History of Freemasonry
The origins of Freemasonry are not known definitively. National organized Freemasonry began in 1717 with the founding of the Grand Lodge—an association of Masonic lodges—in England. However, Freemason societies have existed for much longer. The most popular theory is that Freemasonry emerged out of the stonemasonry guilds of the Middle Ages. Working stonemasons had lodges where they discussed their trade, but, with the decline of cathedral building, some lodges began to accept honorary members. Some of these operative lodges thus became “speculative” lodges, giving rise to symbolic Freemasonry. In the 17th and 18th centuries these lodges adopted the trappings of ancient religious orders and chivalric brotherhoods. Freemasons themselves, over the centuries, have developed a mythologized history for their society, tracing their lineage back to King Solomon.