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Manadon Masonic Hall
104 Tavistock Rd,
Plymouth,
Devon.   PL6 5EL.

Manadon MMM Lodge :   Mark Masonry - The Friendly Degree

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Most of the contents of this page about Mark Master Masonry, together with the Joining Mark Masonry page, are extracted from the document The Friendly Degree (complete pdf document to read on-line or download) written and compiled by W.Bro. George Evatt OBE, PAGDC, an experienced Freemason and knowledgable Mark Master Mason who is a senior and respected member of our Lodge.

The Origins of Mark Masonry.

It is well known that operative stone masons indented the stones they had prepared with special marks. These were of two types, those that indicated the orientation and position of the stone within the building together with a personal mark to identify the mason who prepared it.

Operative Masonry, as a major trade, began to evolve in the early 11th century with the Saxon builders and intensified in the centuries following the Norman Conquest. By the 14th century building had reached a scale that required the trade to be regulated in its customs and practices. The first regulatory body was the Masons' Company, formed in London sometime before 1375, later known as the London Masons' Company. It was granted a coat of arms in 1472. These arms were later adopted by the first Grand Lodge soon after it's foundation in 1717, and still form one half of the arms of the present United Grand Lodge of England.

The earliest known document regulating the trade is the Regius Manuscript of c.1390. These and later documents, now referred to as the Old Charges, are the origins of the present charges found in the Craft Book of Constitutions, abbreviated forms of which are delivered to each new Mason and to the Master before his installation.

Although the origins of speculative Freemasonry are unclear, it is evident that it has borrowed heavily from the medieval operative stone masons' trade in a number of respects - including the symbolism of working tools and gauges in the Craft and other Masonic Orders, and the use of marks in speculative Mark Masonry. The earliest authenticated record of a man being made a truly speculative Mason - is that of Elias Ashmole (founder of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, among other things), who was admitted to a Lodge in Warrington in 1646.

The first Grand Lodge was founded at the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse, St Pauls Church Yard, in the City of London in 1717 and this marked the start of organised Freemasonry. Because of disputes about certain practices and principles, a breakaway rival Grand Lodge was formed in 1751. The two Grand Lodges eventually reconciled their differences and the Act of Union was signed in 1813 when the present United Grand Lodge of England came into being. As to the ritual, we know (from early exposures) that a system of three Craft Degrees recognised by Mark Grand Lodge may become joining members of English Mark Lodges. Reciprocal arrangements exist for our members to join other recognised constitutions.

The minimum interval between the conferment of each of the Craft Degrees and between the Craft and the Royal Arch is 4 weeks. No specific period is stipulated for a Master Mason before he can be Advanced into Mark Masonry.

To be an Installed Master in the Mark Degree requires that the candidate be an Installed Master of a Craft Lodge, unless special dispensation is granted.



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The Relationship between the Mark and the Craft

There is a well-known statement that was agreed upon in the Act of Union between the Premier and Antients Grand Lodges in 1813 - it appears at the front of the Book of Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England. It is a declaration that "Pure Antient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, namely, those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch".

The fact that a second Grand Lodge (the "Antients") emerged in 1751 was largely because of a disagreement over ritual content. It is therefore hardly surprising that, eventually, in order to achieve harmony a considerable amount of ground had to be conceded by both parties. The Premier (or "Moderns") Grand Lodge did not recognise the Royal Arch, or even the Installation Ceremony, as part of pure Masonry - so they evidently conceded much to the Antients in order to achieve the Union. Against this background the Mark and other Masonic Orders were left in limbo. We had in fact a good old English compromise that left many brethren discontented.

However, none of this discussion alters the purely logical argument that the Mark is, in reality, as much part of pure Freemasonry as the Royal Arch. This is reinforced by the other stark fact that the Mark Degree is so recognised by our two Sister Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland - and indeed by most other constitutions throughout the world. In almost every constitution the Mark Degree is a pre-requisite for the Royal Arch.

Mark Ritual

So why is the Mark so central to Freemasonry? It is sometimes said to be an extension of the Second Degree in the Craft. But this rather simple assertion belies the fact that the ceremony of admission, called Advancement, is longer in content than the Third Degree. The present ceremony is derived from the earlier practice of conferring the degree of Mark Man on Fellow crafts and the degree of Mark Master on Master Masons. Ideally the Mark, as is the requirement in other constitutions, is a logical step from the Craft to the Royal Arch and enables the candidate to more fully appreciate the structure and beauty of Solomonic Masonry.

Mark Regalia

The regalia worn today was first designed MMM apron for and worn by the members of the London Bon Accord Mark Lodge in 1856. A Mark Master Mason wears an apron similar to that of a Master Mason in the Craft except that the Mark apron is MMM jewel bordered with light blue with crimson edges. He also wears a breast jewel in the form of a keystone suspended from a ribbon of light blue and crimson. The Installed Mark Master's apron is likewise similar to a Craft Installed Master's apron. Also, like the Craft, when a brother receives Provincial Grand Rank or Grand Rank the light blue is replaced with Garter blue.

The English Mark Constitution Today

The Structure of Mark Grand Lodge is similar to that of the United Grand Lodge. It has 41 Provincial Grand Lodges, 26 District Grand Lodges, and several unattached Lodges abroad. In addition to the Mark Degree, Grand Lodge also controls the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Royal Ark Mariners through a body styled The Grand Master's Royal Ark Council.

In size of membership the Mark and Royal Ark Mariners combined ranks second, after the Craft. Nationally, there are about 5.6 Craft Lodges to each Mark Lodge. In Cornwall the figure is about 2.5