A Brief History and Explanation of York Rite
The term “York Rite” has been established for well over 150 years, and is generally recognized as consisting of three Constituent and Indispensible bodies: the Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, the Council of Royal and Select Masters, and the Commandery of Knights Templars. Together with the Blue Lodge they teach an integrated story of Ancient Craft Masonry by a series of events, Biblical and Legendary, each body depending upon the two others for its Masonic background, and all three working together in a harmonious program of Masonic education, teaching the Ancient Masonic story of the building, destruction, and rebuilding of King Solomon’s Temple. The Ancient York Rite stands on the records of history as the oldest and purest of all Masonic Rites.
“This Craft came into England in the time of good King Athelstan’s reign: he made them both hall and lofty bower of great honor, to recreate him in both day and night, and to worship his God with all his strength. This good lord loved this Craft full well, and proposed to strengthen it in every part, on account of several defects, which he discovered in the Craft. He sent about into all the land, after all the Masons of the Craft to come straight to him, to amend all these defects by good council, if it so happened. He then permitted an assembly to be made of various lords according to rank, dukes, earls, and barons, also knights, squires and many more and the great burgesses of that city, they were all there in their degree; these were there, each one in every way to make laws for the state and these Masons. There they sought by their wisdom how they might govern it; there they found out fifteen articles, and there they made fifteen points.”
Regius mms circa 1390
Another ancient manuscript informs us.
“Ancient Masonry consists of four Degrees, the first three of which are those of the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and the sublime Degree of Master Mason: and a brother, being well versed in these Degrees is eligible to be admitted to the fourth Degree, The Holy Royal Arch.”
The system of Freemasonry known as the York Rite derives its name from a legendary assembly of Masons in York, England in the year 926, long before the formation of the Grand Lodge of England, and possibly the first general Assembly of Masons ever held. While some of the Bodies and some of the Degrees came to us from England, the System, as we know it here, was developed in America and is largely confined to this country.
All the bodies of the York Rite are officially recognized by the Grand lodge; the Degrees are ancient, authentic and recognized everywhere. Progressively taken, they shed light upon the prior Degrees and Orders and only when you have all of them is the Masonic fabric of the Ancient York Rite complete. The several divisions of the York Rite are made merely for the purpose of convenience and compose an integrated structure. They are not an aggregation of disconnected Masonic dramas but a complete story in part legendary and in part historical.