The “Master’s Carpet”


Why is it called the “Master’s Carpet”?

The short answer is that the space between the Altar and the East should not be called the Master’s Carpet. The medium answer would direct your attention to the Glossary entry in the Ritual book.

The long answer begins with the observation that the words are drawn from “the three steps usually delineated upon the Master’s Carpet” referenced in the Third Degree lecture. But to provide the proper context, we have to journey a bit further back in Masonic history.

In the early days of Speculative Masonry, the “making” portion of the Rituals would often be performed in the back room of a tavern where the symbols of the Degree were drawn on the clay tiled floor using chalk and charcoal, then washed away at the end of the evening. As time wore on, Masons opted for a more durable medium and began to display the symbolic designs on a reusable painted board set up on a pair of trestles. This tradition, in turn, gradually evolved into the use of reusable floorcloths—also known as carpets—displaying the Degree symbols. There were different floorcloths for different Degrees, and in this case the “Master’s Carpet” refers to a floorcloth illustrated with the symbols of Master Mason. This is evidenced by the word “delineated,” which means “represented with drawn or painted lines.”

We don’t have a drawing of three steps on the floors of our Lodge rooms, but illustrations dating to the time this language was added to the lecture do include a depiction of three steps. Our Masonic tradition has evolved away from illustrated floorcloths—just as it has evolved away from chalk and charcoal drawings and illustrated trestleboards—but the history continues to be preserved in our Ritual as an “Easter egg” for those who seek it out. Meanwhile, the proper Masonic term for the space between the Altar and the East is . . . “the space between the Altar and the East.”

Response provided by RW Samuel Lloyd Kinsey
Chairman, Custodians of the Work, Grand Lodge of New York

Note: This site is an excellent source of information about Freemasonry. While every effort has been made to provide accurate and up-to-date information about Masonic Ritual, please remember that a website is not a substitute for your jurisdiction’s Standard Work or Approved Ritual.