Introduction to Capitular Freemasonry

What Royal Arch Freemasonry Is

What Royal Arch Freemasonry,

and Freemasonry in General, Are Not

It is the second step in York Rite Freemasonry; the first step being Symbolic (a.k.a. “Blue Lodge” or “Craft Lodge”) Freemasonry. Here, within your chapter, you will receive the necessary instruction and information to fill in some of the missing pieces from the Masonic history taught in the symbolic lodge. The degrees of the chapter are referred to as “Capitular Freemasonry”, providing a companion the opportunity for further advancement within the brotherhood.


Every chapter within the State of Illinois falls under either the jurisdiction of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of Illinois, or that of the Prince Hall Grand Chapter of Holy Royal Arch Masons, State of Illinois.
To become a companion of a chapter, you must first be a Master Mason, and then you may apply for a petition. Once accepted, you will receive four degrees:

4°  –  Mark Master Mason

5°  –  Past Master (Virtual)

6°  –  Most Excellent Master

7°  –  Supreme Degree of Holy Royal Arch Mason

It is not an insurance nor benefit society. While we have religious allegories and require each candidate to profess a belief in the G-d of his own faith, it is neither a religion nor a creed, nor a religious order. It is not a charity organisation but makes charity a duty. It is not organised for profit. It dictates to no man as to his beliefs, either religious or secular. It seeks no advantages for its brethren through business or politics. It is not a forum for discussion of religion, politics or other partisan affairs. It is not a secret society as it does not conceal its existence or purposes from the public. It does not conflict with the symbolic lodge.

Holiness to the Lord


“To bring the blind by a way that they knew not; to lead them in paths they have not known; to make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight; these things to do unto them, and not forsake them.”
(Isaiah 42:16).

Overview of Our Further Light in Freemasonry

No Rite of Freemasonry covers the world so much as does Royal Arch Freemasonry. In every free country of the earth; on every populated continent and on many isles of the sea, will be found Royal Arch chapters, eager and willing to receive their companions from other parts of the world into that full fellowship that characterizes Royal Arch Freemasonry. In Asia, in Africa, in Europe, in the Americas, and on the continent of Australia are found hundreds of Royal Arch chapters into whose halls you will ever be a welcome visitor. In our own country, we find thousands of chapters counting hundreds of thousands of companions in our ranks. Upon your exaltation as a Holy Royal Arch Freemason, you will become a companion of one of the oldest and largest rites of Freemasonry.

The work of a chapter is very closely related to that of a craft lodge, and the Freemason finds a warm and comfortable home in and a safe and sacred retreat in the chapter. The degrees afford historical and philosophical background on the work and meaning of Freemasonry.
The degrees of Mark Master, Past Master (Virtual) and Most Excellent Master are conferred in the chapter opened in the form of a lodge, using lodge-type officer titles. The supreme degree of the Holy Royal Arch is conferred in a chapter of Holy Royal Arch Freemasons properly constituted in its own configuration. In either case, the familiar blue of Craft Lodge regalia is replaced by scarlet on the aprons and jewels in the chapter. Hence the nicknames “blue lodge” and “red lodge” are still sometimes heard (particularly in Canada and Europe).


What attracts so many Brethren to seek further light in Royal Arch Freemasonry?


In your journey through the three degrees of Symbolic Freemasonry and as you have learned the proficiency lecture for each degree, no doubt many questions have arisen concerning the meaning of the ritualistic ceremonies, the historical implications and the “why” of the legends of Freemasonry.

Royal Arch Freemasonry provides an opportunity for Master Masons desirous of further light to explore some of the deeper mysteries of the Craft. The four capitular degrees, in all of which candidates take an active part, are truly some of the most profound and impressive in Freemasonry.

The degree of Mark Master is believed to be the oldest degree in Freemasonry and to predate all others by many years. It is a continuation of the lessons taught in the Fellowcraft Degree (2°), and of the legend of our Grand Master Hiram Abif, begun in the Master Mason’s degree (3°).

Some grand lodges, including the United Grand Lodge of England, place so high an eminence on the Mark Master degree that they confine it to
the jurisdiction of a separate grand body; in England, this is styled as the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons.

Many believe the Sublime Degree of Master Mason to be the ultimate degree of Freemasonry, and all others to be added and explanatory. Most students of Freemasonry agree that the story of the Craft, as presented in the three degrees, is incomplete and that the degrees of the Royal Arch complete the story and answer many of the questions in the mind of the newly made Master Mason. Royal Arch Freemasonry contains some simple, plain statement of truth, easily understandable and helpful in our relation to life. Lodge symbolism deals with lessons of the material side of life. The capitular degrees, and particularly the supreme degree of the Holy Royal Arch, deal with the spiritual side of life. Offering the true completion of the ancient Craft, Royal Arch Freemasonry is, therefore, the logical step for every Master Mason to take.

The supreme degree of Holy Royal Arch Mason, as the culmination of the capitular degrees, is the climax of Ancient Craft Freemasonry and Masonic symbolism. It is described as “the root and marrow of Freemasonry.” It is during this degree ritual that the greatest treasure of a Freemason is brought to light: the long lost Master’s Word. The value of Royal Arch Freemasonry will be appreciated by all who are exalted to that most supreme degree, particularly by those who are seeking to complete their Masonic
education. It reveals the full light of Ancient Craft Freemasonry, presents it as a complete system in accordance with the original plan, and justly entitles you to truly claim the noble name of Master Mason.

In the Royal Arch degree ritual itself, the Lost Word of a Master Mason is rediscovered in a beautiful ceremony that takes the candidates through the destruction of King Solomon’s Temple, the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity, and the ultimate return to the Holy Land to aid and assist in the rebuilding of the Temple of the Most High. The Holy Royal Arch degree is a natural progression to reveal the “genuine” secrets following the granting of certain substituted ones. No other degrees are so intimately linked with the Blue Lodge or have so ancient and noble a history.

The supreme degree of Holy Royal Arch Mason was considered most important in the early years of Freemasonry, following closely on the heels of the Hiramic legend which probably appeared in England around 1725, although many historians have traced the earliest origins of the degree to Ireland, late in the 17th Century. In any event, the Holy Royal Arch degree existed as a follow-up to introduce the Second Temple, well before the 1751 founding of the so-called ‘Antients’ Grand Lodge (the “Mother Grand Lodge” from which all current grand lodges in the United States are descended), and was included from the start in the Antients’ ritual as the 4°.

So dogmatic was the Mother Grand Lodge on the subject of the ne plus ultra status of the Holy Royal Arch degree, that in 1813, when the two Grand Lodges in England united, a firm and solemn landmark was adopted and placed in the Articles of Union to guide Freemasons throughout the world forever on this matter: “Pure Ancient Freemasonry consists of but three degrees, viz. that of Entered Apprentice, Fellow craft, and Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.” [emphasis added]. That statement is presumably the origin of the remarks addressed to the candidate at the concluding stage of the exaltation
ceremony as it is practiced in England: “You may perhaps imagine that you have this day taken a fourth degree in Freemasonry, such however is not the case, it is the Master Masons’ completed.”

The intent was that every rite, system or additional degree in Freemasonry cannot confer its degree on a Master Mason until he has been exalted as a Holy Royal Arch Mason. Naturally, we feel this is as it should be, because a man is not truly a Master Mason until he receives the Master’s Word and he can only receive it in the Holy Royal Arch. In the United States, this intent has
remained in practice within the scheme of orders, rites and bodies collectively known as the “York Rite”. The additional orders – be they subject to petition such as Cryptic Freemasonry (a.k.a. Royal & Select Masters) and the chivalric orders (the Knights Templar) (among others), or exclusive to invitation such as the Allied Masonic Degrees and Red Cross of Constantine (among many others) – are closed to any man who has not been exalted to the degree of the Holy Royal Arch.

If, after becoming a Royal Arch Freemason, you are desirous of continuing your studies, you may take the cryptic degrees and the chivalric orders, all of which are illustrative of and carry forward the principals of the Holy Royal Arch.

Many historians have traced the earliest origins of the Holy Royal Arch degree to Ireland, late in the 17th century and in England in 1738. In 1752, ambulatory or military warrants for lodges were introduced. This was instrumental in placing the supreme degree of Holy Royal Arch Mason on a par with that of Master Mason. Military lodges were greatly responsible for planting Freemasonry in the Colonies, and also gave birth to use of the Mark Master and Holy Royal Arch Mason degrees in the
“New World” of the Americas. Lodge records show that the Holy Royal Arch degree was conferred at Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 on 12 December 1753.
George Washington was raised in this lodge on 4 August of the same year.

Please click here to read articles on Holy Royal Arch degree from the Grand Chapter of Alberta.

Interested in Joining?


The Grand Chapter offers several video presentations and a web-enabled PowerPoint® presentation on the additional Masonic light to be found in York Rite Freemasonry.

If you are a Master Mason in Illinois, who is desirous of furthering your Masonic experience and learning the Master’s Word, please click here to find a Royal Arch chapter near you. A petition form is available here.

If you are not already a Freemason, please click here for some background information that will help
you decide if you would be interested in joining a lodge of Freemasons in your area. You may also


Click here to hear audio presentations about Freemasonry. To locate a Masonic lodge near you, click here. If you are interested in joining the fraternity and do not know any local Freemasons, please click here. You will find a petition form available for you by clicking here.

Official Charity

Upon the Grand Lodge’s closure of the Royal Arch Memorial Hospital at Mason Point (formerly known as the Illinois Masonic Home) in Sullivan,
the official charity of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of Illinois has been the Royal Arch Masons Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) corporation into which tax-deductable contributions are accepted. While the foundation’s specific purposes are nominally selected anew each year by the Most Excellent Grand High Priest, each Grand High Priest has renewed the Grand Chapter’s commitment to researching and treating autism and autism spectrum disorders; the foundation supports both Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center’s autism treatment program and the
Easter Seals Chicago autism therapeutic center & schoolClick here for more information on our charitable works.