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Historic Masonic Gathering: Irish Freemasons Welcomed in Berlin

A remarkable milestone in Masonic history unfolded at the beginning of May 2024, as a number of Brethren from Craigantlet Lodge of Friendship No. 486, of Galwally House, Belfast, and Lodge “Zur Werkstatt” No. 979, Berlin, celebrated international brotherhood. 

This extraordinary event, 18 months in the making, marked what is believed to be the first-ever formal meeting between Irish Freemasons and their German counterparts in Berlin.

 

The journey began in November 2021, when a Brother from Germany reached out to us through our website, expressing a desire to visit whilst working in Belfast. His visit to the Lodge, which coincided with our first meeting after the COVID-19 lockdown, left a lasting impression. His detailed explanations of German Freemasonry sparked a profound interest amongst our Brethren, inspiring them to consider a visit to his Berlin Lodge.

 

Zur Werkstatt

Lodge “Zur Werkstatt” No. 979, was founded in 1989 and translates to “the Workshop”, and founders its history on traditional craftsmen, who work with a variety of materials. Many of its members remain skilled craftsmen in metalwork and woodwork.


Fast forward to December 2022, six German Brothers journeyed to Belfast, only to find their visit coincided with the mourning period following the passing of HRH Queen Elizabeth. Despite the inability to hold Masonic meetings, the German guests experienced the famed Irish hospitality, and discussions began about a reciprocal visit. These discussions set in motion the extensive planning that culminated in the recent historic event.

 

(Centre) RW Bro Ricky Totton - Grand Lodge of Ireland Representative for the United Grand Lodges of Germany. (Left) Worshipful Master of Lodge Zur Werkstatt. (Right) Director of Ceremonies (Left) Worshipful Master of Lodge Zur Werkstatt.
(Centre) RW Bro Ricky Totton - Grand Lodge of Ireland Representative for the United Grand Lodges of Germany. (Left) Worshipful Master of Lodge Zur Werkstatt. (Right) Director of Ceremonies

After coordination between the Grand Lodge of Ireland, and the Grand Lodges of Germany, six delegates from Craigantlet Lodge of Friendship, together with the Grand Lodge of Ireland Representative for the United Grand Lodges of Germany; Right Worshipful Brother Ricky Totton, travelled to Berlin for a 4 day visit, where they were warmly welcomed by Lodge “Werkstatt” and visiting brethren from across Germany, including those from Munich and Hamburg.


During their visitation the Brethren of Craigantlet Lodge of Friendship experienced a guided tour of the Berlin Masonic Hall, a structure rich with history and tradition. Originally built in 1914-1916 and destroyed during WW2, the building was recently renovated 2018-2021.

 


Freemasonry in Germany began in 1737 with the establishment of the first lodge in Hamburg. Quickly gaining popularity, it spread among the intellectual and social elites of the time. The movement thrived during the Enlightenment, fostering values of reason, equality, and fraternity. However, it faced significant challenges and suspicion during periods of revolution and upheaval.


The rise of the Nazis in Germany marked a dark period for Freemasons. Seen as proponents of tolerance and equality, they were increasingly targeted by the regime. In 1935, Nazi authorities declared Masonic Lodges to be enemies of the state. This declaration led to widespread closures, confiscation of assets, and intense persecution. Nazi propaganda often depicted Freemasons as collaborators with Jews, branding them both as threats to the German race.


Across occupied Europe, the Nazis dissolved Masonic Lodges, conducted anti-Masonic exhibitions, and arrested many Freemasons. Some were murdered, while others engaged in resistance activities against the oppressive regime. After World War II, Allied and Soviet forces recovered seized Masonic materials.


Freemasonry experienced a revival in West Germany post-war and later in East Germany following reunification. Today, Freemasonry is a respected and active part of German society, operating under the United Grand Lodges of Germany, continuing its legacy of promoting fraternity and enlightenment.

 

W Bro Matthew G Robson (Centre) , Secretary of Craigantlet Lodge of Friendship No. 486 with (Left) Worshipful Master of Lodge Zur Werkstatt and (Right) the Director of Ceremonies.

Reflecting on the experience, W. Bro. Matthew G Robson, Secretary of Craigantlet Lodge of Friendship No. 486, said, "The photographs we took only capture a fraction of what we will carry with us. We have formed new friendships, rekindled old ones, and deepened the bonds between us. It was an experience that truly exemplified the spirit of Freemasonry. This event not only commemorates a shared belief and culture, but also lays the groundwork for future collaborations”.



Looking ahead, the Brethren eagerly anticipate a return visit to Berlin “This ongoing exchange underscores the enduring spirit of Freemasonry, bridging cultures and fostering unity across borders”.

 

In reflecting on this historic gathering, members from both lodges agree: what began as a simple idea has blossomed into a profound connection, enriching the lives of all involved and heralding a new era of international Masonic cooperation.



To commemorate the historic visit, a Maul was specially made by Right Worshipful Brother Tommy Yarr, from the Province of Down. The Maul depicted the Seal of Craigantlet Lodge of Friendship No. 486, and a Forget-Me-Not at the head of the handle, which is synonymous with German Freemasonry during the time of the Nazi regime.


The Maul was presented to the Worshipful Master and Director of Ceremonies of Lodge “Zur Werkstatt” No. 979, by Worshipful Brother Matthew G Robson, Secretary of Craigantlet Lodge of Friendship No. 486.

Provincial Grand Lodge of Down
VW Bro Terence Luney PPJGW and W Bro Stephen Boyce PPGS presenting a Provincial Grand Lodge of Down plaque to the Worshipful Master of Lodge Zur Werkstatt

As well as presenting a Maul, the Lodges past Provincial Officers from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Down presented a hand painted plaque. A scroll of Friendship was also presented from all the Brethren of Craigantlet Lodge of Friendship No. 486 to the Brethren.





If you fancy joining us on our next visitation, please drop our Secretary an email or contact us.


Auf Wiedersehen!


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