THE CRAFT HISTORY
The first Masonic trade organisation of ‘operative’ Masons (when Masons earned their living with hammer and chisel) was in 1356 as a guild. Guilds at the time were not lodges, but the Masons who were engaged on really big projects (such as castles, abbeys, churches) formed themselves into Lodges so that they had some form of self-government.
Perhaps it can be said that the operative stonemason is a man who constructs edifices of material substances, whereas the speculative Freemason is involved in philosophical considerations associated with the creation of a spiritual building – a temple within himself which will provide the necessary guidance in every action of his life.
The History of Freemasonry studies the development, evolution and events of the fraternal organization known as Freemasonry. This history is generally separated into two time periods: before and after the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717.
Before this time, the facts and origins of Freemasonry are not absolutely known and are therefore frequently explained by theories or legends. One such thought is that Freemasonry can be traced back to King Solomon, the ancient pyramids of Egypt, or some ancient mystery or rite.
The first Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of England (GLE), was founded in 1717, when four existing London Lodges met for a joint dinner. This rapidly expanded into a regulatory body, which almost all English Lodges joined. From the 1750s onwards, two competing English Grand Lodges vied for supremacy – the “Moderns” (GLE) and the “Ancients” (or “Antients”). They finally united in 1813 to form the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). On the left is a recent photo of the UGLE.
After the formation of the Grand Lodge of England, the history of Freemasonry is well-documented and can be traced through the creation of hundreds of Grand Lodges that spread rapidly worldwide.
Although there are no real differences in the Freemasonry practiced by one or the other, the remnants of this division can still be seen in the names of most Lodges: F.& A.M. being Free and Accepted Masons vs. A.F.& A.M. being Antient Free and Accepted Masons.
The oldest jurisdiction on the continent of Europe, the Grand Orient de France (GOdF), was founded in 1728. Most English-speaking jurisdictions cut formal relations with the GOdF, however, around 1877. The Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF) is currently the only French Grand Lodge that is in regular amity with the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) and its many concordant jurisdictions worldwide.
In most Latin countries, the GOdF style of European Continental Freemasonry predominates, although in most of these Latin countries there are also Grand Lodges that are in regular amity with the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) and the worldwide community of Grand Lodges that share regular “fraternal relations” with the UGLE.
The rest of the world, accounting for the bulk of Freemasonry, tends to follow more closely to the UGLE style, although minor variations exist.
In 1738 the first Masonic lodge in Canada was instituted at Annapolis, Nova Scotia.