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On 24 June 1868, streets in Belfast were closed for a procession from the Ulster Hall to Arthur Square. An event of great pomp and circumstance, balconies were constructed to provide the ladies of Belfast with a clear view, and around 10,000 people gathered to watch Sir Charles Lanyon, renowned architect and Freemason, lay the foundation stone of Freemasons’ Hall. Completed and opened early in 1870, Freemasons’ Hall has since been a central location for the Masonic tradition in Northern Ireland.
Refurbished in 2007, the building remains an active hub for Masonic practice, and is now open to those interested in 19th Century architecture, the history of Belfast and, not least, to the culturally curious.
Throughout its corridors and rooms, Masonic artefacts and features tell the story of the building and of the Masonic tradition itself in a clear and open manner. There are No Secrets - rather a frank and illuminating discourse on the relevance of Freemasonry in both an historical and contemporary context.
Freemasons’ Hall is also the home of a unique artwork by one of Belfast’s most celebrated artists – John Luke.
Renowned Belfast artist John Luke was commissioned in the spring of 1955 to execute a mural depicting “Solomon Building the Temple” in The Provincial Masonic Hall Rosemary Street. 31ft long and 7ft high, it was completed November 1956, and the artist was paid £375. In 2000 the mural was appraised at £3 million.
An unknown or lost John Luke preparatory work, 14.5 inch long and 3.25 inch high, which was to be scaled and replicated to adorn the Provincial Grand Lodge Room, was listed at a public auction in 2002.The artwork is of particular interest for it’s significant value as an original work by John Luke, and for a number of variations it displays from the completed mural.