Miguel H. Bronchud, Richard A. Crane, Peter H. Currie, Robert A. Gilbert,
John M. Hamill, Peter E. Holland, Charles C. Lawrence, David J. West
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MIGUEL HERNANDEZ-BRONCHUD: Don Juan Fernández de Heredia – the link between Templar Knights, Knights of St John and Medieval Guilds of Masons?
Caius Lodge No. 3355, United Grand Lodge of England
Preceptory No. 2 of Spain (Gran Priorato de España)
Secretary for Spain of AQC CC.
Freemasonry has, since its formal inception with the uniting of four London based lodges in 1717, sought an answer for its roots in history. The speculations have been as varied as the Freemasons who have offered them. Among the speculations have been:
Masons of Ancient Egypt (incl Moses),
The Roman Building Guilds,
Solomon´s workmen and a host of others.
The first so called “histories” of Masonry are found in a series of mainly but not exclusively English documents stretching from the late 1300s to the mid-18th century which are now collectively known as the “Old Charges”. Some 120 versions have been traced of which over 100 are still in existence. Although the versions have differences they have a common form: a history of Masonry followed by a series of charges giving the relationship between the duties of Masters, Fellows and Apprentices. This type of “history”, in the fashion of the times, is a combination of fact, Biblical stories and pure legends, with a special emphasis on Geometry.
In 1723 the Rev. Dr. James Anderson, a Scots Presbyterian Minister in London, at the request of the premier Grand Lodge set up in four London pubs in 1717 reviewed the Old Charges and produced the first Masonic Constitutions.
He prefaced the rules and regulations with the history from the Old Charges bringing it down to the formation of Grand Lodge in 1717. In 1738 he produced a second edition of the Constitutions in which he greatly expanded the historical introduction, introducing all manner of legendary, biblical and historical figures as Grand masters, Patrons or, simply, lovers of Masonry. He made no distinction between operative and speculative and that, combined with his claim that the events of 1717 were a revival caused by Sir Christopher Wren having neglected his duties as Grand master, gave birth to the idea that speculative Masonry was a natural outgrowth from the operative craft.
The theory of a direct descent states that as the medieval stone masons began to organise themselves they gathered in lodges as a means of protecting the craft. In the lodges they were divided into apprentices and fellows; developed simple entrance ceremonies; and had secret modes of recognition so that when stone masons moved fro one building site to another they could prove that they were of the “fellowship” and were worthy to be set to work. In the late 1500s and the early 1600s these operative lodges began to admit no-operative or gentleman masons and turned them into lodges of Free and Accepted or Speculative Masons.
From the early 1620s there is evidence in the account books of the London Masons Company of non-operatives and operatives being accepted into an inner circle, known today as the “Acception”. It has been claimed that this is evidence of a transitional lodge in England but the accounts appear to show that both sorts were joining a separate group, not gentlemen joining the London Masons Company. The evidence is, to say the least, confusing. In 1646 Elias Ashmole, the antiquary and founder of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, records in his diary that on 6 October 1646 he was made a Freemason at his father-in-law’s house at Warrington. Happily he recorded those present, none of whom had any connection with the operative craft.
We are left with the eternal question: where and when did ancient operative masons first develop speculative rituals and did they at any stage interact in a fraternal manner with warrior monks like medieval Templar Knights or Knights of St John (today known as Knights of Malta)?
I decided to approach the issue first from an analysis of the United Grand Lodge of England Coat of Arms.
UGLE coat of arms (the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London has the same “quarterings” on the shield).
In the Arms two cherubim stand one each side of a large shield whose border has lions on it (the “lions” were a XIXth century addition by the British Royals). The “quarterings” on the shield itself are (a) on the left, three castles and a chevron, (/\) on the chevron is a pair of open compasses: on the right are the four quarterings of a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. Above the shield is the Ark-of the Covenant with cherubim, and over the Ark is Hebrew lettering (honouring Adonai) . At the foot of the whole device is a scroll bearing a Latin motto. Its quarterings are derived partly from the Arms of the Premier Grand Lodge, that of the “Moderns”, and partly from the Arms of the Grand Lodge of the “Antients”. The castles, chevron, and compasses are taken, with some amount of adaptation, from the original Arms that were granted to the London Company of Freemasons in 1472, and probably one century earlier to the London Guild of Masons. Originally the Company of Mason’s Arms (Fig. 2) carried the motto “God is our Guide,” altered by the time the engraving of 1677 was made to “In the Lord is all our Trust”; this, however, was altered back again to the original motto late in the nineteenth century. Both of these mottos carry a great significance for the Initiate, who quite early in his career is required to affirm that he puts his trust in God.
The Worshipful Company of Masons of London (1356; WC coat of arms accepted 1472)
But what are the real origins of this coat of arms? We do not know for sure.
After the union of 1813 the Arms of the two English Grand Lodges were combined:
1) “The Moderns”: the castles, chevron, and compasses represent all that survived of the Arms of the Premier Grand Lodge.
2) “The Antients”: had adopted, years before, the “Tetramorphus” of the lion to represent strength; the ox, patience and assiduity; the man, intelligence and understanding; and the eagle, promptness and celerity â€“ four emblems which reveal to us that to the “Antients” the Royal Arch was an integral part of the Order.
The classical Tetramorphus is a fairly common early medieval Christian image in Romanesque Catalan and Aragonese churches, across the Pyrinees, but it was not as well known in England or other parts of Europe. In the Kabbalah, there were 4 worlds of the Tree of Life. There are 4 creatures in Ezekiel’s dream and in the Book of Revelations, 4 primary mental functions (Carl Jung), 4 Cardinal Points & 4 Dimensions in our universe. In the year 1675 a Spanish Jew, Jacob Jehudah Leon, had exhibited in London a model of King Solomon’s Temple which attracted considerable notice. Laurence Dermott, the alert Secretary of the “Antients” Grand Lodge, examined this model about ninety years after its first exhibition, and in connexion with it he saw at the same time a strange coat-of arms, of which he promptly availed himself in settling the Arms of his Grand Lodge. Presumably, this was the Tetramorphus.
In his famous book “The History of English FreeÂmasonry” (1994) by John Hamill, ex Curator and Librarian of the UGLE (I) not a lot is said or explained about freemasons before 1717. Unlike perhaps in Scotland, English records show no evidence of “operative lodges” nor secret modes or words of recognition. But he admits that the guild system in London (WC of Masons) was the only one in England to remain alive in the XVIth and XVIIth centuries. The late C.J. Mandleberg (PM Quatuor Coronati 2076, UGLE) confirmed in recent years the puzzling existence within this WC of London masons of an influential “inner circle”, called the “Acception”, probably dedicated to speculative discussions and perhaps the real intellectual “embryo” of modern freemasonry.
In the early 1700s a new theory was presented in Europe for Masonic history and that was that the Freemasons began in the medieval deserts of the Levant with the Crusaders and Knights Templar. The responsibility for this theory lies with two different men, Andrew Michael Ramsay (Ramsay’s Oration stresses links with Knights of St John) and the German Baron Karl Von Hundt (Order of Strict Observance stresses links with Knight Templar). Chevalier Ramsay, was a Mason, a gentleman of much culture, and a tutor of the Second Pretender to the English throne, Charles Edward Stuart (“Bonnie” Charlie). This distinguished exile, while in France, is said to have developed a Masonic system with a sixth degree, designated the Knight of the Temple, and during one of his visits to Scotland, to have created Knights Templar there. With the Pretender’s approval he attempted to use his Masonic connection to aid the exiled Stuarts return to the British throne. On 16th April 1746, the “jacobite” troops of “Bonnie” Charlie were completely defeated at battle of Culloden, and chevalier Ramsay simply fades away…
Von Hund said he had been initiated as masonic Knight Templar in 1742 by unknown superiors and a mysterious “Eques a Penna Rubra” who never turned up again. The mystery as to exactly what happens remains today.
On the other hand, in the book on “The history of the Order of the Temple”, by Sir Patrick Colquhoun of London, England, published in 1878, this prestigious author stated that in 1769 the mother Kilwinning Lodge of Scotland issued a charter to Kilwinning Masonic Lodge of Dublin, which authorized the conferring of the degree of Knight Templar therein, but it would appear that the Order was found in Dublin prior to that date in the possession of military organizations composed of the soldiers of Scotland and Ireland. It is probably by this same military source that the Order was introduced into the United States of America in Boston about the same period. Hughan, the great English Masonic authority, makes the positive statement that the first authentic record of the conferring of the Order is found in the minutes of St. Andrews Royal Arch Lodge in Boston under date August 28, 1769: “the petition of Bro. William Davis coming before the lodge begging to have and receive the parts belonging to a Royal Arch Mason, which being read, was received and he unanimously voted in, and was accordingly made by receiving the four steps, that of Excellent, Super-Excellent, Royal Arch, and Knight Templar.”
So that we are left with the question: did medieval Operative masons and Knight Templar, or Knights of St John –who obviously collaborated very closely in the building of castles, fortresses, war-machines, churches, chapels, and cathedrals – did they also share fraternal relations and speculative rituals and symbols?
Several years ago, I came to a positive conclusion while investigating the life and works of don Juan Fernández de Heredia (1306-1396), XIVth century Aragonese Grand Master of the Knights of St John (about one century before the political birth of modern Spain). I came across several unexpected findings in the remote Spanish region of Teruel called “El Maestrazgo” (literally, “the land of the Masters”) , which once was the fragile XIIth century frontier between the Christian kingdom of Aragon and the Islamic kingdom of Valencia . These findings , explained and documented in my two books “The Secret Castle” (available in three editions) and “From Stones to God” –both books available on the web in Amazon Books and in Apple Books- led me to understand that even if Scotland (XV-XVIth centuries) is often given credit as the birthplace of FM and the hypothetical link with Templars, it was in Spain and Portugal where the Military and Religious Christian Orders won decisive and irreversible victories against Islam: a process known as La Reconquista (IXth-XVth centuries). Also, it was in north west Spain where the “Camino de Santiago” ended, giving birth to the first Christian vertebration of Europe, well protected by the Templar Knight.
The Scottish hypothesis was popularized by bestseller books like : The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail (1982) by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln ; or The Temple and The Lodge (1988) by the same authors (minus Lincoln). Their book was the first to argue (in great detail) that there was a link between Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland and Freemasonry. Interest in Rosslyn Chapel increased again with the publication of the novel: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (2003). But Rosslyn Chapel chapel did not exist at the time of historical Knight Templar, as it was built 150 years after the dissolution of the Templar Order.
Serious doubt was also cast on any connection between FM and Rosslyn by the Curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland Museum and Library, Robert Cooper, and other authors, among other reasons because:
– the St. Clairs, builders and owners of Rosslyn, had been enemies of the Knight Templar: the family testified against the Templars when that Order was put on trial in Edinburgh in 1309
– “Rosslyn Chapel bears no more resemblance to Solomon’s or Herodâ€™s Temple than a house brick does to a paperback book” (according to Mark Oxbrow and Ian Robertson)
– The famous carving in a Rosslyn capitol of a “blindfolded man on his kneels with a rope around his neck and a book in his hand, and a knight behind”, may have been produced in the 1860s when architect David Bryce, a known Scottish freemason, was asked to undertake restoration work on areas of the church including many of the carvings.
Who was don Juan Fernández de Heredia?
In brief, don Juan Fernández de Heredia was a soldier, a diplomat, a sailor, a humanist, a builder/architect, and a religious Grand Master. He became key advisor to several kings of Aragon , as well as to several Avignon Popes and anti-popes at the time of the Schism of the Catholic Church. He fought bravely at the battles of Crecy (1346) and Poitiers (1356) and was taken prisoner by the English and pardoned by king Edward III. His initial coat of arms shows the same 3 castles (Figure 3b) as the WC Guild of Masons (only later it showed 7 castles).
An old don Juan Fernández de Heredia, with his characteristic “barba bifurcate”, within a capital letter in one of his many medieval manuscripts, in a strange “magical posture”. His Malta Cross was erased by the Spanish Inquisition.
His origins are obscure, as he was born- probably in 1306 or 1310 –as the illegitimate son of a noble from the ancient Kingdom of Aragon. Nobody knows who his mother was, but nevertheless he became a Knight of the Hospitallers, a position usually reserved to aristocrats or the legitimate children of noble feudal lords. His first historical appearances relate him to two castles in the province of Teruel previously owned by the Knight Templar, called Villel (1328) and Alfambra (1333). In Aragon the Knight Templar were not found guilty of heresy nor other crimes (resolution taken unanimously by the Council of Tarragona in 1312). When their order was abolished, by pope Clement V, most of their properties in Aragon and Catalonia passed on to their brethren the Hospitallers or Knights of St John. At the time don Juan was a Knight of St John in Teruel, there were still many former Knight Templar around, and he lived with some of them in both Villel and Alfambra, near Mora de Aragón (now called Mora de Rubielos).
Original coat of arms of don Juan Fernández de Heredia in a strange wooden altarpiece at the museum of the Cistercian Monastery of Poblet (Tarragona), with artistic reference to the Holy Shroud and the Nativity of Jesus.
Not far from the castle of Alfambra, now totally devastated, and as an integral part of the same defensive Knight Templar positions around the city of Teruel (arab “Tirwal”), we find both the only original Templar Knight frescoes with a “Tetramorphus” (in the Templar chapel at the tiny village of Camañas) and the Castle of Mora de Aragón (now Mora de Rubielos)
an intriguing 36 steps winding staircase leading three levels down from the exoteric chapel to an esoteric Temple, with a large Equilateral Triangle, with a missing apex, on the Eastern wall (XII to XIIIth centuries).
Besides these obvious monumental and artistic pieces of evidence, I gathered a significant amount of historical evidence to support my claims–quoted in my two books The Secret Castle (2008, 2010 and 2012), and From
Stones to God (2011), and recent 2012 speeches in Barcelona (Biblioteca Arús) and Madrid, short of a specific document stating that don Juan was indeed a cryptic Templar Knight or Free mason. The mere existence of such hypothetical document would, in any case, seem to be quite an irrational and “contra natura” expectation, given the absolute secrecy on the nature of these rituals and fraternal relations at the time.
Templar Knights Chapel (Ermita del Consuelo) in Camañas (Teruel), with wooden frescoes (depicting knights on horses in battle against Islam), and a mural “Tetramorphus” which was hidden until very recently by a false wall in front of the altar.
Mora de Rubielos (castle), with 36 steps winding staircase (each with one Masonic carving except for the first 3 steps and the very last one); and Equilateral Triangle on the East (unmistakably Masonic).