Freemasonry in Poland

Tadeusz Cegielski

Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of Poland

There were legends of Masonry circulating in Poland under the French name “La Confrèrie Rouge” for some years before the first lodge was founded, whose authenticity is unquestioned.

The first lodge, as recorded, was created in Poland in 1742 in Wiśniowiec (Wolhynia) by the nobleman Andrzej Mokronowski. Mokronowski had just returned from abroad, where he had been in touch with British and German Freemasons. The following year the Polish King, August III, who was also the Sovereign of Saxony, opened the lodge at his court under authority from Scottish sources. Thus with royal sanctioning and approval the institution blossomed.

In 1744, Mokronowski, who is considered to be the founder of Freemasonry in Poland, opened a lodge “Trzech Braci” (Three Brethren) in Warsaw, the capital of Poland. The lodge attained 75 members in a short time. In 1747 a new lodge was opened under the name “Trzy Boginie” (Three Goddesses) in Lwów (Lamberg). Also around the same time lodges were founded in Gdańsk (Danzig), Dukla and other places. It is believed that all these lodges worked under the Constitutions 1723 accepted by English Freemasonry.

At the beginning Polish Freemasonry had rather very few indigenous Poles among its members. In 1767, however, a purely Polish Lodge was founded, called “Cnotliwy Sarmata” (The Virtuous Sarmatian). This lodge became the Mother Lodge of all other Polish lodges.

The membership was composed of people from all walks of life: noblemen, catholic clergy, officers in the Polish army, artists, actors, musicians, with laymen making the majority.

The 28th of September 1769 marked a new and very important step in the history of Polish Freemasonry. The Grand Lodge (under the French name Grande Lodge “du Vertueux Sarmate” de Varsovie) under the gavel of August Moszyński was duly consecrated. The number of Polish blue lodges at this time stood at nine, of which seven worked in Poland, with two abroad. These last two lodges consisted of political refugees, seeking safety in Austria from the revengeful Russian Government — very influential in Poland in this time.

In 1772, the first partition of Poland occurred. The ambassadors of three powers, Russia, Prussia and Austria, exercised the most nefarious and heinous influence on public life. Under this influence Polish Freemasonry started to weaken and lodges ceased to convene. Finally the new Grand Master, Alois Frederic Brühl, put Polish Craft under German obedience.

This undesirable situation did not last very long. Mokronowski, Ignacy Potocki and others succeeded in establishing the new Polish mother lodge “Katarzyny pod Gwiazdą Północną” (Catherine under the North Star). Ignacy Potocki re-established lost contacts with British and French Freemasons and secured their patronage. The delegates of the mother lodge “Catherine” and thirteen other lodges restored the Grand Lodge of Poland on December 27th, 1781 (under the official name “Grand Mastery of Poland and Lithuania”). They adopted the regular English constitutions, worked out the by-laws, elected Grand Master Ignacy Potocki and were duly recognised by the Freemasonry of Western Europe. From that time, until the downfall of the Polish Republic, Freemasonry flourished in Poland.

In 1784 Mokronowski held the gavel for a very short time, until his death in the same year, and then by Szczesny Potocki. The latter was induced to resign due to his pro-Russian proclivities, which were in too conspicuous opposition to the prevailing national feelings. The mother lodge also had to change its name to a new and more acceptable one for Poles, namely “Stanisław pod Gwiazdą Północną” (Stanislaus under the North Star) in honour of the King Stanisław August Poniatowski, who, being himself a Mason, was in great favour with the Masonic action.

With about twenty working lodges and thousand active members all over the country Polish Masonry was very active. The Masonic influence made itself felt in almost every sphere of public life: in the education system, in charitable works, in the struggle against the clergy as well as in the campaign for granting equal rights to the commoners; in the endeavour to amend seriously the old untimely right through adoption of the famous “May 3rd Constitution” (second in the world after the American), as well as in the skilful leading of public opinion towards the recognition of the need to emancipate the peasantry.

The second partition of Poland (1792) was followed by Kościuszko’s War for Independence (1794), which failed. After the downfall of the Polish Republic (1795), Freemasonry was declared unlawful by the invaders and practically ceased to exist.

This inactivity lasted until Napoleon’s victories in Poland brought about its resurrection. Napoleon’s capture of Warsaw brought protection for Freemasonry (he himself being a Mason). The following wars, which placed a great part of Poland under the rule of the Russian Emperor, did not subsequently stop the brilliant progress and rapid expansion of the Order. It is enough to mention Kostka Potocki, who was simultaneously Minister of Education of Poland and Grand Master of Polish Freemasonry.

Unfortunately the liberal period under Russian domination was of an extremely short duration. The reactionary policy of Alexander I, in his capacity of Emperor and the King of Poland, became visible after three years. It was no surprise that on October 1st, 1821 a decree was issued closing all lodges forever and confiscating their archives. Thus ended the existence of Polish Freemasonry, and ten years later Polish autonomy itself.

The very modest return of Freemasonry dates from 1909. Resurrected Freemasonry lodges started to work not only in spreading Masonic ideals, but also in trying to aid efficiently and actively every effort in returning the country’s lost independence. Finally, in 1918, Poland regained its so long dream of independence. In 1920 the Mother Lodge “Kopernik” was established. A few months later, on September 11th, 1920 a National Grand Lodge was created as well as the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite. Thus, on the hundredth anniversary of its demolition, Polish Freemasonry took its due place in the great Masonic Community of the World. In 1928 there were 13 lodges, 10 of them in Warsaw, but the total membership was small, running at less than 500. Only a few of the members were known publicly as Freemasons and the Roman Catholic newspapers frequently attacked them. Nevertheless, Polish Freemasons became influential in a public life because of their high social and intellectual status; amongst them were well-known politicians, artists, high officers, businessmen and scientists.

The National Grand Lodge of Poland (NGLP) was admitted in December 1925 to the Association Maçonnique Internationale (AMI). The obediences which introduced NGLP to AMI were the Grand Lodge of Switzerland “Alpina”, the Grand Lodge of Netherlands, the Grand Orient of Belgium. Up to 1938 more than twenty obediences recognised the NGLP, and exchanged guarantees of friendship.

The leading Masonic personalities of this period were the famous writer and politician Andrzej Strug (1871-1937), the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of Poland and the Grand Master of NGLP, Rafał Radziwiłłowicz (1860-1929) and Jan Mazurkiewicz, both doctors and scientists, Grand Masters of the NGLP, Stanisław Stempowski (1870-1952); politician and writer, the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of Poland up to 1938.

John H. Cowles, the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction, USA, who travelled to Poland twice — in 1928 and 1936 — described the Polish Brethren as follows:

They are optimistic, however, and hope that by the influence of their lives, conduct and deeds time will change things (...) They know full well that masonry is unpopular with the masses, which are continually incited against it by the clergy. They know what the word sacrifice means to maintain a cause they love, and they excited my strongest sympathy and admiration. (Journeying of the Grand Commander, The New Age Magazine, n° 12; 1928; N° 1-5; 1929.)

Under pressure from the Roman Catholic clergy and radical right political circles, the Masonic Order was banned in Poland on November 22nd, 1938, by presidential decree. This was preceded by a decision by the Freemasons from the NGLP to close their own lodges. Polish Freemasons had always placed great emphasis on the legality of their activities, and had also manifested their attachment to the institutional state. In February 1940, outside Nazi-occupied Poland, Polish Freemasons resumed their activities. Politicians and ministers of the government-in-exile in Paris set up the lodge “Kopernik” (Copernicus).

After the end of World War Two, the Communists also battled against Freemasonry, declaring that it had lost its original progressive character. Only in 1961 did seven Masters who had been initiated before the war established the mother lodge “Kopernik” in the Orient of Warsaw. They did so on the basis of the authorisation given by the last Grand Commander, Brother Stanislaw Stempowski, 33°, to Brother Mieczysław Bartoszkiewicz, 33°. The “Kopernik” lodge, the sister of its exiled Parisian equivalent, was where Polish democratic opposition was forged. Among its members was the late Jan Józef Lipski (died 1991), a leading activist with the opposition Worker Defence Committee, KOR, and many present-day democratic and liberal statesmen.

In 1963, personal contacts were established between the mother lodge “Kopernik” in the Orient of Warsaw and the lodge “Kopernik” in the Orient of Paris. In 1989 the Paris lodge was asked to represent Polish Freemasonry. Ill. Brother Elvio Sciubba from the Grand Orient of Italy met brethren from Warsaw on October 6th, 1991 to offer assistance to the Polish Freemasons in the rebuilding the Order in Poland. This help was accepted with gratitude and his advice strictly followed. On December 2nd, 1991, two new lodges were awakened: “Walerian Łukasiński” in the Orient of Warsaw and “Przesąd Zwyciężony” (Prejudice Conquered) in the Orient of Cracow. On December 9th, 1991 these three Lodges decided to awake the National Grand Lodge of Poland. About 70 National Grand Lodges around the world were informed of the event and cordially invited to take part in the ceremony. On December 27th, 1991 during the formal meeting of the three lodges — “Kopernik” “Walerian Łukasiński” and “Przesąd Zwyciężony” — the National Grand Lodge of Poland was re-established and its Lights and Officers were elected. The re-awakening of the Polish obedience was the culmination in the long history of the Masonic Order in Poland.

Finally, in Washington, the Supreme Council Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of the Republic of Poland was established in October 1993.

During the next ten years Freemasonry in Poland expended slowly, but constantly. Due to negative public opinion in Poland, Roman Catholic in majority, all activity has to be done discreetly, which makes it very difficult and slow. In the present day, the National Grand Lodge of Poland consists of eight lodges. Including the first three, there are also the following lodges:

  1. No. 5 Lodge “La France” (French speaking) (Warsaw)
  2. No. 6 Lodge “Świątynia Hymnu Jedności” (Poznan)
  3. No. 7 Lodge “Pod Szczęśliwą Gwiazdą” (Warsaw)
  4. No. 8 Lodge “Eugenia pod Ukoronowanym Lwem” (Gdańsk).

The Supreme Council of Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Poland has a number of Subordinated Bodies:

Lodges of Perfection:

  1. No. 1 “Jan Józef Lipski” (Warsaw)
  2. No. 2 “Góra Wawel” (Wawel Hill) (Cracow)
  3. No. 3 “Temple of Isis” (French speaking) (Warsaw)

and two “under construction”:

  1. No. 4 “ ” (Poznan)
  2. No. 5 “ ” (Gdansk)
  1. Chapter “Rose-Croix”
  2. Council of Kadosh “Odro ab chao”
  3. Tribunal One Consistory “Polonia”.

The most important intention of the Supreme Council of Poland for the coming years is to make relations with neighborly Supreme Councils much more close and friendly as well as aiming at being recognized by the Supreme Councils in which we are not yet in amity.