Romania remains a mystery for most US citizens. Americans I speak to often only recognize it for romantic connections to Transylvania and the mistaken association to the Gypsies referred to as Romanis. Beyond these stories lays a country that has been a battleground between western and eastern empires throughout ancient history and in it’s more recent era was formed by a global community of intellectuals who had to sacrifice their lives for their civil rights and equal freedoms. The modern day country of Romania is only the current state of boundaries and people who’ve undergone many changes in governance and cultural revolution. Along with these changes Freemasons have ebbed and flowed through the fabric of its history. The list of famous Romanian Freemasons may not be household names here in the US, however a brief survey reveals a consistent theme of writers, philosophers, scientists, and politicians who were the most respected men of their time.
Records support that it was 1734 when Romania founded its first two Masonic lodges, which was only 17 years after the founding of the Grand Lodge of England. The two lodges, Loggia di Galazzi and Iaşi, were consecrated at a time when the country was still divided into the two Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. The first Worshipful Master of Iaşi was the then-current reigning Lord of Moldova, Constantin Mavrocordat. For several decades Lords of the principalities would act as Masters or Brethren in the growing number of lodges. Many foreign dignitaries brought with them Masonry from surrounding territories and were among some of the most prominent members of the court until in 1777 the Turkish leadership, critical of Masonic egalitarian ideals, ordered the dethroning and murder of the then Moldovan Lord Grigore Ghica III. This marked the beginning of a new era in Romania where Freemasons were repressed, arrested, and convicted of crimes against the state. Many Masons were exiled or even executed in this period, however the Fraternity continued to inspire higher thoughts and greater deeds such as the efforts of Horea and Cloşca, who led the uprising that resulted in the abolition of serfdom in 1785 and was one of many events happening throughout Europe’s enlightenment preceding The French Revolution.
Even as Romania emerged from this dark period of Freemasonry in the early 1900’s, it can be hard to decipher the shadow of rumor from the light of truth. It’s stated that on the morning of the Paris Peace Conference in 1918, that sanctioned the internationally recognized union of Transylvania and Romania, that five members of the Romanian delegation became Freemasons or more ambiguously “received light” according to the minutes of the lodge workshop. This event is even more notable in consideration that Freemasonry had been suspended in neighboring countries including Hungary, its closest neighbor. Despite a revival of the brotherhood the most destructive event was yet to come when the Soviets imposed a communist regime in the country that outlawed Masonry and in 16 years from 1948 to 1964 shrunk the number of living identifiable Masons in the country from 1500 to a few hundred. The fraternity remained scattered and weakened until in 1990 The Grand Orient of Italy and The Grand Lodge of California with the assistance of the Grand Lodges of France and Austria reconstituted the first Romanian lodge leading to re-consecration of the Supreme Council of Romania, Portugal, and Poland in 1993. As a testament to the importance that Freemasons have had on the history of Romania, the then President of Romania, Ion Iliescu, made a speech in 2003 that declared once and for all the Fraternity’s lasting influence.
“…In particular, Masonry has contributed to the establishment of modern Romania and its unitary statehood. Yet, these facts were kept hidden in Romania for the last 50 years… In the context of globalization today, the future of a modern and civilized nation cannot be viewed outside dialogue. We need as many bridges as possible to facilitate cultural exchange. Freemasonry is part of this process. It is a communicating vessel for all the forces willing to work for the welfare of the Romanian nation, its development, and full assertion.” – Ion Iliescu
In today’s Romanian Fraternity there are similar requirements of candidates to those used here; Men age 21 and older (or 18 years if children of Masons) of any ethnic and religious background of good reputation, a belief in the immortality of the soul and in Divinity, generically called the Great Architect of the Universe, and the choice to join being of your own free will and accord. In contrast to the US, but aligned with many European lodges, is the request for a professional resume upon submission of an application. From the collected experiences of this author throughout European countries I’ve been convinced that this request is made to maintain the emphasis to bring men into the Fraternity who value education and action to support their promise to seek light and provide the duties of their kind offices to all.
Currently there are seven Grand Lodges operating in Romania, including a Grand Lodge for female Freemasons. To best understand which lodges we are in current Amity with please contact your Grand Lodge who can give the proper and recognized process for travel and Masonic correspondence.
WB:. Seann Maria, St. John’s Lodge #9