Friday, June 13, 2014

A Cauldron of Masonic Growth: 18th Century Bordeaux

The history of Freemasonry in Bordeaux begins in the 18th century with the creation in 1732 by three Irish sailors, the first lodge called L'Anglaise. The founders of this first lodge Martin Kelly, Nicholas Staunton and John Robinson were Irish Jacobites from Youghal, in County Cork, who like other Irish and Scots who had followed James II into exile established Freemasonry in France. Étienne Morin trading between the Antilles and Bordeaux, in 1745, founded the Scottish lodge of Bordeaux, Les Élus Parfaits. It is certainly one of the first French Workshops working beyond the degree of Master. Half the lodges of Saint Domingue originated out of Bordeaux. The quality of Freemasons who assist in this creation - all prominent members of the three already existing lodges in Bordeaux - shows that he already enjoyed a good reputation.

Famous citizens of Bordeaux were introduced to masonry, such as the philosopher Montesquieu, Elisha Nairac, who made ​​a fortune in the slave trade, the politician Emile Fourcand, and the architect Victor Louis. Masonry became popular among Bordeaux's financial leaders through the auspices of René-Marie Floc'h, a notable of Breton origin. Finally, it was Montesquieu, who represented the arrival of Freemasonry in the midst of commerce. On August 29, 1740, the lodge Le Français was created for parliamentarians and for those who could not speak English, but most likely also as a result of some French Catholic pressure. Later this lodge would give birth to the La Parfaite Harmonie in 1744. L'Amitié or L'Amitié Allemande followed in 1746. Le Français and  L'Amitié Allemande dominated local Masonic activity and spawned many lodges in the future Gironde.

By the end of 18th century Bordeaux could claim more than 3,000 masons in a city of 110,000 inhabitants. These Lodges had become a meeting place of the Bordeaux elite and actively disseminated the ideals of Enlightenment thinking.

In 1742, the steward of Guyenne, Claude Boucher , send a report to the Minister as follows:

"He introduced here a kind of society under the title of free-mason's brotherhood that has become popular ... The novelty pleases many in this country and there are a number of honest people who've entered this brotherhood, even officers of Parliament. As sworn, under severe penalties, not to reveal the secrets of the order, it was not possible for me to penetrate, which made ​​me very suspicious."

In 1761, Martinez Pasqually after moving to Bordeaux is affiliated with the lodge Le Français and went on to found a Coën Temple. In 1764, Le Français became La Française Élue Écossaise, signifying with that name that she had a new chapter of higher grades. But due to the order of the Masonic Obedience in 1766 abolishing all constitutions relating to degrees higher than the first three grades (apprentice, journeyman and master), the chapter was suspended.

A new obedience appears in 1773, Le Grand Orient de France and at the initiative of Vicomte de Noé, then mayor of Bordeaux  this new Obedience installed, against the advice of the Maréchal Duc de Richelieu, the Steward of Guyenne, who wanted to open his own lodge.

During the 1789 Revolution, Freemasonry in Bordeaux sides strongly with the freedom movement chosen by the nation. During the Terror, it stops its activity for more than a year, for fear of persecution. This however, is only temporary. Freemasonry became an essential element of Bordeaux society at the beginning of 19th century.

The large number of masons in Bordeaux at the end of 18th century suggest that Lodges represented a privileged meeting place of Bordeaux elite of the day. Nearly half of its members were traders and brokers, nobles, naval and military officers, lawyers the clergy made up the remainder.

The growing number of lodges came to be associated with international trade networks. Protestant trading was dominant in European exchanges including the French and Masonic relationships came to replace confessionnal links, profession and family as a moving force.

From November 1783 to October 1784 , Count Cagliostro, visited Bordeaux as a guest of the Marquis de Canolle. He tried without success to establish a lodge of the Egyptian Rite in Bordeaux.

The Château de Mongenan which is now a museum with furniture of the 18th century preserved in state contains a collection of masonic materials of the 18th century, displayed in a room that was used as a Masonic temple from 1750 to 1898. This temple was an itinerant temple.  In this room there is a painting that was installed on the ceiling and which acted as the starry sky when the scenery of the temple was put in place.

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