecture, Book III, Chapter 1.



1. The design of a temple depends on symmetry, the princi­ples of which must be most carefully observed by the architect. They are due to proportion, in Greek άναλογία. Proportion is a correspondence among the measures of the members of an en­tire work, and of the whole to a certain part selected as standard. From this result the principles of symmetry. Without symme­try and proportion there can be no principles in the design of any temple; that is, if there is no precise relation between its members, as in the case of those of a well shaped man.

2. For the human body is so designed by nature that the face, from the chin to the top of the forehead and the lowest roots of the hair, is a tenth part of the whole height; the open hand from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger is just the same; the head from the chin to the crown is an eighth, and with the neck and shoulder from the top of the breast to the lowest roots of the hair is a sixth; from the middle of the breast to the summit of the crown is a fourth. If we take the height of the face itself, the dis­tance from the bottom of the chin to the under side of the nostrils is one third of it; the nose from the under side of the nostrils to a line between the eyebrows is the same; from there to the lowest roots of the hair is also a third, comprising the forehead. The length of the foot is one sixth of the height of the body; of the forearm, one fourth; and the breadth of the breast is also one fourth. The other members, too, have their own symmetrical proportions, and it was by employing them that the famous painters and sculptors of antiquity attained to great and endless renown.”


1. THE quarter toward which temples of the immortal gods ought to face is to be determined on the principle that, if there is no reason to hinder and the choice is free, the temple and the statue placed in the cella should face the western quarter of the sky. This will enable those who approach the altar with offerings or sacrifices to face the direction of the sunrise in facing the statue in the temple, and thus those who are undertaking vows look toward the quarter from which the sun comes forth, and likewise the statues themselves appear to be coming forth out of the east to look upon them as they pray and sacrifice.

2. But if the nature of the site is such as to forbid this, then the principle of determining the quarter should be changed, so that the widest possible view of the city may be had from the sanctuaries of the gods. Furthermore, temples that are to be built beside rivers, as in Egypt on both sides of the Nile, ought, as it seems, to face the river banks. Similarly, houses of the gods on the sides of public roads should be arranged so that the passers-by can have a view of them and pay their devotions face to face.


ALTARS should face the east, and should always be placed on a lower level than are the statues in the temples, so that those who are praying and sacrificing may look upwards towards the divinity. They are of different heights, being each regulated so as to be appropriate to its own god. Their heights are to be adjusted thus: for Jupiter and all the celestials, let them be constructed as high as possible; for Vesta and Mother Earth, let them be built low. In accordance with these rules will altars be adjusted when one is preparing his plans.”


Given what we looked at in earlier discussion of the Liberal Arts and in Freemasonry’s emphasis on lifelong education and the acquisition of knowledge, it is interesting to examine what Vitruvius says about the education of an Architect.

Book 1

The architect should be equipped with knowledge of many branches of study and varied kinds of learning, for it is by his judgement that all work done by the other arts is put to test…..

It follows, therefore, that architects who have aimed at acquiring manual skill without scholarship have never been able to reach a position of authority to correspond to their pains, while those who relied only upon theories and scholarship were obviously hunting the shadow, not the substance. But those who have a thorough knowledge of both, like men armed at all points, have the sooner attained their object and carried authority with them…..

He ought, therefore, to be both naturally gifted and amenable to instruction. Neither natural ability without instruction nor instruction without natural ability can make the perfect artist. Let him be educated, skilful with the pencil, instructed in geometry, know much history, have followed the philosophers with attention, understand music, have some knowledge of medicine, know the opinions of the jurists, and be acquainted with astronomy and the theory of the heavens.

The reasons for all this are as follows. An architect ought to be an educated man so as to leave a more lasting remembrance in his treatises. Secondly, he must have a knowledge of drawing so that he can readily make sketches to show the appearance of the work which he proposes.

Geometry, also, is of much assistance in architecture, and in particular it teaches us the use of the rule and compasses, by which especially we acquire readiness in making plans for buildings in their grounds, and rightly apply the square, the level, and the plummet.

By means of optics, again, the light in buildings can be drawn from fixed quarters of the sky. It is true that it is by arithmetic that the total cost of buildings is calculated and measurements are computed, but difficult questions involving symmetry are solved by means of geometrical theories and methods.

A wide knowledge of history is requisite because, among the ornamental parts of an architect’s design for a work, there are many the underlying idea of whose employment he should be able to explain to inquirers….

[Note: an explanation follows about the need to explain the history of figures depicted in decorative statues on buildings]

As for philosophy, it makes an architect high-minded and not self-assuming, but rather renders him courteous, just, and honest without avariciousness. This is very important, for no work can be rightly done without honesty and incorruptibility. Let him not be grasping nor have his mind preoccupied with the idea of receiving perquisites, but let him with dignity keep up his position by cherishing a good reputation. These are among the precepts of philosophy. Furthermore philosophy treats of physics (in Greek φυσιολογία) where a more careful knowledge is required because the problems which come under this head are numerous and of very different kinds…….

Music, also, the architect ought to understand so that he may have knowledge of the canonical and mathematical theory, and besides be able to tune ballistae, catapultae, and scorpiones to the proper key. For to the right and left in the beams are the holes in the frames through which the strings of twisted sinew are stretched by means of windlasses and bars, and these strings must not be clamped and made fast until they give the same correct note to the ear of the skilled workman. For the arms thrust through those stretched strings must, on being let go, strike their blow together at the same moment; but if they are not in unison, they will prevent the course of projectiles from being straight.

[Note: acoustics] In theatres, likewise, there are the bronze vessels (in Greek ἠχεῖα) which are placed in niches under the seats in accordance with the musical intervals on mathematical principles. These vessels are arranged with a view to musical concords or harmony, and apportioned in the compass of the fourth, the fifth, and the octave, and so on up to the double octave, in such a way that when the voice of an actor falls in unison with any of them its power is increased, and it reaches the ears of the audience with greater clearness and sweetness. Water organs, too, and the other instruments which resemble them cannot be made by one who is without the principles of music.

The architect should also have a knowledge of the study of medicine on account of the questions of climates (in Greek κλίματα), air, the healthiness and unhealthiness of sites, and the use of different waters. For without these considerations, the healthiness of a dwelling cannot be assured.

And as for principles of law, he should know those which are necessary in the case of buildings having party walls, with regard to water dripping from the eaves, and also the laws about drains, windows, and water supply. And other things of this sort should be known to architects, so that, before they begin upon buildings, they may be careful not to leave disputed points for the householders to settle after the works are finished, and so that in drawing up contracts the interests of both employer and contractor may be wisely safe-guarded. For if a contract is skilfully drawn, each may obtain a release from the other without disadvantage.

From astronomy we find the east, west, south, and north, as well as the theory of the heavens, the equinox, solstice, and courses of the stars. If one has no knowledge of these matters, he will not be able to have any comprehension of the theory of sundials.

Consequently, since this study is so vast in extent, embellished and enriched as it is with many different kinds of learning, I think that men have no right to profess themselves architects hastily, without having climbed from boyhood the steps of these studies and thus, nursed by the knowledge of many arts and sciences, having reached the heights of the holy ground of architecture.”

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