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This Emperor of Russia was induced by the machinations of the Jesuits, whom he had recalled from banishment, to prohibit in his domains all secret societies, and especially the Freemasons. This prohibition lasted from 1797-1803, when it was repealed by his successor. Paul had always expressed himself an enthusiastic admirer of the Knights of Malta; in 1797 he had assumed the title of Protector of the Order, and in 1798 accepted the Grand Mastership. This is another evidence, if one was needed, that there was no sympathy between the Order of Malta and the Freemasons. Dr. Ernest Friedrichs' Die Freimaurerei in Russland und Polen, Freemasonry in Russia and Poland 1907, has an interesting account of Masonic conditions under Paul I of Russia, who reigned from 1796 to 1801. He tells us that Catherine's son, Paul I, was himself a Freemason. It is said that he was introduced to Freemasonry during a journey which he made through Europe, when he was still the Czare witch, in company of his wife, and of Prince Kurakin who was a most devoted son of Freemasonry. Was it not natural then that the Association which had been outlawed and banished by his mother should look forward to being reinstalled and rehabilitated?
And this expectation seemed as though it were perfectly justified, for immediately after his coronation Paul summoned to Moscow the Freemasons of that city, with Professor Matthai, the Master in the Chair of the former Lodge To the Three Swords at their head, and took counsel with them "in a brotherly spirit and without ceremony" as to what should be done. At the conclusion of the negotiations "he embraced each single one as a Freemason and gave him the Masonic shake of the hands.
" This promised very well, and that "a Committee was now appointed to examine the documents, to collect the ruins of Freemasonry and to organize the whole," was but logical. After so much recognition and so much encouragement on the part of the sovereign, followed in 1797--the prohibition of Freemasonry, which "was carried out with great strictness." This sudden change in his manner of looking at things and in his attitude to Freemasonry would cause surprise in a man of ordinary capacity, but Paul was mentally deranged, and it was just his acting by fits and starts that was characteristic of his disease. But does such an explanation clear up everything? No, for Paul was not so ill as to be unable to grasp what would be the consequences of his action. On the contrary, as soon as it was a question of an advantage for his own person, or something that added to his lustre, he was suddenly quite normal in the choice of his means. This change of attitude was, therefore, perhaps, preceded by well-weighed considerations; nay, we may add that they were considerations with a real genuine background.
It was about this time that the Knights of Malta who were hard-pressed by Napoleon Bonaparte turned to the Czar Paul for protection. According to the information conveyed to Paul by Count Litter, a Knight of Malta, Freemasonry was a hindrance and even a danger to the aims of this Order. He was, therefore, obliged to decide in favor of the one or the other. The Maltese Order was something definite; it was a power, whereas Freemasonry was really nothing, or at any rate something altogether indefinite which might perhaps have a future, but perhaps it might not. Could Paul find the choice hard to make? In addition there was a something which, though altogether unpolitical, has often decided questions in politics, namely: Paul's principal mis tress, the extremely beautiful Anna Lopuchin. It was possible for him to make her a Grand Cross Lady of the Order of the Knights of Saint John, but "pretty Annie" among Freemasons was no longer conceivable after the famous "Egyptian Masonry"! Thus it was that Paul became the Grand Master of le Order of the Knights of Saint John at Malta, end Freemasonry was prohibited. Further, it is said that the Jesiuts set going every imaginable and unimaginable expedient against Freemasonry. Nor does this seem to have been impossible.
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