The York Rite / Royal Arch



Master Masons (those who have received the three degrees of the Craft  Lodge) are entitled to join the York Rite, composed principally of the Royal Arch Masons, Cryptic Masons, and Knights Templars.  The York Rite continues many of the lessons of the Symbolic Rite, providing additional historical context, further moral instruction, and more opportunities for fellowship and service.

The term "York Rite" is used to refer primarily to those organizations conferring degrees subsequent to the Master Mason Degree.


The Capitular Rite - Royal Arch Masons

Bodies of Royal Arch Masons are known as Chapters. The Chapter is prerequisite to all other bodies in the York Rite, although some may have additional qualifications. The Chapters in a jurisdiction are governed by the Grand Chapter, and the final authority in Capitular Masonry is the Grand High Priest, who is, however, subject to the authority of the Grand Lodge and the Grand Master. There is also a General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, International, governed by the General Grand High Priest, but the regulatory authority of the General Grand Chapter is limited, and not all Grand Chapters are part of the General Grand Chapter. 

Royal Arch Masons are styled as "Companions," while the term "Brother" is used in the Lodge and Scottish Rite.

Chapters of Royal Arch Masons confer the four degrees of Capitular Masonry: 

Mark Master 
Past Master 
Most Excellent Master 
Royal Arch Mason 

These may vary in some jurisdictions.

Permission to receive the degrees of Capitular Masonry is by petition and ballot, just as for the degrees of Symbolic Masonry.

The degrees of Capitular Masonry are intended to provide both further depth of moral instruction and greater historical background to the material in the degrees of the Symbolic Lodge.


The Cryptic Rite - Royal and Select Masters

Bodies of Cryptic Masons are known as Councils. Some jurisdictions still use the old term Council of Royal and Select Masters, rather than Councils of Cryptic Masons. The change was made in the late 1970s, when it was felt that the word "Mason" should be used in the title of the bodies for purposes of clearer identification.

Only Royal Arch Masons in good standing may petition for the degrees of Cryptic Masonry. Again, a petitioner must be elected by unanimous ballot, and the appropriate fees must be paid.

In order to become a full member of a Cryptic Council, one must receive the two degrees of:

Royal Master
Select Master

The degrees of Cryptic Masonry emphasize some of the particular duties of a Master Mason and Royal Arch Mason more specifically by example, remind the candidate that the mortality of man places a peculiar urgency on our labors in this life, and instruct that those who have risen highest have nevertheless a duty to return even to their most humble origins and share the benefits they have gained with others less fortunate. 

Royal Ark Mariner

The Royal Ark Mariner degree is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, rite in Masonry.  It stands entirely alone and totally unrelated to any other degree in freemasonry.  To become a member, in some jurisdictions, you must be a member in good standing of a Masonic Lodge, a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, and a Council of Royal and Select Masters.

The ceremony of elevation into the Antient and Honourable Fraternity of Royal Ark Mariners is a truly initiatory rite.  As in the Craft it is based on the triumvirate of wisdom, strength and beauty, but in this instance, refers particularly to the wisdom of Noah in constructing the Ark, his strength of character and the beauty of his workmanship. But there are other significant messages, and even for the experienced Mason, a powerful reminder of our reliance on a spiritual as well as material enlightenment.

The presiding officer in a Royal Ark Mariner Lodge is the Commander and the ceremony of his installation, or enthronement, is widely considered to be one of the most impressive in all Masonry.

Cryptic Masonry includes two additional degrees:

Super Excellent Master
Thrice Illustrious Master

The SEM degree is not conferred in all jurisdictions; however, it is often the custom to offer it to Companions from another jurisdiction who do not have the opportunity to receive it at home. The TIM degree is conferred only on those who have served as Master of a Council of Cryptic Masons. There is also an honorary order in Cryptic Masonry:

The Order of Ish Sodi

It may be conferred with or without a special ritual ceremony.

As in Capitular Masonry, there is a Grand Council for every jurisdiction and a General Grand Council, governed by a Grand Master and a General Grand Master, respectively. To distinguish Cryptic Rite Masters and Grand Masters from their Lodge equivalents, the style "Illustrious" is used in Cryptic Masonry instead of the term "Worshipful" used in the Lodge.


The Chivalric Rite - Knights Templar


Royal Arch Masons in good standing may petition a Preceptory or Commandery (depending on jurisdiction) of Knights Templar to receive the Orders of Chivalric Masonry. These bodies are essentially Christian in nature.

Preceptories (Canada) or Commanderies (US) confer orders, not degrees.

Conferrals consist of:


The Order of the Red Cross



The Order of Malta

The Order of the Temple


These Orders continue the history of the Temple at Jerusalem from its reconstruction up to the time of the Crusades and, as do all Masonic bodies, reinforce the moral instruction of the Symbolic Lodge in their ritual. In the case of the Commandery, these instructions have, of course, a particularly Christian character. 

Other York Rite Bodies

The York Rite has additional bodies, to which membership in the Royal Arch Masons is a prerequisite.  Many of these bodies are by invitation only or are specifically honourary for extraordinary services to the Rite and the Craft.

The Priories of Knights York Cross of Honour (KYCH)


Order of Red Cross of Constantine

An individual must have demonstrated a high level of dedication and performance in his Masonic activities, be proposed for membership by a member Knight, and pass a unanimous ballot.  This order of Knighthood is based upon Trinitarian Christianity and was traditionally founded by Constantine the Great after the Battle of Saxa Rubra in 312 A.D.  While no direct connection can be made with that legendary Order, the principles and attributes have been carried over into modern Freemasonry.  It is an invitational organization and is considered by many to be the highest honor that can be awarded within York Rite Masonry.


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