Calpe (Gibraltar) and its connection with Boaz, the left hand pillar of Masonic Legend



Brethren, I am sure that most of you know Calpe was the name given to the Rock of Gibraltar prior to the Moorish invasion in 711 AD when the Berber General Tarik ibn Zeyad named his first acquisition on the Iberian Peninsular gebel al Tarik, a name which with the passage of time corrupted to the present form, Gibraltar. There are many Associations in Gibraltar today bearing the name Calpe or Calpean and even our national emblem bears the inscription Montis Insignia Calpe. It is therefore no surprise that two Masonic Lodges have held meetings under the name Calpean (one of which is the present Lodge of Friendship) and our own Calpe Lodge still proudly works under this name. Few however realise that the name Calpe is brimming with Masonic connections dating back to well before the construction of the first Temple at Jerusalem. This Brethren is not a claim of fancy, but may well be verified with historical facts.


To ancient mariners the Strait represented a gateway, a rite of passage, a leap of faith from the natural to the supernatural where safe coastal navigations led to the perils of the open ocean. To many it was the point of no return. Yet the Straits were being successfully navigated by Phoenician mariners who frequently crossed the supposedly perilous waters and established colonies along either shore of the Mediterranean and Atlantic coast such as Carteia, west of Gibraltar and even Cadiz which has recently celebrated its three-thousandth birthday.


 It was also the Phoenicians and not the Romans who first called Gibraltar Calpe. In ancient Aramaic/Phoenician the consonants in Cala meant hollow and Pietra meant stone, hence to them Calpe - Gibraltar (and other similar places along the Mediterranean coast) was the hollow stone or rock, probably a reference to the many caves they found here at sea level as they sailed round the Rock. There are over 140 caves all over the Rock of Gibraltar, some of which have been found to contain Phoenician artefacts.[1] The Phoenicians as a daring sea-faring race often used the Bay of Gibraltar (Carteia) as temporary harbour before attempting to navigate the perilous straits into the Atlantic as they headed to the tin rich lands of Western Europe known to the Phoenicians as "Barra Tannica" or the land of Tin, from which the names Brittany and consequently Britain originate. Tin being an important ingredient in the making of bronze was a far superior material to copper and gave the Phoenicians a crucial technological advantage. It was this jealously guarded trade secret that gave Phoenicia complete control over the Mediterranean basin for over 1,000 years and gave the Kings of Tyre their overwhelmingly economic and military superiority in the Middle East region.[2] Only after an alliance with the King of Tyre were Solomon’s ships permitted to participate in this profitable trade in the Mediterranean, and Jewish sailors under instructions from Phoenician mariners, were taught how to bring from India and Ethiopia the gold necessary to enrich the people and finance the construction of the Temple.[3]


The Phoenicians therefore, naturally associated the two rocky outcrops on either side of this narrow strait crossing as of great mythical significance and identified them with the twin pillars which were one of the main features of the Temple at Melqart in Tyre and later of the Great Temple in Jerusalem. The etymology of the Biblical races suggests that it was common for the tribes and nations to borrow or assimilate the culture and religious practices of neighbouring or conquered people into their own set of beliefs. Therefore it is no surprise that the Great Temple of Jerusalem was heavily influenced by Phoenician and Egyptian architecture when designing and building their first Temple. The Israelites themselves included many references to twin Antediluvian Pillars in their own scriptures, in this respect Enoch prophesized the flood that was destined to destroy the world and in order to preserve Man’s knowledge of the Arts and Sciences he erected two pillars, on which these Arts were engraved, one of brick and one of stone, hoping that at least one would survive the catastrophe.[4]

The Bible also includes many other references to such pillars and identifies them specifically as the pillars of the earth. In Job 9:6 it says, "Who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble." The LXX says, "Who shakes the earth under heaven from its foundations and its pillars totter." Therefore the legend of Samson who brought down the House of his enemies by pulling down the pair of pillars that served as supports for the building was seen as an allusion to the power of these supporting pillars and the catastrophe that would occur should they ever collapse as a consequence of the displease of the Almighty.

Masonic references to these pillars are found in Psalm 75:3 which says, "The earth and all its inhabitants are melting away; I set firm its pillars" The LXX says, "I have strengthened its pillars." In I Samuel 2:8 it says, "For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s and he had set the world upon them." The Hebrew word for pillar is yqxm. The root is qx meaning "to melt" (BDB 1980, 848). Therefore, yqxm means, "a molten like pillar." The pillars cast by the Master Craftsman himself Hiram Abiff were therefore made of brass in allusion to the description of these supernatural pillars in the scriptures. Only in I Samuel 14:5 are these pillars specifically referred to as mountains. Probably the pillars of the earth are the same thing as the foundations of the earth which were mountains. In Masonic ritual this often misintepreted phrase ‘In strength I will establish this mine House to stand firm forever’ does not refer to the supporting pillars of the Great Temple (these pillars were free-standing in any case) but to the supports of the Earth, without which the world would come to an end.

This reference to the pillars being in fact mountains brings us back to our Rock of Gibraltar as the foundation stone or pillar in which according to ancient tradition the world was supported. The Greeks also described the Phoenician Calpe as one of the twin pillars of Hercules and incorporated it into their own mythology. However on this occasion the pillars were not destroyed in order to bring doom to the inhabitants of the world as in the Jewish legend of Samson, but merely pushed to either side, to allow Greek mariners access to explore the world beyond the confines of the Mediterranean sailing into the Atlantic as had the Phoenicians before them. It is important to note that this was only achieved once Greece, who had been for many centuries restricted by the Phoenicians to the confines of the Aegean Sea finally seized maritime control of the Mediterranean from Phoenicia. In doing so they naturally acquired that nations hitherto trade secrets and replaced their own allegory to the mythological pillars located at the extreme west of the Mediterranean. The Romans having conquered Gaul (France) were able to launch an invasion of Britain across the Channel and so never found it necessary to sail past the Pillars in search of the “Barra Tannica” and so regarded the seas beyond the straits as “Non Plus Ultra”, which literally means nothing beyond. It is probably at this point that the secrets of the twin pillars appear to have slipped from the minds of men and instead the popular maritime myths propagated by the Phoenicians themselves describing the Pillars as representing the limits of the known world and the abyss beyond became widely accepted as fact for well over a thousand years

If Gibraltar was indeed one of the mythical Phoenician Pillars we now turn our attention to the other pillar in the equation, Jachim. Often Sidi Musa in the Atlas Mountains is referred to as the other probable pillar because of its size and prominence in the North African coast but this according to local historian William Serfaty is not so as the latter appears to be far too high to fit in the mythological description of the twin pillars and in any case the geographical position of both Gibraltar and Ceuta, known to the Phoenicians as Septa would have appeared more symmetrically aligned to our ancient seafarers than Sidi Musa.[5] Further evidence which reinforces this hypothesis is recorded in the Bible which identified the two pillars with the columns of cloud and of fire that led the children of Israel out of Egypt. Calpe (Gibraltar) was thus represented as the right hand or North pillar as the Levanter cloud that condenses over the Rock on at least 150 days of the year identified it as the Silver Pillar of Smoke described in the First Book of Kings, whilst Septa’s (Ceutas) low evergreen bushes which flower yellow in January through to April, presented the impression of the fiery pillar and so identified it with the South pillar.[6] In Masonic ritual we are taught that the two pillars erected outside the Great Temple of Jerusalem commemorated the miraculous pillars of fire and cloud that helped Moses lead the Chosen people out of Egypt. These pillars are known to Masons as Boaz (North Pillar) and Jachim (South Pillar).[7] Again, our Masonic ritual describes these pillars as hollow so that they could be used as archives to Freemasonry. While there does not seem to be any scriptural or other support for the theory that Solomon’s Pillars served as archives,[8] they again appear to identify the North Pillar to the Phoenician Cala Pietra, or hollow stone. Finally the fact that Gibraltar points to the magnetic North and Ceuta towards the South further suggests that these were in fact the two pillars referred to in the Bible. Therefore in almost every respect, both the Phoenician and Biblical accounts of the twin pillars suggest that Gibraltar and Ceuta were indeed the true representations of the legendary pillars placed outside their temples, and that some of the significance of the features contained on these pillars having been lost over time were replaced with new symbolism and interpretation.

It was for these reasons then that the area of the Strait was seen as a virtual representation of the entrance to the mystical and mysterious ‘Sanctum Sanctorum’, resembling the Rock and the promontory of Ceuta to the pillars cast by the Phoenician architect Hiram Abiff for the Temple of Solomon. Acting as sentinels to the entrance of the inner sanctum, where the Ark and the Devine Shekina resided.

Early Masonic initiation ceremonies were apparently linked with the pillars, very likely also to legitimize and to elevate the initiation to the highest possible level. There is evidence to show that both pillars were used for the first degree ceremony and it was only at a later stage that the ritual was split into the first and second degree so far as the two pillars are concerned.[9] In some Lodges the Pillars are placed in the West forming a kind of portal through which the initiate passes on his admission to Freemasonry which is obviously a drawback to our ancient traditions and thus associating the inside of the Lodge room itself with the inner sanctum of the Temple of Solomon. In this way it was only after having been entered through these Pillars that the secrets of Freemasonry were actually entrusted to a Brother Initiate. There are many examples of such ancient rituals even from the time of the Babylonians depicting candidates undergoing such rituals between a pair of pillars and one of the carvings at Rosslyn Chapel clearly shows a blindfolded figure and he has a noose round his neck which is being held by a figure in the tunic of a Knight Templar. The man has his feet in the posture that is still used today by Masonic candidates. This is a very unusual position and does not occur in any other carvings in Rosslyn. The ceremony is being carried out between two pillars as it is in a Masonic Lodge.[10] Therefore the pillars represented the esoteric knowledge that would be communicated only to those invited to traverse the threshold and participate in the mysteries of the Order whilst traditional myths and legends were handed down to the masses instead. This obviously ties in very well with the representation of the Pillars of Hercules and the esoteric and exoteric knowledge they too imparted.

With the fall of the Phoenician empire the physical link with Northern Pillar of Calpe was severed. However, the esoteric knowledge survived, evolving with the passage of time but retaining many of its original precepts and teachings. In 1704 another maritime power took possession of the Rock and through it controlled the approaches of the Straits once more.  Through Gibraltar, Britain, the mythical “Barra Tannica” was able to effectively establish an Empire spanning the four quarters of the globe, just as the Phoenicians had done two thousand years earlier. In a final twist of fate, Britain had also acquired Phoenicia’s ancient mysteries that had developed through the ages and developed into its present form - modern Freemasonry. In this way, Britain the recognized patron of Speculative Freemasonry was once again reunited with its Northern Pillar and through its strength established the foundations of our Order which has once again shed its Light throughout the world, and long may it continue.



WBro. Keith Sheriff


[1] William Serfaty, Thesis designed to provide a possible historical origin for the legend of the Pillars of Hercules Mythology.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Masonic Legends. Missouri Lodge of Research.

[4] Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Vol. 1, pp. 121/2 also Vol. 5, pp. 149/50

[5] William Serfaty, Opcit

[6] William Serfaty, Ibid.

[7] Emulation Ritual, 2nd Degree Tracing Board.

[8] Harry Carr 'Pillars and Globes; Columns and Candlesticks', AQC 75, pp. 204-211

[9] H, Carr, AQC, 75, p. 206

[10] Keith Sheriff, Lecture, Templar symbolism and ritual in our Masonic ceremonies