How Ancient is the Golden Fleece?

Discussion in 'Masonic Education' started by iainmason, Nov 2, 2009.

  1. iainmason

    iainmason Registered User

    How Ancient is the Golden Fleece?
    This article came from the Ontario Mason magazine
    By Robert R Beckett May 15, 2006
    by W. Bro. David Cameron, Grand River Lodge, No. 151, Waterloo

    When the Senior Warden puts the apron on the newly initiated brother, he tells him that the badge with which he is being invested is "more ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle; more honourable than the Star or Garter, or any other order in existence". So, how old is that badge?

    The Order of the Golden Fleece was a chivalric order founded in 1430 by Philip the Good of Burgundy. The Order of the Eagle was founded in 1433 by Albrecht von Habsburg, Duke of Austria, who later became the Holy Roman Emperor.The Order of the Garter was founded in 1348 by King Edward III of England,and The Order of the Star, in 1351 by King Jean II of France. These are all orders of knighthood, members of which are allowed to wear the distinctive badge of the Order.

    Notice that the Orders of the Golden Fleece and the Eagle are actually the most recent, but that the Senior Warden describes the badge of a mason as more ancient than they are. Isn't that odd? The authors of the Work may in fact be referring not to the medieval Order of the Golden Fleece, but rather to the legend of Jason and the Argonauts, recorded in the third century BCE by Apollonius of Rhodes, the librarian of the great library atAlexandria. And the Roman Eagle they refer to could be the Standard of the Roman Army used in the first century BCE. But the legend of the Golden Fleece is a myth of Hercules and the gods, not a real event. And the Roman Army's Eagle was a standard carried into battle, not a badge worn by an individual.

    No, I think if we look closely at the Work we can see the answer. It says that the badge of a mason is older than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle. It does not however say it is older than the Star or Garter. Does that not imply that it is not as old as they are? When the Senior Warden tells the candidate that Freemasonry is older than the Order of the Golden Fleece, but not as old as the Order of the Star; he is saying that the Craft dates from somewhere between 1351 and 1430!

    What was happening in the world at that time? The Norman cathedral at York was being torn down and replaced by the present Gothic structure; the British Parliament was passing laws which formally organized the trade guilds, including one statute in 1389 which required that guilds and brotherhoods submit charters and letters patent; and the Halliwell Manuscript containing the Regius Poem was written. This manuscript, which some date to 1390, contains the oldest record of Freemasonry which we have, and was the basis for the Ancient Charges which are found in our Bookof Constitution. Thus I believe that the authors of the Work were stating that Freemasonry had its origins in the stonemason's guilds formed in the late 14th century - or at least the apron did.

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