Freemasonry has adopted Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist as its Patron Saints. From before the creation and dedication of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717, makes frequent reference to the “Lodge of the Saints John at Jerusalem.” Operative Masons are referred to both in Masonic documents and elsewhere as “St. John’s Masons” or “St. John’s men,” and Lodges of St. Johns Masonry existed in Italy, France, and Spain during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Stonemason Lodges in England and Scotland from the time of the Crusades had one or Both Saints John as their Patron Saints. By this tradition, all subsequent Lodges were born from this Lodge, and therefore all Masons came from such Lodge.
Ancient Saint John Lodges belonged to these Masons, who were a part of the fraternity prior to the organization of the first premier Grand Lodge of England. In the exposed rituals of 1723, emphasis was on Christian Doctrine; however, by 1830 the union of two English Grand Lodges eliminated Christianity from its ritual and changed the work to “the God we all worship.”
While it would seem to make more sense that St. Thomas, the patron saint of architects and builders, would be a ‘better fit’ and a simpler choice to be the sole Patron Saint of Freemasonry, the fraternity, lodges, and guilds chose both Saints John instead. And for and extraordinary reasons, rather than a simple, pedestrian, and uninspiring one; Christianity has long held that John the Baptist was a zealous man, while John the Evangelist was an intellectual. By linking these two men symbolically as parallels, Freemasonry positions each Mason as being balanced between the fervency of passion and the tranquility of intellect. It being necessary to have both passion and logic to accomplish great and inspired works.
Nevertheless, the newly formed Grand Lodge of England still organized its annual assemblies and feasts on the birthdays of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. These two celebrations common in American Freemasonry are the Feast of St. John the Baptist and the Festival of St. John the Evangelist. The Feast of St. John the Baptist is celebrated on June 24th (Midsummer’s Day) which happens just after the Summer Solstice, while the Festival of St. John the Evangelist occurs on December 27th, a few days after the Winter Solstice.
Thus, all current Lodges are now dedicated to these Patron Saints as opposed to King Solomon.
John the Baptist was born on June 24th, 6 B.C. He was the son of Zechariah, a Jewish Priest, and his wife Elizabeth, a daughter of Aaron. Elizabeth had lost hope of giving birth due to her age but received a divine message in her sleep that she would conceive a child.
Saint John the Baptist is described in all four Gospels, and in virtually the same way in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. He was a humble man who lived a simple life. A cousin of Jesus Christ, he spent most of his life baptizing believers in the River Jordan. He was a devout man who held fast to his obligations to God with an immovable and incontrovertible faith. Jesus Christ, in Matthew and Luke, says of John the Baptist “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist…”
Zealous in his faith and rigid in his beliefs, John the Baptist condemned King Herod for marrying Herodias in violation of Old Testament Law. At this time John the Baptist had many followers and – fearing a rebellion, King Herod had John arrested and imprisoned. King Herod said that if John would change his tune, he would be released. John continued with his message, that one must live a holy life and not deviate from it, and continued in his devotion to Jesus Christ. The daughter of Herodias danced before King Herod, and King Herod granted her favor. That favor was the head of John the Baptist.
John the Evangelist was born on December 27th, 1 A.D. His father was the son of Zebedee, and his mother was Salome. He came from a family of fishermen, including his father and brother James the Great.
Saint John the Evangelist, according to Christian tradition, was one of Christ’s original Apostles. He was the only Apostle to live to a ripe old age, and is also considered to be the author of the Gospel of John, which begins:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was at the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not…” – John 1:1-5, KJV
The emphasis on ‘light’ being linked to divinity is a concept familiar to all Freemasons, while the logic and writing is similar to the Book of Genesis. John the Evangelist wrote extensively, and the central theme, too much of his writing was that the Word and Light are inexorably linked. Of all the Apostles, John the Evangelist is often described as being the most loyal to Christ, and the one closest to Him. To so high an eminence was John held with love by Christ, that He entrusted the care of His mother Mary to him. Many books have been written about John the Evangelist. Even though he was of the Old Covenant, and a pillar of the Jerusalem Church after the Crucifixion of Jesus, he was accorded the same honors and reverence as the first Saints of the Christian era.
The reasoning behind dedicating Blue Lodges to these two saints, and celebrating them every year, is because these two humble men exemplified the pure principles of Freemasonry in their deeds and in their words. They showed a reverence for the glory of Deity, a strong devotion to their great Creator, and worked every day to make themselves better men and their world a better place. Their lives are worthy of all emulation.