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Cologne, Cathedral Of

The city of Cologne, on the banks of the Rhine, is memorable in the history of Freemasonry for the connection of its celebrated Cathedral with the labors of the Steinmetzen of Germany, whence it became the seat of one of the most important Lodges of that period. It has been asserted that Albertus Magnus designed the plan, and that he there also altered the Constitution of the Fraternity, and gave it a new code of laws. It is at least clear that in this Cathedral the symbolic principles of Gothic architecture, the distinguishing style of the Traveling Freemasons, were carried out in deeper significance than in any other building of the time. Whether the document known as the Charter of Cologne be authentic or not, and it is fairly well established that it is not, the fact that it is claimed to have emanated from the Lodge of that place, gives to the Cathedral an importance in the views of the Masonic student. The Cathedral of Cologne is one of the most beautiful religious edifices in the world, and the vastest construction of Gothic architecture. The primitive Cathedral, which was consecrated in 873, was burned in 1248. The present one was commenced in 1249, and the work upon it continued until 1509. But during that long period the labors were often interrupted by the sanguinary contests which raged between the city and its archbishops, so that only the choir and the chapels which surrounded it were finished. In the eighteenth century it suffered much from the ignorance of its own canons, who subjected it to unworthy mutilations, and during the French Revolution it was used as a military depot. In 1820, this edifice, ravaged by men and mutilated by time, began to excite serious anxieties for the solidity of its finished portions. The debris of the venerable pile were even about to be overthrown, when archeologic zeal and religious devotion came to the rescue. Societies were formed for its restoration by the aid of permanent subscriptions, which were liberally supplied; and it was resolved to finish the gigantic structure according to the original plans which had been conceived by Gerhard de Saint Trond, the ancient master of the works. The works were renewed under the direction of M. Zwiner. The building is now completed; Seddon says in his Rambles on the Rhine (page 16), "It is without question, one of the most stupendous structures ever conceived." There is a story, that may be only a tradition, that there was a book written by Albertus Magnus called Liber Constructionum Alberti, which contained the secrets of the Operative Freemasons, and particularly giving directions of how to lay the foundations of cathedrals. Even though these builders had a special treatise on laying the foundations of cathedrals, they had not made provision for inventions which came later. It has been shown that within these modern days the foundations of the Cathedral were being loosened by the constant shaking from the railway trains that now run near, so that they became unsafe and seriously threatened the destruction of this wonderful masterpiece of Gothic architecture. The German Government came to the relief and saved the structure.



this is an interesting Masonic document, originally written in Latin, and purporting to have been issued in 1535. Its history, as given by those who first offered it to the public, and who claim that it is authentic, is as follows: From the year 1519 to 1601, there existed in the city of Amsterdam, in Holland, a Lodge whose name was Het Vredendall, or The Valley of Peace. In the latter year, circumstances caused the Lodge to be closed, but in 1637 it was revived by four of its surviving members, under the name of Frederick's Vredendall, or Frederick's Valley of Peace. In this Lodge, at the time of its restoration, there was found a chest, bound with brass and secured by three locks and three seals, which, according to a protocol published on the 29th of January, 1637, contained the following documents:

1. The original warrant of constitution of the Lodge Het Vredendall, written in the English language. 2. A roll of all the members of the Lodge from 1519 to 1601. 3. The original charter given to the Brotherhood at the City of Cologne, and which is now known among Masonic historians as the Charter of Cologne.

It is not known how long these documents remained in possession of the Lodge at Amsterdam. But they were subsequently remitted to the charge of Brother James Van Vasner, Lord of Opdem, whose signature is appended to the last attestation of The Hague register, under the date of the 2d of February, 1638. After his death, they remained among the papers of his family until 1790, when M. Walpenaer, one of his descendants, presented them to Brother Van Boetzelaer, who was then the Grand Master of the Lodges of Holland. Subsequently they fell into the hands of some person whose name is unknown, but who, in 1816, delivered them to Prince Frederick.

There is a story that the Prince received these documents accompanied by a letter, written in a female hand, and signed "C., child of V. J." In this letter the writer states that she had found the documents among the papers of her father, who had received them from Brother Van Boetzelaer. It is suspected that the authoress of the letter was the daughter of Brother Van Jeylinger, who was the successor of Van Boetzelaer as Grand Master of Holland. Another version of the history states that these documents had long been in the possession of the family of Wassenaer Van Opdem, by a member of which they were presented to Van Boetzelaer, who subsequently gave them to Van Jeylinger, with strict injunctions to preserve them until the restitution of the Orange regency.

The originals are now, or were very lately, deposited in the archives of a Lodge at Namur, on the Meuse ; but copies of the charter were given to the Fraternity under the following circumstances: In the year 1819, Prince Frederick of Nassau, who was then the Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of Holland, contemplating a reformation in Freemasonry, addressed a circular on this subject to all the Lodges under his Jurisdiction, for the purpose of enlisting them in behalf of his project, and accompanied this circular with copies of the charter, which he had caused to be taken in facsimile, and also of the register of the Amsterdam Lodge, Valley of Peace, to which Brother Hawkins has already referred as contained in the brass-mounted chest. A transcript of the charter in the original Latin, with all its errors, was published, in 1818, in the Annales Maonniques. The document was also presented to the public in a German version, in 1819, by Dr. Fred Heldmann; but his translation has been proved, by Lenning and others, to be exceedingly incorrect. In 1821, Doctor Krause published it in his celebrated work entitled The Three oldest Masonic Documents. It has been frequently published since in a German translation, in whole or in part, but is accessible to the English reader only in Burnes' Sketch of the History of the Knights Templar, published at London in 1840; in the English translation of Findel's History of Freemasonry, and in the American Quarterly Review of Freemasonry, where it was published with copious notes by Brother Mackey.

P. J. Schouten, a Dutch writer on the history of Freemasonry, who had undoubtedly seen the original document, describes it as being written on parchment in Masonic cipher, in the Latin language, the characters uninjured by time, and the subscription of the names not in cipher, but in the ordinary cursive character. The Latin is that of the Middle Ages, and is distinguished by many incorrectly spelled words, and frequent grammatical solecisms. Thus, we find bagistri for magistri, trigesimo for tricesimo, ad nostris ordinem for ad nostrum ordinem, etc. Brother Hawkins who prepared this article concluded, that of the authenticity of this document, it is but fair to say that there are well-founded doubts among many Masonic writers. The learned antiquaries of the University of Leyden have testified that the paper on which the register of the Lodge at The Hague is written, is of the same kind that was used in Holland at the commencement of the seventeenth century, which purports to be its date, and that the characters in which it is composed are of the same period. This register, it will be remembered, refers to the Charter of Cologne as existing at that time ; so that if the learned men of Leyden have not been deceived, the fraud---supposing that there is one in the charter- must be more than two centuries old. Doctor Burnes professes to have no faith in the document, and the editors of the Hermes at once declare it to be surreptitious. But the condemnation of Burnes is too sweeping in its character, as it includes with the charter all other German documents on Freemasonry ; and the opinion of the editors of the Hermes must be taken with some grains of allowance, as they were at the time engaged in a controversy with the Grand Master of Holland, and in the defense of the Advanced Degrees, whose claims to antiquity this charter would materially impair. Doctor Oliver, on the other hand, quotes it unreservedly, in his Landmarks, as a historical document worthy of credit; and Reghellini treats it as authentic. In Germany, the Masonic authorities of the highest reputation, such as Heldermann, Morsdorf, Kloss, and many others, have repudiated it as a spurious production, most probably of the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Kloss objects to the document, that customs are referred to in it that were not known in the rituals of initiation until 1731; that the Advanced Degrees were nowhere known until 1725 ; that none of the eighteen copied documents have been found; that the declaimer against Templar Freemasonry was unnecessary in 1535, as no Templar Degrees existed until 1741; that some of the Latin expressions are not such as were likely to have been used; and a few other objections of a similar character. Bobrik, who published, in I840, the Text, Translation, and Examination of the Cologne Document, also advances some strong critical arguments against its authenticity. Summing up the above' evidence, Brother E. L. Hawkins was convinced that on the whole, the arguments to disprove the genuineness of the charter appear to be very convincing, and are strong enough to throw at least great doubt upon it as being anything else but -a modern forgery. See Mackey's revised History of Freemasonry (page 780) and Gould's History of Freemasonry (1, 496), where the question of the authenticity of the document is examined, and it is classed among the doubtful manuscripts.

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