Designed by the architect and Freemason Ricardo Velàquez Bosco (1843-1923), the building that now houses the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was completed in 1987. Originally occupied by the Ministry of Development, it displays numerous Masonic references on its main façade.
On either side of the front entrance stand two gigantic caryatids representing Commerce and Industry. The Commerce statue carries a mallet (emblem of the venerable Master Mason invested with authority) and the square (symbol of Mason rectitude). The Industry statue bears a cogwheel (symbol of progress), sheaves of wheat (symbol of abundance), and the caduceus of Mercury whose entwined black and white serpents signify Life and Death.
Above on the intermediate floor, is a terrace with eight Corinthian columns. Arranged in pairs, they recall the columns of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem (Jachin and Boaz), symbols of union and balance, of Heaven and Earth, of the Sun and Moon, of light and of fire, of the creator and the creation, which are supported by the strength of the Great Architect of the Universe.
In Masonic symbolism, the three types of temple columns (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian) symbolise not only the three persons of the Trinity (represented by the Luminous Delta or Triangle with the Eye of Providence at its centre), but also the three highest officers in the Masonic lodge: Doric – father – Worshipful Master; Ionic – mother – Senior Warden; Corinthian – son – Junior Warden.
The top of the building is crowned by a group of sculptures entitled La Gloria y los Pegasos (The Glory and the Pegasus), an allegory of universal progress commissioned from the Catalan sculptor Augusti Querol I Subirats (1860 – 1909), who was a high-ranking Freemason. Here we see the Glory offering palms and laurels to Art and Science. At her side, two groups of Pegasus (winged horses) in bronze are guided by the spirits of Agriculture and Industry (to the left) and Philosophy and Letters (to the right).
The three figures in the central group are allusions to the Grand National Lodge of Spain, which in Spanish Masonic circles, is the only legitimate body in possession of the Three Pillars of Freemasonry (Wisdom, Strength and Beauty) embodied by three moral sources of light: the book of the law (the Bible, Koran, Veda etc. according to the rite and the country), the square , and the compass.
The book bears the wisdom which is the glory of the Master Mason. The square is the strength of the journeyman Mason’s art which transforms and uplifts nature into its highest form. The compass indicates the beauty inherent in the science which the apprentice Mason gradually learns.
Augusti Querol composed this set of sculptures in 1905, based on elements from classical Greco-Roman mythology, to reflect a global vision of progress (the fundamental allegorical concept), on a material and social level as well as a mental and spiritual plane, the figure three, a number cherished by Freemasonry, is present throughout the set, which is distributed in three parts, themselves divided into three groups, each composed of three allegorical figures.
So, next time you are in Madrid and you see that majestic building which is the Ministry of Agriculture, you can think on the reasoning behind these sculptures, which despite one’s belief systems, do make this building something architecturally to be admired.
(Adapted from Secret Madrid by V.R. Muro)