Posted by: mdmusingsie | September 6, 2015

Freemason Grand Lodge Dublin

Heritage Week is usually one of my favorite weeks of the year, but his year the offerings in Dublin were somewhat disappointing. It seemed as if an inordinate amount of events were held at Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Missing this year were talks by the Royal Society of Antiquarians which has provided some of the highlights of my previous years’ Heritage Week. So this year I only took in one event.

The Freemason’s Grand Lodge in Dublin is a popular attraction when they have their tours, especially around Heritage Week and Culture Night, though they do offer tours during the summer as well.

You may have heard of the Freemasons before, but Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code book and movie seemed to put them square in the center (pardon the pun) of mystery and intrigue. Any organization that has ‘members only’ rituals and rites will generate a certain amount of speculation along with a dose of fantasy. The gentleman who conducted the tour held no animosity towards Mr. Brown; in fact he was quite thrilled with what he called ‘free publicity.’

Although masonic guilds go back much farther, the Freemasons weren’t established until the mid-1700’s in London and Dublin. Many people might associate the Freemasons with the Knights Templar, and there actually is a Knights Templar Order within Freemasonry but that’s as far as the link goes.

Jewels for Irish mason

Jewels for Irish mason

Typical mason toolkit

Typical mason toolkit

Possibly another common misconception which may have arisen from the association with the Knights Templar is that Freemason’s are a religious organization. They do require that members believe in a Supreme Being, which could be the Christian/Jewish God, Allah, Mohammad, the Mother Goddess, or for all I know, the Supreme Being from The Fifth Element movie. Beyond that, religion and politics are prohibited from being discussed at Freemason gatherings.

Women were actually allowed to enter the organization until the 1800’s when a few misogynists changed the rules. From what our guide said, there are women masons today but they aren’t officially recognized (with his abundant sense of humor he also said the women mason’s don’t officially recognize the men, either). In addition, he mentioned that the wives, paramours, partners, girlfriends of masons know more than any non-masons and wouldn’t be interested in attending, anyway. That one I take with a grain of salt – though again, mystery is alluring and reality can be disappointing.

The building I toured is the Grand Lodge, but there are around 850 lodges in Ireland supporting over 20,000 members (35,000 worldwide members of the Irish order). The main hall is where the general meetings are held. The Grand Master presides over the lodge for a period of only 1 year – that keeps anyone from becoming corrupted by power.

Organ in Main Hall

Organ in Main Hall

Grand Master Chair

Grand Master Chair

Candlesticks - Moon, Sun, and Grand Master

Candlesticks – Moon, Sun, and Grand Master

Main Hall

Main Hall

Ceiling in Main Hall

Ceiling in Main Hall

Within the masons there are a number of factions within Freemasonry. This includes the Knights Templar Order and the Prince Masons. Although Freemasonry is non-denominational, to become a member of the Knights Templar Order you must be a Christian. Despite being a member of both, the guide referred to the Prince Masons as ‘a bunch of men who thought they were better than everyone.’ I really admire people who can laugh at themselves. Each had their own separate meeting room and there was an Egyptian themed room used for initiations.

Egyptian room

Egyptian room

Flags in Egyptian room

Flags in Egyptian room

Egyptian room door

Egyptian room door

Egyptian room (sorry for the blur, but you get the gist)

Egyptian room (sorry for the blur, but you get the gist)

Corbel detail in Knights Templar room

Corbel detail in Knights Templar room

Stained glass in Knights Templar room (skull and cross-bones!)

Stained glass in Knights Templar room (skull and cross-bones!)

Yes, they actually still dress like that for ceremonies (Knights Templar)

Yes, they actually still dress like that for ceremonies (Knights Templar)

Knight's Templar hall

Knight’s Templar hall

Knight's Templar hall chair - commissioned by then Prince of Wales

Knight’s Templar hall chair – commissioned by then Prince of Wales

Chairs - Knights Templar hall

Chairs – Knights Templar hall

Prince Mason hall

Prince Mason hall

Swan wounding itself - 3 drops of blood - Prince Mason's hall

Swan wounding itself – 3 drops of blood – Prince Mason’s hall

Prince Mason's Hall

Prince Mason’s Hall

Prince Mason

Prince Mason

Prince Mason's Hall

Prince Mason’s Hall

Another interesting tidbit that was mentioned was that the Orange Order in Northern Ireland is supposed to have been created as a splinter group from Freemasonry.

Ritual, ceremony, initiations, jewels or badges, the more I heard the more I thought that the Freemason’s were the equivalent of Boy Scouts for men.

Not that it’s all fun and games. They founded the first school for girls in Dublin even before founding a school for boys. Bewley’s Hotel in Ballsbridge was once the Freemason’s girls’ school. Primarily established to care for orphans of masons, they welcomed children of non-masons as well. Instead of having their own schools, which required children to leave their community and support network to attend school, they now just sponsor children who need assistance attending school.

Taking care of widows and the elderly are also a large part of their charitable endeavors and they even invest in medical research. Philanthropy seems to be a large part of their purpose. Our guide mentioned that some members want to publicize that fact, while others, like himself, prefer to remain behind the scenes. Maybe the relative anonymity adds to the mystery of Freemasonry.

Informative and entertaining, I would definitely recommend taking the tour of the Freemason Grand Lodge in Dublin if you ever get a chance. The building has lots of architectural appeal both inside and out including these beautiful stained glass windows representing Faith, Hope, Charity and Patience.

Hope Window

Hope Window

Charity Window

Charity Window

Patience Window

Patience Window

Faith Window

Faith Window

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