Column: Exploring the Scottish Rite Cathedral

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In our continuing visits to interesting places in and around Indianapolis, we explore the Scottish Rite Cathedral in downtown Indianapolis, the largest and arguably most beautiful building of its kind in the world.

The Scottish Rite is a Masonic organization, granting advanced degrees to its members. The Gothic-style Scottish Rite Cathedral, designed by architect George F. Schreiber, a Mason, in 1926, was constructed in 22 months between 1927 and 1929 at a cost of $2.5 million, equivalent to more than $44 million today. The exterior, measuring 330 feet by 120 feet, is fashioned from carved Indiana limestone. The 212-foot-tall “Singing Tower” in the center includes 54 bells, the largest of which weighs 11,200 pounds. The dimensions of most rooms in the building, measured in feet, are multiples of 33, representing both the number of years Jesus lived on Earth and the highest degree that can be awarded by the Scottish Rite. The marble-floored Tiler’s room, just inside the front doors, is a perfect 33-foot cube. The 66-foot square main lobby also has a travertine marble floor with walls and beams of white oak. A two-story ballroom on the second floor is 99-foot square, with a 66-foot square area featuring a so-called “floating floor” to accommodate dancing. A crystal chandelier in the ballroom’s center weighs 2,500 pounds and is lowered for cleaning with a winch. The most ornate room in the cathedral is the 1,100-seat theater, where the organization’s rituals are conducted. More than 100 painted glass windows throughout the cathedral illustrate scenes important to Masons.

In the early days, only the Tiler’s room was open to the public. Today, the cathedral is a popular venue for weddings and public events. About 100,000 visitors each year are allowed to tour the entire building and even observe the costumes used in the organization’s rituals.


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