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Provincial Grand Lodge of East Anglia

Mark Master Masons
Royal Ark Mariners


While the origins of Freemasonry are uncertain, historians believe they arose from the practices of working or operative masons.

The builders of the pyramids, temples and similar stone structures of the Middle East, Europe and other parts of the world possessed considerable technical and organisational skills.

The Holy Bible contains a detailed account of the building of a Temple in Jerusalem around 1000 BC by Solomon, King of Israel. The stories and legends of Freemasonry are based on the circumstances surrounding the construction of the Temple, and its rebuilding several centuries later.

If you are a Master Mason, but not yet a member of the Mark Degree, you will already have some knowledge of King Solomon’s Temple, but have you considered how it was built and by whom and what of the problems that arose during its construction?

These questions and more are answered in the ceremony of advancement to the Degree of Mark Master Mason



Marks have been found on stones used in Ancient Egypt and elsewhere, including castles, churches and in the cathedrals of Europe built from 1100 onwards. Stained glass windows, carvings and manuscripts give us some idea of the methods of the mediaeval stone masons. Masons carved stones for ordinary building blocks, and also for decoration.

Here are some examples of their Marks.




It became customary for stone masons to place marks upon stones in the quarries. These Marks identified the work of a particular mason for the payment of wages, and signified that the stone was acceptable for use. Other marks indicated where a particular stone might be placed within the structure. However from about 1640, men who were not stone masons began joining lodges. These men became known as free and accepted masons and the lodges became places of philosophical discussions, resulting in the term “Speculative Masons”.

The Mark Degree contains many messages for the discerning man and illustrates that the wisest of men can be mistaken, that the experts are often wrong, that the weakest can display greater perseverance than the strongest, that the insignificant has the potential for distinction and that we all have a part to play in the Building of Life. It is for each to put his own interpretation on the message which the Degree proclaims, but there is a firm statement that no man is beyond redemption, and the possibility of distinction is always within our grasp.



The ceremony of advancement to the Degree of Mark Master Mason centres on the traditional practice of choosing and using a distinguishing mark to identify each craftsman’s work, so that he may be entitled to receive his wages. The themes of the degree include regularity, diligence and discipline. The second degree of Freemasonry encourages learning, and the Mark degree instructs how that learning can be most usefully and judiciously employed for our own honour and the benefit of our fellow man.

While motives may sometimes be misinterpreted, attainments underrated and reputations traduced, the Mark Degree demonstrates the merits of persistence in the face of adversity, and the conviction that truth will prevail.

The Mark degree is one of hope and encouragement. The ritual is built around a single verse from Psalm118: “The stone which the builders refused is become the headstone of the corner”. It deals with the building of King Solomon’s Temple and the various craftsmen employed, but the real message is the contemplation of human strength and weakness.

jewelpennyThe regalia of the Mark Degree includes a special Masonic apron with a dark red and blue trim and a breast jewel showing a keystone.

Mark Lodges also have a special coin, known as a Mark penny, for the payment of wages.

On occasion a lecture is given using a tracing board, which contains symbols from which lessons can be drawn. The tracing board includes the method of decoding the Masonic cipher which was originally used to preserve the secrecy of minutes and also other writings in Freemasonry.

The decoding clue is based upon the lines used in a game of “noughts and crosses”.





At the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge on 25th April 2007, the Grand Master, MW Bro HRH the Duke of Kent stated that the Preliminary Declaration of the Act of Union of the two Grand Lodges in December 1813 says that it was “declared and announced that pure ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, that is to say Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch”. This has been the position for nearly two hundred years and will remain unchanged.

However since many members of the Craft are also members of other Orders, the Grand Master, MW Bro HRH the Duke of Kent acknowledged formally their existence and regularity, and in particular their sovereignty and independence. The best known of these Orders are: Mark, Ancient and Accepted Rite, Knights Templar, Royal and Select Masters, Royal Ark Mariner, Red Cross of Constantine, Allied Masonic Degrees, Order of the Secret Monitor and Knight Templar Priests. He also accepted the valuable role of these Orders play in providing additional scope for brethren to extend their Masonic research in interesting and enjoyable ways.

The Orders are simply the best known and largest of those practiced in London, the Provinces and Districts overseas, but there are in addition others that have a valid place in Freemasonry and with whom we enjoy a good relationship. What is very important is that Brethren who join these other Orders should retain their membership of a Craft Lodge and are encouraged to do so. To become a Mark Mason you must first be a Master Mason, but once a member it affords an early opportunity to gain Masonic knowledge as you can become involved in the ritual at an early stage and pass through the offices in a Mark Lodge and even the Master’s Chair before becoming Worshipful Master in the Craft.

The Mark is known as ‘the friendly degree’ and today there are just short of 1,900 Mark Lodges worldwide.

For more information, or details of how to join, contact the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.