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B r o. E. E l l i s t o n
Until comparatively recent times no historical work on
Freemasonry was considered complete without an
account of the "Travelling Masons." We have been
gravely assured by the writers on the subject, that
Freemasonry in medieval times was an international
association of church builders, incorporated under a
charter issued by the pope, granting to the society a
complete monopoly in the building of religious
edifices. It was said that the mysteries of Gothic
architecture, both operative and speculative (practical
and theoretical), were the particular secrets of the
corporation; and whenever a new cathedral or other
religious house was contemplated requisitions for
plans and specifications must be made to the
headquarters of the body. When the plans were
prepared and approved, orders for details of
craftsmen were sent from headquarters to the
subordinate lodges throughout Christendom; and
from north and south, east and west, masons obeyed
the summons and journeyed to the site of the
proposed building, under the leadership of their
overseers or wardens.
On arrival at their destination, they made themselves
known to the master builder by means of secret signs
and tokens. Huts, or lodges, were then built, in which
the workmen prepared the material for the structure
in accordance with plans and specifications. In these
lodges the craftsmen held their meetings, and here the
mysteries of the craft were imparted to such profanes
as had been found "worthy and well qualified."
It was claimed, further, that under the terms of the
charter, the fraternity was empowered to determine
the wages and hours of labour of its members, as well
as other conditions of employment. The craftsmen
were not subject to the law of the land; but all charges
or accusations against a member, whether made by a
fellow or by a profane, were tried before the tribunal
of the society which was clothed with complete
judicial powers.
But alas, the belief in the existence of an international
corporation of builders has been shattered and swept
into the dust by Robert F. Gould, together with many
other venerable cobwebs which had gathered around
the columns and arches of the Masonic edifice, thus
preventing us from viewing the structure in the light
of true history.
Gould demonstrates conclusively that "International
Freemasonry" in the Middle Ages is a fiction. Careful
search in the archives of the Vatican has failed to
bring to light the slightest evidence that the Masonic
Craft has ever received any special horrors or favours
from the pope; and the only basis for the belief in
papal patronage seems to be that at various times
popes and prelates issued bulls promising indulgences
to persons who should make liberal donations of
money, lands or labour, to churches in course of
Nor has anyone been successful in locating the
headquarters of this "international society." True, the
German Steinmetzen (Freemasons) were organized
along more than local lines. In 1567 they formed a
federation of craft societies in German lands and
elected the workmaster of Strassburg cathedral their
chief judge (Oberste Rychter); but the federation did
not extend beyond the boundaries of Germany, and
the authority of the central government did not at any
time receive more than passing recognition. As a
matter of fact, the real bond of union between the
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