THE HOLY SAINTS JOHN

 

There have been several stories and theories relating to the connection between Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist and the Masonic Fraternity. There is no question that the two are patron saints of Masonry, but some of the stories concerning them are as frivolous as those claiming that Noah, Moses and King Solomon were Freemasons and those claiming that the first Masonic lodge was located in Jerusalem.

 In 1737, the Grand Orator of the Grand Lodge of France, Chevalier Ramsey, made a speech ascribing the origin of Freemasonry to an order of crusading knights who had fought so valiantly for possession of the Holy Land, saying that, "Some times after, this order was united with that of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, for which reason in all countries our lodges are called lodges of Saint John." Many Masons believed Ramsey, but no evidence has ever been found to substantiate his claim.

 What is felt to be closest to the truth is this. Centuries ago, the early Christian churches adopted the old pagan customs of celebrating the summer and winter solstices. These celebrations were dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist and took place on June 24 and December 27, respectively. In later years, as building guilds and other associations were formed, the civil and religious authorities required each chartered body to name one or more patron saints and to observe that saint's day as a holiday. By the sixteenth century, the Masonic guilds, like the churches, were associating themselves with both Saints John. This probably explains where the idea got started that both had been members of the fraternity.

 The bottom line is this. The two saints are eminent patrons of Masonry because we have preserved and continued the ancient customs of observing the summer and winter solstices and the naming of patron saints.  An interesting question is why don't we dedicate our lodges to Saint Thomas, the patron saint of Architecture?  In England, lodges are dedicated to King Solomon.

 Finally, modern Masons should keep in mind that the connection with the Saints John is entirely symbolic and not meant to be historic.