Chapter 6

The Regius Manuscript (1390)


The Regius Manuscript, also called the Halliwell Manuscript, is a long poem of 794 verses, intended to determine, in full details, the duties and obligations of stone cutters and masons layers to the Craft and Geometry. It is considered the oldest of the hundred or so Old Charges or Ancient Regulations (1) for the governance of masonry in Britain. 

It bears no date, but its turn of phrases and its contents suggest that it was written by one or even several scholars or clerks (2), a few years before the establishment of the (Anglican) Church of England in 1534, as a counter argument to a statute of 1425 which outlawed the annual congregations and confederacies of masons (3). The fact that it is written in rhyming verse makes this manuscript unique.

The context - The grammar and the style of writing indicate the Regius Ms was written in Shropshire and is consistent with the abandonment of the Norman customs at the court of England – remember in this connection that it was in 1361 that King Edward III decided to abandon his ancestors’ Norman language as the official one in his Kingdom.

In 1390, the young French King Charles VI (1368-1422) was showing his first signs of dementia; in England the reigning king was Richard II (1367-1400), son of Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince. The two countries were still at war with each other, in dispute of continental land possessions, and England itself was subjected to political rivalries that soon would cause the Sovereign to be deposed and imprisoned.

The document - Originally the Regius Ms was thought to have been written around 1390; recent historical studies have dated it in the first quarter of the 15th century. It was mentioned, in 1670, in the inventory of John Theyer, before being shelved within the Royal Library of King George II – who donated it, in 1757, to the British Museum, to form the beginnings of the British Library. 

The Regius was first published in 1840 by a man named James Orchard Halliwell, hence its other name: Halliwell Manuscript. 

Modern transcription from medieval English.

The Text

A Poem of Moral Duties

Here begin the constitutions of the Art of Geometry according to Euclid (4).

Anyone who will look

Can find written in old books

This story of great Lords and Ladies.

They had many children,

But had no income to support them,

Whether in town or field or woods.

They took council together

To plan for their children.

How they could best live their lives

Without much discomfort, care and strife.

And mostly for the coming multitude

Of their children, for their success,

They sent to great scholars,

To teach them good works.

They asked them, for our Lord’s sake

To give their children work,

So that they could earn a living,

Both well and honestly, and with security.

At that time, through Geometry,

This honest Craft of masonry

Was established in this way,

Created by these scholars:

At these lords’ request they created Geometry

And gave it the name of masonry;

For the most respected Craftsman of all,

These lords’ children came

To learn the Craft of Geometry from him,

Which he did very skillfully.

Because of the fathers’ prayers, and the mothers’ too,

He set them to learning this honest Craft.

Whoever learned best, and was honest,

And was more skillful than his fellows,

If in that Craft he came upon him,

He would have more honor than the less skillful.

This great scholar’s name was Euclyd [Euclid],

His fame spread far and wide,

This great scholar ordered

That whoever was a better worker

Should teach even the slowest learner

To become perfect in that respectable Craft;

So each one should teach the other,

And love one another like sister and brother.

 Furthermore, he ordered

That he should be called Master;

So that he would be most honored,

He should be called that;

But masons should never call one another,

Among themselves, within the Craft,

Subject or servant, my dear brother,

Although one is not as skillful as another.

Everyone should call each other fellows, in friendship,

Because they all were born to ladies.

In this way, through knowledge of Geometry,

The Craft of masonry began;

The scholar Euclid founded, in this way,

The Craft of Geometry in Egypt.

In Egypt he taught it widely,

Throughout the land, everywhere;

It was many years later, I understand,

Before the Craft came into this land.

The Craft came into England, I tell you,

In good King Athelstane’s [Athelstan’s] time (5).

He had halls and dwellings built,

And tall churches, greatly esteemed,

To spend his time in, both day and night.

And to worship his God with all his might.

This good Lord greatly loved this Craft,

And intended to strengthen it in every part.

Because he found many faults in the Craft,

He sent throughout the land.

For all the masons of the Craft

To come to him straightaway,

To correct all these faults

By good advice.

He called an assembly then,

Of many lords,

Dukes, earls, and barons too,

Knights, squires, and many more,

And the chief officials of the city,

They were all there, in their stations;

Each one was there

To make regulations for the masons.

They sought, by their understanding,

How to govern them.

They established fifteen Articles and fifteen Points.

Fifteen articles they made there,

And fifteen points there they made,

Here begins the first article.

The first article of this is Geometry:

The Master mason must certainly be

Steadfast, trustworthy and true;

Then he will never have regrets.

Pay your workmen what is just,

So they can afford food,

And pay them what they have earned,

What they may deserve,

And do not hire more workmen

Than are necessary for the job.

Do not play favorites, from friendship or fear,

And not take bribes from anyone,

Neither from lord nor workman,

Nor take improper fees from them.

As a judge you must be upright,

And do justice to everyone.

Do this wherever you go,

And then your honor and profits will be greatest.

Second article.

The second article of good masonry,

As you must hear now,

Is that every Master who is a mason

Must be at the general congregation,

If he receives reasonable notice

Of where the assembly shall be held.

He must attend that assembly

Unless he has a reasonable excuse,

Or else he is disobedient to the Craft,

Or if he is overtaken with falsehood,

Or he is so sick

That he cannot come:

That is a good excuse

Not to come to the assembly.

Third article.

The third article is this,

That the Master will not take an apprentice

Unless he will promise to take him

For seven years, as I tell you,

To learn the Craft thoroughly.

With less time he may not be able

To work to the employer’s profit, or to his own,

As you might have good reason to know.

Fourth article.

The fourth article is this,

That the Master will see to it

That he does not make a bondman his apprentice,

Or take him on as one out of greed;

Because the lord that he is bound to,

Might come to take the apprentice from wherever he is;

If he were taken in the lodge (6),

It might cause great upset,

And it could happen

That it would enrage some or all of the workmen.

For all the masons that are there

Will stand together,

If such a bondman had been living among them,

And it would cause much discontent.

To maintain the peace, then,

Take an apprentice of higher social rank.

By old writings I find

That the apprentice should be of good family,

And at one time, those of great lords’ blood

Learned this Geometry.

Fifth article.

The fifth article is very good:

That the apprentice must be of lawful blood,

The Master shall not, for any reason,

Make one an apprentice who is deformed;

It is necessary, as you know,

That all of his limbs are whole.

It would be a great shame on the Craft

To make a lame or limping man an apprentice,

Because such an imperfect man

Would be of little good to the Craft;

Everyone must know this.

The Craft should have a sound worker;

A crippled man cannot work well,

This will be obvious right away.

Sixth article.

You must not overlook this sixth article,

That the Master should not harm his employer,

By taking from the employer, for his apprentice,

As much pay as his fellows are paid

Who are fully skilled,

When he is not. You must see

That it is not reasonable

For him to be paid as much as his fellows.

This same article, in such a case,

States that the apprentice shall take less

Than his fellows who are fully trained

In many respects, properly,

The Master may inform his apprentice,

That his wages may increase soon,

And before his apprenticeship ends

He may receive a raise.

Seventh article.

The seventh article, now,

Will tell all of you

That no Master, for profit or from fear,

Shall clothe or feed a thief.

He shall never harbor a thief,

Nor someone who has killed a man,

Nor someone of bad reputation,

So that the Craft is not shamed.

Eighth article.

The eighth article tells you

What the Master may do

If he has any workman

Who is not as capable as he should be;

He may replace him

And in his place hire a more able man.

Such a man, through carelessness

Might bring discredit on the Craft.

Ninth article.

The ninth article shows

That the Master should be both wise and able;

That he should not take on any work

Unless he can complete it properly

To the employer’s profit,

And to the Craft’s credit,

And that the foundation should be well made,

So it is not flawed or cracked.

Tenth article.

The tenth article is to know that

Among the Craft, from the highest to the lowest,

No Master shall supplant another,

But should treat each other like sister and brother,

In this skillful Craft, in anything

That belongs to a Master mason,

Nor shall he supplant any other man,

Who has taken on a job,

Under a severe penalty,

Of no less than ten pounds

If he is found guilty

Of taking work from the one who had it first;

For no man in masonry

Shall supplant another

Unless the work is done

So badly that it is coming to nothing;

In that case a mason may take on the job,

In order to save it for the employer.

In such a case, if it falls,

No mason should get involved.

Truly, whoever lays the foundation,

If he is a competent mason,

Has it firmly in his mind

To bring the work to a proper completion.

Eleventh article.

The eleventh article, I tell you,

Is that he should be both fair and free;

For it teaches

That no mason should work at night,

Unless in the pursuit of knowledge,

Which shall be a sufficient reason.

Twelfth article.

The twelfth article is to be honest

With all masons, everywhere.

He should not speak ill of his fellow’s work,

If he wants to remain honest;

He should commend it with honest words,

With the understanding God gave,

And assist him to improve it in any way that you can

Between the two of you, without doubt.

Thirteenth article.

The thirteenth article, so help me God,

Is that if a Master have an apprentice,

He will teach him properly,

So that he may improve

And ably know the Craft

Wherever he may go.

Fourteenth article.

The fourteenth article

Shows the Master what he should do:

He should not take an apprentice

Unless he takes care

That within his term of apprenticeship

He may learn the full knowledge of the Craft.

Fifteenth article.

The fifteenth article is the last,

For he has become a friend to the Master;

To teach him, that not for anyone

Will he tell a lie,

Nor support his fellows in wrongdoing,

For any profit;

Nor commit perjury,

For the sake of his soul,

So that he does not bring shame to the Craft

And blame to himself.

Plural Constitutions.

At this assembly, Points were also ordered

By the great lords and the Masters:

First Point

Anyone who wants to know this Craft

Must love God and Holy Church,

And also the Master that he is with,

Wherever he goes, in field or woods,

And love his fellows too,

Because that is what being in the Craft requires.

Second Point.

The second point, I tell you,

Is that the mason labor on the work days

As well as he can,

So that he deserves to take a holiday;

And to labor well,

So that he earns his pay.

Third point.

The third point is one

That the apprentice should know well,

To keep his Master’s words confidential, 

And also his fellows’ words,

To tell no one what is said in private,

Nor what takes place in the Lodge.

Whatever you hear or see them do,

Do not tell to anyone, anywhere.

Whether told to you in hall or apartment,

Keep it secret, to your great honor,

So you don’t bring blame upon yourself,

And shame to the Craft.

Fourth point.

The fourth point teaches us

That no one should be false to the Craft;

He should not complain

Against the Craft, but let it go;

Nor should he do anything prejudicial

Against his Master or his fellow,

And even though one is an apprentice,

He would be under the same law.

Fifth point.

The fifth point is

That when a mason receives his pay

From the Master

He should take it without complaint;

And the Master must

Give him proper notice before noon

If he will not employ him any longer,

As he had been doing.

He should not disobey this order

If he expects to prosper.

Sixth point.

The sixth point should be known

Both by the highest and the lowest:

If it happens

That among the masons,

Through envy or hate,

A conflict comes up,

Then the mason, if he can, should

Have them put the matter  aside

And not try to settle the dispute yet,

Until the work day is completely done;

They should wait until a holiday,

To take the time to settle their dispute,

So that the work day

Would not be interrupted by their argument.

This should be done,

So they stand well before God.

Seventh point.

The seventh point is,

So that God will grant us long life,

As is well known,

You should not sleep with your Master’s wife,

Nor with your fellow’s,

So the Craft will not despise you;

Nor with your fellow’s girl friend,

Any more than you would want him to sleep with yours.

Let the penalty be sure,

Even though he is an apprentice for a full seven years,

If he violates any of them, 

He must be punished, severely,

As an example,

For such a foul deadly sin.

Eighth point.

The eighth point,

If you have learned anything

From your Master, be true,

For you will never regret it.

You must be an honest mediator

For your Master and your fellows;

Everything you do, do honestly

To both parties.

Ninth point.

The ninth point is this,

That if you are acting as a steward,

When you are eating together,

Serve one another cheerfully;

Good fellows, you must know

That everyone should be a steward in turn,

Week after week,

Taking turns to be stewards,

Good-naturedly serving each other

As though you were sister and brother.

No one shall neglect to pay his share,

Owing his payment,

But everyone shall share equally

In the cost;

See that you always pay properly.

If you have bought any food to eat,

So no one has to ask you for payment,

Nor has to ask any of your companions;

To man or woman, whoever it may be,

Pay for it promptly and correctly;

If you are a steward, give an accurate accounting,

For the payment you made,

So you don’t embarrass your fellow

And bring blame upon yourself.

Keep good records

Of the food and drink,

Of what you spent for your fellows,

Where and how and why.

You must provide such accounting

When your fellows ask it of you.

Tenth point.

The tenth point presents a good life,

To live without care and strife,

Because if a mason lives wrongly,

And makes mistakes in his work,

And makes up a false excuse

And blames his fellows without reason,

And through such slander

Brings blame on the Craft,

If he does such wrong to the Craft,

Then you shall no longer help him,

Nor support him in his wicked life,

So it does not turn into discord and conflict;

Rather, without delay

You shall make him

appear wherever you want,

Anywhere you please,

To call him to the next assembly

To appear before all his fellows;

And unless he will appear before them,

He must leave the Craft;

He shall then be punished by the law

That was laid down long ago.

Eleventh point.

The eleventh point is about good discretion,

As you must know;

If a mason knows his Craft well,

And sees a fellow working on a stone,

And he is about to spoil that stone,

Help fix it if you can,

And teach him how to do it better,

So that the employer’s work is not spoiled,

And teach him tactfully how to fix it,

With well-chosen words, that God gives to you;

For the sake of God above,

Encourage him with kind words.

Twelfth point.

The twelfth point is of high importance;

When the assembly is held,

Masters and fellows shall be there,

And many other great lords;

The Sheriff of the county shall be there,

And also the Mayor of the city;

Knights and squires shall be there,

And also aldermen, as you shall see;

Whatever ordinances they make there. 

They shall all enforce

Against anyone, whoever it may be,

Who belongs to the Craft.

If he violates any of them, 

He will be taken into custody.

Thirteenth point.

The thirteenth point is that

He shall swear never to be a thief,

Nor to help one in his crime;

For it is not good to rob,

And you must know that it is a sin,

Neither for his sake nor his family’s.

Fourteenth point.

The fourteenth point is a good law

For one who would be apprenticed:

He must swear a good true oath

To his Master and fellows;

He must be steadfast and true

To all these ordinances, wherever he goes,

And to his liege lord the King,

To be true to him above all,

And to the preceding Points,

You must be sworn,

And everyone shall swear the same oath

Among the masons, whether they want to or not,

To all the preceding Points.

That have been laid down by tradition:

They shall examine any man

About any charges against him,

And if he is found guilty

Of violating any of these Points,

Whoever he may be, let him be sought out

And brought before the assembly.

Fifteenth point.

The fifteenth point is good,

That for those who have been sworn there,

Such ordinances were laid down by the assembly,

By great lords and Masters, as stated before;

If anyone violates

These ordinances that have been made,

These Articles that were enacted,

By great lords and masons together,

And if it is proven openly that they did so

Before the assembly

And they do not make amends for their guilt,

Then they must leave the Craft,

And refuse any offers of work as a mason,

And swear never again to work at it;

But unless they subsequently make amends,

They should never return to the Craft,

And if they will not agree to do so,

The Sheriff shall come

And put them in deep prison,

For the wrong that they have done,

And take their goods and their cattle

Into the King’s hand, all of it,

And let them remain there

Until the King wishes to release them.

Another ordinance of the Art of Geometry.

They ordered that an assembly should be held

Every year, wherever they wanted,

To correct the faults, if any were found,

Among the Craft.

Every year, or third year, it should be held,

In whatever place they chose;

Notice of the time and place must be given,

And where they should assemble;

All the members of the Craft must be there,

And other great lords,

To correct the faults that are found;

If any rules have been broken,

They shall all swear,

Whoever belongs to the Craft,

To keep all of the statutes

That were ordered by King Athelstan:

“These statutes that I have set out here,

I order that they be followed throughout my land

For the honor of my royalty,

That I have ordered by my rank.”

Also, at every assembly that you hold,

That you come to your liege King,

Asking him by his favor

To stand by you everywhere,

To confirm the statutes of King Athelstan,

That he ordered for this Craft.

The Art of the Four Crowned Ones (7).

Pray we now to Almighty God,

And to his mother, Mary bright,

That we may keep these Articles,

And also these Points,

As those four holy martyrs did,

Who were greatly honored in this Craft.

They were as good masons as there are,

Stone carvers and makers of statues,

For they were among the best workmen.

The Emperor greatly admired them,

And ordered them to make an image

That might be worshipped for him;

He had such idols, in his day,

To turn the people away from Christ’s law.

But they were steadfast in Christ’s law,

As well as to their Craft;

They loved God and all his teachings,

And were always in his service;

They were true men at that time,

And followed God’s law well;

They would not make any idols,

Not at any price.

To believe in an idol instead of their God,

They would not do, even if he was furious,

For they would not forsake their true faith,

And believe in his false law.

The Emperor soon arrested them,

And put them in a deep prison;

The harder he punished them there,

The more joy they had, of Christ’s grace.

Then, when he saw no other way,

He condemned them to death.

By the book it shows,

In the legends of the holy ones,

The names of the Quatuor Coronatorum.

Their feast day will be, without doubt,

The eighth day after Hallowe’en (8).

You may hear, as I read,

That after many years,

When Noah’s Flood had gone,

The Tower of Babyloyne [Babel] was begun,

As plain a work, of stone and cement,

As anyone has ever seen;

So, long and wide, it was begun,

Seven miles high, blocking out the sun.

King Nabogodonosor [Nebuchadnezzar] ordered it made,

Of great strength, for man’s sake,

So if there should be another flood,

The water would not cover this building.

Because they were very proud and boastful,

However, all that work was lost;

An angel struck them with many languages,

So that none of them knew what the others were saying.

Many years later, the good scholar Euclid

Taught the Craft of Geometry everywhere,

As he had done before,

And many other crafts.

Through the grace of Christ in heaven,

He began to teach the seven Sciences (9).

Grammar is the first Science, I know,

Logic the second, as I have bliss,

Rhetoric doubtless the third,

Music is the fourth, I tell you,

Astronomy is the fifth, I swear,

Arithmetic the sixth, without doubt,

Geometry, the seventh, is the last,

For it is both meek and courteous.

Grammar, truly, is the root,

For whoever wants to learn in books;

But Logic surpasses it in its degree,

As the fruit surpasses the root of the tree.

Rhetoric measures with ornate speech,

And music is a sweet song;

Astronomy calculates, my dear Brother,

Arithmetic shows how one thing equals another.

Geometry is the seventh Science,

That can separate falsehood from truth.

These are the seven Sciences,

Whoever uses them may well have heaven.

Now, dear children, by your wisdom,

Leave pride and greed,

And use good judgment

And nurture all good things.

I ask that you pay attention,

Because you need to know this,

But there is much more you need to know,

Than you will find written here.

If you are lacking understanding,

I pray that God will send it to you;

For Christ himself teaches us

That the Holy Church is God’s house,

That is made for nothing else

But to pray in, as the Bible tells us;

There the people shall gather,

To pray and repent for their sins.

See that you don’t come to church late,

Because you’re gossiping outside.

Then, when you come to church,

Always keep it in mind

To worship the Lord God day and night,

With all your mind and strength.

When you come to the church door,

Take some holy water,

Because every drop of it

Will clean away a venial sin;

But first you must take off your hat,

For the love of Him who died on the cross.

When you go into the church

Raise your heart up to Christ right away;

Look up at the crucifix,

And kneel down on your knees;

Then pray to Him to work here,

According to the law of Holy Church.

To keep the Ten Commandments

That God gave to all men;

Pray to him with a mild voice

To keep you from the seven deadly sins,

So that you may, here in this life,

Keep from care and strife;

Furthermore, that he grant you grace

To have a place in Heaven’s bliss.

In Holy Church, leave behind idle talk,

Lewd speech and foul jokes,

And put away all vanity,

And say your Pater Noster and your Ave Maria;

Also, don’t make noise,

But see that you are always in prayer;

If you won’t pray yourself,

At least don’t interrupt anyone else.

In that place, don’t sit or stand,

But kneel down,

And when the Gospel is read

Stand up away from the wall,

And bless the gathering if you can.

When the Gloria Tibi has started,

And when the Gospel reading is done (10),

You should kneel down again,

On both knees,

For the love of Him who redeemed us;

And when you hear the bell ring

For the Holy Sacrament,

Everyone must kneel, young and old,

And hold your hands up,

And then say in this manner,

Softly and without making noise,

“Lord Jesus, Your are welcome,

In the form of bread as I see You.

Now, Jesus, by your Holy Name,

Shield me from sin and shame,

Grant me both Forgiveness and the Eucharist

Before I leave here,

And repentance for my sin,

So that I never, Lord, die in it.

And as you were born of a virgin,

Never let me be lost,

But when I shall leave this place,

Grant me bliss without end.

Amen! Amen! So mote it be!

Now, sweet Lady, pray for me.”

You might say this, or something like it,

When you kneel for the Sacrament.

Do not fail to want goodness,

To worship Him who created all things,

For a man may be glad in that day,

That he sees Him once in the day.

It is worth so much, without doubt,

No one can tell how much;

But that sight does so much good,

That Saint Austyne [Augustine] correctly says,

That the day you see God’s Body,

You shall surely have

As much food and drink as you need,

And shall lack nothing on that day.

Both swearing and idle words,

God will also forgive you;

If you die suddenly that same day,

You do not need to be afraid.

Also, on that day, I promise you,

You shall not lose your eyesight;

And every step you take,

To see that holy sight,

They shall be told to stand,

In good stead for you,

When you have great need;

The messenger, the angel Gabriel,

Will keep them for you, very well for you.

From this matter I will pass on,

To tell you more benefits of the Mass;

Come to church, if you can,

And hear Mass every day.

If you can’t come to church,

Because you have to be at work,

When you hear the bell ringing for Mass,

Pray to God with a still heart

To give you a part of the service

That is being done in church.

Furthermore, I will tell you,

To teach to your fellows,

When you come before a lord,

In a hall, in living quarters, or at meals,

Take off your hood or hat,

Before you come up to him;

Two or three times

You must bow to that lord,

With your right knee.

That way, you will keep your own honor;

Keep your hat or hood off

Until he gives you permission to put it on,

The entire time you are speaking with him,

Hold up your chin in a friendly manner,

As the book says,

Look him kindly in the face.

Keep your hands and feet still,

Don’t move them around awkwardly.

Also, don’t spit or sniffle;

If you have to, do it privately.

If you are wise and discreet,

You need to conduct yourself well.

When you go into the hall,

Among the good and courteous, well-bred folk,

Don’t presume to act too high

About your own ancestry, or your intelligence;

Don’t sit or lean on anything,

That is good manners.

Don’t look sad,

Good manners will save you.

Whoever you father and mother are,

Their child may do well

In hall or living quarters, wherever you may go;

Good manners make a man.

To those of higher social standing,

Do them proper honor,

But don’t honor them all in turn

Unless you know who they are.

When you are sitting down to a meal,

Eat it in a proper manner:

First, be sure that your hands are clean,

And that your knife is sharp;

Cut your bread and meat (11),

So it may be eaten.

If you are sitting by someone of higher rank

Than you, yourself, are,

Let him touch the food first,

Before you reach for it.

Don’t go for the best piece of food,

Even if you would really like it;

Keep your hands

From getting the napkin dirty;

Don’t blow your nose on it,

And don’t pick at food caught in your teeth.

Don’t drink too heavily,

Even if you really want to,

So that your eyes don’t water,

That would be poor manners.

See that there is no food in your mouth

When you begin to drink or to speak.

When you see anyone drinking,

Who is listening to you talk, 

Don’t talk too long,

Whether he is drinking wine or ale.

Also, don’t show contempt for anyone,

Of whatever social class he is;

And don’t speak ill of anyone,

If you want to save your own reputation,

Because such talk might become known,

And could make you appear to be in the wrong.

Close your hand in your fist,

And don’t say, “If I had only known.”

Hold your tongue, and don’t stare,

Don’t laugh too loud,

And don’t use off-color language or tell dirty jokes.

Don’t make jokes except with your equals,

And don’t repeat everything that you hear.

Don’t boast about your own deeds,

For anything;

With good speech you might get what you want,

Without it you might ruin your chances.

When you meet a man of higher rank,

Don’t leave your hat or hood on;

Whether in church or in the marketplace,

Do him proper honor.

If you go with a man of higher rank,

Than yourself, you should

Let your front shoulder stay behind his back,

Because that is good manners.

When he speaks, remain quiet;

When he is done, say what you want;

In your speech you should be discreet,

Consider well what you are going to say,

And don’t interrupt his story,

Whether you’re drinking wine or ale.

May Christ, then, out of his high grace,

Give you understanding and opportunity

To read and know this book,

To have heaven for your reward.

Amen! Amen! So mote it be!

So say we all for charity.


1. - Old Charges - Name given to manuscripts of the medieval era and the transition time from the practice of Operative to Speculative masonry. These are regulations, rules, and historical or legendary stories. We identify nowadays over a hundred so-called Old Charges, mostly of English origin. Note that the word Charge was then synonymous with: obligation, instruction, regulation or rule.

2. - For some historians the Regius Ms is the work of several scholars, one of them being a Benedictine monk and poet named John Lydgate (c.1370-c.1451). The dating of the manuscript (1390-1425) is only approximate. It is noteworthy that with or without modifications several parts of the poem are borrowed from the work of John Lydgate, Merita Missae.

3. - According to some historians the Regius Manuscript (and the Cooke Ms, which followed in about 1410) were intended to authorize the continued holding of such assemblies notwithstanding the statutory provision. The stress of both manuscripts was on the social equality of masons and the claim was that the craft is of noble origin.  

4. - Euclid (325-265 BC.) - Mathematician of ancient Greece; he is the author of the Elements, one of the founding texts of Mathematics.

5. - Athelstan - Anglo-Saxon King who reigned in England, from 924 to 939. His reign enlarged the royal domains by fighting against the various rulers of the British Isles. As the victor of the battle of Brunanburh (937), against Kings Olaf Gothfrithson of Dublin, and Constantine II of Scotland, he proclaimed himself King of all Britain.

6. - The text does not precisely define the meaning of the word Lodge which can be a shed, a room or a work site.

7. - The Four Crowned Martyrs - As Roman sculptors, they refused to fashion a pagan statue, and were therefore condemned to death by the emperor Diocletian (244-311).

8. - Halloween was originally a Celtic festival, which later became Anglo-Saxon; it is celebrated on the evening of October 31, the eve of All Saints Day.

9. - There are seven Liberal Sciences, also known since the sixth century under the other name of Liberal Arts. They are normally opposed to the mechanical or “servile” sciences, among which is masonry; the Regius Ms, however, like other known Old Char­ges, clearly states that masonry has its foundations in Geometry.

10. - “And When the Gospel me rede schal,” which we translate: “When one reads the Gospel,” can also lead to this alternative interpretation: 

“When I read the Gospel” - suggesting that the narrator of the story, who may be the author himself, is a religious clerk, a monk or a priest.

11. - It must be remembered that during the medieval era, common people normally ate meat on a slice of bread serving as a plate, known as a trencher.

© Guy Chassagnard 2016