Our History

A History of the Order in NSW & ACT

An overview for those wishing to know more about the Order

The Great Priory of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory was inaugurated in 1984 by the Great Priory of England & Wales, following agreement between Preceptories of the Provincial Grand Priory of NSW (England) and the District Grand Priory of Australia (Scotland). It is one of more than 30 Great Priories around the world administering and conducting chivalric or Knightly Orders.

In this jurisdiction, our Great Priory is responsible for two Orders which are administered as the United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple (Knights Templar) and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta (Knights of Malta). It does this on behalf of 20 Preceptories, being seven metropolitan and 13 regional, three of which were consecrated in April 2000, April 2002 and April 2003.

Whilst not directly descended from the medieval orders of Knights, the present day Knights Templar and Knights of Malta certainly endeavour to uphold the standards of chivalry and morality in an increasingly uncaring world.

Knight Templarism is not a higher Masonic Order (there being none higher than the Craft) but a different and interesting extension of Freemasonry. All Royal Arch Masons are invited to join in order to extend their Masonic knowledge and education, remembering that Brother Knights are most definitely members of a dedicated Christian Order of Freemasonry, and most are regular attenders and supporters of their church.

In similar ways to other Orders, our ceremonies are, basically, performed as a theatre in the round. They are quite impressive and can be strikingly dramatic, drawing their themes from the celebrated chivalric crusading orders — even to simulated (but bloodless) battles and pilgrimages!

Moreover, in common with other Masonic Orders, the Knights look to their ceremonial for moral instruction and guidance, and their membership is based on faith, hope and charity and the practice of Christian values and virtues. This helps bring about and cement a strong camaraderie amongst the members.

The history of the United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders in Australia is still a matter of much research and discussion, but a reference to Knights Templar being present at a ceremony of laying the foundation stone in 1816 for Captain Piper’s residence in Sydney is well recorded and seems to be the written reference as to Knight Templar Masonry in New South Wales.

Although Ireland issued Warrant 227 in 1814 to the 46th Regiment stationed in New South Wales, records indicate that the earliest Preceptory of Knight Templar Masonry was formed in New South Wales when Ireland issued a permanent Warrant on January 29, 1845, for the St Elmo Encampment No. 267. It was still working strongly in 1866 but became defunct sometime prior to the founding of the Grand Lodge of NSW in 1888. Scotland issued a Warrant in 1869 for a Priory of the Temple in Sydney, but there is no record of it after 1875.

The first English Preceptories to be consecrated in New South Wales were Broken Hill No. 180 (now No.1) in 1904, and The Preceptory of Sydney No. 186 (now No.2), in 1907

As previously indicated, there is no direct connection to the medieval orders of Knighthood, but our history accepts that these orders were formed and developed in the Holy Land during the times of the Crusades, with the Order of Knights Templar being established with Papal approval. It is generally considered to have been established in Jerusalem in 1118, which is recognised and adopted by Great Priories all over the world as “Anno Ordinis — The Year of the Order”.

The Knights Templar, whose legendary power and wealth still exert a fascination, were denounced and disowned by Pope Clement V in 1305 and subsequently banned by King Philippe IV who ordered the arrest of Knights all over France on Friday October 13, 1307 (the origin of Black Friday) who were tortured, tried and, mostly, executed.

The final dastardly act was the execution in March 1314, of the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and the Preceptor of Normandy, Geoffroi de Charnay, who were roasted to death over a slow fire on the Ile de la Cite in the Seine, Paris.

However, The Times newspaper of March 30, 2002, reported that Vatican documents had recently come to light showing that the wholesale massacre of Knights Templar in the Middle Ages for alleged “heresy, idolatry and perversion” – an episode still shrouded in mystery – took place even though Pope Clement V had exonerated them in a secret trial.

In 1291, the then separate order of Knights of St John, or Knights of Malta, moved to Cyprus, then to the island of Rhodes in 1310 and, after being defeated by the Turks, moved to the island of Candia, with the Order all the time growing in wealth and power.

In 1530, Emperor Charles V ceded the island of Malta to the Order on condition that they used their abilities to repress the Moorish rovers who infested the southern part of the Mediterranean. And there the Knights remained until they finally yielded it to Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798.

Obviously, the Preceptories of the Great Priory of NSW & ACT cannot offer Craft Masons the exciting, but definitely daunting, prospects of torture and execution.

However, member Knights of this unique and highly regarded Order enjoy what is often stated to be “something totally different to other Masonic ceremonies”.

Combine this with interesting rituals, colourful and well “executed” ceremonies, and there is a rewarding experience awaiting interested and Christian Companions.

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