(Click on image to view enlarged picture)
A brief history and account of the building in Jerusalem in which English freemasons meet cannot fail to interest our members, including those who have left Palestine. Our many visitors from all parts of the world will also like to know something of the place in which they have been privileged to take part in a masonic gathering, which stands but 400 yards away from Mount Moriah the indisputable site of the Temple of King Solomon.
Jerusalem is the Holy City of the Christians, the Moslem and the Jew, and through all its vicissitudes and struggles, captures and destruction's, it has proved an irresistible attraction to the pilgrim and visitor.
From the IV Century a steady stream of devotees of various creeds has flowed this way. The accommodation of these pilgrims in health and the tending of them in sickness was always a problem, and from very early times it is quite probable that the Muristan has been the locality where Christian pilgrims have been accommodated since the day of Constantine.
The site is bounded on the North by the church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the East by the covered bazaar, Su El Lahhamin, South by David Street, and West by Christian Street.
Muristan is a Persian word meaning a Hospital for the insane. Locally it is known as 'Al Dabbagha'. A hospice was built on this land by Charlemagne in 800 and in 1048 the pious merchants of Amalfi built a group of churches, inns and hospitals.
Fifty years later when Jerusalem was taken by the Crusaders under Godfrey de Bouillon the Order of the Hospitallers or Knights of St John was founded, more churches and hospitals were built, dwellings and stables for the Knights and a palace for the Grand Master.
The occupation of Jerusalem by the Crusaders came to an end in 1187, and the chivalrous Saladin evacuated the sick and wounded, gave the Hospitaller's property as an endowment to the Mosque of Otnar, and himself lived in the palace of the Grand Master, now a mosque at the junctions of Christian Street and the Street of the Franks. This Mosque of Omar just referred to is not the misnamed one in the Temple Area, but the mosque very near and south of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In the 'golden age' of the Order, 2000 sick were housed daily and the buildings were beautiful. For three centuries pilgrims faced the dangers and tribulations of a visit to a foreign land; and then the area fell to waste and all traces of its history were covered deep with weeds. In 1869 however, for some unexplained reason the Sultan Abdel Aziz gave the land to the to the King of Prussia.
The Germans did some excavation and made the present street, marking the western boundary of their newlyacquired property. They discovered ruins of old churches, Sta. Maria Latina Major and Minor, and in the old Refectory, established in 187071, the chapel of the German Evangelist Community. Then the building of the big Church of the Redeemer was commenced in 1893 on the site and on the lines of the Crusading Church; to be dedicated in 1898, and transferred by King Frederick William IV to the Evangelishche Jerusalem Vereih. The Church contains several vestiges of XII Century art,
Next to it, to the south, was erected the Muristan Hospice for Germany divinity and archaeological students who come to Jerusalem during vacations. In the upper Hall, on March 28th, 1924, the Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England, Sir Colville Smith C.V.O., accompanied by several distinguished brethren from home consecrated the first English lodge in the Holy Land, a memorable event even in the memorable anals of our Order.
On the following day in the same hall, the Grand Secretary consecrated Lydda Lodge No. 4613, and during his second visit in March 1930, consecrated our Chapter, Temple Chapter at Jerusalem No. 4611, and a lodge sponsored by us, Lodge of the Four Hills No. 5185.
General Sir Gilbert Clayton was nominated our first Master, but his onerous work as Chief Secretary obliged him to withdraw. Until his lamented death, when High Commissioner of Iraq, he remained the guide, counsellor and friend of the Lodge.
Despite riots, an earthquake, and considerable civil coninotion we have managed to meet in this large and stately hall on all regular occasions, except the last, when we were obliged to meet in a room outside the Old City.