Freemasonry in Zurich

A Short History

Marco Badilatti, W.M. of the Lodge

Early traces of Freemasonry in the City of Zurich can be found in the year 1740. It was then that the lodge "La Concorde" received its warrant from the Swiss Regimental Schedorff Lodge which was stationed in Maubeuge, France. "La Concorde" unfortunately had a short life-span and appears to have ceased functioning in 1745.

In 1762 the Zurich Standard Regiment serving in Thionville, France, formed a military lodge "A la Liberté Suisse". Subsequently, on 13th of August 1771, officers of the regiment and other masons returning to Zurich formed the lodge "La Discrétion". At that time the warrant for "La Discrétion " was granted by the "Grande Loge Nationale de Genève" which itself had developed from the English Provincial Grand Lodge of 1737.

"La Discretion", although based on the English constitution, conducted its work in French. However, a year later, under the leadership of Br. Diethelm Lavater, a new direction was set with German as the working language and adoption of the "Ritual der Strikten Observanz" of Karl Gotthelf von Haund. At the same time the name of the lodge was changed to "Modestia cum Libertate". Further changes took place in 1779 when the practices of the "Schottisch Rektifizierten Ritus" were implemented. In 1784 interest in the lodges' activities waned and in 1786 ceased entirely.

Approximately twenty-five years later, on March 27th 1811, the beginnings of a reawakening in Freemasonry were felt when a temple rite was held in the Guild House "Zum Widder". Interest grew rapidly and later in the same year, on August 19th, the Inauguration of the lodges premises "Zum Wilden Mann" was attended by 40 brethren of "Modestia cum Libertate" and 26 visiting brethren. Within a month the lodge received its new "Constitutional Warrant" from the Basel based "Helvetischen Direktorium des Schottisch Rektifizierten Ritus".

For the next six years the lodge continued to grow but it was the election of Br. Heinrich Lavater as Worshipful Master which gave a new and dynamic impulse to the development of "Modestia cum Libertate". It was through his leadership that all rites were completely revised. With the exception of minor changes and adjustments to conform to language practices, these rites, including the Apprentice Rite which will be held in the Freemasons Hall on May 7th, 1987, are still used in essentially the same form today.

In June 1844 an important milestone in the history of the Zurich Lodges and Swiss Masonry in general took place. It was then that the Swiss Grand Lodge "Alpina" was founded in a ceremony held in the temple of "Modestia cum Libertate" in Zurich. Furthermore, the first Grand Master to be appointed was Br. Johann Jakob Hottinger of "Modestia". We are honoured that today's Grand Master, Br. Walter von Ins, is also a member of "Modestia cum Libertate", and welcome, his participation in our meetings with the "Anglo Foreign Lodges Association" and "Helvetica Lodge" in London on May 7th through 10th, 1987. Today, 143 years since its foundation, "Alpina" has 61 member lodges with approximately 3,700 brethren and is represented in all parts of Switzerland.

Returning to Zurich and the development of Freemasonry in the city: in 1851 a number of brethren of "Modestia cum Libertate" purchased Land on the "Lindenhof". For those unfamiliar with the geography of Zurich, the "Lindenhof" is located on a hill in the old town with superb views over the city and the river Limmat. Its history can be traced to Roman times, when it served as part of the city's fortifications. In this ideal location Br. Wegmann, an architect with artistic flair, was provided with the opportunity to construct a lodge of ample and impressive proportions. The building was completed on the 30th of April 1854 and is today the largest of its type in Switzerland.

Since its completion in 1854 the lodge has been continually extended through purchase of neighbouring properties and currently consists of two temples and conference rooms containing significant and historical artefacts, a library, archive and catering facilities. The activities of the lodge have been enhanced by a charity fund, which was established based on donations received from brethren, and which permits it to offer various and generous grants to the needy.

"Modestia cum Libertate" with its 191 members although the largest is not the only Zurich Lodge. Over the years a number of related lodges were founded, frequently with the assistance of brethren from "Modestia". At present, there are eight lodges, various "Unions of Rites" and one Royal Arch Chapter actively meeting and sharing facilities on the "Lindenhof". In the year 1902 a number of brethren from "Modestia" were instrumental in regularising the lodge "Zu den drei Eidgenossen", which was renamed "In Labore Virtus" and which with 131 members is the second largest lodge in Zurich. "Sapere Aude" followed some 18 years later. Originally a member of the Grand Loge "Zur aufgehenden Sonne" in Nürnberg it was regularised in 1920 and has 73 members today.

In 1925 the lodge "Libertas et Fraternitas", formerly affiliated with the "Old and Accepted Scottish 33 degree Rite Cerneau New York", was regularised as a member of the Grand Lodge "Alpina" and has grown to a membership of 70 brethren. The fifth lodge to join the "Lindenhof" was the "Cosmopolitan Lodge". Intended for brothers returning from overseas it was formed in 1960 and has currently 57 members working according to the English Emulation Rites. Shortly thereafter, in 1964, the lodge "Catena Humanitatis" was established an enjoys the active participation of some 87 brethren. Originally the lodge was a philanthropic society having ritual customs and practices.

Even more current and adding to the many languages heard an the "Lindenhof" the irregular lodge "Post Tenebras Lux" was regularised in 1975. Its 31 members conduct their work in French while the 26 brethren of the youngest member of the "Alpina" family, "Aurora Humanitatis" commenced their work in 1981 in German. This eighth and to-date last lodge owes its existence to the activities of the now defunct lodge “Diethelm Lavater" in which most of the present brethren were active.

Modestia cum Libertate