Worshipful Master, Edmond Nicolau Lodge No.257, Bucharest
A fine tradition of the “Edmond Nicolau” Lodge is to organize every year a Masonic journey outside the country, an opportunity to share Masonic experiences with our Brethren in other Grand Lodge. Continuing the tradition, in the month of February of this year, the Brethren of the “Edmond Nicolau” Lodge, together with their families, went visiting in Scotland by way of their tight connection to the WM Alan Turton and at the invitation of the Lodge Hope of Kurrachee no. 337 from Rosyth. Thus was born a fine tale about the discovery of Scottish Freemasonry, with its specifics and its beauties.
Everything began in the ancient city of Edinburgh, or “Auld Toun”, as it is called by the Scotsmen, the oldest part of the town in which we were lodged. Crossed by the “Royal Mile” from up by the Edinburgh Castle all the way down to the Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the British monarchs, this entire medieval area, which is a labyrinth of tangled streets and narrow alleys, is dominated by the imposing St. Giles Cathedral. Why Saint Egidius (St. Giles), a saint who lived for a long time in Provence and Septimania, should be the spiritual patron of Edinburgh represents only one of the many mysteries and legends that connect Scotland to the south of France. And seeing as how we’re talking about legends, in the castle can be seen the Crown Jewels of Scotland and also the Stone of Scone, The Stone of Destiny, or the stone that made Kings. Used for hundreds of years in the coronations of the monarchs of Scotland and then later for that of the monarchs of the United Kingdom, the Stone of Scone makes a direct reference to the stone used as a pillow by the Patriarch Jacob, as described in the book of Genesis. The Patriarch Jacob had a vision in his sleep and later consecrated this stone to God. There are certain opinions that say that the Stone of Scone not only makes a reference, but actually is the stone of the Patriarch Jacob.
Another thing, at least as interesting, learned from our Scottish Brethren, after leaving the castle and subsequent to the discussions on the guild of stone workers, is the fact that the construction of the White House in Washington in 1793 used stone architects and free masons recruited from Edinburgh (the true capital of Freemasonry in those times) who were helped by slaves loaned from their masters in the USA. And in this way, everything begins to take on a continuity: the symbol of power of a country constituted by the Freemasons on Masonic principles was built by Scottish masons.
THE GRAND LODGE OF SCOTLAND
The Grand Lodge of Scotland, founded already in 1736, is headquartered a few streets farther, at 96 George Street, where we had the pleasant surprise to be expected and welcomed by the Provincial Grand Master of Fife & Kinross himself, Br. Rev. Andrew E. Paterson. With Br. Andrew we were to meet once more, a few days afterwards, at a memorable Masonic Meeting in which we all participated, in Rosyth. In the headquarters of the Grand Lodge, we were going to find, aside from the Hall of The Temple, a very interesting Masonic museum. The museum is also hosting one of the oldest Masonic documents in the world, that is to say, the architectural sketch of a Sitting from January 1599 of the Aitcheson’s Haven Lodge, but also the famous work “‚Inauguration of Robert Burns as Poet Laureate of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning, No.2, 1st March 1787”, jewels, ceramics, clocks and many other Masonic artifacts. One very interesting thing which we found out was the fact that although Burns appears in the painting wearing the insignia of the Worshipful Master, he never actually occupied that office. The habit of the eighteenth century was to name the officers and local personalities as “Master of a Lodge”, although they most of the time did not participate in the Sittings. There have also been cases in which such personalities were named “Master of a Lodge” without even having been Freemasons! Obviously, this thing was done in the desire to attract them toward Freemasonry. Even though some of them were eventually initiated, they could not participate in a regular way in the Sittings and for that reason there existed in the Lodge a “helper” called Deputy who fulfilled the function of a Worshipful Master even though he was not effectively a Worshipful Master. This was also the case of Robert Burns.
The Hall of The Temple was one without Masonic insignia, being a hall that could be rented for various other profane events. what was truly impressive about this hall was the “Brindley & Foster” organ, which was specially built for the Temple of the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1912. This was reconditioned on the occasion of the 275th anniversary of the Grand Lodge (which coincided with 100th anniversary of the Freemasons’ Hall) and which in our days is heard in the same way as when it was originally built.
Another thing which I found to be special and which I found out from our Scottish guide is the fact that manyof the Masonic lodges which existed a long time before the apparition of the Grand Lodge of Scotland have fiercely maintained and still maintain even in our days their traditions, their own internal rules and procedures, regalia and rituals, which they have been practicing for hundreds of years.
THE ROSSLYN CHAPEL
The Rosslyn Chapel, built 150 years after the dissolution of the Order of The Knights of The Temple, which is even in our days full of controversial symbols, some of them considered to be Templar, others Masonic, but above all it is an architectural masterpiece of Scotland. The chapel was founded by William Sinclair in 1456 and is surrounded by numerous legends. It is said that a master bricklayer, who was supposed to make a column as William Sinclair wanted it, went to see with his own eyes the original column which had served as source of inspiration for what the founder desired. Meanwhile, one of his apprentices managed to build that column by himself, making something even more beautiful than the original. Crazed by envy upon seeing his apprentice’s success, the master struck him with a hammer right in the forehead and killed him. The legend says that the master’s punishment (a human face sculpted on one of the walls of the chapel) is to be forced ever since to gaze upon the column of his apprentice. Although he is a legend, we cannot but admit certain similarities with the ritual of a certain degree. Also in the chapel can be found the column of the master, according to legend this is the column that the master had made before going away on his journey.
There are many places where Masonic symbolism is found in the Roslyn chapel. In one of the engravings within the chapel, a blindfolded man is portrayed, who is guided to walk forward with the help of a rope tied around his neck – similar to the way in which a candidate is prepared for initiation into Freemasonry. Many of the Masonic elements in the chapel are suspected to have been introduced, however, much later, when, in 1860, James Sinclair charged the architect David Bryce of Edinburgh, a renowned freemason, to take over the restoration works on the chapel, including many of the engravings.
Another strong argument in favor of the existence of Masonic symbols within the chapel is also that a long time afterward, another William Sinclair of Rosslyn was to become the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, just like many other members of that family held the office of Grand Master in subsequent years. And seeing as how the Sinclair family are descended from Norman knights from the North of France who had strong connections to the Order of The Knights of The Temple, the connection was created, whether or not it is real, according to which freemasons represent a direct descent from the Templars.
But within the chapel are not only Masonic or Templar symbols. There is the Green Man – there are engravings which represent human faces surrounded by greenery (plants), sometimes even coming out of their mouths. These represent symbols of pre-Christian origin, of renewal and fertility, symbols which are found in almost all places in the chapel (it is said that there are more than 100 such green men in the Rosslyn Chapel). Surrounding them are stylized engravings of the many plants that were unknown in the Europe of those days, which then gave rise to the theory that Henry I Sinclair had traveled to America before Columbus.
Also in the chapel, not far from the column of the apprentice, we can find the famous inscription Forte est vinum fortior est rex fortiores sunt mulieres super omnia vincit veritas – Wine is strong, stronger is the king, stronger are the women, above all conquers truth. Symmetrically, near the columns of the Master, we find engraved the seven virtues of monastic life: abstinence, temperance, charity, industry, patience, goodness and humility. Near the seven virtues is seen the Veil of Veronica, the veil which, according to legend, the face of Jesus Christ is imprinted, from when St. Veronica met the Savior on the way to Golgotha.
THE COMMON MASONIC MEETINGS
The meetings with our Brethren in the Grand Lodge of Scotland could not be missing from this journey. Edmond Nicolau Lodge participated in three common Masonic meeting with Scottish Lodges. The first of them we had with Abbotsford Lodge No. 937, on which occasion our Scottish Brethren made a superb demonstration of the ritual of passing to the fellowcraft degree in the their version. This gave us the opportunity to observe the differences between our ritual, practiced in Romania, and the particularities of their ritual that has remained almost unchanged for several hundred years. Thereafter, it was the turn of the Romanians to make a demonstration of a ritual practiced in the NGLR. On account of its beauty, we picked the ritual of initiation which we practiced and which the Edmond Nicolau Lodge exemplified within the common meeting we had with Lodge Hope of Kurrachee No. 337 from Rosyth. This demonstration and exemplification was also attended, to our surprise and pleasure, by the Provincial Grand Master, Br. Rev. Andrew E. Paterson. This demonstration was very well received. It stirred many discussions and questions at the brotherly dinner we had after the meeting. WM Alan Turton, managed to transform that meeting into a veritable communion through masonry, a brotherly bridge created between the two lodges at a cultural level, at a human level and, not least, at a spiritual level. In our next masonic meeting, the one we had together with The Scots Dragoon Guards No. 1338 Lodge, it was our Scottish Brethren’s turn to make a demonstration for us of the first degree, in a superb interpretation, full of specific elements.
But we did not merely have common ritual meetings, but also fraternal agapa together with our Scottish brethren, but also with our ladies, one of which is especially memorable. The Brethren of the Elgin and Bruce Lodge offered us a typically Scottish evening: Scottish dances, in traditional costumes, the tale of the Haggis, poetry and song together with these wonderful people. But what mattered the most that evening was the location: Masonic Hall Kings Cellar, which is situated right under the temple of the Elgin and Bruce no. 1077 Lodge, housed in a building full of history. Visiting the temple above, we had the opportunity to see what an old Temple truly is, as the chairs of the Senior and Junior Wardens were more than 200 years old.
This was a fine Scottish tale, lived this winter by the Brethren of the Edmond Nicolau Lodge no. 257 from the Bucharest Orient, a tale full of masonry, history, brotherhood and culture. A tale from a region where Freemasonry has deep roots, where we find some of the oldest Masonic lodges in the world. A tale in which we met wonderful Brethren, men of a high poise who serve masonry and who perpetuate a tradition several centuries old. This was the Scottish tale of the Edmond Nicolau Lodge.