The prime function of such certificate or diploma was to provide a mason with a document proving his membership of a lodge when traveling and visiting other lodges. In 18th century Prague, each of the three functioning lodges at that time had its own engraved lodge certificates. The lodge Wahrheit und Einigkeit (1783-1793) had its certificate commissioned in 1785. It is an attractive document which in an original way combines Bohemian and Masonic symbols.
The main, middle section of the document is white space divided in two half’s. The left column has a Latin text and the right column has a German text, which is a statement of the lodge master and all members of the lodge that the named person has been regularly admitted and possesses the stated degree. He is recommended to all Freemasons anywhere for friendship and protection and admittance to their lodge in the corresponding degree. The text ends with the name of the lodge, place (Prague) and date of issuance.
The text forms a front of a temple and is crowned with a tympanum in which two female figures in the clouds are reaching hands. The left naked figure with a sunburst behind its head symbolized Science and the right figure, with a harp represents Art. It tells us, that Science and Art are the guiding lights of this lodge. Under the tympanum is the Greek text Ekas, Ekas, Este Bebeloi, which translated means: Away, Away Ye Profane. This was also the pass-phrase for the Minerval degree of the Illuminati order. At the left side of the temple is on a pedestal a naked female figure holding an apple and some drapery. She represents BEAUTY, one of the three pillars upon which a lodge rests. On the right side, below, we see a bearded man in a tunic, sitting and measuring a globe with compasses in his right hand. In his left he holds a square. In front of him is a level, gavel and trowel. He might be Pythagoras or Euclid and represents WISDOM. In the middle below, in front of the temple, we see the Bohemian lion (with a double tail) holding a shield, where the lodge seal can be applied. The lion also symbolizes STRENGTH, the third pillar on which a lodge rest. So the lion combines here smartly both, the Bohemian statehood and masonic Strength. The whole scenery is framed with a rich floral and plant decoration. On the right side stands an acacia tree, in the left lower corner we can see a thistle and a rose.
The initiative to commission this certificate came from Br Moritz Anton Boehm, who was a member of this lodge and who had leather manufactures in Prague and Vienna. His name appears on in the lower margin on the left side of the certificate. (F.F. Fr. Mor. Bohm.). He approached the painter Anton Weinkopf and engraver Jacob Adam who designed and engraved the copper plate. They were both members of the Viennese lodge Zur Wahren Eintracht. This lodge was a role model for the Prague lodge W&E focusing on enlightenment and modern science. Also the certificate of this Viennese lodge engraved by Jacob Schmutzer in 1784 shows striking similarities in concept and design with our certificate.
The names of both artists appear in the margin of the document in the middle (Delin. Fr. An. Weinkopf) and at the right end (Sculp. Fr. Iac. Adam). There are know certificates filled in for Carl Count Harrach dated 17.10.1786 and for the counts Canal and Wallis.
In addition to the certificate of lodge Wahrheit und Einigkeit, there are few other certificates from the 18th century: a French language, unfilled diploma, most likely for the lodge Zu den drei gekronten Sternen. Another very attractive certificate, with rich decorative symbolism, had the lodge Zu de neun Sternen, designed by the prague engraver Anton Baltzer. It is a “multi purpose” document, with white space in the middle, which could be used for different occasions. The certificates for the Order of Asian Brethren and the lodge Zu den wahren vereinigten Freunden in Brno are more simple documents, without decorative elements. Another graphic expression are vignettes or medallions, which have been commissioned and used by the main Prague lodges and have mostly adorned lodge membership lists. They are a beautiful combination of selected Masonic symbols, characterizing the name and style of each lodge.
© Jacob Sadilek
Click on picture to enlarge and read explanatory text. All shown items are in private possession unless mentioned otherwise.