What is the Holy Royal Arch?
Put simply, it is an order in Freemasonry, very closely aligned with Craft Freemasonry. It is generally held to be the “next step” for Master Masons and the culmination of pure and antient masonry.
What is the Connection of the Royal Arch with Craft Freemasonry?
In the Book of Constitutions, which is given to every Craft Mason in the English Constitution, there is a ‘preliminary declaration’ which reads as follows:
“by the solemn act of union between the two Grand Lodges of Freemasons of England in December 1813, it was ‘declared and pronounced that pure ancient masonry consists of three degrees and no more, viz: those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch’.”
In 2003 the United Grand Lodge of England acknowledged the status of the Holy Royal Arch to be “an extension to, but neither a superior nor a subordinate part of, the degrees which precede it”.
How is the Royal Arch Organised?
The Royal Arch is more commonly known as ‘Chapter’. Whereas Craft Masons meet in a Lodge, Royal Arch Masons meet in a Chapter and are known as “Companions.” The meetings are “Convocations.”
Chapters are attached to a Craft Lodge and the name and number is taken from that Lodge. Members are distinguished by the Jewel that they wear on the left breast, the colour of the ribbon varying in accordance with their rank. The Chapter breast Jewel is the only Jewel which is permitted to be worn together with Craft Jewels in a Craft Lodge.
HRH The Duke of Kent heads both the Craft and the Royal Arch; being the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England and the First Grand Principal of the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of England. Similarly, in Cumberland and Westmorland, the RW Provincial Grand Master is also the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent.
Ritual and Ceremonies
Aside from the annual Installation, there is only one ceremony in the Royal Arch, the Exaltation (admission of a new Companion). The language, symbolism and teachings of the Exaltation are profound, colourful and beautiful and considerably enrich all that goes on in the craft. There is a very different, mystical atmosphere in Royal Arch.
The Craft Degrees use the temple building, its architecture and aspects of operative masonry as the framework for the teaching of a moral code, exhorting us to improve our relationships with the people around us and to maintain and uphold the three grand principles of brotherly love, relief and truth. Finally, we are exhorted to discover more about ourselves. The Royal Arch takes matters further and makes all that has been presented complete and perfect. Progress through the Royal Arch completes an individual’s journey through Freemasonry.
Craft Masons are, therefore, actively encouraged to become members of the Royal Arch in order to further develop and enrich their understanding of Freemasonry.
Supreme Grand Chapter
The Supreme Grand Chapter of England is the governing body of Royal Arch Masons in England, Wales and the Channel Islands. Its headquarters are at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London.
The Supreme Grand Chapter of England has over 100,000 members grouped in over 3500 Chapters. Chapters in London are organised into groups administered by the Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London. Chapters outside London and within England, Wales and the Channel Islands are grouped into 47 Provinces each headed by a Provincial Grand Superintendent.
Chapters meeting abroad are grouped in 32 Districts each headed by a District Grand Superintendent, 7 Groups each headed by a Grand Inspector, with 7 chapters being administered from Freemasons’ Hall.