HOLDEN — Joining with Masonic lodges across the state, Freemasons meeting in Masonic Lodges in towns all across Maine will open their doors to the public on Saturday, Oct. 20, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., as part of Square & Compasses Day, a state-wide celebration of Freemasonry.

If you’ve ever wondered who the Freemasons are, whether they are really the descendants of the Knights Templars or what the inside of their building looks like, here’s your chance to find out.

Nearly 180 lodges will be hosting open houses to help the public gain a better understanding of what Freemasonry is and the positive impact that is has on its members, their families and the community. Members will provide tours of their buildings, talk about Freemasonry’s history, discuss its rituals, signs and symbols and explain what they do.

“Square & Compasses Day is a great opportunity for anyone interested in learning more about Freemasonry to meet and talk with Masons in their community,” said Jim Ross, Grand Master of Masons in Maine and the presiding officer of a fraternity of 20,000 members in Maine. “Although many have heard of us, very few are aware that for nearly 240 years we have been part of an unbroken tradition of great men who have changed our world in ways both big and small. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thurgood Marshall and John Glenn, for example, all joined the Masons prior to achieving the greatness we recognize them for. Well-known Maine Masons of historic note include Civil War General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and philanthropist Harold Alfond. There are countless other great men, whose names are not widely known, who made their families, workplaces and communities better because they were Masons.”

Freemasons trace their roots to the stonemason guilds that built Europe’s cathedrals and castles during the early part of the last millennium. As construction of these buildings declined, they began accepting members from outside their trade. These new members, influenced by the “Age of Enlightenment,” transformed the organization from a group for builders to one focused on developing the character of its members. Freemasonry was formally organized in London in 1717. In 1762 the first formally organized Lodge in Maine was formed, and the Grand Lodge of Maine’s formation was one of the first pieces of business enacted by the new Maine Legislature in 1820.

Freemasonry, the world’s oldest and largest fraternity, seeks to bring together men of every country, religion, race, background, and opinion and develop the bonds of friendship between them. Through a large variety of North American Masonic philanthropies, approximately $3,000,000 is given to charity every day, 70 percent of which benefits the general public.

During its initiation ceremony, which uses symbolism and allegory, its members are encouraged to value principles, ethics and morality and to live their lives accordingly. For additional information or to locate an open house near you, call 843-1086 or visit mainemason.org or AskAFreemason.org.

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