Sir Thomas Tresham's Triangular Lodge
Or: Is This About Jesus?
So, it's 1593. You're an English noble with a few thousand pounds not doing anything, you're Catholic, and you're a little off your chump. What do you do?
Build a monument to the Holy Trinity, filled with hidden numerical significance, largely based on the number three. Rather obvious, really.
The late 16th Century was a rough time for English Catholics, and much of their worship had to be done underground, or in ways otherwise secret. Sir Thomas realized it was no good having a crucifix round his neck if his head wasn't going to be there to prevent it falling off, and so embedded his faith in the architecture of a structure that today remains well-preserved at Rushton, Northamptonshire.
Remember--three is the key number, for the Trinity.
The Structure from Without
Well, you're going to want to start with a triangle, and equilateral seems like the right idea. The walls meet at impressively close to sixty degree angles, and each side is one-third of a hundred feet long--that's 33.3 etc., etc., feet. OK.
- There are three stories.
- Each story has three windows.
- Each side has three gables, each measuring three feet by three feet.
- The gables are topped with three-sided pinnacles that rise through stone triangles.
- A frieze runs along each of the sides, each adorned with an incription 33 letters in length.
- There are three sets of three gargoyles.
'Fine,' you say, for you perhaps are no stranger to a slight degree of obsessive-compulsive behavior. 'Any chance this is just a nice little experiment in symmetry?'
The Structure from Within
It might help to draw this. Each floor has a main room, hexagonal in shape. Every other side of the hexagon forms the middle third of the overall triangular structure. The remaining sides of the hexagon form the interior walls of three triangular rooms. One of these rooms holds the stairwell.
Draw three bisecting lines in a hexagon, by the way, and you end up with six more equilateral triangles.
'Ah,' you suggest. 'Still. Nothing wrong with groups of three. Good things come in threes, you know.'
True. But it gets so much weirder than this.
Running the Numbers
The place is full of numeric significance outside the just the number three as well.
- The dates on one of the gables read 1641 and 1626. At the time of construction, this would be the future. Subtract 1593, the start date, however, and you get 33 and 48. Yes, both of those are divisible by three. But if you stick an anno domini in front of them, you get the supposed dates of Jesus' and the Virgin Mary's deaths.
- Another set of gables has the number pair 3898 and 3509--not both divisible by three, but the BC dates of the Great Flood and the call of Abraham, if you believe in that sort of thing.
- The number 5555 above the door is a little more problematic. Some have read it as 3333, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But if you add Bede's Creation date of 3962BC, and add it to 1593--well.
'Ugh,' you groan? 'Stop it, it hurts my head?' Just two more little details.
Latin It All Hang Out
It's the language of choice for all things Catholic. Anyone who was anyone spoke it.
- The waterspouts in the lodge each bear one initial--centuries later discovered to by an acronym--the first three letters of a crucial part in the Latin mass.
- Another inscription over the door reads 'Tres Testiminium Dant', or 'These Three Bear Witness.' Tresham's wife called him Tres--which would effectively change or add to the inscription's meaning 'Tresham Bear Witness.'
A little grammatical hiccup there with 'bear(s),' but cut the man some slack. He was being religiously persecuted. Or persecuted, religiously.
I'd Like to Go Now, Please
Scholars have long debated whether or not all this mathematical mumbo-jumbo wasn't just a convenient cover-up for Tresham's fascination with black magic, also a sort of religion, and also deeply grounded in numerology. No concrete evidence indicating it has been presented, however, and his reputation in that regard lives on unbesmirched.
How the Protestant authorities missed the place, though, is beyond me. I've never known a building so ostentatiously incognito.
And I might mention that it is just one of England's classic follies.