There is an indissoluble link between Craft Freemasonry and the Royal Arch. Together they constitute ‘pure Antient Masonry’, which consists of 'three degrees and no more, the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and the Master Mason, including the Supreme order of the Holy Royal Arch'. It is the completion of Craft masonry.
Royal Arch Chapters meet independently of Lodges, and meet no more than 3 times a year. The fees are typically considerably less than for Lodges. A Chapter is normally attached to a Lodge and members are called Companions.
The regalia is different to that worn in a Craft Lodge. It consists of an Apron with red and blue surround, a red and blue sash and a special Jewel which Royal Arch Masons should also wear in their Craft Lodges in order to show the bond that exists between Craft and Royal Arch.
As in all Masonic degrees, the ritual of the Royal Arch is an allegory. It helps to focus the minds of the Companions, without conflicting with their religious beliefs, to a contemplation of the nature of, and their relationship with their God which will be appropriate to their own religion.
A Royal Arch Chapter has a number of officers with particular titles but most important are the three Principals who collectively rule the Chapter for one year. Each year there is an Installation meeting for the new team of officers.
In England, the Royal Arch has four ceremonies: the exaltation ceremony to bring in new members and an installation ceremony for each of the three Principals. The exaltation ceremony is in two parts: a rather dramatic presentation of the principles of the Order followed by three Lectures in which the history, symbolism and principles of the Royal Arch are further explained.
If you are interested in joining a Royal Arch Chapter you should first speak to your Lodge Royal Arch Chapter representative or your Lodge Secretary.
Like Craft Freemasonry, the Royal Arch is open to men of all faiths.
It is the completion of your journey through pure, Antient Masonry. In its earliest days the Royal Arch degree was often worked in a Craft Lodge as a fourth degree. Indeed, for many years following the reorganisation of Freemasonry after the Union of the Grand Lodges in 1813, the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch was stated to be the completion of the Third Degree.
The Ceremony of the Third Degree is set against the backdrop of the completion of King Solomon’s Temple and we might expect that, at its conclusion, the new Master Mason would be able to reflect upon the complete masonic journey. In reality, the Third Degree leaves us with more questions than answers.
The Royal Arch takes us forward in time well over four centuries and answers those questions. The ceremony also has a strong allegorical interpretation. In the degrees which you received in the Craft you were taught that Freemasonry is a system of morality, based on a belief in The Great Architect of The Universe and promoting brotherly love, relief, and truth as the rule for your earthly pilgrimage. The Ceremony of the Third Degree implies that there is more to learn, for it urges us to lift our eyes beyond our civil duties and routine existence. The Royal Arch develops this theme because it teaches us that the true secrets of a Freemason are to be found within ourselves.
A Mason may join a Royal Arch Chapter four weeks after being Raised to the Third Degree. It is the natural and traditional next step in Freemasonry. Joining a Chapter will extend your circle of Masonic friends, but you will be under no pressure to learn new ritual until you are ready to do so.
For nearly 300 years Masons have completed the traditional Masonic journey from Initiation to the Royal Arch. It has a unique position as part of the mainstream of Freemasonry, so that it and the Craft are totally complementary, and are together described as forming pure, Antient Masonry.
The close affinity of the Craft and the Royal Arch is emphasised by the fact that the Grand Master is automatically the First Grand Principal of Supreme Grand Chapter, the Pro Grand Master is the Pro First Grand Principal, and the Grand Secretary is also Secretary of the Royal Arch, in which he is called the Grand Scribe Ezra.
The Royal Arch Regulations are in the Book of Constitutions of Grand Lodge which are presented to every new Mason at his Initiation. Chapters meet less frequently than Lodges, commonly three times a year. Joining Fees and Annual Dues are usually less than those of the Craft. The Royal Arch is consequently less challenging in terms of cost and time, but no less enjoyable.
Our members are known as ‘Companions’. Companions who become one of the three Principals of a Chapter (broadly equivalent of the Worshipful Master and Wardens) are known as ‘Excellent Companions’. It is perfectly permissible to be elected a Principal of a Chapter without having been the Worshipful Master of a Lodge.
There are other Masonic Orders, all of which require Craft membership as a pre-requisite; many of them also requiring candidates to have been exalted into the Royal Arch. Usually, a Royal Arch Chapter is attached to a specific Lodge, and will often use its name and number, though not all Lodges have a Chapter. It follows that members will come from different Lodges, and perhaps from neighbouring Provinces.
In England, the Royal Arch has four ceremonies: the Exaltation ceremony to bring in new members and separate installation ceremonies for each of the three Principals. After the darkness of the Third Degree, the Exaltation ceremony is a colourful, enlightening and dramatic ceremony, with profound, challenging, allegorical significance. The story told contains some of the most delightful lines of Masonic ritual.
Every Lodge has a Royal Arch Representative. There will always be Brethren, including your Lodge Mentor, eager to give advice about joining the Royal Arch and make the necessary introductions. A Lodge Summons will usually give details of an attached Chapter, although it is not obligatory for a Brother to join the Chapter attached to his Lodge.