The history of modern Freemasonry begins three hundred years ago when four pre-existing Lodges met on St. John the Baptist’s day (June 24) in the saving year of 1717 at ‘The Goose and Gridiron’ Brewery. At this solemn Assembly they elected the first Grand Master Mr. Anthony Sayer as the “Center of Unity and Harmony.” The name of this first Lodge was Grand Lodge of London and Westminster. It was then renamed the Premier Grand Lodge of England.
Prior to this historical development and the recorded history that followed there are at least two basic roots. Medieval guilds and internal, oral tradition. Thus the history of Greek Freemasonry can find its roots and the correlation with its European counterpart on the one hand in the traditions of the ancient Dionysian Guilds, which passed to Europe through the Comacine masters (magistri comacini) , the Greek teachers of the Art who left Byzantium in the Middle Ages and directed the European guilds such as the mythical Naymus Graecus and the newer powerful professional guilds or brotherhoods or sinafia, such as the famous cooperative in Ampelakia which from the Greek area, spread their influence throughout the Ottoman Empire, the Balkans and European countries.
We still must not forget that great mythical figures whose action shaped the tradition of early Freemasonry during the Renaissance period, such as Paracelsus and the Christian Rosenkreuz, sought knowledge from “Teachers of the East”. And the east they mention was none other than “our own East”, Constantinople, Northern Greece and the monasteries of Mount Athos and Cyprus.
Scottish Rite and France
A common question not only among non-Masons is how Scotland is related to France where the Scottish Rite was originally developed and from where it was then spread to both hemispheres.
The first Lodges of non-Operative, i.e. Speculative Freemasons as they are called, existed in Scotland from the beginning of the 17th century.
Already in 1599 in the rules drawn up by the Master of Works of the kingdom Robert Shaw, reference is made to an inner knowledge and hierarchy beyond that of the builders and workmen.
The Kilwinning Mother Lodge of Scottish Freemasonry, which is the oldest continuously operating Lodge in the world, has been continuously minuted since 1642.
And even non-Scottish 17th-century British Freemasons like Asmole were followers of the Stuart royal dynasty. The Stuarts, like all Scots, traditionally had excellent relations with the French. So when, at the end of the 19th century, the civil war forced James II Stuart to flee to France, members of the Royal Irish Regiment who had followed him into exile founded the first Lodge on French soil on March 25, 1688. The name of this Lodge was La Parfaite Egalite at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
Soon after the establishment of the first Grand Lodges, it is clear that they call all the degrees beyond the first three, Scottish (Écossaise). The “Scottish” degrees are therefore organized, developed and formed in France by the Grand Scottish “Mother Lodges” to reach 1786, where with the Grand Constitutions of the Emperor Frederick the Great all the Scottish systems are unified in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.
The Rite passed to the New World and America by French brethren, and there, in the city named after Charles Stuart, Charleston, nine Illustrious Grand Inspectors formed the first Supreme Council in 1804.
Freemasonry in the Eastern Mediterranean
Very soon after the founding of the Premier Grand Lodge of London in 1717, modern Freemasonry was introduced to the eastern Mediterranean. Around 1726, there is information about the operation of a Masonic Lodge in Constantinople and in the region of Galata.
There is no evidence of the Grand Lodge from which it was even named, but many Greek scholars mention this Lodge. It is likely that it was made up of European diplomats and merchants, mostly Genoese, operating at the time in the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1744 the Scot Alexander Drummond was appointed consul of Great Britain in Aleppo, Syria. At the same time he is authorized by the Grand Lodge of Scotland to establish Lodges in the eastern Mediterranean and has been given the title of “Regional Grand Master for the Mediterranean countries of Europe and Asia”.
On his long journey he passed through Zakynthos, Kythira, Mykonos and Delos. In Zakynthos, according to his diary, he discussed Freemasonry with the inhabitants of the island, including a priest. Of course, a Lodge was not officially founded, but perhaps it contributed to the great development of Freemasonry in the following years in the Ionian Islands.
He then arrives in Smyrna where there was Masonic activity as early as 1738 and according to his testimony he founds a Masonic Lodge. Finally, passing through Cyprus, he ends up in Aleppo and establishes another Lodge. Both used the name of the Kilwinning Mother Lodge of Scottish Freemasonry.
We must add that in Ottoman Thessaloniki the Mother Lodge of Scottish Freemasonry, Saint Jean d’Écosse, Mère Loge Écossaise de Marseille , founded around 1780, a lodge after Constantinople and Smyrna with the name “Saint-Jean d’Ecosse de l’ Amitie”.
Meanwhile, as early as 1738, Pope Clement XII with the bull In eminenti apostolatus specula has condemned Freemasonry. Probably also because of Drummond’s action, the Metropolitan Bishop of Smyrna informs Patriarch Paisios (1744 – 1748) about “the order and modernity” of the Freemasons of his city and with a patriarchal letter Freemasonry was condemned for the first time. In 1745, the patriarch renounced the Freemasons, not on the grounds that Freemasonry is a religion or heresy, but that Freemasonry cultivates atheism! This fact is also the first act of anti-Masonism in Greece.
Around 1748 the monk Kaisarios Daponte compiled the anecdotal work of the Bible of Kings (it has been preserved in the manuscript 255 of the Xiropotamos Monastery, a Codex originating from the Transdanubian Hegemony and kept in the Public Library of Vytina, as well as in the Codex of Gideon that exists in the Library of the Hellenic Parliament ). With the title “Táxis ginoméni epí ypodochí tinós Elefthérou Koniátou” it contains a Ritual of initiation into the 1st degree almost identical to the one followed today by the Lodges of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. The same text also includes a manuscript of Patriarch Kallinikos IV which is kept today in the Public Library of Zagora under the title “Eídisis ton Táxeon ton Mouratóron ópou fyláttousin, ótan prosdechthósi tiná méllonta lefkanthínai”. At that time, of course, there were no printed Masonic Rituals. The circulating texts were usually anti-Masonic and intended to expose the Freemasons. As has now been absolutely proven by our brother Andreas C. Rizopoulos, both Daponte’s text and that of Patriarch Kallinikos are translations of a French text compiled in 1737 by a French police officer, Rene Herault, and which was then widely circulated throughout Europe under the title “La Reception d’un Frey Macon”.
And probably both priests came into contact with the text during their stay in the Danubian hegemonies where the Greek element was extremely developed.
In the Danubian hegemonies, Freemasonry manifested itself with a strong participation of the Greeks who lived there long before 1821, the year in which the struggle for independence from the Turkish occupation began.
Within the Greek communities there, Freemasonry finds fertile ground, since both the manner of operation of the Lodges and the Masonic Ideal favor the creation of preparation groups for the Greek Revolution.
Thus, during the hegemony of Constantinos Mavrokordatos in Moldavia and Wallachia, the first Lodges in Galatsi (1734) and Iasi (1735) were founded by his Italian secretary Carra, which are presided over by Mavrokordatos himself.
Also masons were the dragoman Konstantinos Karatzas the Banos, who was initiated in 1791 in the Lodge Zur siegenden Wahrheit in Berlin, Alexandros Mourouzis brother of the ruler Konstantinos Mourouzis who was initiated in the Lodge St. Andreas zu den drei Seeblattern in Sibiu (Sibiu or Hermannstadt) in 1776 and finally and especially the ruler of Moldavia and Wallachia Constantine Ypsilantis, who was initiated in 1784 in the Lodge Zu den drei Saulen in Brasov (Brasov or Kronstadt).
Ionian Islands and the Greek Revolution
However, where Freemasonry is in exceptional bloom is the Ionian Islands, where the Beneficenza Lodge has been working since the middle of the 18th century. As Dandolos mentions, the Lodge was founded in 1740 in the Italian-dominated Corfu and stopped its work very quickly, possibly due to the papal condemnation. This Lodge reopened in 1781 with the approval of the Grand Scottish Mother Lodge of Verona based in Padua, with the concurrence of the Scottish Directory of Italy, which belonged to the General Directory of Lyon. The diploma is dated June 13, 1782 and is signed by the Grand Master Count Markos Harvouris. The Cephalonian by origin, famous physician and chemist of his time and first professor of chemistry in the chair he founded the University of Padua, presides over the Italian Lodges and we must mention his close relationship with General Melissinos who will establish the first purely Russian Masonic system who will rule for years in this great empire of the east. The reference is made to note the relationship but also the influence that Greek brothers have on European Masonic development, long before the existence of the modern Greek state.
After the proclamation of the independent state of the Ionian Islands, Count Dionysios Romas leads the Corfu Freemasonry. As he mentions, after 1806 the Beneficenza developed acting as a Mother Lodge creating Lodges on other islands as well – “Saint Napoleon” in 1809 and “Enosis” in Lefkada in 1810 – but also in Epirus and Thesprotia and having in Corfu an active Chapter for Scottish degrees.
In 1811 Romas visits Paris and sets the symbolic (blue) Lodges under the auspices of the Grand Orient of France and the Scottish Chapter under the auspices of the Mother Scottish Grand Lodge Saint Alexandre d’Ecosse et le Contrat Social reunis. And he achieves an important diplomatic victory by stating in his request that the name of the lodge Bienfaisance et Philogenie Reunies means friend of the Greek race and whether this is considered a political act to discuss it. The French Freemasons accept this completely by taking a position in the Greek claim 10 years before the start of the revolution.
Romas and the Corfu brothers now function as the Regional Grand Lodge of France, establishing Lodges among which in 1815 the “Phoenix Reborn” in Orient of Zakynthos where Theodoros Kolokotronis will be initiated.
In 1816 and after the Ionian Islands have come under the rule of the English, Romas motivates the brothers to establish an independent Greek national power, the Sérénissime Grand Orient de la Grèce/ Serene Grand Orient of Greece .
At the convention he urges the brethren to offer the title of Grand Master to the English Grand Master the Duke of Sussex, who accepts the request in 1823 and holds the post until his death in 1843.
In 1862 former members of the Astir Lodge together with English officers founded in Zakynthos the Symbolic Lodge “Star of the East” no. 880 which is the only Lodge in the Greek Territory that is still under the auspices of the United Grand Lodge of England.
The Serene Great Orient of Greece seems to have operated until 1857 where we have the last written documents and diplomas it issued before ceasing its operations.
We must mention that among the founders of the Filiki Eteria, were brother masons such as Emmanuel Xanthos, Alexandros and Nikolaos Ypsilantis and Ioannis Kapodistrias who were not only influenced by Masonic ideas, but also used Freemasonry during the preparation of the Greek revolution.
Finally, it should be noted that the French brothers had built Lodges in Marseilles that organized a network of volunteers and supplies to the rebelling Greeks. During the siege of the Acropolis, Philhellene brothers under Charles Fabvier broke the siege by transporting amunitions and remained to defend our “holy rock”! On January 2, 1827 and having the relevant permission from France, they met regularly as a Lodge under the name “Les Enfants Adoptifs de Sparte et d’Athènes / The Adoptive Children of Sparta and Athens “.
The birth of Greek Freemasonry
As we have already mentioned, the Grand Lodge of the Ionian Islands ceased to function in 1857. In 1861, three years before the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece, English soldiers stationed in Zakynthos founded the Star of the East Lodge 880. This Lodge is still functioning today under the auspices of the United Grand Lodge of England and was the first and only Lodge in Greece to operate the Emulation ritual for over 100 years.
At the same time, Masonic Lodges were established and operated in various cities of liberated Greece under the auspices of the then Grand Orient of Italy.
In 1863 they obtained semi-autonomy in the form of a Directory and in 1868, by Decree of the Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy, the Grand Orient of Greece (later the Grand Lodge of Greece) was founded. Nevertheless, they continue and operate with a Directorate presided over by Nikolaos Damascenes as Deputy Grand Master.
The Grand Council had failed to elect a Grand Master because of disagreements concerning the qualifications and the person who could assume the office.
In October 1869, Prince Dimitrios Rodokanakis, a descendant of an aristocratic family of Byzantium, who was highly regarded abroad and especially in Scotland – England, was nominated as Grand Master. Rodokanakis accepted the proposal and on October 18, 1869 he was initiated into the three symbolic degrees of Freemasonry by the Grand Master of Scotland in the Scottish Lodge of St. Andrew no. 48 of Edinburgh. On April 28, 1870, at a special session of the 33rd degree of the Supreme Council of Scotland, Dimitrios Rodokanakis was initiated into the 33rd degree and became a member of this Supreme Council in order to come to Greece and establish the Supreme Council of the 33rd degree. But the Franco-Prussian War prevented his arrival in Greece where Greek Freemasonry disintegrated almost completely. In September 1871, Dimitrios Rodokanakis arrived in Greece. In the following months he travels all over Greece where there were Lodges to smooth out the differences and revive them. On July 21, 1872, the General Assembly of the Great Orient of Greece convenes and the following day Dimitrios Rodokanakis is elected Grand Master.
On July 24, 1872 and based on the powers granted to him by the Supreme Council of the 33rd of Scotland, he establishes the Supreme Council of Greece of the 33rd degree and he himself takes over as the first Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Greece.
Subsequently, the function of the Grand Lodge of Greece which exercised exclusively the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite is uninterrupted with important offerings in the national and social struggles.
During the period of the German Occupation (1941 – 1944), the Grand Lodge suspended its function since Freemasonry was considered one of the main enemies of the Third Reich and most Freemasons, as happens throughout Europe, were sent to the crematoria.
Many Freemasons participated or organized resistance organizations such as “Phoenix” organized by the student of Spyridon Nagos, Ioannis Vasilis and members of Prometheus Lodge no. 37 and Nikos Karvounis who, among other things, wrote the lyrics of the famous anthem of the national resistance “St’ armata, st’ armata” (Olympus is thundering). After the liberation, the Greek Freemasons contributed with all their strength to the recovery of our homeland. Among other things, they founded the first night vocational secondary schools “Melis” and “Phoenix” which took their name from the Lodges of the same name and the pedagogy “The Theomitor”.
The Grand Master Alexandros Tzazopoulos together with George Katsafados founded and managed the “Hellenic Anti-Cancer Society”, the “Hospitality and Patient Care House” in Kato Kifissia, for cancer patients who came from the Province and then the Anti-Cancer Hospital “Agioi Anargyroi”. Alexandros Tzazopoulos left all his fortune to the “Home of Hospitality and Patient Care” and his house at the Patisia , where outpatient clinics of the Agioi Anargyri Oncology Hospital were created.
In this way Greek Freemasonry functioned until 1986 consistently and exclusively practicing the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Type and its tradition.
Recent history and major ruptures
In 1976 a group of Greek brothers were initiated to the York Rite, introducing it to our country. Many brothers immediately supported the first founders and the Rite developed with great success in the Megaron at 9 Eptahalkou Street, in Thisio where it had been installed.
Among the members they included among others, the members of the Council of the Grand Lodge of Greece and brothers who held the 33rd degree.
The harmonious cooperation developed so well that in October 1978 the Grand Lodge of Greece, the Supreme Council and the Grand Chapter of Greece signed “a letter of intent on the basis of common and mutual respect and cooperation”! The harmony did not last long and the contradictions peaked in 1985 when a circular declared the Order of York “irregular” forbidding Masters of Lodges from participating in it.
This action gave rise to the splits in Greek Freemasonry which led to the creation of different Grand Lodges and the introduction and practice of different Masonic Rites.
In May 1986, six Lodges signed a declaration disowning the Grand Lodge of Greece and then on June 7, 1986 they established a new Grand Lodge, the National Grand Lodge of Greece. The Inaugural Officer was Brother William R. J. Eve, Past Deputy Grand Master, member of Molesey Lodge, No. 2473” of the United Grand Lodge of England.
This new Grand Lodge decides after 100 years of uninterrupted and exclusive practice of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite the introduction and exclusive operation in all its Symbolic Lodges the English Emulation Rite.
The Grand Lodge of Greece, in order to maintain its relations with the United Grand Lodge of England, decides overnight to abandon the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite that was traditionally practiced in Greece for more than 150 years and renames the Grand Lodge of Greece of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite as Grand Lodge of Greece of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.
Reacting to these uncontrolled choices and developments, brothers declare in February 1988, their faith in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and the preservation of its Rituals and Traditions. They renounce the new reforms and methods and leave deciding to continue the operation of the Grand Lodge of Greece of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, thus continuing the tradition that has been practiced unbroken in Greece since 1868.
Subsequently, the Grand Lodge of Greece of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite joined and participates in the International Confederation of the United Grand Lodges of Europe (now, International Confederation of the United Grand Lodges of AASR), maintaining regular relations with Grand Lodges of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.
In December 2016, the three-year term of the previous Grand Council of the Grand Lodge of Greece came to an end. After nearly 40 years of quiescence, it was the expressed wish of both the outgoing Grand Master and the then Sovereign Grand Commander that the blood brother of the latter should definitely become Grand Master.
But the majority of Grand Lodge Council Officers, Lodges and electors demanded normal election procedures! The above did not respond to the Constitution and to the exhortations and requests of the brothers who pointed out the dangers of deviation from the regularity of the Scottish Rite. They did not convene the competent bodies and did not comply with the Constitution of the Grand Lodge and continued to hold office even though their term of office had expired.
After the constitutional time for announcing and carrying out the election procedures had passed (2/15/2017), the outgoing administration ordered the indefinite postponement of the elections and then, acting divisively, the deletion of the majority of the Lodges and their brothers, as they were not controlled.
Then the absolute majority of the elected Grand Officers, the administrations of the active Symbolic Lodges and the representatives who had the right to vote in the General Assembly, acting according to the Constitution and the masonic traditions, announced for the 17th of February 2017 a General Assembly and elections for the new administration of of the Grand Lodge, inviting all the beneficiaries to participate. In a last and entirely reprehensible attempt to prevent developments against the Constitution, the aforementioned leaders arbitrarily changed the lock of the Masonic Building so that the General Assembly would not take place. In vain, the regularly active brothers looked for a place, and friendly brothers of another Masonic Order provided them with everything necessary.Thus, after relevant information and a new invitation, the General Assembly was discussed on February 17, 2017. In this and the subsequent senior meetings, 86% of the active brothers were represented and the absolute majority of the Grand Officers and the administrations of the active Symbolic Lodges participated, thus making the result undeniable! The above-mentioned and up to then heads of the Order’s Bodies and and the small minority who followed them did not attend this Assembly, even though they were properly informed.
The new Council of the Grand Lodge of Greece of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, taking over, proclaimed the need to leave behind that which divided the great masonic brotherhood in recent decades and for the brothers to move forward into the future, inspired by the Ancient Traditions, the landmarks of Freemasonry and what unites us. The Grand Lodge began to implement the program decided by the Assembly, for “Development, Reorganization, Modernization, Sociability”, with respect to the spirituality and humanity of the traditional Scottish Rite, spontaneously reforming its title, emblems, seals and other distinguishing features off, to remove any confusion with the previous situation. At the same time, worked, with frequent trips, participating in international meetings and communications, for the expansion and deepening of relations with the other Masonic Obediences of the A.A.S.R., which had been neglected by the previous leadership, while cultivating new ones, always in a spirit of mutual respect and regularity . Furthermore did not fail to open channels of communication with the Masonic Obediences of the interior, which did not exist until then.
Since then, the Bodies of the Order of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Greece, both the Grand Lodge and the Workshops of the Supreme Council, have been operating uninterruptedly according to the Rite and their respective statutes, having restored absolute regularity in everything of their operation at all levels and increasing the number of their Workshops, members and Temples.
The two Corps of the Order were initially accommodated in masonry buildings provided by friendly obediences. Since June 2017, however, it has been acquired through the recreated legal structure of our entity, our own building, in the centre of Athens, which was inaugurated with the presence of numerous delegations and brothers from the Greek masonic obediences on October 15, 2017.
In November 2018, following a decision of its Council of Grand Officers, in a meeting of our leadership with a committee of the International Confederation of the United Grand Lodges, it was decided to rename the current Grand Lodge to the United Grand Lodge of Greece of the A.A.S. R. .This is how is made clear and proclaimed our strong will for the union of all Greek brothers who wish to practice A.A.S.R. and to preserve its tradition and history, which has been one and inseparable in our country since the foundation of Freemasonry until the mid-80s.
On December 14, 2018 the Federal Council (Conseil Fédéral) of the Grand Lodge of France, which is the Mother Grand Lodge of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, in a secret vote unanimously decided to issue a Charter (Patente) of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite to the United Grand Lodge of Greece of A.A.S.R.. A Charter of official relations and operation which for the first time is issued to a Greek Grand Lodge.!
These were announced together with the account of what was done and what was planned for the new year at the regular annual General Assembly of the Grand Lodge in February 2019 and were unanimously accepted and approved.
On March 17, 2019, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of France Most Respectable Brother Pierre Marie Adam, accompanied by his Grand Officers, in a special ceremony held at our Masonic Building in Athens and in the presence of Grand Masters of friendly masonic obediences, established the new relation of absolute regularity in the international area of A.A.S.R. with our Grand Lodge and the Greek brothers of A.A.S.R.. An event that has also never happened before in our Homeland, foreshadowing the auspicious future of the evolution of the current Order in particular and of Greek Freemasonry in general.