Indianapolis Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation

A Beacon for Freemasonry

If there is one building in Indiana that visibly embodies the meaning and symbolism our ancient Craft, it is the Indianapolis Scottish Rite Cathedral. Prominently situated in downtown Indianapolis, the Cathedral stands as a beacon for the people of central Indiana that Freemasonry is alive and well among them. The loss of the Cathedral – by whatever means – would be a devastating loss to Indiana Freemasonry.

Our Cathedral was built to exemplify the art of Freemasonry – where morals, virtue, and good citizenship are taught to and required of our members. Tales and allegories from both ancient and contemporary experience exemplify time-honored messages of peace and goodwill. These stories are portrayed in beautifully-staged plays of instruction – or degrees – that exhibit moral truths which can benefit everyone, and where history’s greatest role models are offered as examples of wisdom and strength. Individual moral growth and fellowship are the focus of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, and the purpose of this building is to bring men together to find those qualities both in themselves, and in other, like-minded men and Freemasons.

In this Cathedral a man is made to realize as never before that he is a Mason, a member of that great and noble institution of Freemasonry. In every age and generation Freemasonry has provided leadership that has guided mankind on the long and painful journey from slavery to liberty, from ignorance to knowledge, and from despair to hope.

Masonic Symbolism

One of the most beautiful buildings in the world, the Scottish Rite Cathedral is a Tudor-period Gothic structure, replete with great examples of Masonic symbolism. Brilliantly-colored art glass windows, richly-carved woodwork, and ornately-patterned ceilings combine to form an opulent blend of Masonic symbolism and supreme artistry.

The symbolic essence of the Cathedral is exemplified by the exacting dimensions incorporated throughout the building’s design. Inspired by Christ’s time on earth, as well as the 33 degrees of Scottish Rite Masonry, the architect drafted a plan using a basic measurement of 33 feet and multiples thereof.

Many of the spectacular windows adorning the interior of the Cathedral signify the meaningful precepts of the Scottish Rite and Freemasonry and illuminate that tenet shared by all Masons: a belief in one Supreme Being.

At the eastern and southern entrances to the Cathedral, masterfully hand-wrought bronze medallions are set into travertine marble floors. The detailed ornamentation of these embellished centerpieces display the 12 signs of the zodiac and the four principal degrees of Scottish Rite. Together they represent the universality of the Fraternity.

The dominant feature of the exterior is the ‘Singing Tower,’ a pillar of architectural symmetry which rises 212 feet above the sidewalk level and contains the Cathedral’s carillon. The carillon consists of 54 bells collectively weighing 56,372 pounds, making it one of the largest carillons in the United States.

The top of the tower is ornamented with 12 fleur-de-lis, which from the sidewalk appear to be passion crosses. The four lobes of these fleur-de-lis extend to the north, south, east and west, again symbolizing the universality of Masonry.

At the base of the tower, above the east entrance doors, a stone carving depicts the three ruffians who, according to Masonic Lore, were those who murdered King Solomon’s master builder at the completion of the erection of the Temple at Jerusalem. Other stone carvings depict various aspects of the Scottish Rite, and its motto, “Spes Mea In Deo Est” (Our faith is in God), is carved into the limestone lintels above the doors.

Inside, images of Renaissance grandeur are evoked in the exquisite decor of the Cathedral’s two-story ballroom with its surrounding balcony. An adjoining auditorium seats 1,100 persons and is unsurpassed in its Gothic architecture and decor, art glass windows, and decorative emblems representing significant symbols of Masonry. Every detail reflects the brilliant workmanship of meticulous craftsmen.

Safeguarding the Future

Obviously we cannot predict what the Scottish Rite Cathedral will look like a half century from now. But if we want to make sure the Cathedral remains in Masonic hands, how do we safeguard its future? Perhaps an “insurance policy” could be in the form of an endowment fund where the principal is invested and spins off earnings each year to be used strictly to maintain and preserve the Cathedral. Our Valley’s Trustees currently manage previously donated funds to help guarantee monies are available for a planned program of preservation.

Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation

This endowment or maintenance fund is incorporated in the mission of the Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation. The Foundation was founded in 1984 to preserve and maintain the exterior of the Cathedral, its grounds, and its major mechanical and electrical systems. It is a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization as defined by the Internal Revenue Service, and all gifts can be tax deductible.

The Foundation guarantees funds will be available to maintain and preserve the Cathedral. It is also enables supportive brothers and friends to make tax-deductible contributions insuring that the generations of Americans who come after us will enjoy this monument to Freemasonry.

Ways to Give

The Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation was established to assist Masons and their friends in channeling contributions to preserve the Cathedral.  There are many ways this can be accomplished — whether through a gift of cash, or a carefully crafted bequest, annuity, or trust.  Any benefactor can include the Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation in an estate plan while providing a greater legacy to the survivors and avoiding significant government income and estate taxes.

Annual Gift

Annual gifts usually are cash gifts in the form of checks, drafts, and money orders to the Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation. If mailed before the end of the year, they will enable those who itemize to take an income tax deduction for that year. Gifts of cash are deductible for up to 50% of the donor’s adjusted gross income. Cash distributions in excess of the deduction limitations may be carried over and deducted in the five tax years following the gift.


A bequest is a very simple and uncomplicated way to direct your assets upon your death. A bequest may be for a specific sum, percentage, or the residue of an estate, and may consist of cash, securities, life insurance proceeds, and/or real estate/personal property. A bequest may be made through a will or a living trust and should be directed to the “Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation in Indianapolis, Indiana.”

To include the Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation in your will, please contact your attorney to be sure your wishes are carried out as you intend. Our Foundation officers will be happy to assist you and your legal counsel with the proper wording of your bequest.

Charitable Lead Trust

These trusts provide income – either a percentage or a specified amount – to the Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation for a specific number of years. At the end of this period, the principle is returned to the donor or others who the donor has designated. The tax advantages of this kind of trust should be explained by your attorney or accountant.

Charitable Annuity

A charitable annuity is a contract between a donor and the Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation that guarantees the donor (and/or another beneficiary) regular, partially tax-free fixed income payments for life in exchange for the irrevocable donation of an asset. A donor may specify whether he or she wants an immediate annuity, with payment to begin not later than one year from the date of the gift, or a deferred gift annuity, from which payments are not to begin until a specified future date.

Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust

This trust is an agreement between a donor and the Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation in return for the irrevocable transfer of cash or property whereby a certain percentage or amount of the annual income from the property is paid to the beneficiaries for a specified term of years. The remainder interest in the property would then pass to the Cathedral Foundation. The donor would be entitled to a federal tax income deduction for the value of that charitable remainder interest which is based on the number and ages of life income beneficiaries and the percentage of payout agreed upon. Your attorney or accountant can explain the many tax advantages of this trust.

You Can Help

Each of us has the opportunity to help insure the preservation of the Cathedral through investing in the Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation. Whether contributing money or such valuable property as jewelry, works of art, coin collections, antiques, appreciated securities, or real estate, your contribution can yield both income and tax savings. There are literally hundreds of ways you can help the Cathedral Foundation while structuring your estate to care for your family. If you are interested, contact us, and we can explore how easily this can be done.

History of the Valley

It is remarkable that the Scottish Rite Cathedral was constructed and financed by a Scottish Rite membership that in the 1920s was much smaller than the current roster. Our leaders and members certainly had the vision and courage. To understand this, you have to know something about the history of the Valley and how the vision of the Cathedral was conceived and shaped.

All four bodies of the Valley of Indianapolis were charted on May 19, 1865, by the Supreme Commander, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite. In the first 20 years, our Valley’s leaders governed in rented quarters on the northeast corner of Meridian and Washington Streets.

As the membership grew, new quarters were leased on the southwest corner of Delaware and Market Streets.  In 1883, the Valley moved to 29-35 S. Pennsylvania, which at that time was the only building in the United States entirely devoted to Scottish Rite work.  Sadly, it was destroyed by a fire in 1894.

Two years later the restored Scottish Rite Temple was reopened. Membership continued to soar and topped 3,000 in 1906. Finances were handled adroitly, and that same year the Valley’s magnificent home was “absolutely free and clear.”

Membership topped 4,000 in 1913 and doubled in 1921, when a monument to build a new home for the Valley of Indianapolis gained momentum. Land on the northwest corner of Meridian and North Streets was purchased, and enthusiasm surged for a new home. The entry of the United States in World War I in 1917 required a pause in the building construction activities. Members of the Valley later reaffirmed the choice of site, and in 1924 George T. Schrieber, an Indianapolis architect and member of the Scottish Rite, was selected to design this superb structure. The plans were perfected and approved by the building committee enabling ground to be broken on May 3, 1927.

Building the Cathedral

For the next two and a half years construction progressed with care and dispatch until, on February 26, 1929, the last stone of the exterior was set in place at the top of the tower. Dedication ceremonies were held September 10, 1929.  The final cost of the Cathedral came in at $2,500,000. Once the exterior work was completed, work continued on the interior. Many gifts and memorials were bestowed on the Valley, as the library, carillon, pipe organ, windows, and other items were purchased as gifts.

Thus, on the eve of the Great Depression, the new home of the Valley of Indianapolis was finally ready for occupancy; however, with so many organizations, the Great Depression played havoc with the Valley’s finances. After considerable financial maneuvering all debts and outstanding stock were finally paid and for the second time in history, the Valley of Indianapolis had a beautiful home of its own, a Cathedral of magnificent proportions, free and clear.

The Present

The Cathedral today is a center for social, business, and educational programming. The Valley conducts a full schedule of activities for its members and the community. It has become a resource for residents throughout central Indiana and has been the site of hundreds of celebrations and public events for a broad section of community and civic groups, cultural organizations, and individuals.

Within the past year, for instance, about 100,000 people entered the doors of the Cathedral for programs, tours, and scheduled activities.

During the past few years, the Cathedral has been host to various private and public functions such as weddings and receptions, meetings, and performing arts programs. Included were the:

  • International Violin Competition Awards Program,
  • International School of Ballet performances,
  • NFL Alumni Association Player of the Year Awards,
  • Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Classical Christmas Concerts,
  • Komen Pink Tie Ball,
  • and Indiana University School of Medicine Dinner.

Several Masonic lodges meet in the building, and hundreds of guests eat lunch in the Double Eagle Cafe each week including members of the Optimists, Sertoma Club, Kiwanis, Sojourners, retired FBI agents, and the NARFE.

The Cathedral is also open for tours four days a week (Tuesday-Friday, excluding public holidays when the building is closed) from 10AM to 2PM. An average of more than 8,000 guests are escorted by the Valley’s Tour Committee annually.  (For more information regarding tours, please click here.)

But the Scottish Rite’s direct support of the Community is not limited to activities in the Cathedral. For more than 10 years, members of the Valley have reached out to support community philanthropies. While the Indiana University Medical Center has been the primary recipient of this largess, many other community service organizations have benefited.

The Scottish Rite supports Children’s Dyslexia Centers including one located in the Indianapolis Cathedral. These centers provide professional treatment – free of charge – to children with dyslexia, a learning disability. The initiative is part of a 15-state program committed to providing free services and proven teaching methods to assist children with dyslexia.

The Future

The Valley of Indianapolis today stands at a crossroads in its history. It is imperative that every effort be extended to insure the preservation of the Scottish Rite Cathedral as a community resource and a Masonic landmark. Freemasons from throughout Indiana and around the world now have the opportunity to preserve a building that embodies the imagery and symbolism of the greatest force for good in the world.

The Scottish Rite owes its loyalty to the fundamental purpose and principles of Freemasonry that are expressed in this quest: “to be made better than ourselves.” It seeks to strengthen the community. It believes that each man should act in civil life according to his individual judgment and the dictates of his conscience. This is the story of a Cathedral built to serve this meaning of Masonry.

The Scottish Rite Cathedral is a remarkable architectural achievement that stands as a valued treasure and permanent legacy to the people of Indianapolis. Ongoing restoration and maintenance of such a landmark is a costly but necessary undertaking.

Capital Campaign Projects

A Capital Campaign is in the works to ensure that the Cathedral will remain an asset to the fraternity and continue to benefit the entire Indianapolis community.  Please check back regularly for more information as it develops.