With roots stretching back to the medieval stonemasons and a well-earned reputation for secrecy, Freemasonry is an ancient fraternity shrouded in mystery. Now, as the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) celebrates its 300th anniversary, the Freemasons have allowed cameras in for the first time to reveal what really goes on behind closed doors. With unprecedented access, we discover what it means to be a Freemason through the stories of members themselves, from the regalia and the grand ceremonies to charity and the unbreakable bonds of brotherhood. And we ask, just how relevant is Freemasonry in the 21st century?
While the vast majority of viewers are familiar with Freemasons, few can describe who they are and what they do with any confidence or accuracy. The series asks, what has motivated generations of men to join its ranks? How important is brotherhood to its members? What does Freemasonry stand for and what do Freemasons do? How important is charity in Freemasonry? And what does Freemasonry have to offer society today?
Any man can become a Freemason as long as he believes in a Supreme Being and doesn’t have a criminal record; but to do so, he must pass through three Degrees. In this ground-breaking series, we are given unique and unprecedented access to Freemasons and their rituals.
Seen through the lives of the Masons themselves, we follow them as they attend Lodge meetings and pass through different ceremonies. From the infamous 1st Degree initiation (with blindfolds, bared breasts and rolled-up trouser legs), when the candidate becomes an Entered Apprentice to the 2nd Degree ceremony, when a Mason is seen as coming of age and passes to the level of Fellow Craft. Finally, there is the most powerful of all Masonic rituals, the 3rd Degree – when a man is confronted with his own death and raised to the level of a Master Mason to become a fully-fledged member of the brotherhood. All meetings are followed with the traditional dinner, known as the ‘Festive Board’ – when Brethren let their hair down with endless toasts, ‘firing’ and, often, a song.
For the first time, the United Grand Lodge of England, governing body to Freemasonry’s 200,000 members, allowed various ceremonies to be filmed, including the consecration of a new Lodge and the Installation of both a Worshipful Master (the top man in the Lodge) and a Provincial Grand Master (the top man in the county). In addition, we are given unprecedented access to Freemasonry’s Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, as he presides over one of the year’s biggest Masonic events inside the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall.
But it’s not all pomp and ceremony. Across the series we follow ordinary Masons as they learn and rehearse their ritual and the moral lessons it contains, raise money for charity and enjoy the camaraderie they say comes with being a member of the brotherhood, to paint a comprehensive, Masons-eye-view of life Inside The Freemasons.
The series starts at 20.00Hrs on Monday 17th April on Sky 1