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History of Knight Masonry

The Knight Mason degrees have their origins to the earliest records of Freemasonry . In fact, there is some indication that the Knight Mason degrees may have been developed even before the degree of Master Mason. The degrees are Knight of the Sword, Knight of the East, Knight of the East and West, and Installed Excellent Chief and are not to be confused with the degrees which may have similar names in other orders and rites of Freemasonry.

It has been established (by Philip Crossle) that in 1744 the ceremony connected with the Royal Arch belonged to the “Part of Master.” the then Master Mason. However, a duplicate set of officers was required to explain it because both the “J” or Joshua and “Z” or Zerubbabel legends were included in the ceremony.

There are a number of old seals and certificates extant (see 1923 Transactions of Ireland’s Lodge of Research, No. 200) which show that both the “J” and “Z” legends were worked in different parts of Ireland-North and South. The “J” legend dealt with “Red Masonry” and the “Z” legend with “Green Masonry.” In the minute book of Lodge No. 557, Benburb County Tyrone there is a record of a “Green” certificate issued in 1784 and there is an apron extant (owned by James D. Mitchell of Bin) known to be over 170 years old, having on one side red with the emblems of the Royal Arch, and the reverse side green with the emblems of Knight Masonry.

In about 1790 (possibly earlier), “Green Masonry” became separated from the Royal Arch and was known as “Red Cross Masonry;” but by 1810 in some manner not very clear now, the name was changed to “Knight of the Sword”, “Knight of the East” and “Knight of the East and West”. Also, as time went on, the conferring of these three degrees became the exclusive privilege of the Order of Knights Templar, some of the oldest Warrants of the preceptories (known as “commanderies” in the United States) covered the conferring of these degrees. They were not very generally conferred because they had nothing in common with the Templar Orders. Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the degrees were controlled by the Great Priory of the Order of Knights Templar in Ireland. The degrees are also worked under the authority of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland.

It was the gradual dying of the brethren who were sufficiently versed in Knight Masonry to confer the degrees that first caused alarm early in the Twentieth Century. Candidates for the degrees had to travel far to procure them. It was visualised that the degrees would eventually die out unless a means to prevent it was taken. The first move was to contact those preceptories/commanderies whose warrants included these degrees. Some of them were loath to part with their rights. Eventually, the subject was taken up with the Great Priory of Ireland. After some time, that body obtained consent of its preceptories to hand over the conferring of the degrees to the suggested new body. which we now know as the Grand Council of Knight Masons.

The modus operandi of this relinquishment of rights from one Grand Body to another eventual Grand Body is unique and pertinent to our existence. In 1922, at a joint meeting of the members of the Great Priory and the Knights Templar, who desired to form the new body was held. A motion by Gerald Black, G.C.T., was passed “that pursuant to report of Committee, all rights and privileges touching the Red Cross Degrees, which are at present vested in the Great Priory be transferred to a Grand Council for these degrees.” The new Grand Council met for its first meeting on 18 June 1923, when it notified the Great Priory that it was then in a position to take over and exercise the rights and privileges with which it was invested.

The first President of the Grand Council was Gerald Black, who received the Degrees on 9 January 1901 in Commercial Priory No. 245, possibly by Gerald Byrne who probably was the last person to confer these degrees in Dublin; it is known that but three Preceptories — Commercial (Dublin), Sharavogue, (Birr) and Shaflesbury (Belfast) were conferring the “Red Cross Degrees” at the turn of the century. Thus we have a Grand Council of Knight Masons, for all intents and purposes appointed by the Great Priory of Ireland.

Knight Masonry was introduced in the United States on 20 May 1936 when the Grand Council in Ireland chartered three councils in North Carolina under a Provincial Grand Superintendent. Seven additional councils were chartered by the Provincial Grand Superintendent. The councils in the United States formed the Grand Council of Knight Masons of the United States of America in 1967. The Grand Council in Dublin recognised this Grand Council of the U.S.A. two years later. All councils chartered in the U.S. since that time were chartered by the by the Grand Council of the United States. All councils in Ohio, less their newest one, remain under the province of the mother Grand Council in Ireland. Today, there are over seventy councils of Knight Masons in the U.S.A. with more than seven thousand cousins.

Saint Bridget Council was chartered on 16 February  1980. The cousins of Saint Bridget Council No. 23 look forward to continuing as a very active council, and inviting to membership Holy Royal Arch Freemasons of all religious, racial, and ethnic backgrounds, working together in fraternity and brotherhood. In the fall of 2006, the availability of the historic Small Preceptory in the Chicago Scottish Rite Cathedral came into question because of the pending sale of the property. Rather than leave our plans for the 13 October 2006 conferral of degrees in limbo and risk having to find new accommodations on short notice, the membership voted to remove to the Glenview Masonic Temple. This decision gave Saint Bridget Council the dubious distinction of being the first Masonic body to vacate the Cathedral in connection with its sale and deconsecration.

Knight Masons councils are honorary bodies who extend invitations for membership to active, hard-working Royal Arch Freemasons. The membership includes many of the leaders of Masonry in the United States, and is considered an honour earned by service to the craft. In the United States, Freemasons are not supposed to ask for membership in Knight Masonry, but rather wait to be invited. A cousin is required to be a Royal Arch Freemason in good standing in his lodge and chapter, be recommended for membership, and pass a unanimous ballot.

Mission Statement

The Grand Council of Knight Masons of the United States of America, in consideration of its origin, strives to:

1. Perpetuate the ancient rituals of the Irish Masonic Canon, (the “Green” degrees) by promoting their frequent and regular conferral in its constituent councils, and by its expectation that such conferral will be executed with an accuracy, a precision, and a dramatic power congruent with the highest traditions of the Masonic institution.

2. Elevate to membership in its constituent councils only those Freemasons who in their character and persons have amply and thoroughly demonstrated in their Masonic lives, by means of a faithful attachment to the institution, a true and honourable record of service to its goals, and a genuine dedication to its high ideals.

3. Foster in its constituent councils the regular exploration and study of the Masonic Tradition and Heritage by means of an aggressive program of scholarly inquiry and research, and to pursue that Masonic learning in the spirit of our Celtic forbears who kept the light of faith burning in times of darkness.

4. Encourage its constituent councils to discover in the pleasures and diversions of the festive board that warm fellowship and that joyous fraternity, which have ever characterised and actuated the great spirit of this Ancient Craft.

5. Promote the charitable dimension so central to, and inherent in, Masonic life and tradition by obliging its constituent councils to contribute with customary Masonic liberality to those institutions, both Masonic and non-Masonic, which serve the needs of the greater community.

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This site was last updated 01/04/21