In East Rockhill, a century-old fraternity, a memorial garden and pyramids
The complex's style is reminiscent of the Colonial architecture and lush landscape that is typical in the area. Except for the pyramids in the garden.They stand among serene ponds, fountains, rose bushes, green grass, stone masonry and an abundance of flowers and plant life.
The tallest of the four pyramids, which sit in the garden beside the buildings, is over 30 feet in height. It towers over the garden, yet it blends into it immaculately.
The pyramids, built with local quarry stone, belong to the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis, or the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, part of the Rosicrucian Order, a non-denominational Christian-based religious fraternity that was founded in Germany in 1614. The Fraternity of the Rosy Cross has been headquartered at the East Rockhill complex since 1922.
Even the president of Beverly Hall Corporation, William Kracht, isn't entirely aware of when the pyramids were constructed, although he believes it was sometime during the 1920s. Nonetheless, they are a sacred part of the complex.
That's because this isn't just a garden — it is a memorial garden. A cemetery.
"Rosicrucians trace their history back to Egypt and so-called 'mystery schools,'" said Darin Hayton, an associate history professor at Haverford College.
"Mystery schools," which originated in Ancient Egypt and India, preserve and perpetuate ancient spiritual teachings about the immortality of the soul and how to attain it. The Rosicrucian Order, in particular, focuses on "Divine Law," good works, transmutation and "Soul Illumination."
The Rosicrucian Fraternity believes the soul cannot be free if it remains in the body, and thus, cremation is the fastest and most sanitary way of freeing the soul. However, cremation is not required for members, Kracht said.
When someone does prefer to be cremated, their remains are placed in the garden and marked with a rosebush, much in the way someone's burial site in a cemetery is marked with a gravestone. This is why the garden has so many roses.
The pyramids are inspired by ancient Egypt, according to Kracht, and the Bible verse "Out of Egypt, I call my son."
The garden is going through a bit of a restoration period; electrified fences have been installed around the rose gardens to keep rose-munching deer out, Kracht said. The process of planting new roses is underway.
Nonetheless, the garden is awe-inspiring.
The complex has a lengthy history in Bucks County, according to Kracht.
Rueben Clymer, who was born in 1878 less than a mile from where Beverly Hall now stands, purchased the 50-acre plot of land in 1905. He had been accepted as a student of the order in 1899 and became Grand Master in 1905.
The Church of Illumination — a small stone chapel nestled beside the administration building — was built in 1911. Beverly Hall, the residence building named for the first Supreme Grand Master of the fraternity for North and South America, now called Mitrenga hall, followed when it was built in 1912; no one permanently inhabits it now.
The memorial gardens were planted a year later, in 1913.
According to a document from the fraternity, Clymer imagined a garden with "a rose bush for every individual ash."
The complex gradually expanded to 200 acres after 1908, according to the Kracht.
The complex also features an academy, a white building lined with columns that now serves as the fraternity's library; a publishing office, where the fraternity's literature is printed; a confederation building, where many of the fraternity's rituals take place; and an administration building.
Despite the "No Trespassing" signs that surround the property, visitors are allowed on site, but only during the daylight hours, and pets are prohibited. No appointment is necessary.
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