the spread of Christianity throughout Germany and the requirement for Roman
bishops to raise cathedrals, the Masonic colleges in Germany thrived. Generally
designated as Steinmetzen or stonecutters, these Masonic fraternities
raised churches and cathedrals throughout continental Europe. The society of
stonecutters had within it a variety of grades and occupations. These included Steinmaurer
or stone layers, Steinhauer or stone hewers, as well as Steinmetzen,
a word derived from Stein or stone and Metzen, a derivative of the
word Metzel or chisellers, a more detailed and skilful art than the
hewers. The construction of Bauhütten or lodges situated next to the
churches being constructed served as design, work and sleeping quarters.
of the earliest records of Masonic lodges is found in the German city of
Hirschau (now Hirsau) in the current state of Baden-Württenberg. Masonic lodges
instituted in the city of Hirschau in the late 11th century worked under the
Benedictine order of Germany and were the first to establish the Gothic style of
early as 1149 the first German Zünfte or stonemason unions developed in
Magdeburg, Würzburg, Speyer and Straβburg. In 1250 the first grand lodge
of Freemasons was formed in the city of Cologne (Köln),[i]
Germany. The grand lodge was formed as part of the immense undertaking to erect
the cathedral of Cologne.
first Masonic congress occurred in the city of Straβburg, Germany in the
year 1275. It was formed by Grand Master Erwin von Steinbach. This was also the
earliest recorded use of the symbol of Freemasons, the square and compasses.
Whilst Straβburg was considered the premier grand lodge of the day, other
Great Masonic lodges had already been formed in Wien, Bern and the above
mentioned Köln (Cologne); these were called Oberhütten or great lodges.
Several Masonic congresses were held in the city of Straβburg, including
the years 1498 and 1563. At this time the first recorded Arms of the Masons of
Germany were recorded depicting four compasses positioned around a pagan sun
symbol and arranged in the shape of a swastika or pagan / Aryan sun-wheel. The
Masonic Arms of Germany also displayed the name of St John the Evangelist, the
patron Saint of German Masons.
Oberhütte of Cologne, and its grand master, was considered the head of the
Masonic lodges of all upper Germany. The grand master of Straβburg, in
those days a German city, was head of Masonic lodges throughout lower Germany,
Franconia, Bavaria, Hesse and the main areas of France.
grand lodges of Masons in Germany received support from the Church and the
Monarchy. Emperor Maximilian reviewed the Masonic congress of 1275 at Straβburg
and proclaimed his protection over the craft. Between 1276 and 1281 Rudolf I of
Habsburg, a German king, became a member of the Bauhütte or Lodge of St
Stephan. King Rudolf was one of the first non-operative, otherwise called free
or speculative members of a Masonic lodge.
statutes of Masons in Europe were revised in 1459 by the Ratisbonne (Regensburg)
Assembly, the headquarters of the German Diet, the preliminary revisions of
which had occurred in Straβburg seven years earlier[ii].
The revisions described the requirement to test foreign brothers prior to their
acceptance in lodges via an established (seemingly international or European)
method of greeting.
first grand assembly of Masons in Europe occurred in the year 1535, in the city
of Cologne in Germany. Here the bishop of Cologne, Hermann V, assembled 19
Masonic lodges to establish the Charter of Cologne written in Latin.
The first grand lodges of Masons were present, which was customary for
the time, and included the grand lodge of Cologne, Straβburg, Vienna,
Magdeburg and Zurich. The mother grand lodge of Cologne, with its grand master
was considered the premier grand lodge of Europe.
the invention of the printing press, the Masons (Steinmetzen) of Germany
assembled in Ratisbonne in 1464 and printed the first Rules and Statues of the
Fraternity of Stone Cutters of Straβburg Ordnung der Steinmetzen.
These regulations were approved and sanctioned by succeeding Emperors such as
Charles V and Ferdinand.
German friar Martin Luther, and his protest against the injustices and
hypocrisies of the Catholic Church in 1517, gave rise to Protestantism. This
liberalised some of the Masonic lodges of the time. The Straβburg Cathedral
became Lutheran in 1525 and many others followed.
1563 the Ordinances and Articles of the Fraternity of Stonemasons were
renewed at the Chief Lodge at Straβburg on St Michael’s Day. These
regulations demonstrate three important links to modern Masonry. Firstly,
apprentices were termed ‘free’ on completion of service to their Master,
which undoubtedly is the origin of the word ‘Freemason’. Secondly, the
fraternal nature of the lodge was depicted in a range of regulations such as
services to the sick, or the practise of teaching a brother without cost, such
as under Article 14.Thirdly, the Freemasons used a secret handshake as means of
articles from the regulations indicating these points are:
Master shall teach a Fellow anything for Money.
And no craftsman or master shall take money from a fellow for showing or
teaching him anything touching masonry. In like manner, no warden or fellow
shall show or instruct any one for money in carving as aforesaid. Should,
however, one wish to instruct or teach another, he may well do it, one piece for
the other, or for fellowship sake, or to serve their master thereby.
In the first place, every apprentice when he has served his time, and is
declared free, shall promise the craft, on his truth and honour, in lieu of oath,
under pain of losing his right to practise masonry, that he will disclose or
communicate the mason’s greeting and grip to no one, except to him to whom he
may justly communicate it; and also that he will write nothing thereof.”[iii]
Straβburg ordinances stipulated that entry into the fraternity was by free
will and clearly indicated the three grades of Entered Apprentice, Fellow and
Master in the German Masonic fraternity. They required the taking of an oath and
for masons to meet in chapters called ‘Kappitel’. The ordinances instruct
masons not to teach Masonry to non-masons.
German or Teutonic Masonic lodges and grand lodges existed prior to the
formation of the grand lodge of England in 1717 is clear. As is their use of
secret handshakes, the use of the term ‘free’ and their acceptance of
non-operatives. The use of allegory and layered symbolism, which makes the
Masonic fraternal system unique, was also evident in German lodges of the time
as displayed in the stone carvings and architectural styles of the churches and
abbeys they built.
the Web Page www.klovekorn.com:
The 99° of Freemasonry supports the theory that the seed of modern Freemasonry,
was not linked to Knights Templar or English Freemasonry, but originated with
the Masonic Institutions of Germany, who in turn, had received their Masonic
knowledge from earlier Masonic organisations. This claim is supported via 7 main
points of evidence.
1. That the Regius Manuscript, the Oldest (reputable) surviving Masonic text in
Britain, makes reference to the four crowned martyrs, which are unequivocally
linked to the legend of Masons under the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation,
a Masonic tradition originating in Germany not Britain.
2. The existence and earliest recorded use of the square and compasses (the
fraternal sign of Freemasonry) on the arms of German Masonic Bodies.
3. The existence of highly organised Masonic institutions (Steinmetzen) in
Germany in the 13th century, such as the Grand Lodge (Oberhütte) of Straßburg
and Köln (Cologne), and several subordinate Masonic lodges, which not only
worked in stone but also included allegorical Masonic teachings within their
4. The election of a Grand Master of Masons in the 13th century and the
establishment of grades of apprentices, fellows and master masons in Germany in
the 12th century and earlier.
5. The establishment of printed Statues and Rules of the Masonic Order in
Germany before the establishment of written Masonic statues in Britain.
6. The inclusion of non-operative (or speculative) members, such as King Rudolf
I into Masonic Lodges in Germany in the 13th century.
7. The first large-scale recorded requirement for Masonic lodges to utilise a
secret method of greeting and 'grip'.
The 99° of Freemasonry also analyses the use of the square and compasses, as
allegorical moral symbols of masonry, in works of art within German culture of
this period, further evidence of Masonic philosophy within German culture and
continental Europe in this period.
many Freemasons have been ‘conditioned’ to accept that the origins of
Masonry stem from England or Scotland, as the great modern day Masonic
organisations are deeply interconnected within this geographical area, the 99°
of Freemasonry sheds new light on Masonic history and urges, if not inspires
readers to look to the continent of Europe as the great seed of Masonry.
Rebold, Emmanuel & Fletcher, Brennan J (Ed), A General History of
Freemasonry in Europe – based upon the ancient documents relating to, and
the monuments erected by this fraternity, from its foundation in the year
715 BC to the Present Time, Cincinnati, published by Geo. B Fessenden
1867, reprint by Kessinger Publishing USA.
Naudon, Paul, The Secret History of Freemasonry – Its Origins and
Connection to the Knights Templar. USA. Translated by Jon Graham. Inner
Traditions, Rochester, Vermont, Copyright
1991 by Editions Dervey, English Translation copyright 2005 by Inner
Traditions International. Originally published in French under the title ‘
Les origins de la Franc-Maconnerie Le sacre et le metier, Paris. ISBN
1-59477-028-X, page 6. page 174.
Gould, Robert Freke, The History of Freemasonry, Its Antiquities, Symbols,
Constitutions Customs etc. Volume 1 T.C. & E. C. Jack, Grange
Publishing Works, Edinburgh, page 122.