Dan Brown‘s bestsellers have taken Robert Langdon and company through the shadowy sites of London, Paris and Vatican City. Now, with the release of his newest novel, The Lost Symbol, Washington, DC has been added to the author’s black map of conspiracy laden world capitals. As in all of his previous works, Brown’s protagonist races through several real life locations and, surprise surprise, they are plenty of clues to be found at otherwise innocuous DC landmarks…
Two of the city’s most visited locations, the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, both make appearances in The Lost Symbol, as does the Washington Monument. Without giving too much away, lets just say that the latter’s obelisk shape leads inextricably to the conclusion that Washington, DC is not only the capital of the United States, but also of the worldwide Masonic conspiracy. And, just a short jaunt away, lies what some claim is American Freemasonry’s de facto Hall of Fame…
Just off of the US Capitol‘s famed rotunda lies National Statuary Hall — an equally impressive gallery that hosts effigies of American history’s most famous figures. Of course, that means there’s no shortage of Masons (or Mason-affilliated characters) among the collection, including Samuel Adams, Daniel Webster and Robert Livingston. Livingston, Grand Master of New York’s Masonic Lodge, administered the oath of office to our very first president (and fellow Mason), George Washington, who is also also represented in the Hall. So just where did/does this Masonic political elite gather for its secret rituals?
Two blocks from the bustling U Street corridor, at 16th and S, NW, stands the House of the Temple — the US headquarters of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Despite its imposing appearance, the Temple is far from a secret enclave, as it hosts public tours every half hour Monday through Thursday. It still retains a certain mystique, however — the Temple contains both a 250,000 volume library of esoterica, as well as the grave of the Scottish Rite’s Sovereign Grand Commander, Albert Pike.
A former Confederate general, Pike penned the Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, the society’s key text and handbook, in 1872. Pike also turns up a few miles away in Judiciary Square, where a statue of the leader stands with a book bearing the number 33 – the significance of which becomes a major plot thread in The Lost Key.
However, Washington’s most impressive Masonic edifice actually lies on the other side of the Potomac in Alexandria, Virginia. Supposedly based on the design of the long-lost Lighthouse of Alexandria, the George Washington Masonic National Memorial (told you, didn’t we?) sits atop the highest point on its rolling estate — because, reads the memorial’s website “it followed the ancient tradition for the location of temples on hilltops or mountains.” Public areas of this repository of all things Masonic — which is open for tours four times daily Monday through Friday — include a temple dedicated to the Knights Templar, a “Cryptic Room” featuring several murals of Freemasonry’s origins, and a very, very cool museum with many of President Washington’s personal effects on display.
For those looking to delve further into the Masonic symbolism behind the Washington area sites featured in The Lost Key, we highly recommend visiting “The Lost Symbol and Freemasonry” page, partially sponsored by the GWMNM. And for more of DC’s best kept secrets, check out the CultureMob blog or follow us on Twitter.