On this page we hope to shed some light on the historical origins of operative and speculative masonry.  We will endeavor to present the history in a timeline fashion, and is a work in progress – so please come back and refer to it often.  Thank you.

Click HERE to see a general timeline of Masonry thru the ages.

The “Old Charges” are documents dating back to the 1200’s, that describe the structure of Masonic lodges.  The earliest describe the laws and customs of operative stone masons guilds, which were later incorporated into the laws and rules governing the speculative lodges as we know them today.  They consist of approximately 32 known manuscripts dated from 1248 up to 1730 after the formation of the Grand Lodge of England.  In reviewing these documents one can see the roots of Freemasonry, and begin to understand how speculative masonry was started.

The Statutes of Bologna written in 1248 are the earliest known of Masonic records.  It consists of a collection of sixteen pages of parchment, which is officially dated the eighth day of August 1248, the year of its application in the city of Bologna. The statutes of Bologna recognise the municipal authorities as the chief, so that the  city potentate is the master of the lodge. This makes the master mason the executors of the building projects of the town, reducing doubtlessly their liberty of action. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that the majority of rules determine the penalties or fines to be paid by masters or fellowcrafts, when they do not comply with or violate certain rules.

Click to read: Statutes of Bologna 1248

The Regius Poem (or Halliwell Manuscript) written around 1390. It is written as a poem listing the moral duties and charges an apprentice stonemason was required to swear to in order to join the guild.


“…In it contains fifteen articles for the master concerning both moral behaviour (do not harbour thieves, do not take bribes, attend church regularly, etc.) and the operation of work on a building site (do not make your masons labour at night, teach apprentices properly, do not take on jobs that you cannot do, etc.). There are then fifteen points for craftsmen which follow a similar pattern. Warnings of punishment for those breaking the ordinances are followed by provision for annual assemblies. There follows the legend of the Four Crowned Martyrs, a series of moral aphorisms, and finally a blessing.

Fifteen articles there they sought and fifteen points there they wrought. Part of Regius Manuscript

“Fyftene artyculus þey þer sowȝton, and fyftene poyntys þer þey wroȝton.” (Fifteen articles they there sought and fifteen points there they wrought.) —Regius MS, ca. 1425–50.

The origins of the Regius are obscure. The manuscript was recorded in various personal inventories as it changed hands until it came into possession of the Royal Library, which was donated to the British Museum in 1757 by King George II to form the nucleus of the present British Library. It came to the attention of Freemasonry much later, this oversight being mainly due to the librarian David Casley, who described it as “a Poem of Moral Duties” when he catalogued it in 1734. It was in the 1838–39 session of the Royal Society that James Halliwell, who was not a Freemason, delivered a paper on “The early History of Freemasonry in England”, based on the Regius, which was published in 1840. The manuscript was dated to 1390, and supported by such authorities as Woodford and Hughan; the dating of Edward Augustus Bond, the curator of manuscripts at the British Museum, to fifty years later was largely sidelined. Hughan also mentions that it was probably written by a priest….” – Wikipedia

Click to read:  Regius Poem

“…The Matthew Cooke Manuscript is the next oldest of the Old Charges [circa 1450], and the oldest known set of charges to be written in prose. It contains some repetition, but compared to the Regius there is also much new material, much of which is repeated in later constitutions. After an opening thanksgiving prayer, the text enumerates the Seven Liberal Arts, giving precedence to geometry, which it equates with masonry. There follows the tale of the children of Lamech, expanded from the Book of Genesis. Jabal discovered geometry, and became Cain‘s Master Mason. Jubal discovered music, Tubal Cain discovered metallurgy and the art of the smith, while Lamech’s daughter Naamah invented weaving. Discovering that the earth would be destroyed either by fire or by flood, they inscribed all their knowledge on two pillars of stone, one that would be impervious to fire, and one that would not sink. Generations after the flood both pillars were discovered, one by Pythagoras, the other by the philosopher Hermes. The seven sciences were then passed down through Nimrod, the architect of the Tower of Babel, to Abraham, who taught them to the Egyptians, including Euclid, who in turn taught masonry to the children of the nobility as an instructive discipline. The craft is then taught to the children of Israel, and from the Temple of Solomon finds its way to France, and thence to Saint Alban‘s England. Athelstan now became one of a line of kings actively supporting masonry. His youngest son, unnamed here, is introduced for the first time as leader and mentor of masons. There follow nine articles and nine points, and the document finishes in a similar manner to the Regius….” – Wikipedia

Click to read:  Cooke-Manuscript-1450

The Torgau Ordinances of 1462

“Torgau is a fortified town on the Elbe, in the Prussian Province of Saxony. It was there that Luther and his friends wrote the Book of Torgau, which was the foundation of the subsequent Augsburg Confession, and it was there that the Lutherans concluded a league with the Elector Frederick the Wise. The Stone-Masons, whose seat was there in the fifteenth century, had, with the other Masons of Saxony, accepted the Constitutions enacted in 1459 at Strasbourg. But finding it necessary to make some special regulations for their own internal government, they drew up, in 1462, Constitutions in one hundred and twelve articles, which are known as the Torgau Ordinances. A duplicate of these Constitutions was deposited, in 1486, in the StoneMason’s htte or Lodge at Rochlitz. An authenticated copy of this document was published by C. L. Stieglitz at Leipsic, in 1829, in a work entitled Ueber die Kirche der heiligen Kunigunde zu Rochlitz und die Steinmetzhtte daselbst, Concerning the Church of the Holy Kunigunde at Rochlilz and the Stone-Masons Lodge here An abstract of these Ordinances, with critical comparisons with other Constitutions, was published by Kloss in his Die Freimaurerei in ihrer wahren Bedeutung, Freemasons in their True Meaning. The Torgau Ordinances are important because with those of Strasbourg, they are the only authentic Constitutions of the German Stone-Masons extant except the Brother-Book of 1563.” – Wikipedia

Click to read: The torgau ordinances of 1462

On St John the Baptist’s Day (1717) – the first meeting minutes of the Grand Lodge of England

“It is the day of Saint John, the Baptist, in the year 1717…

To be precise: Thursday, June 24. Two days ago (but no one knows it yet in London), Prince Eugene of Savoy, had crushed the army of the Ottoman Vizier Halil Pasha in Belgrade; in four weeks, the naval forces of Venice, of the Papal States, of Malta and of Portugal will win another victory over the Ottomans, off Cape Matapan in Greece.


In London, peace and tranquility prevail, which allows a group of Free and Accepted Masons to come together to celebrate and feast; as men of good birth and good morals do. One has to remember that Freemasonry was not born in 1717; but got a new start, led by Accepted Masons who cherished mutual love and fraternity.


The document – The facts which are reported here, do not come from The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, containing the History, Charges, Regulations, &c. of that most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity printed in 1723, but from their second edition published in 1738 with a new title:

The New Book of Constitutions of the Antient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, containing their History, Charges, Regulations, &c. collected and digested by order of the Grand Lodge from their old Records, faithful Traditions and Lodges-Books, for the use of the Lodges.


The author of the book is a certain Reverend James Anderson (3), who relates the events leading Masons of four London Lodges to assemble, and to appoint a Grand Master, as the first link of an Institution which will later be called speculative.


Details are also reported of the Grand Lodge meetings, and annual appointments of Grand Masters, under the auspices of John the Baptist.” – Wikipedia