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Crusades

There was between Freemasonry and the Crusades a much more intimate relation than has generally been supposed. In the first place, the communications frequently established by the Crusaders, and especially the Knights Templar, with the Saracens, led to the acquisition, by the former, of many of the dogmas of the secret societies of the East, such as the Essenes, the Assassins, and the Druses. These were brought. by. the knights to Europe, and subsequently, as was believed by Brother Mackey, on the establishment by Ramsay and his contemporaries and immediate successors of Templar Freemasonry, were incorporated into the high degrees, and still exhibit their influence. Indeed, it is scarcely to be doubted that many of these degrees were invented with a special reference to the events which occurred in Syria and Palestine. Thus, for instance, the Scottish Degree of Knights of the East and West must have originally alluded, as its name imports, to the legend which teaches a division of the Freemasons after the Temple was finished, when the Craft dispersed-a part remaining in Palestine, as the Assideans, whom Lawrie, citing Scaliger, calls the Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem, and another part passing over into Europe, whence they returned on the breaking out of the Crusades.

This, of course, is but a legend, yet the influence is felt in the invention of the advanced Degrees rituals. But the influence of the Crusades on the Freemasons and the architecture of the Middle Ages is of a more historical character. In 1836, Westmacott, in a course of lectures on art before the Royal Academy, remarked that the two principal causes which materially tended to assist the restoration of literature and the arts in Europe were Freemasonry and the Crusades.

The adventurers, he said, who returned from the Holy Land brought back some ideas of various improvements, particularly in architecture, and, along with these, a strong desire to erect castellated, ecclesiastical and palatial edifices, to display the taste they had acquired; and in less than a century from the first crusade about six hundred buildings of the above description had been erected in Southern and Western Europe. This taste was spread into almost all countries by the establishment of the Fraternity of Freemasons, who, it appears, had, under some peculiar form of brotherhood, existed for an immemorial period in Syria and other parts of the East, from whence some bands of them migrated to Europe, and after a time a great efflux of these ingenious men-Italian, German, French, Spanish, etc.-had spread themselves in communities through all civilized Europe; and in all countries where they settled we find the same style of architecture from that period, but differing in some points of treatment, as suited the climate.

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