What is the Order of the Holy Royal Arch ?
The Royal Arch is the fourth step completing the journey through “Pure Antient Freemasonry”. The Preliminary Declaration of 1813 in the Book of Constitutions states that:
“Pure Antient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, i.e. those of Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.”
Following a strategic review of the Holy Royal Arch during 2007, it was recommended that clearer emphasis was needed to establish beyond doubt the inseparable bond between the Craft and the Royal Arch. A re-positioning statement was approved to support the earlier Preliminary Declaration to read:
“The Order of the Holy Royal Arch is an integral part of Pure Antient Masonry, being the completion of Craft Masonry, and the essential next step in Freemasonry for all Master Masons.”
For many years the Royal Arch was described as the completion of the Third Degree which as the Grand Master stated in April 2004, implies that “neither the Third Degree nor the ceremony of Exaltation is complete, which is surely untrue.” However, he further made the point that “ a Man can only become a complete Mason when he takes the very important step into the Royal Arch.”
So the Royal Arch provides the last part of the journey through which Pure Antient Masonry is completed. It should not be considered as an optional extra, but the means by which a Master Mason completes his basic Masonic knowledge and experience. You might compare your Masonic journey to a 4-Act play and without that fourth and final act i.e. the Royal Arch, the Master Mason is incomplete.
Why join the Holy Royal Arch ?
The Royal Arch completes “Pure Antient Masonry”, a fascinating journey of self-knowledge and self-discovery beginning with the Entered Apprentice degree in the Craft and culminates in the Installation into the First Principal’s Chair of the Holy Royal Arch.
The Royal Arch addresses the recovery of what was lost by the Master Mason in the Third Degree of Craft Masonry, in a dramatic and fascinating ceremony
In Craft Masonry, a Candidate is taught in the three degrees, to reflect upon and improve his relationship with his fellow men and Society at large, to address the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves and to uphold a code of conduct throughout life, based on the five points of fellowship. The teachings are illustrated through the re-enactment of the building of King Solomon’s Temple. The Mason is taught the practical lessons of Birth, Life and Death and to practice the three great principles by which we live: Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
In the Royal Arch, the Master Mason explores beyond the Third Degree, beyond ‘…that mysterious veil which the eye of human reason cannot penetrate unless assisted by that Light which is from above.’ We are invited to reflect and contemplate on our own spiritual well- being and on our individual relationship with the Supreme Being.
In our Constitution, the Royal Arch has four ceremonies, the exaltation ceremony where new members are admitted and an Installation Ceremony for each of the Principals of the Chapter. The exaltation ceremony is in two parts: First a dramatic presentation of the principles of the Order followed by three lectures in which the history, symbolism and principles of the Royal Arch are explained further.
The allegory of the exaltation ceremony is based on the Old Testament explanation of the return to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity to rebuild the city and Temple following the destruction of the Temple built by King Solomon. In clearing the ground of the original temple for the foundations of the second, the Candidate makes a number of discoveries which emphasise the importance of God to man’s life and existence and, without stepping-over the bounds into religion, leads the Candidate to a consideration of the nature of God and his relationship with him, however one worships him, and of service to his fellow man. Thus the Royal Arch completes the practical lessons learnt in the Craft by a contemplation of man’s spiritual nature, not replacing but reinforcing and supporting what he has learned from his religion.
When is the best time to join ?
In our Constitution, the Master Mason is entitled and encouraged to join the Royal Arch to complete his Regular Freemasonry. Membership is open to Freemasons of all faiths who have been a Master Mason of at least four weeks and upwards.
The best time to join is when you are comfortable with your Craft Masonry. An early application to enter the Royal Arch will give you the opportunity of enjoying and absorbing the full meaning of the beautiful ceremony and its teachings before taking a more active participation in office. You should be aware that later in your Masonic career, if you seek to serve as a District Officer in the Craft, you will be required to be a Member of the Royal Arch.
Which Chapter should I join ?
Many Brethren prefer to join a Royal Arch Chapter which is attached to their Craft Lodge or which has a close association with their Lodge. Whilst some Brethren, however, choose to join a Chapter un-connected with their Lodge, or that even meets in a different Masonic Hall, as this will allow them to develop and widen their relationship with other Masons. The final choice is yours. To assist you, a full list of the 39 Chapters in the District and the meeting dates and places of meeting can be found on the Chapters Page
Most Royal Arch Chapters meet four times a year. These meetings are called ‘Convocations’, one of which is the Installation of the Principals and investiture of Officers of a Chapter.
You will need to ensure that the meeting dates of the Chapter do not clash with those of your Craft Lodge. The Royal Arch Representative in your Lodge and the Lodge Mentor will be able to assist you in this matter.
Regalia and other costs
You will be required to purchase a Royal Arch Apron, Sash and Breast Jewel. These can either be purchased new from a regalia shop, or alternatively for second hand regalia contact the District Scribe E on the contact number below.
Subscriptions and costs of festive boards vary from Chapter to Chapter, but subscriptions are usually much lower than the Craft.
For further information about joining your local Royal Arch Chapter or any other Chapter in the District, please contact your Lodge Mentor and the Royal Arch Representative in your Lodge, or the District Grand Scribe E at:
District Grand Chapter,
Tel: +27 (0)11 643 3311