about the Order...
Candidates for the Order (in full The Masonic and Military Order of the Red Cross of Constantine and the Orders of the Holy Sepulchre and St. John the Evangelist) see how Christianity can be embraced with Freemasonry by learning how the legend of the Emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity is set within Masonic Ritual linked with the history of the Roman Empire.
There are two parts to this Christian Order.
The Masonic and Military Order of the Red Cross of Constantine and
The Orders of the Holy Sepulchre and of St. John the Evangelist, which are appended thereto
form one order of Freemasonry, open to all Royal Arch Companions who hold and profess a belief
in the Christian Trinitarian Faith.
The Order uses the Legend of Constantine and subsequent conversion of the Pagan Empire as an object lesson in the acquisition and confirmation of Faith. Candidates in this Order come to recognise how Christianity can be embraced by enacting the legend of Constantine's conversion set within a Masonic ritual that is linked with the history of the Roman Empire.
Constantine was the first Roman Emperor to openly encourage Christianity and declare his conversion to it. His conversion followed what he believed to be a miracle; this is commemorated during the ceremony of the first Degree of the Order.
The Roman Emperor Diocletian in AD 293 split the Empire into Eastern and Western Divisions for administrative and security reasons. He appointed a co-Emperor Maximian to govern the West, and each appointed an heir apparent known as a Caesar.
In AD 305, Diocletian and Maximian retired as co-Emperors and Constantine's father, Constantius, succeeded to the Western Empire governing both Britain and Gaul. Constantius died at York while putting down a rebellion in AD 306. The Roman legions in Britain immediately hailed Constantine as Augustus and he, in turn, became governor. This was to lead to the wars of succession that took Constantine to the decisive Battle of Milvian Bridge at Saxa Rubra, north-east of Rome, on 28th October AD 312.
Legend holds that Constantine had directed a standard bearing a Cross be carried before him into battle. Afterwards, several Christians in his army at once came forward and avowed their own faith. In recognition, Constantine instructed that they should henceforth display a Red Cross emblazoned on their armour.
On his triumphant return to Rome, Constantine, with the help of his chief bishop, Eusebius is said thereafter to have formed a Conclave of Knights from among his Christian troops, and used them to replace the traditional Praetorian Guard as the personal bodyguard of the Emperor.
Constantine's victory established him as undisputed Emperor of both the East and West, and transferred the capital of his Empire from Rome to Byzantium, later to be named Constantinople in his honour.
Constantine had bravely espoused Christianity in his Pagan Empire, the first Emperor to do so, and
conversion quickly spread to become the sole religion of the Roman Empire. He also was baptised on his death bed.
The Orders of the Holy Sepulchre and of St. John the Evangelist
- usually referred to as ‘Appendant Orders’ - commemorate the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and interpret both Craft and Royal Arch Freemasonry in a Christian context.
The Order, although deriving much of its rich symbolism from Anglican Christian usage and customs, is non-denominational and is open to all Royal Arch Freemasons in good standing who profess a sincere belief in the Christian Trinity-in-Unity and who desire to expand their Masonic knowledge in a New Testament setting.
Qualification for membership of this Order is that one must be, as said before, a Royal Arch Companion and profess a belief in the Trinitarian Christian Faith. An invitation to join is not required. If you would like further information on the Order, or details of how to join (given the above qualifications) - please send us an e-mail.↑ Top
History of the Order
In the early 1800s, there were a number of bodies, Masonic and otherwise, using the name Red Cross which have confused the early history of this Order. However, there is no doubt that the present Order was re-organised and firmly established by Robert Wentworth Little in 1865.
It was an Order which once started, spread rapidly and in the first decade, over a hundred Conclaves were chartered.
The 'Masonic' Order of the Red Cross of Constantine appears to have been first organised in the United Kingdom by Charles Shirreff about 1780 AD, and was re-organised in 1804 by Waller Rodwell Wright.
During the next fifty years the Order was not very active until in 1865 Grand Imperial Conclave was reassembled for the election and enthronement of William Henry Wright.
Since 1865 there has been steady and continuous working and daughter Grand Imperial Conclaves have been formed from England throughout the world and in recent years, in Germany, France and Finland.
Robert Wentworth Little (1840 – 1878)
Little was from 1862 on the staff at Freemasons’ Hall, London, and after four years became the cashier. He left that appointment when he was elected Secretary to the Royal Masonic Institutions for Girls and there evinced an enthusiasm for the raising of charitable funds which was reflected in his zeal for Orders beyond ‘pure antient Masonry’. But he continued to serve the Craft and was first Secretary (1869) for the Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex, and then became its Deputy Provincial Grand Master, continuing in that office until his early death at the age of 38.
He was to hold high rank in several Orders and degrees which survive today but is perhaps best remembered as a progenitor, founder in 1866 and the first ruler of the Societas Rosicruciana in 1867, and as one of the virtual founders in 1865 of the Order of the Red Cross of Constantine.
Little was editor of a weekly periodical The Freemason from issue 1, published on March 13, 1869 until 1873.
On 22 October 2014 there was a Memorial Dedication.
For more interesting details please click this link.
Charles Shirreff (1737 - ?)
Major Charles Shirref was an army officer who had been initiated into Freemasonry at Louisberg, Cape Breton in America in 1758 at the age of 21. He appears to have been active in several regimental Lodges whilst in America, being Master of a lodge in Cape Breton and founding Master of another in 1761. Following the end of the war against the French in Canada, the army was put onto a peace footing, and Shirreff returned to the United Kingdom in 1763 and moved to Jersey the following year.
There is little to account for Shirreff's presence in Jersey, for his regiment, the 45th Foot are not recorded as having done garrison duty in the Island. His (half) pay of two shillings and fourpence per day (£0.12p) would have enabled him to live as a gentleman of leisure. He was reinstated to full pay in 1765 so it must be assumed that he was here in some military capacity, possibly as Fort Major. When he arrived in Jersey there were no permanent lodges. He therefore immediately applied to the Provincial authorities for a warrant to form a stationary lodge.
Major Charles Shirreff was a keen proponent of ‘additional’ degrees and Orders.
The oft-quoted connection of the Order of the Red Cross of Constantine with Major Charles Shirreff in 1780, with Lord Rancliffe in 1796 and with Waller Rodwell Wright from 1804 is based on an misapprehension. A particular cause of confusion which Lord Rancliffe and Wright were concerned was that of the Red Cross of Palestine, which had not survived.
Waller Rodwell Wright (1775 – 1826)
Born in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk in 1775, he was educated at Cambridge where he read civil law. He subsequently entered Lincoln's Inn and was called to the Bar in 1800. In 1804 he took a constructive interest in the reorganising of the degree of the Red Cross of Constantine, following on from the earlier work started by Charles Shirreff in around 1780. He was the 4th Grand Master of the Order from 1807 to 1812 and followed the HRH Prince Edward (later the Duke of Kent) and was succeeded by HRH the Duke of Sussex.
He also played an important part in the greatest Masonic transaction of all time, for his name appears as one of the five signatories (immediately following that of the Duke of Sussex) in the Articles of the Union of the two Grand Lodges - the Moderns and the Antients, to form the United Grand Lodge of England. the signing took place at Kensington Palace on the 1st December 1813.
In 1814 he was appointed President of HM Court of Appeal and a Senior Member of the Supreme Council of Jurisdiction in Malta.
William Henry White (1777- 1866)
William Henry White was initiated and passed in April 1799 in the Lodge of Emulation and reached the Master’s chair at the end of the following year, with a second term from 1804 to 1809. In 1810 he became ‘junior’ Grand Secretary under his father. At the Union of 1813 he and Edwards Harper from the Antients were appointed joint Grand Secretaries and so continued until 1839. Thereafter White alone carried out the duties until 1856.
W.H. White’s duties and interests ranged far beyond the Craft. He had held the Office of Recorder to the Modern’s Grand Royal Arch Chapter and was Grand Scribe E of the (united) Supreme Grand Chapter from 1817 to 1858. He acted in a similar capacity in the Grand Conclave of Knights Templar from 1822 to 1846 and was involved in the ‘revival’ of the Order of the Red Cross of Constantine in 1865 when he was 88 years old.
You may find this and more information using:
- The Freemason's Pocket Reference Book,3rd Edition, by Fred L. Pick and G. Norman Knight
- A reference Book for Freemasons, 1998 edition, by Frederick Smyth↑ Top