As so often in Masonry, it starts with a visit. Two Romanian Masons, Bro Felix Matei and Bro Dragos Calinescu from Heliopolis Lodge No 266, were curious about UK Masonry and attended a meeting in Military Lodge No 2621 three years ago.


By David Merrigan


They liked what they saw. Covid delayed Meetings, but the pair declared that they wished to join Military Lodge at the earliest opportunity. That wish was shared by Military Lodge and was finally achieved in March 2022.

The Military Lodge has always been close-knit, and its response to Covid was to have online weekly support meetings. Another Lodge member had already relocated to Romania, and so, if anything, Zoom-facilitated chats only made the Brethren better-connected and more sociable! A frequent topic on Zoom chats was arranging a Lodge trip to Romania.

Eventually the world re-opened and diaries were aligned: six UK Brethren, three with their wives, arrived in Bucharest on Wednesday 26th June 2023 to entertain several Heliopolis Brethren to dinner that evening. The Military Brethren were led by their then Master, W Bro John Gavin; sadly, this was his last Lodge trip as he died unexpectedly a few months later. John was hugely sociable, eminently charitable, and is much missed.

Thursday evening saw the Brethren attend a Mark Meeting to see two Romanian Brethren being Advanced. Unlike the other ceremonies the Military Brethren were invited to, this was performed by an English-speaking Lodge. This was followed by a very moving Craft ceremony celebrating the summer solstice festival of St. John by candlelight: difficult to follow in a foreign language as it was not familiar to the UK Brethren, but exquisitely beautiful. Afterwards everyone enjoyed a White Table, to which Romanian wives joined the UK cohort. A traditional summer spread was laid on, with excellent Romanian wines.

The next day, the Military Brethren had free time to nurse their hangovers and explore the delights of Bucharest’s old town, noting the impressive city-wide architectural transition from the communist era to the present day. In the evening, the Brethren attended that year’s Craft Installation Meeting of the Heliopolis Lodge, the installation itself being performed expertly by a member of the Grand Lodge of Romania. The Temple used by the Lodge contains stunning carved stone pillars, assigning the Master and his Wardens to their respective architectural order. Meanwhile the Brethren’s wives were entertained by their Romanian counterparts, who had organised a full programme of visits, crowned by a sumptuous ladies’ dinner.

Labours being ended, Saturday saw the whole party enjoy a train journey through the Carpathian Mountains to a town called Sinaia, a short stop from Peles Castle (not Dracula’s, which is long gone) and another enjoyable meal together in the evening. On the Sunday, the weather was not conducive to (gentle) mountain trekking, so at the last minute our resourceful hosts organised a Romanian wine tasting followed by an excellent lunch. It was agreed afterwards that the wine tasting was a much better idea in any event!

Monday saw two couples heading for a two-day trip to the Black Sea. Two Military Brethren stayed on for another day of exploring Bucharest, and were entertained in the evening by a Heliopolis Brother at home: a fitting end to the visit.

Military Lodge’s Secretary, W Bro Roger Wakeford-Brown, summarised the trip: ‘We cannot emphasise enough how hospitable and accommodating our hosts were. We were most impressed by the enthusiasm of the Romanian Brethren for Freemasonry in general’. The only question is: when to return?

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 54 April 2024 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 54 here.