ISSUE 11, October 2004
Elias Ashmole: Masonic Icon
Travel: The magical beauty of Scotland
Honoured: By the Glovers' livery company
The Theatre: Strong links between Craft and stage
Quarterly Communication: Address of the Pro Grand Master and, Report of the Board of General Purposes
Mauritius: Fascinating Masonic history
Rochester Cathedral: Kent Masons' magnificent fresco
Clerkenwell: 25 years of Masonry
  Bravery award: One Mason's heroism is honoured
Christmas shopping: What to buy in London's West End
High flight: Helping terminally ill children
Jewels of the Craft: An essential part of Masonry
Library & Museum: John Pine exhibition and Library & Museum Trust report
Masonic education: Events for Masons; Quatuor Coronati Lodge; Mentors for new Masons
Charities: Masons provide emergency aid for flood victims; Charity news; Demelza gives voice
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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Masonic Education

Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 is the Premier Lodge of Research, but all Master Masons can join its Correspondence Circle, as Robert A. Gilbert explains.


   The fruits of Masonic research should be available to everyone, Masons and nonmasons alike – and so it is with the work of Quatuor Coronati Lodge (QC). For almost 120 years members of the Lodge, together with the thousands who have joined the Correspondence Circle, have sought to advance Masonic knowledge and their findings have been published for all in the Transactions of the Lodge, Ars Quatuor Coronatorum.
    Masonic research in the modern sense had, of course, been carried on long before the founding of QC, stimulated by the publication in 1840 of the earliest text of the Old Charges, the Regius MS, and the subsequent discovery of many other versions.
    This led, in turn, to a growing demand among Masons for accurate information on Masonic history, philosophy and practice – especially in relation to the vexed question of the origins of the Craft.
    From 1873 onwards public debate on this, and on many other controversial issues, was carried on in the columns of The Freemason, under the guidance of the editor, the Revd. A.F.A. Woodford, a distinguished Masonic historian.
    He encouraged a group of earnest young ‘Masonic students’ in their open arguments and provided the intellectual environment that gave birth to the ‘authentic’ school of Masonic research – which relied not on the testimony of the Bible and of ancient historians, but on manuscript records, the primary source for all truly academic history.
    After ten years of such informal discussions, this small group recognised the need for more formal association and in 1882 three of them – W.J. Hughan, R.F. Gould and W.H. Rylands – discussed with Woodford the prospects for a Lodge dedicated to Masonic research.
    They drew in other enthusiasts – G.W. Speth, Walter Besant and Sir Charles Warren – and their plans for a Lodge gradually came to fruition, when, on 12 January 1886, Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 was consecrated at Freemasons’ Hall in London, where it still meets.
    Its purpose was clear, and was set out by Woodford in his Oration on that day: the members proposed, by means of papers, discussions and publications, to help forward the important cause of Masonic study and investigation [and] induce a more scholarly and critical consideration of our evidences, a greater relish for historical facts.
    All well and good, but why the name ‘Quatuor Coronati’?
    In the Regius MS The Mason’s craft is described as Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, a reference to the legend of the Quattuor Coronati, the collective name given to two groups of martyrs – five sculptors and four master masons – who were put to death by the Emperor Diocletian on the same day, 8 November, in the years 298 and 300 A.D.
    For this reason the Lodge had nine founders, holds its Installation Festival on or near that date, and gives its published Transactions the title of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum.
    Since 1888 there have been 116 volumes of AQC, and it is for the contents of these volumes that the Lodge has earned international respect and maintained its position as the premier Lodge of Masonic research.
    That there has always been a wide readership for the Transactions is due to the genius of G.W. Speth who was, from 1886 until his death in 1901, both Lodge secretary and editor of AQC. Within a year of the Lodge’s Consecration the members resolved, on Speth’s motion, ‘to form a Literary Society, under the guidance and protection of the Lodge’; and so was born the Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle. By the end of 1888 there were 63 corporate members and 406 individual brethren; ten years later membership was 2,677, while today it stands at 6,670. In the early years Correspondence Circle members played a vital role: they ensured increasing numbers at Lodge meetings, which had initially suffered from embarrassingly low attendance.

G W Speth, a founder and the first secretary of Quatuor Coronati Lodge