Food For Thought
In researching for this month's Famous Freemason, one cannot fail to come to the conclusion that the scholars of the Craft are split as to whether he, Sir Christopher Wren, was a Freemason or not. The move removing him from the records of the Craft as such emanate from Gould some 150 years after Wren's death. Up until that time Sir Christopher Wren was acknowledged to be a Freemason.
In addition to Wikipedia text on him, which is excellent, there were several other files which I accessed, and make very good reading. I list them here
WREN, SIR CHRISTOPHER
from ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FREEMASONRY AND ITS KINDRED SCIENCES
by ALBERT C. MACKEY M. D.
SIR CHRISTOPHER WREN AND FREEMASONRY
By Bros. Bernard Williamson and Michael Baigent (Originally presented Summer 1996.)
WAS ST.PAUL'S BUILT BY A MASON?
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SIR CHRISTOPHER WREN
by W.Bro. Martin I.McGregor, Master of the Research Lodge of Southland No.415 (2008)
WAS ANDERSON RIGHT? WHO WAS HE?
by RW Ossian Lang, Grand Historian, 1932
I favour the view that Sir Christopher Wren was a Freemason. I find it very hard to believe that a man of such standing as Aubrey would have lied, and that the secretary of the Royal Society would not have ommitted copying such a lie, or error in fact if the meeting alluded to in Aubrey's note did not occur, or was postponed. Therefore those who do not consider that Sir Christopher Wren was a Freemason must also believe that Aubrey and the Secretary of the Royal Society were not honourable men and partners to a lie. This I cannot agree with.
Similarily that the two press notices of his death, stating he was a Freemason are discounted as not being correct. Some claim that they are not the first notices. In today's world a second or third notice would 99 times out of 100 be a corrected one with amendments included.
We tend to view things in the past as though they are in relatively stable times. This is not correct. There were times when being a Freemason was frowned on, if not a danger to life or social standing, and membership was hidden. This explains much. During the second world war it was the death sentence to be a Freemason in Nazi Germany, and many men survived by hiding their membership of the Craft.
It is claimed that the title of Grand Master only started in 1717, and did not occur prior to that date. Wren was of such a standing that as a Master of a Lodge, whether operational or accepted, would entitle him to have an adjective put in front of any title. With 51 churches that would not be surprising from the operative aspect. Such an adjective as “Great” - i.e. “that Great Master”. To a Scot like Anderson it would have been natural to change it to the Scottish version “Grand Master”. The question as to whether he was the equivalent of a Grand Master over English Freemasonry is irrelevant, as he plainly was not. Over London Freemasonry pre 1717 that is not clear, and not to my mind and issue in choosing a Famous Freemason.
Finally it seems strange that we accept that others such as Benjamin Franklin being initiated into Freemasonry without a record, when we have a written record of Wren's adoption, and the Lodge of Antiquity confirming his membership at the time. Benjamin Franklin's initiation was confirmed by Lodges and Constitutions who welcomed him to their assemblies, and promoted him various ranks. We accept the beliefs and knowledge of his contemporaries. In Sir Christopher Wren's case his contemporaries and especially his lodge accepted him as an initiated Freemason, and it was not until 150 year's later that there were any doubts. Why do we not accept Wren's contemporaries. Is it that those who do not believe in his membership consider those that did at the very beginning were all wrong and untrustworthy, and those that followed misinformed at best. One of the major problems that do not acknowledge Wren is that that most worthy and celebrated Masonic scholar of the late 1700's who had access to the Lodge of Antiquity minute books also considered that Sir Christopher Wren was a Freemason. That is Preston. He also must be a liar as he actually had the minute books which would confirm or deny Wren's membership. No way in my mind.
Bros. Williamson and Baigent are correct - Sir Christopher Wren was a Freemason, and all those contemporary records are correct, and the later contradictory analysis flawed.