Red Cross of Constantine

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The breast jewels (medals) worn by members of the English jurisdiction of the Order.

The Red Cross of Constantine, or more formally the Masonic and Military Order of the Red Cross of Constantine and the Appendant Orders of the Holy Sepulchre and of St John the Evangelist, is a Christian fraternal order of Freemasonry. Candidates for the order must already be members of Craft Freemasonry (lodge) and Royal Arch Freemasonry (chapter); they must also be members of the Christian religion, and ready to proclaim their belief in the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity.[1]

The Masonic and Military Order of the Red Cross of Constantine is a three-degree Order of masonry, and with its "Appendant Orders" a total of five degrees are conferred within this system. Installation as a “Knight of the Red Cross of Constantine” is admission to the Order’s first degree. There are two more degrees which follow, and also the two other distinct Orders of Masonry (both Christian in character) which are under the control of each national (or regional) Grand Imperial Conclave of the Order.

The Order of the Red Cross of Constantine[edit]

The Cross fleury with IHSV, symbol of the Order of the Red Cross of Constantine.

First Degree – Knight-Mason[edit]

On admission to the Order a member becomes a Knight-Mason, or a Knight of the Red Cross of Constantine. This ceremony is known as installation, and is performed in a ‘Conclave’. A Conclave is the regular unit of this Order, and the name for any assembly of members of the Order’s first degree. The ceremony is short and simple, but teaches valuable moral lessons to the candidate, based upon the story of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great,[2] and the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.

Second Degree – Priest-Mason (or Installed Eusebius)[edit]

On election to serve as Viceroy (the second in command of a Conclave), a member must be admitted to the second degree, by which ceremony he becomes a Venerable Priest-Mason, or an Installed Eusebius. This ceremony is performed in a ‘College’ of Priests-Mason. A College is the name for any assembly of members of the Order’s second degree. The ceremony is highly spiritual in nature, and incorporates more overtly religious symbolism and ritual. Having received this degree the Installed Eusebius or Priest-Mason is entitled to serve as Viceroy in his own, or any other, Conclave or College. In general this degree may only be conferred on those elected to serve as Viceroy of a Conclave, although exceptions are possible by dispensation.

Third Degree – Prince-Mason[edit]

On election to serve as Sovereign (the leader of a Conclave), a member must be admitted to the third degree, by which ceremony he becomes a Perfect Prince-Mason. The ceremony is performed in a ‘Senate’ of Princes-Mason. A Senate is the name for any assembly of members of the Order’s third degree. Having received this degree the Prince-Mason is entitled to serve as Sovereign in his own, or any other, Conclave or Senate. Except by dispensation, this degree is only ever conferred on those elected as Sovereign. As with all masonic degrees, it may only be conferred on a person once - therefore a person becoming Sovereign for a second time, or in a different Conclave, would be appointed and installed into office, and would not go for a second time through the full degree ceremony.

The Appendant Orders[edit]

The Jerusalem cross within a circle and cross, symbol of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
The crowned eagle, symbol of the Order of Saint John the Evangelist.

Two additional Christian Orders of Masonry are under the control of the Grand Imperial Conclaves (national ruling bodies) of the Red Cross of Constantine. One is the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and the other is the Order of St John the Evangelist. Each of these Orders consists of a single degree or ceremony, and although the two Orders are conferred separately, they are usually conferred on the same day, one straight after the other. It is a rule of most jurisdictions that a member of the first degree of the Red Cross of Constantine must subsequently take these two Appendant Orders, before he may be considered qualified to proceed to the second and third degrees of the Red Cross of Constantine.

The Order of the Holy Sepulchre[edit]

The Masonic Order should not be confused with the identically named Order of the Holy Sepulchre within the Roman Catholic Church. Although both Orders recall the same historical events, there is no actual connection between them. The Masonic Order of the Holy Sepulchre has a long and complex ritual of symbolic meaning, based upon the legend of knights guarding the supposed place of burial of Jesus Christ. Both the Masonic and ecclesiastical Orders take the Jerusalem Cross as their symbol, but whereas the ecclesiastical Order displays this cross in red on a white shield,[3] the Masonic Order displays the cross within a circle set at the centre of a Cross potent; on the jewel (medal) of the Order, this badge is further enclosed within a black and gold lozenge.[4] A meeting of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre takes place in a ‘Sanctuary’,[5] and the presiding officer is called the 'Prelate'.

The Order of St John the Evangelist[edit]

This Order is conferred in a short ceremony of an overtly Christian character; it is common for the Order of St John the Evangelist to be conferred on the same day as the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, one ceremony occurring straight after the other. A meeting of the Order of St John the Evangelist takes place in a ‘Commandery’,[5] and the presiding officer is called the 'Commander'. The jewel of the Order of St John the Evangelist features a silver eagle with its wings extended, to which a crown is added in reference to the role of Commander, or any member of the Order who is a current or past Commander. The eagle is a traditional symbol of St John the Evangelist.[6]

History[edit]

The position of the Red Cross of Constantine among the Masonic appendant bodies in England and Wales

Since at least the 18th century, Freemasonry has incorporated symbols and rituals of several Medieval military orders in a number of Masonic bodies, most notably, in the "Red Cross of Constantine" (derived from the Military Constantinian Order), the "Order of Malta" (derived from the Sovereign Military Order of Malta), and the "Order of the Temple" (derived from the historical Knights Templar), the latter two featuring prominently in the York Rite.

Tracing the precise origins of these Orders has proved problematic to historians, not least due to the large number of fraternal organisations whose titles include, or have historically included, the phrase "Red Cross". It seems likely that the Order of the Red Cross of Constantine was being worked in England by 1780, but following several re-organisations the earliest documented date of the Order in its present form is 1865, when its constitution was formally established by Robert Wentworth Little.[7] In time it became one of the ten 'additional' Masonic Orders (or families of Orders) controlled from a common headquarters at Mark Masons' Hall, London. Following the establishment of Conclaves in overseas nations, a number of sovereign foreign Grand Imperial Councils (ruling bodies) have been established.

International extent[edit]

The Order of the Red Cross of Constantine operates around the world in more than 40 different nations. All regular jurisdictions trace their historical origin to the Grand Imperial Conclave for England and Wales. The following table shows the countries in which the Order is active, and the national or state jurisdiction responsible for the Order in that country.

Country Jurisdiction (Grand Imperial Conclave - "GIC") Notes
 Australia
  • GIC for NSW and ACT
  • GIC for Queensland
  • GIC for South Australia
  • GIC for Victoria
  • GIC for Western Australia
Uniquely, has State jurisdictions.
No national GIC exists.
 Belgium GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Benelux Division
 Benin GIC for Benin Established on 24 May 2017 out of the former Benin Division of the GIC for France.
 Brazil GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Conclaves administered from London.
 Bulgaria GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Conclaves administered from London.
 Canada GIC of Canada
 Croatia GIC for Croatia
 Cyprus GIC for Cyprus There is also one Conclave (Akritas Conclave No 14, Nicosia) controlled by the GIC for Greece.[8]
 Denmark The RCC is recognised as being controlled by the Swedish Rite Grand Lodge of Denmark
 England GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas
 Finland GIC for Finland
 France GIC for France
 Germany GIC for Germany
 Greece GIC for Greece & its Conclaves abroad
 Guatemala United GIC of the USA, Mexico, & the Philippines Division of Mexico & Guatemala
Guinea (region) GIC for Gulf of Guinea Controls Conclaves throughout the Guinea region.
Not currently recognised as regular by the GIC for England.
 Guyana GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Conclaves administered from London.
 Hong Kong GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Conclaves administered from London.
 India GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Conclaves administered from London.
 Italy GIC for Italy Except the island of Sicily.
 Italy (Sicily) United GIC of the USA, Mexico, & the Philippines The American jurisdiction claims authority over the island of Sicily.[9]
 Jamaica GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Jamaica Division
 Kenya GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Conclaves administered from London.
 Luxembourg GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Benelux Division
 Malaysia GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Conclaves administered from London.
 Malta GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Conclaves administered from London.
 Mexico United GIC of the USA, Mexico, & the Philippines Division of Mexico & Guatemala
 Netherlands GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Benelux Division
 New Zealand GIC for New Zealand For historical reasons one Conclave in New Zealand remains under the authority of the English GIC.
 Norway The RCC is recognised as being controlled by the Swedish Rite Grand Lodge of Norway
 Papua New Guinea GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Conclaves administered from London.
 Philippines United GIC of the USA, Mexico, & the Philippines
 Scotland GIC of Scotland
 Singapore GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Conclaves administered from London.
 South Africa GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas Eastern Cape Division
Natal Division
Transvaal, Orange Free State, & Northern Cape Division
 Sweden The RCC is recognised as being controlled by the Swedish Rite Grand Lodge of Sweden
 United States
(except Maine)
United GIC of the USA, Mexico, & the Philippines All US territory except the State of Maine.
 United States
 Maine
GIC for the State of Maine Maine remains independent, unlike other States.[10]
 Wales GIC for England & Wales & its Divisions & Conclaves overseas

United States[edit]

The Grand Imperial Council of the United States of America, Mexico, and the Philippines has jurisdiction throughout the United States, except the State of Maine. The Red Cross Masons of Maine have chosen to maintain their independence, with their own Grand Imperial Council. The State of Vermont also had its own independent Grand Imperial Council until 1997. In that year Vermont voted to close its independent body, and to be incorporated into the United GIC.[11]

Although the Order had arrived in Canada by 1870, the first Conclaves consecrated in the United States appear to have been Cleveland Conclave No 39 at Cleveland, Ohio, and Cincinnati Conclave No 40 at Cincinnati, Ohio, both consecrated in 1871. A number of other Conclaves followed the same year. In 1872 sovereign Grand Imperial Councils were founded in the states of Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New York. In 1907 most of the individual jurisdictions were united into the GIC of the United States of America, and in 1946 the name was changed to reflect the operation of Conclaves in Mexico and the Philippines.[12]

Former jurisdictions[edit]

There is a small number of places where the Order has commenced work, but subsequently withdrawn, the earliest being the British Crown dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey. Doyle Conclave No 7 in Court Place, Guernsey, and Concord Conclave No 8 in St Helier, Jersey, were consecrated in 1868 at a time when the Order had just 6 Conclaves (4 in London and 2 in Edinburgh), but they were short-lived, and both had been removed from the role of Conclaves by 1923. A similar story applies to the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, where Mediterranean Conclave No 11 was consecrated in 1870, but did not survive.[13]

In addition, a number of Conclaves were founded in territories of the British Empire or later British dependencies, but failed to survive the changing demographics of independence. Examples of these include Aden Conclave at Aden in modern-day Yemen, Indus Valley Conclave at Mooltan in modern-day Pakistan, St Louis & St Cyprian Conclave in Tunis, Tunisia, Excelsior Conclave at Moulmein in Burma, Lanka Conclave in Sri Lanka, and Rhodesia Conclave in Mufulira in northern Zambia.

See also[edit]

Original chivalric orders[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Beyond the Craft by Keith B Jackson, published 1980 by Lewis Masonic (Terminal House, Shepperton, Middlesex, TW17 8AS, England), and subsequent later revised editions. Current (5th) edition (2005) is ISBN 0-85318-248-5.
  2. ^ Details here of the basis of the ritual story, and the history of Constantine.
  3. ^ See the website of the Order.
  4. ^ Illustrated at this site.
  5. ^ a b "Freemasonry Today periodical (Issue Winter 2003)". UGLE. Archived from the original on 2010-09-27. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  6. ^ See "art" section of his entry at The Catholic Encyclopedia on-line.
  7. ^ These dates, names, and details are rehearsed on this history page, written by the Hampshire Division of the Order.
  8. ^ See GIC for Greece List of Conclaves.
  9. ^ See Eboracum Conclave website.
  10. ^ See RCC American history here.
  11. ^ Details on the final page of this York Rite publication.
  12. ^ Dates recorded in the historical summary of the Grand Imperial Conclave for Croatia.
  13. ^ Order of the Red Cross of Constantine, Year Book 2015/2016, published by Mark Masons' Hall Ltd 2015, ISBN 978-1-910738-18-4, page 51.

External links[edit]