ISSUE 22, July 2007
Editorial
Quarterly Communication: Speech of the Grand Master : Address of the Pro Grand Master : Report of the Board of General Purposes
Historic: Architect to a King
Young Masons: Value of a warm welcome
Faith and Freemasonry: The twin supports
Supreme Grand Chapter: Speech of the Pro 1st Grand Principal and Report of the Committee of General Purposes
The Grand Secretary: Notes
   Travel: In the footsteps of the pharaohs
Inventor: Voice of the people
Human Rights Court Judgement: Landmark victory for Masons
International Conference: Masonic history unveiled
The Grand Chancellor: Special overseas role
Specialist Lodge: Prior Rahere and his legacy
Public Service: Serving the famous
Education: Events : Importance of the cable tow
Lbrary & Museum: Fraternal art
Masonic Charities: RMTGB : Grand Charity : RMBI : NMSF
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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Entrance gate to the Priory Church in Smithfield Square
    One of the most awe-inspiring and atmospheric buildings in all of London is the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the-Great in Smithfield. Perhaps because it is hidden away from the hurly-burly of London life, this haven of peace and tranquillity is not nearly as well known as it deserves to be.
    On the north side of the altar is a tomb on which are engraven the words “Hic iacet Raherus Primus Canonicus et Primus huius Ecclesiae” (Here lies Rahere, the first canon and first prior of this church). Today, Rahere is remembered not just as the founder of the Priory Church but also of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, popularly known as ‘Bart’s’. On June 29th 1895, a Masonic Lodge was consecrated at this great and famous hospital by the M.W. Pro Grand Master, The Earl of Lathom, in the presence of the M.W. Grand Master H.R.H. The Prince of Wales and the Crown Prince of Denmark, Grand Master of Danish Freemasons. This new Lodge was, very appropriately, named The Rahere Lodge.
    Little is known of the origins and early life of Rahere. Much of what is known of him comes from a book called the ‘The Book of the Foundation of St. Bartholomew’s Church in London, the Church Belonging to the Priory of the Same in West Smithfield’ (or, more usually, ‘The Book of Foundation’). This was written in Latin by a canon of the Priory Church around the year 1180 (about 40 years after the death of Rahere) and a translation into modern English made in 1923 is available from the church.
    Rahere probably came from a humble background but he had great personal charisma and charm, a rich sense of humour and a liking for the good things of life. He used his personal charms to gain a place in the court of Henry I, the son of William the Conqueror, where, according to the Book of Foundation, “…he made it his business all day long to attend spectacles, banquets, jests and the rest of the trifles of the court and, with shameless face betaking himself to the suite – now of the king, now of the nobles – he assiduously employed a complaisance that should please them and obtain with greater ease anything that it pleased him to seek.”
    It is said, though not confirmed, that he held the high and influential office of Court Jester.
    Despite his self-indulgent life style, there are hints that even then there was a more profound side of his character and he may have held a clerical appointment as the unusual name Rahere first appears in the list of Canons of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1115.
    Certainly, he deeply admired Queen Matilda, a spiritual and charitable lady, and he was profoundly affected by her death in the year 1118. Two years later, in 1120, the king’s son and heir, William, and other members of the royal family and household perished when their ship sank in a storm in the English Channel.
    In the words of Leonard Clark, in a booklet entitled The Story of Rahere (available from the Priory Church), “Sudden death and grief challenged Rahere, perhaps for the first time. He realised that there was much more to life than a round of pleasure and merrymaking.” Rahere therefore left the royal court and set out as a humble pilgrim on a long and perilous journey in the hope of finding enlightenment. After enduring great hardships, he arrived in Rome but while staying on the Island of St. Bartholomew in the River Tiber he became seriously ill with the ‘Roman Fever’ – possibly malaria. Fearful for his life, he made a vow to God that, in the event of his recovery, he would return to England and found a hospital for the poor.


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