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Although widely accepted that Freemasonry originated in England in 1717, there are some suggestions that it actually has its roots in continental Europe, pre-dating its English inception.
Some historians argue that the first Masonic lodge in France was actually founded in 1688 by the Royal Irish Regiment, yet there is no conclusive proof of its existence. The first recorded instance of a Masonic lodge in France was in 1725 in Paris, at the house of the traiteur Hure on rue des Boucheries.
The first Masonic lodge in France was attended predominantly by Irishmen and Jacobite exiles, and it wasn’t until seven years later, in 1732, that the lodge received official patents from the Grand Lodge of England. It was thereby officially established as the first Masonic lodge in France, under the name of Saint Thomas, Paris.
What this tells us, is that French Freemasonry is at least as old as Masonry in England, and has a unique and fascinating story of its own. In this post, we dive into the rich history of Freemasonry in France, and ascertain how it grew to become one of the thriving centres of Masonry in continental Europe.
The establishment of the Grand Loge de France.
The oldest records in possession of the Grand Loge of France date back to May 1737. The following year in 1738, the Anderson Constitutions note the existence of a Grand Master and lodges in France – these were given equal acclaim to lodges in England, Ireland, and Scotland.
The first Grand Master of the French lodges was Louis de Pardaillan de Gondrin, and it was in the period following his death that Masonry in France began to evolve, and French Masonry started to acknowledge the Scottish high degrees in their associated by-laws.
In the years following 1773, a significant number of French Grand Lodges began abiding by new statutes that led to the formation of the Grand Orient de France. At the culmination of the French Revolution, the Grand Orient merged with the Grand Loge de Clermont and reorganised itself into seven high degrees of the French Rite.
It was not, then, until around 1802, that a semblance of structure can be attributed to French Freemasonry, when a general circular announced that the practice of any other system of high degrees was prohibited in France, other than those stipulated by the Grand Orient.
Although Freemasonry in France has a complex historical formation, it has grown to become one of the most significant and active Masonic bodies in the whole of Europe.
For more information about Freemasonry in France, you can visit the website of the Grand Orient of France.