European Roots: Freemasonry’s History and Influence in Europe

Freemasonry in Europe

Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that traces its origins to the local fraternities of stonemasons in the late medieval period. It has since grown into a social and philanthropic movement with millions of members worldwide.

In Europe, Freemasonry has a rich and complex history, with various traditions and practices that vary by country.

This article will provide an analytical perspective on the development and current state of Freemasonry in Europe, focusing on its different forms, challenges, and relationships with society and politics.


The Origins of European Freemasonry

The roots of Freemasonry can be traced back to the medieval stonemasons’ guilds, which later evolved into a more symbolic and philosophical organization. The first Grand Lodge of London and Westminster was established in London in 1717/23, and from there, Freemasonry quickly spread across Europe.

The fraternity arrived in France in the early 1720s, and the first French lodge was established in 1725. Freemasonry subsequently spread to other European countries, including Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.


Continental Freemasonry: A Distinct European Tradition

Continental Freemasonry, a form of liberal Freemasonry, is the predominant tradition in most European countries. It originated in France and is characterized by its openness to political discussions within the lodge and its more inclusive membership, which often admits both men and women. Continental Freemasonry is concentrated in traditionally Catholic countries, where it has often been seen as an outlet for anti-Catholic sentiment.

The Grand Orient de France is the largest Masonic jurisdiction in France, followed by the Grande Loge de France. Other notable Continental Freemasonry organizations include the Grand Orient of Italy and the Grand Orient of Belgium.

In comparison, regular Freemasonry, which prohibits political discussions within the lodge, is more commonly found in English-speaking countries.


Freemasonry and Religion in Europe

Freemasonry has often been mistaken for a Christian institution due to its moral teachings, symbols, and rituals. However, it is essential to note that Freemasonry is a secular movement, not a religion.

While new members are expected to acknowledge a belief in a higher power, often referred to as the Grand or Great Architect of the Universe, there is no requirement to adhere to any specific religious denomination.


Opposition from Organized Religion

Throughout its history, Freemasonry in Europe has encountered opposition from organized religion, especially from the Roman Catholic Church. The Church has issued numerous papal bulls and encyclicals condemning Freemasonry, stating that its principles and rituals are incompatible with Catholic doctrine.

This opposition has led to periods of persecution and suppression of Freemasonry in several European countries, particularly in those with strong Catholic influences, such as Italy and Spain.

Despite this opposition, Freemasonry has continued to thrive in Europe, with many members considering their participation in the fraternity to be compatible with their religious beliefs.


Political Involvement and Freemasonry in Europe

Freemasonry has often been associated with revolutionary and liberal movements in European history. While regular Freemasonry imposes a strict ban on political discussions within the lodge, Continental Freemasonry allows for open political debate.

This openness has led to the involvement of Freemasons in various political events, including the French Revolution and the Italian Risorgimento.


Freemasonry and the European Enlightenment

The European Enlightenment was a period of intellectual and social transformation, which saw the rise of new ideas about democracy, human rights, and the separation of church and state.

Freemasonry, with its emphasis on reason, tolerance, and universal brotherhood, played a significant role in shaping these ideas. Many prominent European Enlightenment thinkers, such as Voltaire, Goethe, and Mozart, were known to be Freemasons.


Freemasonry and Modern European Politics

In contemporary Europe, Freemasonry is generally less involved in politics than in the past. However, the fraternity still occasionally faces accusations of undue political influence, particularly in countries with a high density of Freemasons, such as Italy and Greece.

These accusations are often driven by conspiracy theories and unfounded rumors, which contribute to the air of mystery and secrecy surrounding the organization.


Challenges Facing Freemasonry in Europe Today

Freemasonry in Europe faces several challenges in the 21st century, including declining membership, internal disputes, and public misconceptions about the fraternity’s activities and goals.

Declining Membership

Like many other fraternal organizations, European Freemasonry has experienced a decline in membership in recent decades. This decline can be attributed to several factors, including changing social priorities, aging membership, and the dwindling appeal of secret societies to younger generations.

Internal Disputes

Freemasonry in Europe is not a monolithic organization, and internal disputes between different Grand Lodges and Masonic jurisdictions can create rifts within the fraternity. These disputes often revolve around issues of regularity and recognition, with some lodges considering others to be “irregular” or “clandestine” due to differences in practice or adherence to Masonic principles.

Public Misconceptions and Conspiracy Theories

Public misconceptions and conspiracy theories about Freemasonry continue to persist in Europe, fueled by sensationalist media coverage and a lack of accurate information about the fraternity’s activities and goals.

These misconceptions can lead to mistrust and suspicion of Freemasons, making it more challenging for the organization to engage with wider society and attract new members.



Freemasonry in Europe is a fascinating and complex phenomenon, characterized by a rich history, diverse traditions, and an ongoing relationship with society, politics, and religion.

Despite facing challenges in the modern era, the fraternity continues to play a role in European culture, offering its members a unique space for personal growth, social engagement, and the pursuit of intellectual and moral development.

By understanding its history and current state, we can gain valuable insights into the role of Freemasonry in European society and the ways in which it continues to evolve and adapt to contemporary challenges.

Who are CGLEM

Confederation of the Grand Lodges of Europe and the Mediterranean – Universal Freemasonry and its intellectual property are less and less taken into account in the current times of constant movement and unclear future prospects.

Who are CLIPSAS?

An introduction to CLIPSAS and we look at who are they and what do they do

Who are VGLvD

An introduction to VEREINIGTE GROSSLOGEN von Deutschland / UNITED GRAND LODGES of Germany

Who are SOGLIA?

Society of Grand Lodges in Alliance (SOGLIA) is a confederation of Grand Freemason Obediences in which all members obey the principles of Regularity. Assembled annually, in different places of the world, in order to share fellowship and to promote Masonic tradition, SOGLIA members are respecting the autonomy of each Grand Lodge.

Grand Masonic Alliance TRACIA

The third largest Masonic Alliance of independent grand lodges, which currently has over 500,000 members in the world and an incredible resource of “good people with a good reputation” from around the world.

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