A brief history ofG∴L∴N∴L∴M∴I∴
On June 24th, 1717, St. John the Baptist’s Day, in London, in Saint Paul’s Churchyard, a road that flanked the southern side of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Brothers of four Lodges gathered at The Goose and Gridiron tavern. Each of the Lodges took its name from the place where it met (The Crown, at Parker’s Lane; The Apple Tree, at Charles Street; The Rummer and Grapes, at Channel Row).
The congregants formed the Grand Lodge of England, elected the first Grand Master Anthony Sayer and modern Freemasonry was born.
In 1723, and in a revised edition in 1738, the fundamental text of modern Freemasonry was published, “The Constitutions of the Freemasons: Containing the History, Charges, Regulations, etc. of That Most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity, for the Use of the Lodges.”
When the Constitutions were first published in 1723, Freemasonry consisted of only two degrees, Apprentice and Fellowcraft. In 1738, at the issue of the second edition, a third, that of Master, had been added to the first two.
In France, the first Masonic Lodge was founded by expatriate Englishmen a few years later, in 1725 or 1726. English and French Freemasonry, due to the conflicts that divided the two countries throughout the second half of the eighteenth century, remained divided, and this favoured their diversified evolution.
The differentiation of the two Masonries took shape during the decade of the forties of the eighteenth century: in England, the additional Rank of Master of the Royal Arch appears, reserved only for Freemasons who had held the office of Venerable Master. In France in 1736, the knight André Michel De Ramsay, a Jacobite Freemason, gave a speech addressed to an assembly of Parisian Lodges that enchanted French Freemasonry and favoured the birth of the Scottish Degrees.
Ramsay’s speech is in continuity with the Constitutions of Anderson but, also, by evoking the Crusaders, he inserts medieval chivalric culture in the pathway of the Masonic Tradition: the Crusader Knights who rediscovered in Jerusalem the secrets of the Temple of Solomon and Freemasonry in the thirteenth century, would have brought them to Scotland where the Holy Land still persists..
Ramsay’s Speech, the Lausanne Constitutions and Regulations of 1762, and the Great Constitutions of Frederick the Great of 1786, give rise to the A∴A∴S∴R∴
The complex genesis of the Scottish high degrees was completed in 1801 with the constitution of a Supreme Council in Charleston (South Carolina), called Mother of the World, with which the Great Federal Constitutions of 1786 were implemented. Among the founders, the figure of Count AUGUSTE DE GRASSE-TILLY assumes a particular importance, as he was provided with special patents to promote the constitution of other Supreme Councils in the two hemispheres. In 1804 he participated in the foundation of the S∴.C∴ of France, of which he assumed the role of Sovereign Grand Commander for life, and on the 4th day of the 2nd month of the year of T∴.L∴ 5805 he affixes his signature at the end of the founding charter of the Supreme Council of Italy, assisted by the Brothers Vidal, Renier, Pyron and others. The “Supreme Council of Sovereign Grand Inspectors General of the 33rd and final degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Free Masonry for the Masonic Jurisdiction of Italy” – this is the complete denomination – it is therefore the third in the world. Prince EUGENE de BEAUHARNAIS, Viceroy of the Kingdom of Italy, and son of Josephine de Beauharnais, who married Napoleon in a second marriage, was elected Sovereign Grand Commander.
On June 20th of that same year 1805, the S∴C∴ founded on its own authority, as provided for by art. 1 of the Second paragraph of the Bull of Foundation, the General Grand Lodge, called the Grand-Orient of Italy, placed under the direct authority of a Sovereign Council of Masonic Princes Grand Inspectors General of the 33rd degree. The Bull also contained the first General Constitutions of the Order, which initially sanctioned the indissoluble and inseparable bond between the two Institutions. Masonic Order and Scottish Rite are thus born together, the first direct offspring of the second: a single symbolic base on which to support a single Rite.
The political fragmentation of Italy into several autonomous states, however, favoured the constitution of other Supreme Councils, among which we mention those of Naples, Palermo, Turin, and Florence. Only in 1887, with national unity now consolidated, did the various Supreme Councils merge into a single Supreme National Council seated in Rome, which could thus boast continuity with respect to the S∴C∴. of Milan of 1805, and with it also the General Grand Lodge to the Grand-Orient of Italy.
The re-found unity did not last long: in 1908 a separation was conducted within the Supreme Council, which saw the constitution, by the then Lieutenant S∴G∴C∴, of a new Supreme Council, called “Piazza del Gesù” in contrast to the historical one called “Palazzo Giustiniani”.
The separation between the authority of the Grand-Orient of Italy and the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite will be decreed within the latter, in 1922. The jurisdictional separation between Order and Rite was then universally sanctioned in 1929 by the Paris Conference of the Supreme Councils of the world.
In the Fascist period, all Masonic activity was prohibited, and ritual bodies were forced to dissolve (1925). Ettore Ferrari, however, did not dissolve the Supreme Council, which continued its activity in exile. At the end of the Second World War there was the reorganization within the national territory of various associations of the Scottish Rite, which initially contended for the legitimate descent from the pre-war S∴C∴, but which then ended up merging into a single Supreme Council in Palazzo Giustiniani led by the S∴G∴C∴ Tito Signorelli, thus guaranteeing and safeguarding historical continuity with the Supreme Council of 1805.
In 1967 the surgeon GIOVANNI PICA was elected S∴G∴C∴, and he exercised his mandate until 1976. During his sovereignty, the Italian S∴C∴ was finally unified and had the recognition by both U.S. Conferences. In 1975 he attended the International Conference of Supreme Councils held in Indianapolis, where he was elected first Vice President of the future International Conference to be held in Rome in 1980.
Furthermore, a relevant circumstance with regard to the subsequent history of the Scottish Rite in Italy, the S∴C∴ led by Pica approved, on June 23rd, 1968, an amendment to art. 43 of its General Regulations: the new version attributed to the S∴G∴C∴ the “prerogative right to expel, by his own motivated decree, any Brother and to demolish any dependent Ritual Body, for serious and special emergency and disciplinary reasons, in order to defend and safeguard the dignity and integrity of the Rite”.
In December 1976, the mandate of S∴G∴C∴ was conferred on Br∴ VITTORIO COLAO, who found himself at the head of a historical, legitimate, regular S∴C∴ recognized by all the Supreme Councils. of the world. But it was during his reign that insurmountable contrasts developed between the members of the S∴C∴, which led to a serious schism, the consequences of which still affect Italian Freemasonry.
To overcome the contrasts, which now rendered the S∴C∴ inoperative, he used the reformed art. 43 of the General Regulation of the S∴C∴ On May 4th, 1977, the S∴G∴C∴ Vittorio Colao dissolved all the dependent Ritual Bodies, including the S∴C∴ expelled the members responsible for these conflicts, and immediately provided for the reconstitution of a new Supreme Council.
Br∴ Manlio Cecovini, among the proponents of the reformulation of art. 43 of the general regulation of the S∴C∴, the former Lieutenant of the S∴G∴C∴ Colao (having already submitted his resignation from office on 9th April 1977 for health reasons, resignation that Br∴ Colao first rejected and then had to accept at the insistence of the resignee), in concert with the Grand Master of the G∴O∴I∴, he did not recognize the work of the Sovereign as legitimate and together with other expelled brothers, acted as if the dissolution of the S∴C∴ had not occurred, and in turn expelled the Sovereign Colao and the other members faithful to him, defining his own as a legitimate continuation of the S∴C∴ of the A∴A∴S∴R∴ of Palazzo Giustiniani, but in fact separating himself from the S∴C∴ of the legitimate S∴G∴C∴ Colao. He obtained the immediate recognition of the G∴O∴I∴, which constituted the symbolic base of the Cecovini S∴C∴.
By his decree of 16.02.1983, the S∴G∴C∴ Fausto Bruni, who in 1978 succeeded Brother Vittorio Colao who prematurely passed through to the Celestial Valleys, in turn revoked the legitimacy and regularity of the G∴O∴.I∴ as the symbolic basis of the A∴A∴S∴R∴ and reconstituted the G∴O∴.I∴ of the A∴A∴S∴R∴. (“the same one which found legal genesis – for the first time in Italy – on 16 March 1805 at the initiative of Count August De Grasse Tilly”), assuming the Grand Mastery pro-tempore and then attributing, on 21st May 1983, in strict adherence to the Document (Bull of 1805) the original denomination of “General Grand Lodge of Italy”.
In 1999 the General Grand Lodge assumed the current name of NATIONAL GRAND LODGE OF THE FREE MASONS OF Italy – DESCENT OF 1805, wishing by this to reaffirm in the denomination also, its legitimate and uninterrupted historical descent from the Grand Lodge directly and originally constituted of the S∴C∴ of De Grasse-Tilly of 1805.
However, the Supreme Council headed by Manlio Cecovini, and his successors has never ceased to claim this legitimacy and historicity for its organization, going as far as to also appeal to lay justice to have its 1805 descent recognized. But civil justice has always rejected in numerous Court sentences any claim to this effect, always recognizing this legitimacy and continuity to the Supreme Council of the Most Powerful Brothers Colao and Bruni, and with it to its symbolic base.
The above is amply documented in the volume “R.S.A.A. Supremo Consiglio – Documenti 1965-2006” – Edizioni Bastogi 2009.
Brother Bruni was succeeded as Sovereign Grand Commander by the Most Powerful Brothers. Loris Carlesi, Cesare Cocchi and Cesare Benincasa, current Sovereign Grand Commander.
The Most Worshipful Brother Ferdinando Antoniotti was elected in 1978 Grand Master of the General Grand Lodge of Italy. He was succeeded by Brothers Vincenzo Di Lisi, Michelangelo Castello, Cesare Cocchi (under whose mastership the Grand Lodge assumed its current name), Roberto Imperio and Antonio Cuomo, current Grand Master.