Freemasonry in Denmark
Freemasonry has been present in Denmark since the founding of the Lodge of St. Martin in Copenhagen in 1743.
The oldest and largest Masonic Grand Lodge in Denmark is the Danish Order of Freemasons (Danish: Den Danske Frimurerorden), in English also known as the Grand Lodge of Denmark. The Danish Order of Freemasons follows the Swedish Rite.
The Grand Lodge of Denmark (Danish Order of Freemasons) is that recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England and is the patent holder of all regular freemasonry in Denmark.
Above: Coat of Arms of the Danish Order of Freemasons (Den Danske Frimurerorden)
Craft Masonry in Denmark
The Swedish Rite is somewhat different from English Freemasonry in that, instead of having a series of side orders that a brother may or may not chose to join after going through the three degrees of Craft Masonry, the Swedish Rite has eleven degrees that a brother can work through in sequence (though few will get as far as the last degree in the sequence, “Most Enlightened Brother, Knight Commander of the Red Cross”).
The Swedish Rite of the Grand Lodge of Denmark (Danish Order of Freemasons) is divided into three divisions of which the first division deals with the Craft degrees.
The Danish Craft Masonry of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons (Danish: Det Danske Frimurerlaug af Gamle Frie og Antagne Murere) has 42 lodges and work the three Craft degrees following English Emulation Ritual.
It is recognised by the Grand Lodge of Denmark (Danish Order of Freemasons) as regular and they, in return, recognise the Grand Master of the Danish Order of Freemasons as their own Grand Master. Members of the Danish Order of Freemasons and the Danish Craft Masonry have mutual visiting privileges.
Above: Coat of Arms of the Danish Craft Masonry of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons (Det Danske Frimurerlaug af Gamle Frie og Antagne Murere)
Royal Arch in Denmark
Many of the degrees in the Swedish Rite are similar or equivalent to the degrees worked in England, but there is one striking omission; until recently there has been no Royal Arch in Denmark.
For many years, a growing number of Danish Craft brethren (members of the Danish Craft Masonry of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons) had been exalted into English Chapters, mainly in the Province of Hertfordshire and the Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London. This large influx of Danes sparked an interest for introducing the Royal Arch order into Denmark.
The beginning …..
The earliest recorded Anglo/Danish connections are from 2004, when Cloisters Chapter No. 7100 was consecrated in Hertfordshire and started exalting Brethren from Denmark, alongside English Brethren.
After exploring a number of ideas and Initiatives, in 2015 a group of Danish companions then started a special interest group in Esbjerg (the fifth-largest city in Denmark) which was known as ‘The Coffee Club’. The aim of this interest group was to explore the possibilities for establishing Chapters in Denmark, introducing the Royal Arch in the way they had been experiencing it in England.
In the meantime, a small number of Danes were exalted into Royal Arch Chapters in Germany, under the Supreme Grand Chapter of British Royal Arch Masonry in Germany. This group were granted permission by the Danish Grand Master to move two chapters from Germany to Denmark.
However, following meetings with the executive of the Grand Lodge of Denmark it was agreed that ‘The Coffee Club’ from Esbjerg would continue with its attempts at introducing the Royal Arch from England.
Subsequently, and in cooperation with the Danish Craft’s Board of General Purposes, an application was made on behalf of ‘The Coffee Club’ to the Grand Master, RW Walter Schwartz. This was for permission to relocate Royal Arch Chapters to Denmark, assisted by the Provincial Grand Chapter of Hertfordshire.
On 4th November 2016, the Grand Master granted permission to consecrate Royal Arch Chapters in Denmark under the Grand Lodge of Denmark. E Comp. Flemming Iversen, the key figure in the formation of ‘The Coffee Club’, was formally requested to lead the project and start the work of establishing the first Chapter as soon as possible.
At this point Hertfordshire became involved and together with the Committee of General Purposes, agreed a way forward. The ultimate goal is for there to be a Supreme Grand Chapter of Denmark.
For this to happen, the Danes (together with Hertfordshire Province) would need to demonstrate that they can administer, to CGP’s satisfaction, a minimum of three Chapters for a number of years.
Hertfordshire Province identified three Chapters that were struggling to remain viable and in danger of surrendering their Charters, suitable for moving their meeting place, by dispensation, to Denmark. Part of the selection criteria was the willingness of some of the Chapter members to remain members following the transfer and support the new Danish administration.
In fact, the first three Chapters identified also had Grand Officers amongst their membership, which helped with credibility when it came to producing a business plan and gaining approval from Supreme Grand Chapter.
It was felt particularly helpful if the Treasurer could continue for a while after transfer. There is an additional complication in dealing with two currencies; the membership subscriptions being collected in Danish Krone while the Supreme Grand Chapter and Hertfordshire dues payments are made in Sterling.
For the Danish Companions, while the ultimate goal is the eventual creation of their own Supreme Grand Chapter, they had an enthusiasm for the transfer initiative. Taking a Hertfordshire Chapter whose existence was uncertain and adopting it, gave it a renewed lease of life and a future in Denmark. It was a win-win.
The three Hertfordshire Chapters identified for transferring to Denmark were:
- Cheshunt Chapter No. 2921, consecrated in 1919 (to Esbjerg)
- James Terry Chapter No. 2372, consecrated in 1892 (to Copenhagen)
- Old Fullerian Chapter, No. 4698, consecrated in 1963 (to Odense)
Such is the importance of this initiative that Supreme Grand Chapter maintain the overview and ultimate authority. They receive an update on activity at every meeting of their Committee of General Purposes.
On the 29th September 2017 Cheshunt Chapter No. 2921 was granted permission to relocate the Chapter from Hertfordshire to Esbjerg, the west coast of Denmark.
On the 16th of December 2017 the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent, James Sharpley and Provincial Grand Treasurer, Tim Huckle travelled to Esbjerg to attend the official opening of the Chapter.
In May 2018, Old Fullerian Chapter No. 4698 held its last meeting at Watford in advance of “exporting” itself to Odense in Denmark. At this last meeting on UK soil, the members of the Chapter donated a new set of Robes and Sceptres for the Danish Companions to take with them, for the Chapter to use in their new home.
On the 8th June 2018 the members of James Terry Chapter No. 2372 held their regular meeting and decided they could not continue on their own but voted to permit the transfer of their meeting place to Copenhagen.
At the next meeting, held in Cheshunt, some 26 Danish Companions became joining members of James Terry Chapter. At the same meeting two further Danes were exalted into the Royal Arch as a fitting end to those members who were not likely to travel to Denmark and for them this was their last meeting.
The Most Excellent Grand Superintendent, James Sharpley and other members of the Executive presided.
On 13th January 2019 the first meeting of James Terry Chapter took place on Danish soil. E. Comps. Ken Holloway, Barry Pyle and David Broomer travelled to Copenhagen to attend. Ken managed the books as Treasurer, Barry acted as Principal Sojourner and David Broomer presented Grand Chapter certificates to a contingent of Danes.
On 25th May 2019, the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent, James Sharpley, accompanied by the Second and Third Provincial Grand Principals and many other Provincial Grand Officers, travelled to Odense in Denmark to dedicate the new set of Robes and Sceptres at the Old Fullerian Chapter No. 4698. These had been donated the previous year.
In May 2019 in Esbjerg, Denmark, MW. Bro Walter Schwartz, the Grand Master of Denmark and Comp John Harbø, the outgoing Grand Master of the Danish Craft were balloted to join and swell the growing number of members in Cheshunt Chapter No. 2921.
At this same meeting, 35 companions witnessed the installation of the three new Principals of the Chapter.
The festive board was presided over by E. Comps Tim Huckle and David Broomer, Hertfordshire Provincial Grand Treasurer and Assistant Provincial Grand Scribe E respectively.
James Terry Chapter managed one meeting on the 11th January, where two candidates were exalted.
Old Fullerian Chapter managed two meetings, the first on 21st January where one candidate was exalted and the new Principals elected.
Their second was following a summons for an emergency meeting to be held on 8th September, when the new Principals were installed. This was incredibly good timing as it fell within a window of opportunity of the Grand Lodge of Denmark general suspension being lifted on 1st September but then suspended by Hertfordshire Province on 18th September.
Interestingly this Old Fullerian Chapter meeting was not conducted under the ‘rule of six’ as it would have been in England. Clarification had been sought and it was confirmed that the government rules are those prevailing in whatever country the meeting is taking place, even though the Chapter was operating under an extension of Hertfordshire Province. Under the Danish government ruling, attendance at meetings was restricted to 50 indoors and outdoors.
The ritual used in the Chapters meeting in Denmark is Domatic in its original form. Whilst all ritual continues to be conducted in English, it is currently being translated into Danish and will be submitted to the Committee of General Purposes. Translation must be certified by an official translator and ‘is to be no less faithful to the wording and the spirit of the English original than the translation which it is intended to replace’.
It should be noted that the Installation ceremony will continue to be conducted in English, given that it allows flexibility for the Provincial Executive members and the few remaining English members to attend and take part in the ceremony. This too will be translated into Danish, under the same terms, once the Chapters come under the direct control of the newly consecrated Supreme Grand Chapter of Denmark, which will be probably sometime in 2023.
2021 and onwards …
Despite COVID seriously affecting everyone’s plans, the future for the Royal Arch in Denmark is excellent, although Freemasonry in Denmark remains locked down by the Grand Master until September.
One of the year’s highlights should have been in May, when members of the Herts Provincial Executive were to travel to Esbjerg and install the Grand Master of Denmark, Walter Schwartz as MEZ of Cheshunt Chapter. It cannot happen at the moment due to the suspension in Denmark until 1st September.
To meet the enthusiastic growth and success of the transfer initiative, the Danish Companions have sought a further Chapter to transfer in and complement the other three.
The ‘business case’ for the move for Ravenscroft Chapter No. 2331, consecrated in October 1925, is currently being prepared and will follow the same successful model as the previous three. As part of the move, it is noted that there are several members of the Chapter of Friendship No. 44, in the Province of East Lancashire, who live and work in Copenhagen but travel to the UK for their Chapter meetings. They have shown a strong desire to transfer to a Chapter that meets in Denmark.
In addition, they have friends in Danish Lodges who, were it not for the travel requirements, would wish to be exalted. They believe that the number of interested parties both exalted and awaiting the ceremony is well over 30.
It is hoped that, once the business case has been received, Supreme Grand Chapter, through its Committee of General Purposes, will approve the Province of Hertfordshire transferring the meeting place of Ravenscroft Chapter. It would move from Radlett and meet in Copenhagen, at the same centre used by the James Terry Chapter.
In all three current Chapters, meeting in Denmark, the Treasurers and Scribes E have remained in their respective offices. Whilst the Treasurers of the three Chapters to this day remain the same namely, E. Comps. Tim Huckle, Brian Pickup and Ken Holloway, it is intended to transfer those positions to the Danish assistants who have been mentored to take over. Similarly, the Scribes E of the three Chapters namely, E. Comps. Ken Williamson, Bill Ayre and David Tilley will hand over control to their assistants in Denmark at the appropriate time, although for James Terry Chapter that has already happened with Comp. Geert Bertelsen taking over from David Tilley.
Should any Royal Arch member wish to travel to Denmark to see a different culture have small nuances and influences on a ceremony that is still fundamentally the same, they would not be disappointed. The welcome you would receive could not be warmer and genuinely offered. E. Comps. John Young and Jason Roberts are two people who have tried it and are anxious to visit again, but you have been warned, you are more than likely to be given a part to play!
E Comp. Flemming Iversen continues to play a leading role in this developing initiative. He is the Liaison Officer (Danish: Forbindelsesofficer) and our person on the ground in Denmark. In addition he is also the Danish Craft’s Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Jutland South and Funen.Had it not been for the keen support of the former Grand Master of the Danish Craft, John Harbø and former President of the Board of General Purposes, Borge Holm, E Comp Flemming could not have achieved the successful transition of the three Chapters, hopefully soon to be four.Flemming Iversen was one of the first Danes exalted into Cloisters Chapter and was the first Dane to be installed into the first Principals Chair in November 2016.On Saturday 4th February 2017, the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent, James Sharpley, attended the regular meeting of the Chapter and presented E Comp Flemming with a ‘field promotion’ of PPGStwd – the first Danish Companion to have ever received a Provincial Grand Rank – in recognition of all the work and support he had given to the Anglo/Danish initiative.