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About the history of Freemasonry

History, a knowledge base for understanding the evolution of ideas

As André Gide wrote, "The present would be full of all the futures, if the past had not already projected a history into it." - 1932), our past conditions us. We must therefore know our historicity in order to understand our condition. Contrary to other fields, the history of Freemasonry has long been incomplete; few reliable documents, the difficulty in exploring those that exist, the absence of quality historians involved in this research, explain this state of affairs. However, since the last war, methodological rigour and the desire to have indisputable sources has led to the production of important studies.

It is very difficult to be judge and party and in this case to be a freemason and historian. Very quickly, affectivity offers a bias that can play like self-censorship.

In spite of this, it is possible today to have a more accurate approach to the course of events.

The history of Freemasonry: simple, complicated and painful :

- simple if we refer to dates and facts that we have a trace of in reliable documents;

- complicated if we take into account the legends, myths, similarities and these famous interpretations that have flourished and that we sometimes (too) tend to take for truths;

- painful because, like all human history, feelings and declarations of intent do not resist more prosaic commitments with bell-tower squabbles and unsavoury low blows.

Historically, Freemasonry is an English creation.

We now know, thanks to the great historians of Freemasonry (in particular Harry Carr, the famous English historian, and André Combes, Roger Dachez and André Doré, who were able to cultivate the scientific rigour of their art) that the emergence of Freemasonry took place in Great Britain, essentially in England and also in Scotland; this creation took place from a mutation of the companion organizations (the term freemasonry takes its origin in the English companion associations of stonemasons). This "mutation" took place gradually in the 17th century, from the creation of accepted masons (who were not stonemasons) to appear in broad daylight at the beginning of the 18th century.

This English origin should never be forgotten because it allows us to understand the first motivations.

This creation is marked by a particular context which greatly influenced the Masonic order and which can still be found today:

  • the destabilization of 17th century English society with an attempt to reject the aristocracy,

  • the influence of an intellectual elite marked by Protestant reformism,

  • the will to achieve a rapprochement between the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie.

This English origin also explains why the vast majority of Freemasons in the world today are Anglo-Saxon.

From this English specificity, the extension of the lodges in other parts of the world was possible thanks, essentially, toa two elements that will always be found:

  • A certain alliance between the bourgeoisie, the intelligentsia and the aristocracy...

  • An attraction for a religious "libertinage" that allows a certain eclecticism.

France, and this is a rather rare reality, will accept this English creation by trying to give it a French specificity. This took several forms but after Belgium, which was the initiator, the French originality is linked to the freedom of conscience which allowed the presence of agnostics, Jews and non-believers in the lodges.

It is not the place to make an exhaustive presentation of the whole history of Freemasonry (history of the obediences, that of the actors when their acts were motivated by their Masonic belonging, history also of the facts related to Freemasonry).

You will find in these pages a chronology (borrowed from a text by Jean-Loup Cadet-Tuyère with additions from different sources) and articles more focused on certain periods.



926: York Masons' Charter.

1015: creation of the stonemasons' lodge in Strasbourg cathedral.

1110: first English guilds of trades.

1189: On February 11th, the Council of Rouen condemns, because of the danger of perjury, the brotherhoods whose members promise to help each other.

1390: The Halliwell manuscript known as Regius: the first known document attesting to the duties of companions discovered in England - Text in Middle English with the incipit and line spacing in Latin.

1642: year of the oldest existing documents of the Mother Kilwinning Lodge (Scotland).

In 1649, Henriette of England, daughter of Henry IV and Marie de Medici, widow of Charles I, took refuge in Saint-Germain-en-Laye with Scottish and Irish officers.

1660 : Creation of the Royal Society in London, learned society, which will take with Isaac Newton a fundamental role in the creation of the first Grand Lodge of England;

1685: October 18, revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

1688: Jacques II Stuart, driven from the throne of England by his son-in-law William of Orange, went into exile in Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

1717: June 24 (this date is disputed by historians), St. John the Baptist's Day, creation of the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster, by four lodges (The Goose and the Grill, The Crown, The Apple, The Goblet and the Grapes) with Jean-Théophile Désaguliers and James Anderson.

1723: Publication of the Constitutions (The Constitutions of the Free-Masons), written by James Anderson.

1728: The French Freemasons recognize a "Grand Master of Freemasons in France" in the person of Philippe, Duke of Wharton.

1738: The French lodges constitute the Grand Lodge of France.

On June 24, the Duke of Antin (Louis de Pardaillan de Gondrin) is proclaimed Grand Master General and perpetual Masons in the Kingdom of France.

1745: Bordeaux, creation of the Scottish Lodge by Etienne Morin.

1751: June 24 - Germany, foundation by Baron Karl Gotthelf von Hund und Altengrottkau of the Strict Observance which insists on the Templar origins of Freemasonry.

1753 : The silk manufacturer from Lyon, Jean-Baptiste Willermoz, founds the lodge of the Perfect Friendship. In 1760, he will play a great role in the formation of the Grand Lodge of the Regular Masters of Lyon, of which he will become the Grand Master.

1773: The Grand Lodge of France becomes the Grand Orient de France: On June 26th the lodges, meeting as a National Grand Lodge, adopt the statutes of the Royal Order of Freemasonry known as the Grand Orient de France.

1776: On May 1, Adam Weishaupt (an Ashkenazi Jew converted to Catholicism who studied with the Jesuits) and Baron Adolf von Knigge, a Freemason since 1773, founded the secret society of the Perfectibilists which would become the Secret Order of the Illuminated (lluminati) Germanic, the Illuminators of Bavaria.

1782: Under the leadership of the Duke of Brunswick, the Great General Convent of Freemasonry in Wilhemsbad recognizes the Rectified Scottish Rite, a Masonic system (created by Willermoz in 1778).

1786: The Grand Orient adopts the French Rite in 7 degrees: the model is set for the first three degrees in blue lodge which have a strong English influence, always distinguishing from the Scottish rites.

1788: creation by the famous "adventurer" Joseph Balsamo, known as Alessandro Cagliostro, of a rite of high Egyptian masonry.

1791: On June 24th, the Black American Freemasons, meeting in Boston, form the African Grand Lodge of North America; Prince Hall (a mulatto born of an English leather merchant and a freed slave from the French colonies, and initiated in 1775 within Military Lodge 441 attached to the British army stationed in Boston) is unanimously elected grandmaster; he will remain so until his death in 1807.

1804 :

- November 27th, Joseph Bonaparte (initiated at the Lodge La Parfaite Sincérité in Marseille) is Grand Master of the Grand Orient and his younger brother Louis Bonaparte is Deputy Grand Master.

- creation of the Supreme Council of France which will be at the origin of the creation of the Grand Lodge of France in 1894;

1809: Charles XIII, King of Sweden from 1809 to 1818, creates the Order that bears his name.

1815: Creation in Paris of the Rite of Misraïm by brothers Marc, Michel and Joseph Bédarride, members of the imperial army returning from Italy.

1837: Creation of the Memphis rite by Jean Etienne Marconis de Nègre

1839: Paris, Agricol Perdiguier, a journeyman carpenter called Avignonnais la vertu, published the Book of Companionship by which he wanted to reconcile the three competing rites.

1849: April 13, first Constitution of the Grand Orient of France: Freemasonry, "an eminently philanthropic, philosophical and progressive institution, has as its basis the existence of God and the immortality of the soul". The Grand Orient adopts as its motto: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

1852: the great mastery of the Grand Orient is

1954 :

- The Grand Lodge of France restores the obligation for its lodges to work in the presence of a Bible open under the square and the compass; some lodges read the first verses of the Gospel of John to which it is often open, without any obligation.

- December 5, 1954: France, revival of the Grand Lodge of the Rectified Regime.

1958: 2 October: following a split within the G.L.N.F., foundation of the "French National Grand Lodge - Opera" which will become in 1982, the Traditional and Symbolic Grand Lodge Opera.

1960: Robert Ambelain takes control of the French Grand Lodge of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis-Misraïm.

1961: January 22nd: creation of the Liaison and Information Centre of the Masonic Powers signatories of the Strasbourg Appeal (CLIPSAS), which federates "liberal" obediences wishing to preserve their specificities in the face of "dogmatic" Anglo-Saxon obediences.

1964: Split at the Grand Lodge of France: 600 brothers join the National Grand Lodge of France.

1965 : Creation of the Grand Lodge for Women of Memphis-Misraïm,

1968: April 26th - Foundation of the French National Lodge.

1973: February, foundation of the Universal Mixed Grand Lodge resulting from a split of Human Rights.

1974: January, foundation of the Initiatory and Traditional Order of Royal Art.

1976 : Foundation of the Independent and Sovereign Grand Lodge of the United Rites by René-Jacques Martin.

1981: January 10, Grand Master Robert Ambelain creates the Grand Lodge Feminine of Memphis Misraïm.

1982 :

- 18 June, London, Roberto Calvi, member of the Propaganda Massonica Due (P2) lodge headed by Grand Master Licio Gelli (excluded from the Grand Orient of Italy in 1981), and president of Banco Ambrosiano, of which the Vatican Bank (IOR) has become the majority shareholder, is found hanging under the Blackfriars Bridge.

- December 18, founding of the Mixed Grand Lodge of France (split from the Universal Mixed Grand Lodge).

1984 :

- October: founding of the Grand Lodge Women of Memphis-Misraïm, from the lodges Hator (1965) and The Delta (1971). Sister Julienne Bleier is appointed International Grand Mistress and Grand Mistress for France. She is the only Egyptian Obedience that the Grand Orient de France officially recognizes.

1996: May, creation of the Intercontinental Liberal Masonic Association.

1997: May, creation of the Mixed Grand Lodge of Memphis-Misraïm

1998: creation of the Symbolic Grand Lodge of France, which includes male, female and mixed lodges, (uses the rite of Memphis-Misraïm)

2003 :

- October : creation of the Grand Lodge of Cultures and Spirituality (GLCS), mixed obedience, from a split of the GLNF;

- In November, foundation in Nice of the Grand Lodge Traditional and Modern of France (GLTMF).

2005: The Declaration of Principles of the Grand Priory of the Gauls (Order of the Knights Christian Masons of France) is adopted on April 30.

2006: September 9, the Women's Grand Lodge of France (GLFF), the main female obedience, hosts a "presentation ceremony" of a couple of homosexual women, in the presence of delegations from the GLFF and representatives of other Masonic obediences and the Fraternal Children of Cambaceres, a grouping of homosexual Freemasons of all obediences (AFP).

2010: On September 2, meeting at convent in Vichy (Allier), 1,200 representatives of the lodges of the Grand Orient voted, by a majority of 51.5%, that "can no longer be refused anyone in the obedience for any discrimination whatsoever, including gender.

2011 :

- On February 19th, a college of Grand Installing Officers from the United Grand Lodge of England, the United Grand Lodges of Germany and the French National Grand Lodge, installs the Regular National Grand Lodge of the Principality of Monaco (GLNRPM). Jean-Pierre Pastor, Consul of Monaco in Havana, is the Grand Master,

- December 3, crisis at the Grand Lodge National of France (GLNF) against Grand Master François Stifani.

2012 :

- April : creation of the Grand Lodge of the Alliance Maçonnique Française, from a split of the GLNF;

- June 23rd, in Aix-en-Provence, constitution of the Traditional Grand Lodge of France.

2014 : creation of the Grand Traditional Initiatory Lodge (GLTI), mixed and working at the Memphis-Misraïm rite.

2017: creation of the Grand Lodge Feminine Initiatic Francophone (GLFIF) split of the Grand Lodge Feminine of France: 1st President Marie-Claude BATIER

Editor's note: do not hesitate to report errors, shortcomings or inaccuracies.

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