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Royal Arch Degree

Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor by Malcolm C. Duncan [1866]

Source: Phoenixmasonry

The Royal Arch Degree seems not to have been known to what are called modern Masons as late as about 1750. That portion of the old Freemasons who met at the famous Apple-Tree Tavern, in 1717, and formed the society upon somewhat new principles, that is, so far as to admit into fellowship, indiscriminately, respectable individuals of all professions, were denominated, by the non-adherents to this plan, modern Masons. This affair caused the division of the Masonic Society into two parties, which continued till 1813, nearly one hundred years. To the rivalry occasioned by this schism, Masonry, it is presumed, is mainly indebted for the great celebrity it has obtained in the world.

It appears that the non-conformists to this new scheme, who considered themselves the orthodox party, by rummaging among the old records of the Order, first discovered the Royal Arch Degree, which had probably lain dormant for centuries; during which time, it would appear, the society had been confined almost exclusively to operative masons; who continued the ceremonies only of the apprentice, fellow-craft or journeyman, and master mason, these being deemed appropriate to their occupation.

A society of Royal Arch Masons is called a Chapter, and not a Lodge, as in the previous Degrees. All Chapters of Royal Arch Masons are "dedicated to Zerubbabel," and the symbolic color of this Degree is scarlet. The several Degrees of Mark Master, Present or Past Master, and Most Excellent Master, are given only under the sanction of the Royal Arch Chapter; and a Master Mason who applies for these Degrees usually enters the Chapter also, and sometimes the four degrees are given at once. If he takes the four, he is only balloted for once, viz.: in the Mark Master's Degree. Candidates receiving this Degree are said to be "exalted to the most sublime Degree of the Royal Arch."

It is a point of the Royal Arch Degree not to assist, or be present, at the conferring of this Degree upon more or less than three candidates at one time. If there are not three candidates present, one or two companions, as the case may be, volunteer to represent candidates, so as to make the requisite number, or a "team," as it is technically styled, and accompany the candidate or candidates through all the stages of exaltation.

At the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, three Most Excellent Masters were carried captives to Babylon, where they remained seventy years, and were liberated by Cyrus, King of Persia. They returned to Jerusalem to assist in rebuilding the Temple, after travelling over rugged roads on foot. They arrived at the outer veil of the Tabernacle, which was erected near the ruins of the Temple. This Tabernacle was an oblong square, enclosed by four veils, or curtains, and divided into separate apartments by four cross veils, including the west end veil or entrance. The veils were parted in the centre, and guarded by four guards, with drawn swords.

At the east end of the Tabernacle, Haggai, Joshua, and Zerubbabel usually sat in grand council, to examine all who wished to be employed in the noble and glorious work of rebuilding the Temple. Since that time, every Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, if properly formed, represents the Tabernacle erected by our ancient brethren, near the ruins of King Solomon's Temple, and our engraving shows the interior arrangement of a Chapter of the Royal Arch Degree. (See Fig. 31.)

These three Most Excellent Masters, on their arrival, were introduced to the Grand Council, and employed, furnished with tools, and directed to commence their labors at the northeast corner of the ruins of the old Temple, and to clear away and remove the rubbish, in order to lay the foundation of the new. The Grand Council also gave them strict orders to preserve whatever should fall in their way (such as specimens of ancient architecture, &c.,) and bring it up for their inspection.

Among the discoveries made by the three Masters was a secret vault in which they found treasures of great benefit to the craft, &c. The ceremony of exalting companions to this Degree, is a recapitulation of the adventures of these three Most Excellent Masters, and hence it is that three candidates are necessary for an initiation.


The Grand Council consists of the Most Excellent High Priest, King, and Holy Scribe. The High Priest is dressed in a white robe, with a breastplate of cut glass, consisting of twelve pieces, an apron, and a mitre. The king wears a scarlet robe, apron, and crown. The mitre and crown are generally made of pasteboard; sometimes they are made of most splendid materials, gold and silver velvet; but these are kept for public occasions. The mitre has the words, "Holiness to the Lord," in gold letters, across the forehead. The scribe wears a purple robe, apron, and turban.

A Chapter of Royal Arch Masons consists of nine officers, as follows:

1. High Priest, or Master. (Joshua.)

2. King, or Senior Grand Warden. (Zerubbabel.)

3. Scribe, or Junior Grand Warden. (Haggai.)

4. Captain of the Host (as Marshal, or Master of Ceremonies). or Senior Deacon.

5. Principal Sojourner, who represents the Junior Deacon.

6. Royal Arch Captain, who represents the Master Overseer.

7. Grand Master of the Third Veil, or Senior Overseer.

8. Grand Master of the Second Veil, or Junior Overseer.

9. Grand Master of the First Veil.

In addition to these, three other officers are usually present, viz., Secretary, a Treasurer, and a Tyler, or sentinel.

The officers and companions of the Chapter being stationed as in the engraving (see Fig. 31), the High Priest proceeds to business as follows:

High Priest--Companions, I am about to open a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons in this place, for the dispatch of business, and will thank you for your attention and assistance. If there is any person present who is not a companion Royal Arch Mason, he is requested to retire from the room.

After waiting for any stranger or brother not of this degree to retire, he gives one rap with the gavel, which brings up the Captain of the Host.

High Priest--Companion Captain, the first care of congregated Masons?


Continue: Phoenixmasonry

The Holy Royal Arch

Source: Wikipedia


This article is about the Holy Royal Arch as practiced as a stand alone degree. For the similar body found in the York Rite, see Royal Arch Masonry.


The Holy Royal Arch is a degree of Freemasonry. It is present in all main masonic systems, though in some it is part of 'mainstream' Freemasonry, and in others it is an 'additional' degree.

In the United States, Canada, Brazil, Israel, Mexico, Paraguay, and the Philippines, the Holy Royal Arch degree forms part of the York Rite system of additional degrees. In England, Scotland, Ireland, most of Europe (including the masonically expanding states of eastern Europe),[1] and the nations of the Commonwealth (Canada excepted) it is a stand alone degree, but mainstream, being defined as part of "pure ancient Masonry"[2][3] along with the three Craft degrees; a candidate for Exaltation into an English Holy Royal Arch Chapter is required to have been a Master Mason for four weeks or more.[4] In Scotland the candidate must also be a Mark Master Mason, a degree which can be conferred within the Chapter if required. Once exalted a candidate becomes a companion, with Royal Arch meetings being described as a convocation.

The exact origins of the Holy Royal Arch are unknown except that it dates back to the mid 18th century


Orders and Degrees

The Holy Royal Arch is affiliated to many different constitutions worldwide, many of which place different emphasis on the order.

England, Europe and Australasia: A Holy Royal Arch Chapter is required to be sponsored by a Craft Lodge and bears the same number (and in almost all cases the same name); however, the HRA is a separate Order from Craft Freemasonry. Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter is governed from the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England, but the administration remains distinct - though many officers of the Grand Lodge hold the equivalent office in the Grand Chapter. In these countries the Order of the Royal Arch consists of a single 'Royal Arch' degree, although there are three related ceremonies, one for the installation into each of the three Principals' chairs. As a compromise, at the union of two rival Grand Lodges in 1813 (one of which considered the Royal Arch a 'Fourth Degree', whilst the other almost totally ignored it) English Freemasonry recognised the Royal Arch as part of "pure, ancient masonry", but stated that it was not an additional degree, but merely the "completion of the third degree". However, this was merely a compromise position, and one which was in opposition to normal masonic practice, and consequently on 10 November 2004 (after much deliberation by a special working party) the Grand Chapter (at its regular meeting in London) overturned this compromise position, and declared the Royal Arch to be a separate degree in its own right, albeit the natural progression from the third degree, and the completion of "pure, ancient Masonry", which consists of the three 'Craft' degrees, and the Royal Arch. Words in the ritual which propounded the earlier compromise position were removed, by mandatory regulation. The English system of Royal Arch Masonry is found in most European states (outside Scandinavia, which has a unique system), and is currently being introduced to many eastern European states, including Russia and Serbia.

Scotland: The degree is conferred in a Royal Arch Chapter which is within a wholly different administrative structure, the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland. This body administers Mark Masonry, Royal Arch Masonry, and the degree of Excellent Master which is an essential preamble to the Royal Arch degree. English Royal Arch Masons will not be allowed into a Scottish chapter during a Mark working, unless they also hold that degree, which in England is administered by a separate body. The Excellent Master degree does not exist in England, and members of the English Grand Chapter are not permitted to attend these workings. They may also be excluded from part of the Royal Arch working which they no longer use, although this is at the discretion of individual chapters. These restrictions do not apply to members of chapters in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and North America. The position of the Bristol chapters, who re-assimilated "Passing the Veils" (similar to the Excellent Masters working) is unclear.


Organisational Structure

Chapters are ruled over by three Principals, who conjointly rule the Chapter, sitting together in the east of the assembly.

Chapters in England are grouped as either a Metropolitan area or Provinces (based on the old Counties), and Chapters overseas are grouped in Districts. Metropolitan, Provincial, and District Grand Chapters are ruled over by a Grand Superintendent who is appointed by the 'First Grand Principal' (see below) as his personal representative for the particular area. The Grand Superintendent is usually assisted by a Deputy, and always rules conjointly with a Second Provincial Grand Principal and a Third Provincial Grand Principal (the word 'Provincial' being replaced with the word 'Metropolitan' in a Metropolitan Area such as London, or the word 'District' in an overseas area controlled from England).

The Supreme Grand Chapter is ruled over from London by three Grand Principals, with a Pro First Grand Principal when the First Grand Principal is a Royal Prince, as is currently the case.


See also:

Links

PDF-DownloadThat origin of the royal arch order of masonry from George Oliver. Google Books


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