The History of Freemasonry
Almost every Freemason learns sooner or later, that the first Grand Lodge in the world is founded on the feast of St. John the Baptist, on the 24th of June, 1717, in the Goose and Gridion, St.Paul’s churchyard in London, when the representatives of four existing Lodges came together.
It is a fact, that all other Grand Lodges in the world accept, that the Grand Lodge of England is the most senior in years, and from that derives all rights, that come with this.
The Lodges, who became part of this formation. And all other Lodges, who existed in that time, must therefore have given themselves charters somehow, they must have given themselves a constitution, because there was simply no Grand Lodge who could have given charters to them. Later, but still in the same century, the Grand Lodge of York claimed, that they were in any case at least fifty years before 1717 a Grand Lodge then the United Grand Lodge of England.
Before I continue here, we need the definition of a Grand Lodge. These days, a Grand Lodge needs to be a independent, sovereign body, which is not obedient towards any other Masonic body. This demand excludes therefore every Provincial Grand Lodge and also all other Lodges who work under the charter of a different Grand East.
A Grand Lodge, which never has given out any charters, will, even if she fulfills all other demands, be only a 'nominal' Grand Lodge, one in name only, if it is a Grand Lodge at all.
All English, and Scottish Lodges, except one, who existed before 1717, would pass the test of independency, but they gave out no charters, and were therefore not Grand Lodges.
After the Grand Lodge of 1717 gave out a book of constitutions in 1723, the existence of such rules has become more and more a demand for the establishment of a rightful Grand Lodge. But, this demand is merely a invention of the UGLE as we can see.
One of the Lodges, who existed from before 1717, was the one who is now at the head on the roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and carries number 0 (number zero). This Lodge, Mother Kilwinning, is one of which the constitution dates from "befor 1598."
The Lodge Kilwinning was self-constituted, very independent, and did not need to pay any obedience to whatever superior body before 1736, when the Grand Lodge of Scotland was constituted. The history of Kilwinning is a extraordinary one, and after you have finished reading, you can see easily, that Mother Kilwinning was the first Grand Lodge on earth, even when we go by the definitions of a Grand Lodge, as given by the UGLE.
The date mostly given, when the Abbey of Kilwinning is mentioned, is 1140. About that period, the Pope created corporations or brotherhoods of masons, and gave them special privileges and immunities, with the goal to send Italian artists, who were famous for church building, abroad, to erect churches in other countries. A company of these foreign masons seem to have come to Kilwinning, in order to build the Abbey of Kilwinning, and they have erected the first regular constituted Lodge of Scotland.
The Lodges were held in the Chapterhouse, a room measuring 38 by 19 feet, which lay at the eastside of the Abbey. On the broken walls and crumpled bows of the Abbey, one can still see some very nice Masonic marks.
When the Abbey was being built, inhabitants of the city of Kilwinning were hired to help with the project, because there were only a few other masons available at that time. To gain the trust and the help of the population, to create interest in the construction of an enormous large religious building like the Abbey, the population of Kilwinning was paid largely with privileges. They were allowed to learn the secret of the trade of the mason-monks, and they were given, by the Pope himself, the right to call themselves Freemasons, wherever they went.
And so, the ancient and worthy Lodge Mother Kilwinning is established in the Chapterhouse, where, according to the stories, the first Masonic meeting was held, and the recruits from the population of Kilwinning were initiated in the vital secrets of the Ancient Free and Accepted Scottish Rite.
Kilwinning created the Lodges Scoon and Bertha (now Scone and Perth) in about the year 1193, as we can see from a charter, which is now in the archives of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Little else is known about the early history of Mother Kilwinning, because all the early records are lost.
Tradition tells us that the records of the Lodge were taken by the monks to France, after the fall of Catholicism in Scotland. It is, however, reasonable to accept that with the destruction of the Abbey the records are also gone.
After the Grand Lodges of Kilwinning and York had been established (the jurisdiction and infinity of the Grand Lodge of York has been long since accepted throughout Freemasonry) Freemasonry grew quickly in both kingdoms, and various Lodges were erected in various parts of the island.
Scottish Freemasonry had as her Grandmaster always their king. He, if he wasn't a Freemason himself, appointed one of the brethren, to act as his deputy at meetings, and to see to it that all affairs concerning Freemasonry was done according the rules. James I (1406-37) was Royal Grand Master till he arranged a yearly income of four Scottish pounds, to be paid by each Master mason in Scotland to a Grandmaster, who was elected by the Brethren, and approved of by the crown.
James II (1437-60) was also a Freemason, but gave the job of Grandmaster to William St. Clair, the builder of Roslyn Chapel, Earl of Orkney and Caithness, and to his heirs. The Roslyn family stood without interruption at the head of Freemasonry in Scotland, till 1736, when William St.Clair, the last heir from the direct male line, gave back the title to the Scottish Lodges.
The ancient mother Lodge possesses other Masonic degrees, then the Johaniter, or blue degrees. Laurie, for instance, writes in his book, History of Freemasonry, that the Knight Templars of Scotland, when their order was persecuted, fled to Robert de Bruce. Robert de Bruce created the Masonic order Heredum de Kilwinning after the battle of Bannockburn (1314), and claimed for himself, and his successors, the title of Grandmaster. The last Stuart still believed that he had that right, and gave charters to Lodges on the continent. This "Royal Order" is still in high esteem in France, where it was created with a charter from Scotland, and even by the Pretender himself.
The creation of this branch of Freemasonry on the continent is remembered by a medal, which is made in Paris, and which, amongst others, carries the Arms of Scotland. The brothers of the Lodge in Arras still have an original charter of the Order, handed to them in 1747, by Charles Edward Stuart, and signed by this unfortunate prince himself, as a representative of the Scottish kings.
The oldest records now in possession of the Lodge are from December 20, 1642, however a document, found in Englington Castle with the title "the statues and ordinances to be observant be all the masters maissonis within his realme, sett doune by William Shaw, maister of Wark to his Maiestie and General Wardene of the said Craft, with concent ot the Maiesteris efter Specifeit" that goes about the Lodge Kilwinning, is from 1598.
In 1736, St. Clair of Roslyn, grandmaster of Scotland, called a meeting of 32 Lodges in and around Edinburgh, and gave all rights, and other titles, that he or his heirs had, back as Grandmaster of the Freemasons of Scotland. Thus the Grand Lodge of Scotland (GLoS) was created at November 30, 1738.
Mother Kilwinning was represented by proxy, and from her midst the first officers of the Grand Lodge were chosen, and she stayed there for several years, until the brothers wanted to number the Lodges, according to their infinity. The point of infinity was naturally claimed by Kilwinning, but was contradicted by the Lodge St. Mary’s Chapel in Roslyn, who claimed to have older written records than Mother Kilwinning. That is how St. Mary's Chapel became No. 1, and Mother Kilwinning No. 2. This verdict was of course very much against the representatives of Kilwinning, and therefore, Kilwinning left the Grand Lodge in 1743, regained her independent status, and started to give out charters again. These daughter Lodges did not stay restricted to Scotland, because Lodges were created, from Kilwinning, in Ireland, US, Antigua, and the Caribbean's.
We can see that the Lodge Mother Kilwinning gave out at least 12 charters to Lodges, before the forming of the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1736, which she later joined again. It is also clear that at least two of those Lodges had been erected in 1678, nearly 40 years before the meeting in the Goose and Gridion in London. We can state safely, even with the rules of the UGLE, that Mother Kilwinning was the first Grand Lodge who worked as a Grand Lodge in the world. Perhaps we can even go a bit further.
The present Grand Lodge of England is, as I already stated here before, not the same as the original one from 1717. The present UGLE was created in 1813, when the original Grand Lodge, and York, finally decided to work together, and the now well known UGLE appeared. It is usual under the English constitution that when two Lodges, or Grand Lodges, merge together the most ancient Grand Lodge gets priority qua status.
If we continue this line of argumentation to Mother Kilwinning, who finally joined the GLoS again in 1818, it is logical to justify the infinity of Kilwinning as a Grand Lodge, when she joined the GLoS. And this, brothers and sisters, would give a date at least from 1195 for the oldest Grand Lodge in the world... Mother Kilwinning.
So mote it be.
This article is reprinted from EsotericFreemasons.com, who in turn reprinted it from a printed source produced by the Mother Lodge of All Freemasonry, Lodge Kilwinning Number 0, in Scotland.
Freemasonry | Masons | Esoteric Freemasons | Grand Lodge of England | Grand Lodge of Scotland | Lodge Kilwinning | History of Freemasonry | Scotland