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Royal Arch Masonry
Royal Arch Masonry is the term used to denote the first part of the York Rite system of Masonic degrees. Royal Arch Masons meet as a Chapter, and the Chapter confers four degrees: Mark Master Mason, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason.
A Chapter is in many ways the same as a Lodge; it has officers and a ritual degree system, which in this case consists of four degrees: Mark Master Mason, Past Master (in some jurisdictions the degree is named Virtual Past Master, to distinguish those who have taken this degree in a Royal Arch Chapter from those who were installed as a Worshipful Master in a lodge), Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason. However, unlike Lodges, the titles of the Officers change depending on the degree being conferred:
|Mark Master Mason||(Virtual) Past Master||Most Excellent Master||Royal Arch Mason|
|Senior Warden||Senior Warden||Senior Warden||King|
|Junior Warden||Junior Warden||none||Scribe|
|Senior Deacon||Senior Deacon||Senior Deacon||Principal Sojourner|
|Junior Deacon||Junior Deacon||Junior Deacon||Royal Arch Captain|
|Master Overseer||none||none||Master of the Third Veil|
|Senior Overseer||none||none||Master of the Second Veil|
|Junior Overseer||none||none||Master of the First Veil|
|Marshal||Marshal||Marshal||Captain of the Host|
Every US State has its own Grand Chapter, which performs the same administrative functions for its subordinate Chapters as a Grand Lodge does for its subordinate Lodges. In other countries there are either national or state Grand Chapters. The Chapter also has its own equivalents of Grand Lodge Officers, modified from the titles of the officers of a Royal Arch Chapter:
- Grand High Priest
- Deputy Grand High Priest
- Grand King
- Grand Scribe
- Grand Treasurer
- Grand Secretary
- Grand Chaplain
- Grand Captain of the Host
- Grand Principal Sojourner
- Grand Royal Arch Captain
- Grand Master of the Third Veil
- Grand Master of the Second Veil
- Grand Master of the First Veil
- Grand Sentinel
In jurisdictions that have them, there are also District Deputy Grand High Priests appointed by the Grand High Priest to oversee the districts of the jurisdiction as the representative of the Grand High Priest. Grand Representatives are appointed to keep in contact with their counterparts in other jurisdictions.
Grand Chapters also contribute to specific charities which differ from state to state.
General Grand Chapter
Many of the Grand Chapters around the world (notable exceptions include: Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia) are members of an umbrella group called the General Grand Chapter, founded October 24, 1797. It publishes a quarterly magazine called Royal Arch Mason and supports the ABLEKids Foundation.
The History of General Grand Chapter
In 1797, a group of Masons met in Hartford to try to establish some sort of governing body for degrees that were largely conferred in the New England states, which became the Grand Chapter of the Northern States, and later was broken down into the state-by-state Grand Chapter system. This body later became the General Grand Chapter, Royal Arch Masons International.
Development of the Royal Arch Degrees
The actual founding of Royal Arch Masonry is unknown. Until 1797, Lodges performed the Chapter degrees, as well as some others that are now more familiarly part of the Knights Templar degrees, such as Order of the Red Cross and the Knights Templar degree.
Fredericksburg Lodge in Virginia lists a conferral of the Royal Arch degree on December 22, 1753. There are Chapters noted as giving certain degrees as far back as 1769 in Massachusetts (St. Andrew's Royal Arch Chapter, Boston, MA, then known as Royall Arch Lodge), where the first Knights Templar degree was also conferred. Through a report compiled by the Committee on History and Research appointed by the Grand Chapter of Massachusetts in 1953 and 1954, it was found that St. Andrew's Royal Arch Chapter was the oldest constituted Chapter in the Western Hemisphere, having been officially constituted April 9, 1769, though the records implied that the Chapter had been working prior to that date, and perhaps as early as 1762. The report also states that it is unknown whether the Fredericksburg lodge in Virginia conferred only the Royal Arch degree or the entire series of degrees.
The April 30, 1793 minutes of St. Andrew's Royal Arch Chapter state that the so-called Excellent degree may have become the Past Master Degree, and that a similar degree by that name was conferred in 1790 by King Cyrus Chapter in Newburyport, MA. There was also a "Super Excellent" degree that simply disappeared from the St. Andrew's minutes after December 21, 1797, and it was postulated that it may have become the Most Excellent Master degree, first noted in the same minutes on February 21, 1798.
The Past Master Degree was already in existence by 1797, and appears in a few monitors of the era: it is one of the four degrees in the Webb Monitor (1797) and appears in Jeremy Cross' monitor in 1826.
The Most Excellent Master Degree is considered American in origin, although it has been postulated by Denslow and Turnbull that it was merely a rearrangement of preexisting material. They state that the first mention of it by name is when it was conferred on William S. Davis on August 28, 1769 in St. Andrew's Royal Arch Lodge, and that the degrees came from lodges originating from the Irish Constitution. Similarities between this degree and material in the 19° in the Early Grand Rite of Scotland are also enumerated upon, and they conclude that the degree is from that Rite.
As for the Royal Arch Degree, Turnbull and Denslow contend that "It is the most widely known and talked about degree in the Masonic system" because it had been part of the third degree until the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England. However, its age can only be guessed at, and the first working of it was at the aforementioned Fredericksburg, Virginia. Denslow and Turnbull also quote earlier Masonic historian Robert Freke Gould's assertion from documentation that the Royal Arch existed in Youghal (in County Cork, Ireland), some time prior to 1743. Dr. Fifield D'Assigny also wrote of it in Ireland in 1744.
Royal Arch Masonry in Canada
Royal Arch Masonry in Canada, differs slightly from that explained above from an American perspective. In Canada it tends to have stronger historical ties to the UK than to the USA, and in Canada unlike in the USA, the historical link to the monarchy remains. However it should be noted that recent changes to the Holy Royal Arch Degree in the UK, did not necessarily occur in Canada. In most Chapters in Canada the Past Master degree is not worked, there are only a few exceptions. The degree of the Holy Royal Arch is considered the "completion of the Master Mason's degree" in Lodge - a phrase inherited from England, but which was officially abandoned in England in 2004. The Officer's titles listed above may differ slightly, and of course the history is different, and more intertwined with that of the British Empire from which it largely grew, there are Chapters that received their charters from the Scottish Grand Chapter and therefore differ in respects.
- Ambassadors. General Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons International. Accessed 15 August 2008.
- General Grand Chapter, Royal Arch Masons International Accessed 15 August 2008.
- GGCHAPTER'S RARA. Accessed 15 August 2008.
- Denslow, Ray and Everett C. Turnbull. History of Royal Arch Masonry Part One. Kessinger. ISBN 1417950048. p. 244.
- Denslow, Ray and Everett C. Turnbull. History of Royal Arch Masonry Part One. Kessinger. ISBN 1417950048. pp. 3-4.
- Denslow, Ray and Everett C. Turnbull. History of Royal Arch Masonry Part One. Kessinger. ISBN 1417950048. pp 194-5.
- Karg, Barb, and John C. Young. 101 Things You Didn't Know About The Freemasons: Rites, Rituals, and the Ripper-All You Need to Know About This Secret Society!. Adams Media, 2007. ISBN 978-1598693195 p. 91.
- Denslow, Ray and Everett C. Turnbull. History of Royal Arch Masonry Part One. Kessinger. ISBN 1417950048. pp. 195-99.
- Denslow, Ray and Everett C. Turnbull. History of Royal Arch Masonry Part One. Kessinger. ISBN 1417950048. pp. 199-200.
- Denslow, Ray and Everett C. Turnbull. History of Royal Arch Masonry Part One. Kessinger. ISBN 1417950048. pp. 93-94.
- "Most Excellent Master Degree". Monroe Chapter No. 1, R.A.M. Accessed September 2, 2008.
- Denslow, Ray and Everett C. Turnbull. History of Royal Arch Masonry Part One. Kessinger. ISBN 1417950048. p. 115. "There has existed, in the Americas, a belief that the degree was fabricated by Webb, Hanmer, and other early American ritualists...but the substance of the degree can be located in other degrees which were being conferred at about the same time it was introduced into this country."
- Denslow, Ray and Everett C. Turnbull. History of Royal Arch Masonry Part One. Kessinger. ISBN 1417950048. p. 116.
- Denslow, Ray and Everett C. Turnbull. History of Royal Arch Masonry Part One. Kessinger. ISBN 1417950048. p. 116-19.
- Denslow, Ray and Everett C. Turnbull. History of Royal Arch Masonry Part One. Kessinger. ISBN 1417950048. p. 124.
- Denslow, Ray and Everett C. Turnbull. History of Royal Arch Masonry Part One. Kessinger. ISBN 1417950048. p. 125.
- Denslow, Ray and Everett C. Turnbull. History of Royal Arch Masonry Part One. Kessinger. ISBN 1417950048. p. 127-129.
Informative video entitled Fervency & Zeal, published by the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons in the Province of Ontario.