Skip to main content
Back to top

What is Freemasonry?

Three Freemasons talking near Covent Garden in London

One of the oldest social and charitable organisations in the world, Freemasonry's roots lie in the traditions of the medieval stonemasons who built our cathedrals and castles. 

It is here that a number of the famous elements of Freemasonry find their roots. In the medieval era, stonemasons often travelled around to find work in different locations. To demonstrate their level of qualification, they would use grips, words and signs in order to distinguish themselves from unqualified builders.

Freemasonry uses building analogies to teach members how to lead productive lives that benefit the communities that they live in. In the medieval era, stonemasons wore aprons and gloves to protect themselves while working on shaping rough pieces of stone, but in today’s society Freemasons meet to build friendships and communities rather than cathedrals and castles.

Guiding principles of Freemasonry

For Freemasons, there are four important values that help define their path through life: Integrity, Friendship, Respect and Charity. In today’s world filled with uncertainty, these principles ring as true now as they have at any point in the organisation’s history.

Integrity

Building good people 

Freemasons are focused on building themselves as people of integrity, and membership provides the structure to help achieve that goal. Being a Freemason gives members a sense of purpose, supporting and guiding them on their journey through life. Collectively, members are bonded through an understanding of unity and equitability – principles fundamental to Freemasonry.

Friendship

Building together

Freemasonry provides the common foundation for friendships between members, many of which will last for life. Being a Freemason means something different to each person who joins, but whether looking to make acquaintances or develop their own potential, all members share a sense of togetherness that strengthens their ability to succeed and grow.

Respect

Building unity

Freemasonry brings people together irrespective of their race, religion, or other perceived differences that can divide us as a society. Members are expected to be of high moral standing and are encouraged to talk openly about what the organisation does and what it means to be part of it.

Charity

Building compassion

Kindness and charitable giving are deeply ingrained within the principles of Freemasonry and the organisation provides the structure for members to make positive contributions to their communities and various causes through fundraising events or volunteer work. Individuals can make an important contribution at local, national and global level by giving both their time and money.

Did you know?

Freemasons are responsible for Manchester City playing in blue

In 1894, facing financial crisis, Manchester City Football Club was offered a helping hand by the Freemasons. In acknowledgement of the organisation’s act of charity, the club adopted masonic colours, giving them the light blue shirts that are so recognisable to football fans today.

What happens at a Lodge meeting?

Freemasonry is organised in smaller units of members, called Lodges, where meetings are held, and members meet together. A Freemason Lodge is a place where members will spend a significant part of their journey in Freemasonry and each member can freely choose the Lodge they wish to be part of. 

Lodge meetings are typically held in two parts. The first involves more administrative procedures, such as proposing and balloting for new members and receiving news about charitable fundraising. The second part focuses on ceremonies, which might relate to areas such as the admittance of new members or the installation of the Master of the Lodge and his officers – a process made up of three degrees, or stages, each marked by a special ceremony.

Two members of Freemasonry are getting ready for the Lodge meeting
Two members of Freemasonry are getting ready for the Lodge meeting

Our ceremonies are based around three principles that are still taught in our ceremonies today: look after those less fortunate, improve yourself and live life well so as to be remembered for the right reasons.

True to the sense of friendship and togetherness among Freemasons, meetings are also social events, providing an occasion for members to dine together. Outside of the Lodge, activities include community fundraising and volunteering activities, as well as a varied programme of events where spouses, partners and families are welcome.

The Three Degrees of Freemasonry

When a person is initiated into Freemasonry, they complete the First Degree. At this point, they become an 'Entered Apprentice'. The First Degree ceremony reminds us that all are equal – it is the responsibility of those that do well to look after those less fortunate. 

Upon completion of the Second Degree, a member becomes a 'Fellowcraft Freemason'. This encourages members to better themselves through education and focuses on self-development. 

After this, the member will then undertake the Third Degree. This ceremony teaches them how to use their life wisely and be remembered for the right reasons. On completion, they become a Master Mason.