Anyone who has seen the Manitoba Legislative building, the H-shaped tyndall stone structure with the iconic Golden Boy atop, will almost certainly agree that it's impressive. But who knew that it was Canada's most unique architectural landmark?
So thinks Frank Albo, a Winnipeg-born scholar completing his PhD at England's Cambridge University. Albo's research led him to discover that the Manitoba Legislature Building is basically an initiatory temple disguised as a government building.
A what? An initiatory temple. As in a building endowed with esoteric principles, full of secret signs and codes known only to a privileged few.
The ‘Leg (pronounced ledge by ‘Peggers) was designed and built by members of the centuries-old secret fraternity known as the Freemasons (you know, the secret handshake guys), and Albo believes the building is a masonic masterpiece extraordinaire.
His findings have given him the moniker Canada's Dan Brown (author of best-selling book Da Vinci Code) as he leads visitors on a tour of the mystifying building of masonic secrets. His Hermetic Code Tour of the Manitoba Legislative is so unique the Canadian Tourism Commission recently added it to its Signature Experiences Collection, an exclusive list of Canada's premier tourist destinations. The tour joins our cuddly Churchill polar bears as a Manitoba destination on the list.
Albo's tour is full of ‘holy cow!' moments as he initiates visitors into the meaning of hieroglyphic inscriptions, numerological codes and masonic symbols on the building. Groups who take the tour are usually made up of a mixture of the skeptical and the already sold. But even those who find it hard at first to digest the idea that a neoclassical provincial government building is actual a bastion of the occult and esoteric, are almost guaranteed to be bowled over as he unravels secret clues about what Ablo calls the "the Rosetta Stone in the heart of the Canadian Prairies."
The Leg was designed and built by Frank Worthington Simon, a renowned 19th century British architect who was a freemason. Albo has been trying to get into the mind of Worthington Simon ever since he drove past the Leg one evening about six years ago and noticed something strange on the north pediment. The object of his curiosity was a pair of sphinx, hidden from ground level. "Why were there partly hidden sphinx flanking the legislature? If I had been formed as a regular art historian, I would have thought it was just an example of Egyptomania, a regular aesthetic fabric of the time, but this was something different," Albo says. Albo knew that freemasons believe that their knowledge has its origin in ancient Egypt and in particular, Pharaoh Thutmosis III. And when he found the name of that Pharaoh carved in a hieroglyphic inscription on the sphinxes it was the first affirmation of what he had been thinking.
After much cajoling of then-Manitoba premier Gary Doer and his peeps who were intrigued by Albo's discovery, he was given what amounts to an all-access pass to the Leg. But first he had to reassure them them that taxpayers' money wasn't going to be spent on the satanic. "A lot of people, when they hear occult they think that.' Albo says. By day and by night, the scholar explored the building's nooks and crannies to uncover the esoteric principles in its design.
One of his most astonishing discoveries was the Lieutenant-Governor's reception room. Albo says the suite's floor plan exactly replicates that of the inner sanctuary of Solomon's Temple, the Holy of Holies, the repository of the esteemed Ark of the Covenant. He even discovered a representation of the Ark on the exterior of the east façade, just above a window in the reception room.
The clues to the occult mysteries throughout the building are so cleverly masked that they escaped historians and visitors for nearly a hundred years, he says. "Everything was hidden in plain sight."
Albo's tours have drawn people from across the globe. The visit usually begins on the front steps of the Leg (the number of steps isn't an accident visitors are soon told) under the giant sphinx, the first of the hidden meanings that Albo reveals.
In the course of the tour Albo talks about the fifth element, quintessence, sacred mechanics and other matters occult and masonic and their relation to the architecture of the Leg. He points to recurring patterns of the numbers 5, 8 and 13 throughout the building's design. As Da Vinci Code fans know, those numbers are part of math's famous Fibonacci pattern, based on each number being the sum of the previous two and considered by some a sacred architectural blueprint.
Along the way Albo also gives some more mainstream history, explaining that Worthington Simon won the 1911 architectural competition to build the legislature. It was finished in 1920 after budget scandals and delays common to mega-projects. At the time Winnipeg was one of the fastest growing city in North America. "They spared no expense." The cost at the time was 9 million dollars, roughly off the charts in today's dollars.
"The White House has nothing on this building," he says.