Constitution Day is a public holiday in Slovakia, celebrated on 1 September. In Slovak, this holiday is called ‘Deň Ústavy Slovenskej Republiky’ and it commemorates the adoption of the Slovak constitution on 1 September 1992.
The establishment of the constitution effectively ended the state of Czechoslovakia, leading to the establishment of the Czech and Slovak Republics on 1 January 1993.
The holiday is marked by traditional customs like folk dancing and traditional song. The Parliament and Bratislava Castle are opened to the public and in the evening, Bratislava Castle is illuminated to mark the occasion.
Best wishes for a joyous Constitution Day to dear friends and comrades from Slovakia!
Speaking of The Czech Republic, you may not know that I just returned from a week in Prague. It was my first time there and my interest was primarily the history of the region.
I was pleasantly surprised when I came across a Masonic Walking Tour of Prague, let me tell you about the Masonic connection to this amazing, ancient city:
Prague is an old Masonic center. Already 24 years after the first modern Grand Lodge was established in 1717 in London, we find reports of Masonic activities in Prague during the French-Bavarian occupation in 1741-42. Freemasonry was in Prague in turns permitted and forbidden. It had its golden years in the last quarter of the 18th century (ca 1764-1794) and during the 20ties and 30ties of the 20th century.
Freemasons left no obvious marks of their presence in the city. However, the attentive visitor will recognize sometimes on the fronts of houses some symbols used in Freemasonry: Squares, compasses, trowels, levels, plumb rules, stars, sun, moon and other. But one must also keep in mind, that actually Freemasonry took all its symbols from others, mostly from the building trade. Generally, they signify Freemasonry only if they are grouped together in a specific way. Historically the tracing boards depict a composition of symbols relevant for Masons to moralize upon in a lodge meeting. This specific combinations „makes“ the symbols Masonic. Observing „Masonic“ symbols in Prague one must be cautious. So one can for example encounter many times the All Seeing Eye (radiating triangle with an eye in it), but this is here inevitable a religious symbol – Gods eye -, heavily used in baroque decorations of churches, houses and monuments.
The question remains: what is the message of such symbolic decoration? Is it the hall mark of the profession of an architect, engineer or an operative mason/builder? Or a hidden message by a Freemason who owned or constructed the property? It will not be easy to find today answers to these questions.
On the other hand we have in Prague a number of buildings, with no outward masonic signs, but which played and important role in the life of Prague lodges.
Below we present you a selection of pictures showing symbols in many different places in Prague which were used by Freemasons, as well as unmarked buildings of which we know they were home for lodges. It is a random selection. We believe, more will be „discovered‘ in the future. We welcome to receive pictures of Masonic Prague from our readers to add to this pages, in order to make it more complete. Please send the picture with the address (street and house number) where it was taken.
|Uruguayská 17, Praha 2, Vinohrady. In oval shield square and compasses with acacia twig|
|Vinohradská 22, Praha 2, Vinohrady. Neo-gothical house. Above the corner oriel window in a triangle and semi circle a mosaic depicting a putto holding a trowel, level and compasses.|
|Římská 35, Praha 2, Vinohrady. Standing man with apron, hammer and cog-wheel. Beneath him triangle and compasses. Decoration in Art Nouveau style, ca 1900-1910.|
|Corner Šmilkovského and Kopernikova, Praha 2, Vinohrady. White plaster relief showing putto at the drawing table holding compasses in one hand and a ruler in the other. Above right a shield with compasses and triangle intertwined.|
|Máchova 21, Praha 2. Compasses and gavel.|
|Máchova 21, Praha 2. Square and hammer.|
|Jilská 2, Praha 1. Compasses and Level on a shield.|
|Bělehradská 19-corner Fričova 8: Masonic square and compasses as mosaic pavement decoration for pub Excelsior.|
|Bělehradská 19 corner Fričova 8: Entry Excelsior pub with square and compasses decoration in pavement before the door.|
|Lublaňská 53, Vinohrady. Square and Compasses?|
|Baumann (Štěpánská) passage, connecting Štěpánská and Ve Smečkách streets, Praha 1. Compasses and Triangle (Level). Bronze relief commemorating architect Eugen Rosenberg for the construction of this passage in 1938. He is not know as a Mason.|
|Lannova 2, Praha 1. Glass decoration above entry to an office building depicting above a book, feather and hammer and below a level.|
|Politických vězňů 7, Praha 1, Nové Město. The former Orphanage, reconstructed in the 19th century as Schebek Palace, serving today the Academy of Sciences.|
|Politických vězňů 7, Praha 1, Nové Město. Empress Maria Theresia bought in 1780 the building and garden of the monastery of the Merciful Brethren (which was before Palace Breda). She donated it to the Prague Orphanage of St John the Baptist, which was established by Prague Masons in 1773. It was a home to more than 50 orphans and functioned till 1868. In the period 1780 – 1794, when the orphanage was managed by Freemasons, there were three fully furnished rooms, which were used for meetings of the Prague lodges: Zu den drei gekroenten Sternen (At the three crowned Stars), Zu den drei gekroenten Saulen (At the three crowned Pillars), Wahrheit und Einigkeit (Truth and Unity) and Zu den neun Strenen (At the nine Stars).|
|Detail of a map of Prague by Franz Leonard Herget dated 1791. Lot number 882 shows Weisshaus samt Kirche bey St. Johann Taufer. (Orphanage and Church of St. John the Baptist). The extensive gardens are clearly depicted. Candidates for initiation have been instructed to arrive and wait in these gardens.|
|First lodge room of the first Czech lodge Jan Amos Komenský. It was arranged by member Br Alfred Baštýř in his private flat in Králodvorská ulice 23/658 I (today department store Kotva) in November 1918. The lay-out follows German practice of that time and particularly Hiram lodge from which most Komenský members seceded.|
|Králodvorská 23 where Bro Baštýř had his apartment and lodge room. Picture shows three housing blocs before being demolished. Since 1970 the departments store Kotva has risen on this place.|
|Zum goldenem Kreuzel, Nekázanka 7, Praha 1, Nové Město. Masonic Hall of lodge Harmony used in the years 1909-1919, also by Hiram lodge.|
|Zum goldenem Kreuzel, Nekázanka 7, Praha 1, Nové Město. Interior view of the lodge room to the East with the seat of the Worshipful Master.|
|Zum goldenem Kreuzel, Nekázanka 7, Praha 1, Nové Město. Interior view of the lodge room with the pedestal and Volume of the Sacred Law (Bible).|
|Opletalova 45/983 (formerly Lutzowova) was in the years 1930-35 home to the independent lodge Most (Bridge}. This lodge working in German and Czech affiliated in 1935 with the National Grand Lodge of Czechoslovakia.|
|Obecný dům, Nám Republiky 5, Praha 1. On left corner hammer and gavel.|
|Ovocný trh 19, Praha 1, Staré Město. House At the Black Madona. House in cubist style by the famous architect Gočár. The decorations between the windows are styled as masonic aprons.|
|Celetná 20, Praha 1, Staré Město. Renaissance-baroque portal of a town palace. Since 1762 owned by the university. Since 1880 seat of the Royal Bohemian Scientific Society. Above the entrance in gold letters is written: Sibi et Posteris 1773. These words and gate were the inspiration to a Prague lodge to adopt this name, Sibi et Posteris (Yours and posterity), which was founded in 1930.|
|Estates Theater, Železná 11, Praha 1. Medallion with square and compasses on a scroll. It is a cartouche decoration on the second gallery parapet of the auditorium. The enlightened nobleman Franz Anton count Nostitz, inspired by the the Freemason G.E. Lessing`s idea, that every nation should have its own theater, decided to give Prague one. The first plans were made by Caspar Hermann count Kunigel, a very active Mason in Prague and finalized by Anton Haffenecker in neoclassical style. The opening play on 2 April 1783 was Lessing`s tragedy Emilia Galotty. Lessing was honored with his portrait in a medallion above the stage. The first director was a Freemason: Carl Wahr. The theater gained world fame by staging all important Mozart`s opera`s. Moreover, Don Giovanni and La Clemenza di Tito were especially written for this stage. At the coronation festivities of Leopold II as King of Bohemia in 1791, the Estates Theater played a central role. Many of the key organizers of those days were Masons and so this house played an important role for the Bohemian enlightenment and Freemasonry.|
|Havelská 31, Praha 1. Compasses and Level in round medallion.|
|Staroměstské náměstí 15, Praha 1, Staré Město. Bro Eduard Schmolka was in the past owner of this house. Lodge Hiram (Hiram zu den drei Sternen), the first modern Prague lodge, used the top floor as its home for its meetings in the years 1919-1930. The lodge was founded in 1909. Before 1918 it held its ritual meetings in Bratislava, as freemasonry was in Prague prohibited, but not in the Hungarian part of the monarchy, to which Bratislava belonged at that time. The lodge was German speaking, but admitted many Czechs (e.g. Jaroslav Kvapil, librettist of opera Rusalka), who founded in 1918 the first Czech lodge Jan Amos Komensky.|
|Staroměstské náměstí 21. Artistic impression by Heinz Kirnig in 1933 of the room of lodge Zur Wahrheit und Eintracht (Truth and Harmony) as used since 1932. This lodge was part of the irregular FZAS system.|
|Staroměstské náměstí 21. Photo picture of the hall used by the lodge Zur Wahrheit und Eintracht.|
|Husova 20, Praha 1, Staré Město. Palace Clam-Gallas, Christian Count Clam-Gallas was the owner of this palace in the second half of the 18th century. He hosted here Mozart and later Beethoven. He was member of the lodge Zu den drei gekroenten Sternen, which most likely met in the library room on the second floor. The same room was used by modern Prague lodges in the years 2000-2005.|
|Kozí 7, Praha 1, Staré Město. Residential house with graffiti decoration. Medallions showing compasses, level and trowel.||Monastery of St Agnes. Praha 1, Staré Město. Meeting place of Prague lodges Národ, Dílo and Most v the years 1990-1998.||Square, compasses and level decorate the ceiling of the great hall of Rudolfinum Gallery, Alšovo nán 12. Major art exhibition take there place. The other part of Rudolfinum building is a concert hall and home of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.|
|Municipal library, Mariánské náměstí 1, Praha 1, Staré Město. Above the left entry compasses over a triangle.|
|Town Hall, Mariánské náměstí 2, Praha 1, Staré Město. On both sides of the building are in frames depicted: level, hammer and trowel.|
|Žatecká 12, Praha 1, Staré Město-Josefov. Compasses and triangle on the front of a residential house.|
|Pařížská 26, Praha 1, Staré Město-Josefov. An Art Nouveau residential house with square and triangle decoration.|
|Pařížská 16, Praha 1 Pentagram in Art Nouveau style.|
|Church of St Anne, Annenské náměstí 2, Praha 1, Staré Město. Originally the church belonged to the Order of the Temple and after the liquidation of the Templar`s it became the church and monastery of the Dominican nuns. Emperor Joseph II abolished this monastery and church in the second half of the 18th century and the property was bought by a successful Prague publisher, Ferdinand knight Schoenfeld who used it as a printing house. It is most likely that he ordered the glass decoration of the five northern windows, which today do not exist anymore. Fortunately, there is a engraving dated 1822 depicting the windows and its symbols, of which are many Masonic. Schoenfeld was a very active Mason and most Masonic publications and lodge lists of his time were printed by him. Unfortunately, he fell in disgrace and was expelled from his lodge. He sold his business to the family Haase, who owned the building till the end of WWII. In the 30ties the owner was Bro Haase Vranau (member of a German speaking lodge in Prague) and he was most likely regularly visited by the graphic artist Jaroslav Benda. Benda must have discovered the print of the St Anne church windows there, as in his design for the windows of the Mausoleum of Comenius in Naarden (Holland) he used nearly all Masonic symbols from the Prague church.|
|Husova 9 – Zlatá, (Jezuitský dvůr), Praha 1, Staré Město. First seat of the National Grand Lodge of Czechoslovakia. The premises were rented from the owner, Ing. Eugen Syrovátka, a senior government official at the ministry of public works. The consecration was done by the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia on 27 October 1923. Although the plan was to use this location only temporarily, the Czech Prague lodges stayed there for full six years.|
|Braun House (house At the stone table, Salm House), Karlovo náměstí 24. The school for Deaf Mute used the second floor, in the years 1786-1794. This institution was financed at that time by the Freemasons from Prague. Bro Caspar Count Kunigl lived allegedly on the first floor.|
|Dittrichova 9, corner Trojanova. Building of the Pension Fund of the Employees of the Health Insurance Companies of Czechoslovakia. This was the second home of the National Grand Lodge of Czechoslovakia. As the previous location started to be too small, the brethren moved in 1929 to a larger space. There were more rooms available and also a banqueting room for festive boards. A cover name was used: Comenius Memorial. Official consecration took place on 7 December 1929. The premises were used by the lodges: Komenský, Národ, Dílo, 28. Říjen, Pravda vítězí, Bernard Bolzano, Sibi et Posteris, Most, Baruch Spinoza and Dílna lidskosti. There were, however, also complaints that the rooms were all underground, with no day light and no good ventilation. The Grand Lodge used this place for nearly seven years and in 1936 moved again to another location.|
|Building housing the National Grand Lodge of Czechoslovakia as it looked in 1938.|
|Dittrichova 9, corner Trojanova 2. Praha 2, Nové Město. In the hallway a tablet was placed with names of deceased brethren. Bro Alphons Mucha made a now famous painting The Last Work for this space and a bronze plaque with the text: Věčný Orient (Eternal East).|
|Study of Mucha for the large tempera painting of The Last Work-ca 1930, 13×22-cm.|
|The final form of the painting The Last Work by Alphons Mucha. It was finished ca 1930 and we can see similarities with the male figure on the 50 koruna bank note which Mucha designed in 1929. Moreover, the coloring scheme has similarities with the last painting Apotheosis of his Slav Epic.|
|Dittrichova 9, corner Trojanova 2. Praha 2, Nové Město. The bronze plaque with the text: Věčný Orient (Eternal East) today.|
|Dittrichova 9, corner Trojanova 2. Praha 2, Nové Město. Ante room of the lodge room.|
|Dittrichova 9, Main Temple. View to the East with the chair of the Worshipful Master.|
|Trojanova 7, Praha 2, Nové Město. Lessingheim. Masonic Hall of the Grossloge Lessing zu den drei Ringen (Grand Lodge Lessing at the three rings), which united the German and Hungarian speaking masons in Czechoslovakia in the period 1920-1938. This Masonic Hall was officially opened on 15 May 1930 and was home to the lodges Hiram, Harmonie, Freilicht zur Eintracht, Adoniram zur Weltkugel and Wahrheid und Einigkeit zu den drei gekronten Saulen.|
|Lessingheim as it looked in 1938. Brethren used the smaller entry at right.|
|Trojanova 7, Praha 2, Nové město. Interior of the Masonic Hall of Grand lodge Lessing called Lessingheim. Ante-room.|
|Trojanova 7, Praha 2, Nové Město. Interior of the Masonic Hall of Grand lodge Lessing called Lessingheim. Lodge room to the East. The design is noticeable traditional Gothic.|
|Trojanova 7, Praha 2, Nové Město. Interior of the Masonic Hall of Grand lodge Lessing called Lessingheim. Lodge room to the West.|
|Trojanova 7, Praha 2, Nové Město. Interior of the Masonic Hall of Grand lodge Lessing called Lessingheim. Club room.|
|Lazarská 5, Praha 1. Art Nouveau door with letters J and B.|
|Betlémská 4, Praha 1, Staré Město. Level, compasses, ruler and scroll. Decoration on the school for mechanical engineering.|
|Betlémské náměstí 1, Praha 1. Bronze plaque with portrait of Vojta Náprstek a businessman and philanthropist. Might have become a Freemason in Milwaukee in the period 1850-1858.|
|Colloredo-Mansfeld palace, Karlova ulice 189, Praha 1, Staré Město. On the front side is a small level with the date 1853. In the grand hall of this palace took on 26 October 1947 the festive meeting place at the occasion of renewing the activities of the National Grand Lodge of Czechoslovakia after the Second World War. The hall was decorated by Bro Ladislav Machoň.|
|Radlická (Divišova 5), Praha 5, Smíchov. The last seat of the National Grand Lodge of Czechoslovakia (Národní Veliká Lože Československá) before WWII (16.5.1936-10.10.1938). The building was called Kotva (Anchor) and the street was named Divišova at that time. It belonged to the industrial group Křižík-Chaudior and Bro Josef Riesinger was general manager of this company. The interior design was by architect Bro Ladislav Machoň and designer Bro Stanislav Sucharda. According to reports by brethren who remember these premises, they fully complied with all necessary requirements for both ritual and administrative needs. The English inspired design is remarkable and reflects a trend in Czechoslovak Masonry in the thirties, to introduce many English elements, including a new Czech ritual based on the English Emulation ritual. It is sad to note, that it served the brotherhood only two years and four months, when as a consequence of the international political developments and the Munich agreement, the brethren voluntarily liquidated this Masonic Hall and ceased all activities. They could thus hide in time Masonic documents, the library and lodge furnishing before the Nazis invaded Prague 155 days later.|
|Radlická, (before Divišova) street today.|
|Valentinská 1, Praha 1, Staré Město. The National Grand Lodge of Czechoslovakia rented in the years 1947-1951 the first floor of the house of the Czech National Council (Česká národní rada) of which Bro Albert Pražák was chairman. The brethren had at their disposal 13 rooms, a hall, 2 bath rooms, all totaling 350 sq m. On 1 April 1951 it was again decided to voluntarily terminate all masonic activities, as freemasonry and communism were considered incompatible.|
|Masonic Hall, Prague Valentinská 1. An artistic depiction of the Grand Temple of the National Grand Lodge of Czechoslovakia, as was used in the period 1947-1951.The carpet, the two pillars and both wooden carved grills have been preserved and are used again today. As Freemasonry and Communism were in Czechoslovakia incompatible, the Grand Lodge decided as of 1.4.1951 to discontinue activities. Probably as a souvenir this dry needle print was made.|
|Charles bridge, Malá Strana, Praha 1. Under the third arch of the Charles bridge: square, compasses, hammer, chisels and the year 1783.|
|Mostecká 17, Praha 1 Malá Strana. Gavel, hammer, level and chisel. Part of bronze doors depicting Comenius and Erasmus.|
|West side front of the St Vitus Cathedral. Perfect ashlar. Above a (blind) window in the form of three intersecting circles. This is a typical style of Peter Parler (1330-1399) who became master mason of St Vitus Cathedral in 1352. All modern Grand Lodges in Prague have adopted this form in their seals.||West side St Vitus Cathedral Prague Castle, Praha 1, Hradčany. Bronze decoration of the cathedral door depicting a stone mason.|
|Vikářská 2, Prague Castle, Praha 1, Hradčany. Square and compasses, commemorating Benedikt Rejt (Ried) z Pístova, (1451-1534), an important architect working on the Prague Castle and in Bohemia.|
|Benedikt Rejt (1454-1536). Leading medieval architect in Bohemia. Build i.a. Vladislav Hall in Prague Castle and St. Barbara`s Church in Kutná Hora. This is his probable portrait, with square and compasses, depicted in the St Wenceslas Chapel of the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.|
|Strahov library, Praha 1, Hradčany. Front of the library of the Strahov monastery. Build in the 80ties of the 18th century in neoclassical style by architect Ignaz Palliardy, who was in the 90ties member of the lodge Wahrheit und Einigkeit . The influential Abbot of the Strahov monastery, Josef V. Mayer (1734-1800), was also member of the same lodge. On top of the gable a globe with compasses. The ceiling of the philosophical library depicts putto with a level and plumb rule.|
Václav Š. : Kde byly v Praze zednářské dílny, in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Volume III, Quatuor Coronati Lodge No 9, Prague 2004
Jana Čechurová: Čeští svobodní zednáři ve XX. století, Libri publishers, Prague 2002
Jana Šetřilová: Alfons Mucha – Freimaurer, in Das Slawische Epos, Kunsthalle Krems, Krems-Stein, Austria, 1994
Jacob Sadilek – pragamasonica.cz, 2017