The Grand Lodge of Sweden
A brief presentation of The Grand Lodge of Sweden and the progressive system of the Swedish Rite.
Freemasonry was brought to Sweden by Count Axel Wrede-Sparre, a Cavalry Officer who during service in France had become a Freemason. After returning to Sweden he brought together some friends who like himself had been made Freemasons abroad. In 1735, he inititated and passed his brother-in-law Count Carl Gustaf Tessin in Stockholm. Most of the Brethren joining Wrede-Sparre’s Lodge belonged to the higher nobility. The meetings seem to have ceased at the end of the 1740s.
At the beginning of the 1750s there were quite a large number of Freemasons in Sweden who had been initiated by Wrede-Sparre or abroad. Count Knut Posse established the Lodge St Jean Auxiliaire (St John the Baptist) in 1752. Wrede-Sparre and most of the Brethren of his Lodge joined the Lodge St Jean and Wrede-Sparre handed over his rituals and other documents to the new Lodge.
The Lodge St Jean was called ”Mother-Lodge of Sweden” and considered itself entitled to issue warrants to other Lodges in the country and in Finland, which was a part of Sweden at that time. Count Carl Fredrik Scheffer who had been made a Freemason in Paris in 1737, was elected National Grand Master in 1753. During the 1750s, the Lodges opened their doors to members of other classes of society than the nobility.
In 1756, Carl Fredrik Eckleff together with six Brethren formed the Scottish Lodge L’Innocente in Stockholm, working in so called Scottish St Andrew´s degrees. The next step in the development of Swedish Freemasonry was taken by Eckleff in 1759, when he established a Grand Chapter in Stockholm. Eckleff who was an employee of the Swedish Foreign Office, held a foreign patent authorizing him to found lodges. It has not been possible to ascertain the date and place of origin of the patent and of the rituals. The Grand Lodge of Sweden was established in 1760.
The Swedish Rite
Eckleff established a Freemasonry system on a Christian basis. The moral philosophy of the Swedish Rite was further developed by Duke Carl, later King Carl XIII, who succeeded to Eckleff as the Swedish Masonic leader. By two major ritual revisions in 1780 and 1800 he created a logical Masonic system with ten degrees. The Rite is truly progressive and continuous. Each degree leads to the next and each sums up the contents of the preceding degrees. The system is grouped into three divisions as follows:
St John’s degrees (Craft):
II Fellow Craft
III Master Mason
St Andrew’s (Scottish) degrees:
IV-V Apprentice-Companion of St Andrew
VI Master of St Andrew
VII Very Illustrious Brother
VIII Most Illustrious Brother
IX Enlightened Brother
X Very Enlightened Brother
On top of the system is
Most Enlightened Brother, Knight Commander of the Red Cross. R&K
There are currently about 80 Knight Commenders of the Red Cross (35 in active duty)
They are present or past members of the Grand Council or Grand Officers.
In 1811, King Carl established the Royal Order of King Carl XIII. It is a civil order, still conferred by the King, only to Freemasons holding the R&K with the number limited to 33. It is, however, not a Masonic degree.
Progression from one degree to the next is no easy matter and is far from automatic. A Brother has to be regular in attendance and to give proof of his knowledge of Freemasonry.
All of the Grand Masters belonged to the Royal House from 1774 up to 1997, when Prince Bertil, Grand Master since 1973, died. King Carl XVI Gustaf is the High Protector of the Swedish Order of Freemasons, but not a Mason himself.
Grand Master since 2019 is Christer Persson.
Bååt’s palace in Stockholm, an impressive building from 1666 and carefully extended in 1874–77, functions as the Masonic Temple of the Swedish Order of Freemasons.
At present there are 58 Craft Lodges, 28 Lodges working the St Andrew’s degrees, two Steward Lodges, eight Chapters and one Lodge of Research. There are 66 Fraternal Societies (nearest Lodges of Instruction), usually at smaller towns. In Finland there are seven Lodges working the Craft degrees and three Fraternal Societies under the Swedish Order of Freemasons. There is also two Lodges working the St Andrew’s degrees, one Steward Lodge and one Grand Chapter in Helsinki.
There are about 15 400 Freemasons in Sweden and about 1 400 in Finland under the Swedish Order of Freemasons. As lodges are few in number, there is usually quite a number of members in a Swedish lodge. Only men of Christian faith are admitted.
The Worshipful Master of a Lodge is usually appointed for a period of six years. However, a compulsory retirement age of 75 is strictly enforced for all office bearers.
The Swedish Rite is worked in Sweden/Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. In Germany a Grand Lodge, Grosse Landesloge der Freimaurer von Deutschland, is working rituals based on Carl Friedrich Eckleff’s documents from 1760, but otherwise have few similarities to the Swedish Rite.