Inside the Freemasons Grand Lodge of Ireland

Culture Night 2017 in Dublin was its typical roaring success as buildings, museums and places of interest threw their doors open for the great unwashed to wander in and about from 5pm to 10pm. Cathedrals, libraries, Government offices, theatres and knitting shops welcomed visitors with open arms, free tours and in some cases boxes of sweets (a doff of the hat to the National Archives).

One listing that jumped out at me was the Freemasons Grand Lodge of Ireland. I’d often walked past this building on 17 Molesworth Street in the heart of the city and wondered if it was even still used by the Freemasons. It is. And judging by the long queue down Molesworth Street I wasn’t the only curious monkey.

It transpired that they are not as secretive organisation as one would expect. Relax I haven’t been brainwashed or enrolled.

I just discovered writing this that I could have had a glimpse in the building by just looking at their website: www.freemason.ie They are also on Facebook and Twitter. And they give tours everyday during the summer.

The Freemason’s are a fraternal organisation that trace their origins to the local fraternities of stonemasons hence why their symbol is the the Masonic Square and Compasses…a symbol which can be seen all over the Dublin premises from light fittings, door knockers and carpets. That’s the one thing missing in the Grand Lodge, a decent gift shop.

They are a  non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisation that keep up their ancient traditions and customs. There is no clear date when the local trade organisations became today’s Masonic Lodges but the first records of its current structure start to appear in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

The organisational unit of Freemasonry is the Lodge. The Grand Lodge of Ireland is this particular one and there are 13 other Provincial Grand Lodges around Ireland. They are renowned for secret meetings, funny handshakes and appearing on the Simpsons.

As I queued patiently I wondered what mysterious occult worshipping would await me. As it happened a very courteous member with a helpful A4 information sheet awaited me. An information sheet with explanations about each room we wandered into. And within each room was another courteous and in some cases funny member fielding questions from the public being fired at them from all directions.

You’d find it harder to get into Leinster House across the road and even more difficult to get straight answers from the members inside.

The ground floor is lined with over head lights adorned with the Freemasons symbol. The lack of a gift shop becomes ever more glaring with such accessories. At the end of the corridor is a museum of Irish Free Masonry with archives, regalia, banners, historic and symbolic items.

But it the rooms upstairs that we all queued for and paid (nothing) into see. And they don’t disappoint. Well the first one did but the rest didn’t.

Room 1: The Mark Room (1st Floor)

The information leaflet tells me: This room provides the setting for the Degree of Mark Master Mason which concerns the part the keystone plays in the building of the Temple of Solomen.

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t find it the most inspiring room apart from the custom made tables and chairs. How is there not a gift shop???

After taking the IKEA code for the above table and chair I moved onto the next room.

Room 2: The Royal Arch Chapter Room (1st Floor)

Thsi room didn’t disappoint. As the notes alluded too, the Egyptian theme creates an air of antiquity. I felt like Howard Carter as I passed through the door and under the richly coloured curtains and intricate coving decorating the length of the room to the throne. Yes throne.

Ceremony’s in this glorious room are based around the rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon when members of the Royal Arch Chapters meet here. I’m not sure what this means but Wikipedia tells me:

Royal Arch Masonry (also known as “Capitular Masonry”) is the first part of the York Rite system of the Masonic degrees. Royal Arch Masons meet as a Chapter, and the Royal Arch Chapter confers four degrees: Mark Master Mason, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason.

And Wikipedia never lies.

Room 3: The Grand Lodge Room (1st Floor)

On a scale of 1-10 of meeting expectations, the Grand Lodge Room was a resounding 10. Everything I’d expect from a secretive organisation that wants to take over the world. This Grand Room was every bit as Victorian grand as I dreamed of. High ceilings, elevated platforms, giant portraits and custom carpets. Victorian London in the heart of Dublin.

The pictures are portraits of past officers of the Grand Lodge my A4 info guide tells me. We are free to wander, take pictures, sit in chairs and ask questions making it one of the most interactive locations on Culture Night.

Above the portraits are paintings showing the construction of the Temple of Solomon as it was the stone masons that built the temple, the forefathers of the Freemasons.

The black and white square floor tiles are nothing to do with salsa bars in Havana but represent the pavement of Solomen’s temple and  the members journey from darkness into light.

The stone masons tools above the organ on the two columns are to instil moral values in members.

And the carpet with the the Freemason logo is just cool.

Moving to the 2nd floor and final floor unless you are a conspiracy theorist or Harry Potter fan we have the:

Room 4: The Knights Templar Room

A room within a room, designed as a chapel to the ancient Knights Templar order from the era of the crusades. This nod to the Knights is to represent the chivalric part of the masons although no one held a door open for me.

Room 5: The Prince Masons Chapter Room

Prince Hall was an African American who founded the Prince Hall masons on September 29th 1784, based  on Freemason’s ideals of liberty, equality and peace. This room has a very church feel to it with the rows and rows of wooden pews against the walls. Pews for men only as it should also be noted that the Irish Grand Lodge is a mens only fraternity. Mixed lodges do exist elsewhere globely.

Last but not least: The Stairwell

The Irish Grand Lodge was purpose built in 1869 on 17 Moleworth Street where it is still based. It has a glorious internal staircase with stained glass windows of King Henry V.

 

 

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