Freemasonry, a world-renowned non-religious, non-political, and charitable organization, has a significant presence at the University of Oxford. With roots dating back to medieval stonemasons, Freemasonry today boasts around 250,000 members in England and 6 million globally. The Apollo University Lodge at Oxford represents a unique aspect of this tradition.
The Apollo University Lodge
Established on February 10, 1819, Apollo University Lodge is a local group of Freemasons representing those who have matriculated at Oxford. Meetings are held six times a year, with two ceremonies typically performed at each gathering. The Lodge supports various charities and funds seven grants of £1,100 each, awarded by the University.
Membership in the Lodge follows three distinct “degrees” symbolizing the stages of life: youth, manhood, and maturity. These are known as Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason.
Apollo University Lodge’s history is rich and varied. From its inception, charity work has been integral to its mission. The Lodge faced conflicts with the Grand Lodge in its early years and grew steadily through the 19th century, enjoying royal affiliations and social extravagance.
The 20th century brought challenges, especially during the war years, with a decline in initiations and a suspension of meetings during World War II.
Joining the Lodge
Joining Apollo University Lodge is a unique process. While some are drawn to Freemasonry through family connections or intrigue, others find their way through friends or personal interest. The Lodge operates through a three-tiered application process, including two interviews, and emphasizes understanding the principles of Freemasonry.
Political ambitions are scrutinized, and belief in a Supreme Being is required. However, the Lodge emphasizes that it is not a networking society and that membership should not be sought for business connections.
Image and Perception
Freemasonry’s image, particularly at Oxford, has been somewhat blurred and misunderstood. Accusations of exclusivity and elitism have surfaced, but members of Apollo University Lodge argue that these perceptions are misguided. The Lodge’s charity work often goes unnoticed, and some believe that secrecy is an integral part of Freemasonry’s appeal.
Efforts are being made to modernize and open up the Masonic community. The Universities Scheme, established in 2007, aims to attract younger members. While Apollo University Lodge remains exclusively for men, there are whispers of a potential Oxford University women’s lodge, and women interested in Freemasonry are referred to women’s grand lodges in England.
Freemasonry’s presence at Oxford through Apollo University Lodge offers a fascinating glimpse into a world that is often misunderstood. With a rich history, unique traditions, and a commitment to charity, the Lodge continues to thrive and evolve, reflecting the broader principles of Freemasonry while maintaining its distinct identity.