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HOLY ROYAL ARCH | St Mary at Finchley

Holy Royal Arch

In the British Isles, most of continental Europe (including the masonically expanding states of eastern Europe), and most nations of the Commonwealth (with the notable exception of Canada), the teachings of Royal Arch Masonry are contained in the "Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch" – a stand alone degree of Freemasonry which is open to those who have completed the three Craft degrees. Until 1823, only freemasons who had previously passed through the chair of a Craft lodge were allowed to join. Today, candidates for an English Holy Royal Arch Chapter are required to have been a Master Mason for four weeks or more.

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Similarly to Craft Freemasonry, the Royal Arch conveys moral and ethical lessons. In the three degrees of the Craft, the candidate is presented with a series of practical principles of service to his fellow man. But as man is not simply a practical being, he also has an essential spiritual aspect to his nature. The Royal Arch further develops this latter aspect by a contemplation of man's spiritual nature, not replacing but supporting what the candidate has learnt from his own religion. In the Chapter, the teachings of the Royal Arch are conveyed using a ritualised allegory based on the Old Testament telling of the return to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity to rebuild the City and Temple. In clearing the ground of Solomon's Temple for the foundations of a new temple, the candidate makes important discoveries. By adding a transcendental dimension to the practical lessons of Craft Freemasonry, the Royal Arch is seen as an extension of the preceding degrees and the philosophical lessons conveyed are appropriate to that stage in a candidate's Masonic development.

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The symbol or Grand Emblem of Royal Arch Masonry is the Triple Tau.

The English system of Royal Arch Masonry consists of a single appendant order, which works four ceremonies: the exaltation ceremony to bring in new members and an installation ceremony for each of the three Principals.

In England and Wales, a Holy Royal Arch Chapter is required to be sponsored by a Craft lodge and bears the same number. In nearly all cases, a Holy Royal Arch Chapter also bears the same name as its sponsoring Craft lodge, although the Holy Royal Arch itself is a separate order from Craft Freemasonry. At the same time, the Holy Royal Arch is the only appendant order that is actively endorsed by the United Grand Lodge of England among Craft freemasons. Craft lodges in England and Wales normally have a specially appointed Royal Arch Representative, and newly raised Master Masons are actively encouraged to seek exaltation into the Holy Royal Arch before considering membership of any further Masonic organisation.
With the exception of Scotland and Scandinavia (where Swedish rite is used), the English system of Royal Arch Masonry is also found in other European states, as well as in Australasia, and is currently being introduced to many eastern European states, including Russia and Serbia. Due to the difference in organisation, notable restrictions apply to English members of the Royal Arch who wish to attend Royal Arch meetings in Scotland.