by Steven Noble


The Royal Arch is a place to meet Masons from other Lodges, to learn more about Masonry, to complete what you started in Craft Masonry and a chance to take part in beautiful rituals. It also opens doors to other forms of Masonry.

The Holy Royal Arch is one of the oldest Masonic rituals and dates to at least 1752. For a long the Royal Arch was part of Third Degree. For the Antients, it was the Fourth Degree and conferred in their Lodges. After Unification it was considered the completion of the Third Degree.

The legend sets out to restore the genuine secrets of a Master Mason and this is accomplished by workmen who make a momentous discovery during their labours and an interesting and illuminating explanation of the nature of God is conveyed.

The Royal Arch system is made up of three very colourful degrees: the Mark Master Mason, the Most Excellent Master and the Holy Royal Arch. All Master Masons are qualified to join and must continue to belong to a Craft Lodge.

Those that have completed the Exaltation of the Holy Royal Arch degree are known as Companions, and Royal Arch meets in Chapters.

The Degrees

Mark Master Mason
In some jurisdictions this is separate from the Royal Arch and is its own Grand Lodge. Within Royal Arch in Canada it is the first degree that a Master Mason will take within the Royal Arch System. It is a very old ritual with records of it being performed in the late 1600’s.
This degree is set in the workshops used to build King Solon’s Temple. It involves the candidate, as one of the Fellowcrafts, presenting their work. It has several beautiful lessons within it. The new Mark Master Mason selects a mark or image that they will use to identify their work. This a continuation of the lessons and work of the Craft Fellowcraft degree.

Most Excellent Master
This degree is of a more recent design from the United States of America (in the 1780s) and in some jurisdictions belongs to a different degree system. In Canada it is the second degree in the Royal Arch system.
This degree takes place at the completion of King Solomon’s Temple and reflects the dedication of it to the Most High. The work that was interrupted in the Master Mason’s degree has now been completed. The degree recognizes the zeal and fidelity of the workers, which are represented by the candidate.

Holy Royal Arch
The degree of the Holy Royal Arch is considered the completion of the Master Mason’s degree. In this degree the Master’s Word that was lost, is found. It has a long history and can be found in Irish Freemasonry in the late 1600’s and in England, Scotland and France by 1738. During the split of Grand Lodges in England, one of the Grand Lodges considered it part of Craft Masonry, while the other had it as a separate Order. After Unification it was considered separate but reflecting part of ancient Craft Masonry as the completion of the Master Mason’s degree.
The Chapter room has an incredible set up for this degree full of many symbols and an impressive set of furniture. The setting reflects the site of the destroyed First Temple when the Israelites were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple under Zerubbabel, Prince of the People.
The candidate represents one of those who travelled back to Israel and who are being employed in clearing the site of the Temple so that rebuilding can occur. In the course of this work they make a miraculous discovery, one that brings to a conclusion the story of the Master Mason’s degree.
At the completion of this degree, the candidate is Exalted to be a Companion of the Holy Royal Arch and is invested with a new apron, a royal sash and the jewel of the Order.

Other Degrees

Virtual Past Master
Initially when the Royal Arch was developed, only a Past Master of a Craft Lodge could take the degree. Eventually this led to the creation of another degree called the Virtual Past Master. In this degree one learned the secrets of an Installed Master, but this did not make them an actual Master of a Craft Lodge (hence why it is called ‘Virtual’). This degree was open to all Master Masons.
Eventually in most jurisdictions the requirement was removed, and any Master Mason can become a Companion of the Holy Royal Arch.
The degree of Virtual Past Master is still part of the Royal Arch system in the United States of America and is found as an optional degree within many Canadian Jurisdictions.

In the Grand Chapter of British Columbia and Yukon, the Virtual Past Master degree is only conferred within Columbia Chapter No. 1, who have the right to this degree conferred from the Grand Chapter of Scotland and relates to how this Chapter joined the Grand Chapter.

Order of the High Priest
This beautiful ceremony is available for those who have been installed as First Principal of a Chapter and is normally conducted immediately before a Grand Convocation.

Organization of Royal Arch

As mentioned above, those that have completed the Exaltation of the Holy Royal Arch degree are known as Companions, and Royal Arch meets in Chapters.
Chapters have a different structure from Craft Masonry as they are ruled by three individuals known as Principals. The First Principal represents Zerubbabel, Prince of the People. The Second Principal represents Haggai, the Prophet and the Third Principal represents Joshua, the son of the High Priest.
The secretary function of a Chapter is looked after by Scribe Ezra. These titles are a representation of the return of the Israelites from Babylonian Captivity and the completion of the Second Temple.
For a complete list of Chapters in British Columbia and Yukon please click here.
In British Columbia and Yukon, the Chapters of the Holy Royal Arch come under the control of the Grand Chapter and its Grand Principals.
For a link to the current Grand Principals click here.
If you would like to know more about the history of the Grand Chapter please click here.

Process to become a Royal Arch Mason

The first step is to complete an application form. You can get this from a local Chapter, or you can complete it online at our website.
The online application form is found here.
To find a local Chapter click here or you can simply submit your application form to the Grand Chapter and we will find the closest Chapters.
If you don’t know which is your local Chapter you can find that on our website as well.
Your application for membership will be balloted on in the Chapter and then you will be informed of when to attend your first degree.
Your first degree will be the Mark Master Mason. At a subsequent meeting, you will receive the Most Excellent Master degree. Finally, you will receive the Sublime Degree of the Holy Royal Arch. This is know as an Exaltation. You will find out the lost Master Mason’s word, and you will become a Companion.
You will receive several physical tokens along the way and as a Companion will receive a new apron, a sash and a jewel of the Order.

Further Light in Freemasonry

Once you are a Companion, having received the Holy Royal Arch degree, you are now eligible to continue your Masonic journey and education through different organizations.

Allied Masonic Degrees of Canada

The Allied Masonic Degrees (‘AMD’) collected many degrees that had been orphaned during Unification of the Grand Lodge of England as well as other side degrees who have no “Grand” organization to administer them.
AMD is principally a research and education organization that promote discussion on Masonic topics as original research. Annually it produces a collection of papers presented across Canada. It is a bilingual organization covering all of Canada.
In British Columbia there are Councils in: Ladysmith, Vancouver, Dawson Creek and a travelling Council that covers central and northern BC as well as the Yukon.

Royal and Select Masters of Western Canada

Also known as the ‘Cryptic Rite’ this is a system of three degrees based on the building of King Solomon’s temple and include ‘Royal Master’, ‘Select Master’, and ‘Super Excellent Master’. An interesting side degree governed by the council is the ‘Royal Ark Mariner’ degree. It is conferred only upon Super Excellent Masters and in a Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners whose officers are those of the Council.
Councils of Royal and Select Masters meet in Victoria, Courtenay, Ladysmith, Kamloops, Creston, Vancouver, North Vancouver, Langley, Chilliwack and Dawson Creek.

The Preceptory of Knights Templar
Royal Arch Masons who profess the Christian faith may petition a Preceptory of Knights Templar. The Order of the Red Cross is based upon Old Testament events and is thus pre-Christian in its focus. This order has much in common with the 15th and 16th degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.
The Order of Malta and the Order of the Temple have a New Testament orientation and their lessons are based upon the crusades of the original Knights Templar. Whether there is an actual historical link between the modern Masonic Knights Templar and the historical group of the same name is debatable. Some think there is such a link, others do not.

Still Looking for More Information

You can email us with your question. Please send us a note.
You can also watch these videos:
Why Join Fervency & Zeal  and  Introduction to the York Rite
Completion of the 3rd Degree     What is all about

A longer presentation