Still the exhibition in the Museum of Freemasonry (Paris)
Gérard Contremoulin, a spokesman for the Grand Orient de France, said that the museum’s previous location was limited to a tiny room. The ground floor of the museum has since been entirely redone to create a bigger exhibition space (Grand Orient de France, 16, rue Cadet; 33-1-45-23-43-97; www.museedelafrancmaconnerie.org; Metro: Cadet).
“We decided to open our collection to the public in the spirit of transparency,” Mr. Contremoulin said. “We have nothing to hide.” About 600 objects are on display including the revolutionary leader Marquis de Lafayette’s sword (above), the philosopher Voltaire’s Masonic apron, color-fired glass used during rituals, original manuscripts and Rosicrucian jewelry. An image bank has also been expanded for commercial clients; hundreds of documents spanning three centuries have been digitized and are available online.
There are 140,000 Freemasons in France, according to the Grand Orient de France. Unlike the Anglo-American tradition, French Freemasonry allows women to join some of its organizations, and belief in God is not a prerequisite. By spreading ideas of liberty and democracy during the Enlightenment period, the Freemasons played an influential role in the French Revolution. Their motto, like that of the French Republic, is “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.”
While the Freemasons are a discreet society, Denis Lefebvre, a French historian, said that they are not a secret society. He explained that initiations and rituals are designed to help members work together, while the reason for their discretion is to avoid being the target of anti-Freemason sentiment. “It’s a way to protect members from harm and danger,” he said.
Source: the New York Times