The exhibition “Free Masons. 250 Years of Freemasonry in Estonia” at the Estonian History Museum introduces the history of one of the world’s oldest and largest secular organizations, as well as its modern goals and the role of fraternity members in Estonian cultural history. Who are these mysterious men with colorful aprons and collars, who are often talked about, but who rarely speak themselves without reason?
Exhibition is opened 24.10.2020 - 31.10.2021.
What unites Voltaire and Goethe, Giuseppe Garibaldi and Winston Churchill, Mozart and Sibelius, Henry Ford and André Citroën, Casanova and Pushkin, David Rockefeller and Aleksandr Kerenski, Alexandre Eiffel and Mark Chagall, Oscar Wilde and Otto Wilhelm Masing, Isaac Newton and Arno Köörna, many presidents of the United States and kings of Sweden, and countless others who have given the world brilliant inventions, works of art and music in various walks of life, shaped historical events and expanded the spiritual world?
They have all been Freemasons. The membership seems to be full of incredible success stories and brilliant achievements, but for the outside world the question remains, would those achievements have been possible without being Freemasons?
Freemasonry or simply Masonry, which developed from the fraternities of Scottish and English building masters at the beginning of the 18th century, is today one of the oldest secular organizations in the world. The organization currently has about four and a half million members globally, about 800 of whom are Estonians.
Masonic ideas initially reached Estonia through German intellectuals and Baltic German students who had studied abroad in the middle of the 18th century, but the establishment of official Masonic associations or lodges did not occur until the 1770s. Unfortunately, the activities of those lodges, which were based on the ideals of personal and intellectual freedom, were cut short due to the oppressive hold of the Russian Empire, of which the territories of Estonia were a part. By the order of Alexander I, the activities of the lodges were banned already in 1820, and the workings ended due to fear of repression. Brothers in Estonia did not gather together again until 172 years later, when the first new national lodge "Phoenix" started operating under the Grand Lodge of Finland.
The rapidly growing fraternity gained independence on May 18, 1999, when the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Freemasons of Estonia was established in Tallinn.
The exhibition “Free Masons. 250 years of Freemasonry in Estonia” introduces the exciting spiritual and material world of the organization, with its long traditions of pageantry and secrecy. Along with the exhibition, a comprehensive catalog will be published, which will provide an overview of the history of Freemasonry, its complex structure and symbolism, and well-known personalities belonging to lodges in Estonia and the rest of the world. Exhibits include Masonic ritual objects, jewelry and aprons from the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, as well as unique archival documents from the collections of the Estonian History Museum. The book is a helpful addition to the exhibition and a handbook for those who are interested in the rich worldview of allegories and mysticism in Freemasonry.
The exhibition was created in cooperation with the Society of Estonian Freemasons.Curators: Anne Ruussaar, Milan Pening