Friday, 17 May 2013

Stone mason or Freemason?

I am often asked if I am a Freemason, away for the more outlandish ideas some freemasonry historians believe the original Freemasonry movement in Britain, if not the world, originated in medieval times from the stonemasons guilds in London, other parts of the country and Europe.

The stonemasons who built our great cathedrals and churches, grouped together in guilds to practice what they called “the operative art” of masonry. They were originally responsible for the regulation of training and their trade as a whole controlling quality of work, wages, labour conditions and care of the injured and widows. They were an elite class who could travel freely between cities to practice their “art”, unlike serfs who were carefully controlled and restricted. Hence the term “free mason” came into use and fraternity lodges were formed.

However, by the 17th Century the nature of Freemasonry had changed and lodges began to accept members who were not stonemasons and so they became “speculative” rather than “operative” lodges.

Although it is not yet possible to say when, why or where Freemasonry really originated it is known where and when "organized" Freemasonry began. On 24 June 1717 four London lodges came together at the Goose and Gridiron Ale House in St Paul's Churchyard, formed themselves into a Grand Lodge and elected a Grand Master (Anthony Sayer) and Grand Wardens.
For the first few years the Grand Lodge was simply an annual feast at which the Grand Master and Wardens were elected, but in 1721 other meetings began to be held and the Grand Lodge began to be a regulatory body. By 1730 it had more than one hundred lodges under its control (including one in Spain and one in India), had published a Book of Constitutions, began to operate a central charity fund, and had attracted a wide spectrum of society into its lodges.

Over the next two centuries the lodges have completely moved away from the craft of stonemasonry apart from referring to Masons’ tools and artifacts in some of their rituals.

So to answer the original question,no I'm not; although obviously some masons are, there is no direct link today between stonemasonry as a whole, The Worshipful company of Masons and Freemasonry.