Symbols in the spotlight

Museum of Masonry opens in Oltrarno

Rose Mackworth-Young
March 29, 2012

A new museum in the San Frediano neighborhood catalogues through photographs, artifacts, and documents the turbulent history of the world's Freemasons.


The Museum of Masonic Symbols was the idea of Cristiano Franceschini. He represents the fourth generation of Freemasons in his family, which has collected more than 10,000 Masonic symbols and objects not only from around Italy but also the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Cuba, South Africa, France, England, Scotland and Ireland.


It is situated a few hundred meters from where Italy's first Masonic lodge was established, on via Maggio, by a group of English expatriates in 1731. At the time, it was known as ‘the Lodge of the English.'


The artifacts amassed by the family include historical documents, books, stamps, photos, magazines, application forms and objects used in Masonic rituals. Among these are, for example, the banner of the first Masonic lodge in the United States, in Minnesota and pictures of important Freemasons, among them Kit Carson, the Frontier man who refused to kill Native Americans or capture women. The oldest object is a French standard from 1700, which was buried during World War II to hide it from the Nazis.


Freemasonry has an unusual history in Italy. When Masonry developed in the early 1700s, Italy was then several separate regions. There was also a harsh counter-reformation. The Masonic lodges, patented by foreign lodges, were forced to act clandestinely to avoid the harsh penalties given to most forms of freethinking. They became gathering places for nonconformists, from deists to libertarians, and dedicated champions of political liberty and democracy.



Museum of Masonic Symbols

Via dell'Orto 7, Florence

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