Freemasonry in Malta

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Freemasonry in Malta has a lengthy history dating from the eighteenth century. The main masonic influences (and external supervision) have been from the United Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Scotland, the Grand Lodge of Ireland, and a now extinct French Grand Lodge. Today regular Freemasonry in the country is under the sovereign jurisdiction of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta, formed in 2004. An irregular break-away group styled the Grand Lodge of Malta is unrecognised by other masonic authorities (see below).

The early years (1730-1800)[edit]

First lodge and early influences[edit]

Freemasonry in Malta began in 1730 when "Parfait Harmonie", the first warranted lodge, was formed under the Marseilles (France) masonic jurisdiction. By 1741, freemasonry was established firmly in Malta.

Many knights of the Order of St. John, and some of the Maltese nobility, were freemasons. Grand Master E. Pinto de Fonseca (Grand Master in 1756) was a freemason,[1] and others (including Grand Master De Rohan (1775 to 1797) are reported also to have been freemasons, and influential in the spread of freemasonry in Malta. The first Masonic lodges operated in Malta under French warrants generally obtained from Marseilles, but under the guidance of Count von Kollowrat, the Scottish Lodge of St. John of Marseilles petitioned the Grand Lodge of the Moderns in England to obtain an English warrant on the 30th June, 1788. This lodge noted in its petition that the most important members of the Order of St. John ranked amongst its membership. The lodge obtained an English warrant as the Lodge of St. John of Secrecy and Harmony. This lodge ceased to function sometime before 1813.

The French period[edit]

After the 1798 – 1800 French occupation of Malta, many French soldiers were incarcerated as prisoners of war. In 1811, they established a Masonic lodge named Les Amis en Captivite under a warrant from Marseilles. In that same year, the lodge was attacked by rioters, following exhortations from priests that the freemasons were responsible for the prevailing drought and disease stricken horses.

Following repatriation of the bulk of prisoners between April and August 1814, the lodge members were essentially non-French. On the 6 October 1819, the lodge obtained a warrant from United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). The lodge was permitted to work in Italian. In 1820, the English Governor on the island, Maitland, suspended the lodge by reason of infiltration by the carbonari, an Italian secret society which purported to subvert Italian states. It nevertheless appears on the official list of UGLE up to 1824.

Some maintain that Napoleon Bonaparte was initiated into freemasonry in Malta in 1798 in a French Regimental Lodge, probably Army Philadelphe Lodge. Others hold the view that he was initiated in Egypt. A third view is that he was not a freemason.

The English period (1800-1964)[edit]

Early in 1815, a petition for the creation of the Lodge of St. John and St. Paul was submitted to United Grand Lodge of England. The lodge’s warrant was signed by the Grand Master, the Duke of Sussex, on the 27 November 1815.[2] This lodge is the oldest English lodge that still meets on the island.

By 1890, there were five lodges under English jurisdiction, with a total of 409 masons. English lodges in Malta were organised into a District Grand Lodge in 1849. By 1900, the number of lodges was increased to seven lodges with a total of 584 members, and by 1919 there were 1484 freemasons.

Freemasonry since independence (1964-present)[edit]

English Constitution[edit]

On 21 September 1964, Malta gained independence. Following the withdrawal of British forces from the island, and the shut down of the British base on 31 March 1979, the United Grand Lodge of England saw no justification in continuing the Malta District as most of the members had returned to the United Kingdom. As a result, all the English lodges were relocated to the UK, with the exception of two: one lodge had to hand over its warrant, and the Lodge of St. John and St. Paul No 349 (EC) still meets in Malta. In 1984, the English District Grand Lodge of Malta, having been relocated to the UK, was dissolved.[2] After the dissolution, UGLE appointed a "Grand Inspector for Malta". A further two English lodges were subsequently consecrated, taking the total to three, but one of these joined in the formation of the new Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta in 2004. In 2005 a new Grand Inspector for the Group of two remaining English Lodges meeting in Malta was appointed. These are Lodge of St John & St Paul No 349 and De Rohan Installed Masters Lodge No 9670.

Irish Constitution[edit]

The Irish (IC) and Scottish (SC) Constitutions are known in English Freemasonry as the Sister Constitutions (sisters to the English). During the colonial period, there were two Irish warranted Lodges in Malta: the Leinster Lodge No 387 founded in 1851, and the Abercorn Lodge No 273 founded in 1899. The Grand Lodge of Ireland subsequently warranted two other lodges: the Fenici Lodge No 906 in 1991, and Hospitalliers Lodge No 931 in 2004. All four of these Irish lodges became founding members of the new Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta, so there are no Irish lodges remaining in the country today.

Scottish Constitution[edit]

There is one lodge in Malta under the Scottish Constitution; it is the Lodge of St. Andrew No 966, which was founded in 1904. It reports directly to the Grand Lodge of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta (SGLoM)[edit]

Given the celebrations of 40 years of Maltese independence, the 25 years of the closure of the British Base in Malta, and the anticipated admission of Malta into the European Union, the three Lodges of the Irish Constitution met on 5 September 2003 and resolved to form themselves into a Sovereign Grand Lodge. This historic move was supported by one of the English lodges on the island, Count Roger of Normandy Lodge No 9285 (EC), and at a special meeting held on 30 June 2004 the lodge resolved to participate in the formation of a Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta. A fourth Irish Constitution lodge also decided to participate.

Following these events, the Grand Lodge of Ireland, in consultation with the United Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Lodge of Scotland, acceded to the petition of the five lodges. On 18 November 2004, with the Grand Master of Ireland presiding, these five lodges were instituted and consecrated by the Grand Lodge of Ireland into The Sovereign Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Malta (SGLoM).[3]

The effect of having a Grand Lodge is that SGLoM has become the sovereign Masonic body for the Maltese islands, having inherent power and authority to form a Constitution as its fundamental law, and subject only to the Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry to enact laws for its own government and that of its subordinate Lodges. Lodges of other constitutions may continue to meet in Malta, but new lodges may be founded only by the SGLoM. For months, the representatives of the five founding lodges met and drafted a Book of Constitution which was adopted at the constituting Grand Lodge Meeting on the 18 November 2004.

The first Grand Master of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta is M.W. Bro. Joseph Cordina. In April 2005, a research lodge was conscrated named Ars Discendi (Art of Learning), and in November 2005 the lodge Flos Mundi (Flower of the World) was consecrated. This latter lodge is intended to attract Maltese and Italian brethren and works in the Italian language. A further new lodge was founded in 2010, named White Sea Lodge,.[4] In April 2011 the lodge Mare Nostrum was consecrated taking the number of subordinate lodges to nine.

Type of Freemasonry[edit]

The Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta follows the English and Commonwealth pattern of Freemasonry (as opposed to the alternative Scottish Rite, York Rite, and Swedish Rite styles). This means that Malta recognises the three degrees of Craft Freemasonry (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason), plus the Order of Royal Arch Freemasonry, as collectively forming the whole of "pure ancient Freemasonry". As in England, Royal Arch Chapters may be formed in Malta (with the consent of the Grand Master) and each such Chapter must be attached to a warranted Lodge, and bear the same name and number as that lodge.[5]

The Grand Lodge of Malta (irregular)[edit]

In 2009 a group of members of the SGLoM broke away to form their own rival Grand Lodge of Malta; those involved were all members of three of the original founding lodges of Irish descent. One of their chief concerns was to establish a masonic Supreme Council to have jurisdiction over the Grand Lodge - a practice which is considered irregular by the majority of the world's established Grand Lodges, including the 'home constitutions', or Grand Lodges of England, Ireland, and Scotland. This break-away organisation has not been recognised by other masonic authorities, and its members have been officially expelled from mainstream, regular Freemasonry. One of its leaders, Dr David Gatt (Grand Chancellor of the break-away organisation) has subsequently been arrested by Maltese police and charged with a range of serious organised crime offences.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Read the website of the Masonic Hall Company of Malta.
  2. ^ a b "Freemasonry Universal website". Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  3. ^ See page 4 of this newsletter published by the Grand Lodge of Ireland.
  4. ^ See official list of lodges of Malta.
  5. ^ These regulations are stated here in the Book of Constitutions of the SGLoM.
  6. ^ See the case reports of the Malta Today newspaper.

External links[edit]

Official website