Within Freemasonry, there are various degrees, each offering a unique set of teachings and symbolism. One such degree is the Order of the St. Thomas of Acon, a lesser-known but historically significant degree that holds a special place within Freemasonry. In this article, we will delve into the origins, history, teachings, and symbolism associated with the Masonic degree of the Order of the St. Thomas of Acon.
The Order of the St. Thomas of Acon takes its name from the ancient English town of Acre, also known as Akko, which was a major stronghold of the Crusaders during the 12th and 13th centuries. The order was established in the 12th century as a Christian military order associated with the Knights Templar. Its primary purpose was to provide medical care and support to the wounded Crusaders during the campaigns in the Holy Land. Following the fall of Acre in 1291, the surviving members of the Order of the St. Thomas of Acon returned to England, where they transformed into a purely Masonic order. It is believed that the degree was adopted by Freemasonry in the early 18th century, although its exact origins within the fraternity remain somewhat obscure. Despite its historical significance, the Order of the St. Thomas of Acon is considered a relatively rare degree within Freemasonry.
The Order of the St. Thomas of Acon is typically conferred as a side degree, separate from the three primary degrees of Freemasonry: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. The degree revolves around the story of the martyrdom of St. Thomas à Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was assassinated in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. The degree emphasizes themes of loyalty, devotion, and martyrdom. The rituals of the Order of the St. Thomas of Acon involve a series of dramatic presentations and symbolic ceremonies that explore the virtues of the order. These rituals often include dramatic reenactments of the events surrounding St. Thomas à Becket’s martyrdom, highlighting the principles of faith, integrity, and commitment to duty. Through these ceremonies, Freemasons participating in the degree learn valuable lessons about sacrifice, moral conduct, and the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment.
Like other Masonic degrees, the Order of the St. Thomas of Acon incorporates various symbols and regalia that hold special significance within the context of the degree. The most prominent symbol of the degree is the white tunic worn by the participants, symbolizing purity and righteousness. The tunic is adorned with a black cross pattée, which represents the martyrdom of St. Thomas à Becket. The regalia of the degree also includes a sash, apron, and jewel. The sash is worn over the right shoulder and represents the support and brotherhood offered by the members of the order. The apron is typically white and features the emblem of the order—a black cross on a white field—emphasizing the order’s connection to St. Thomas à Becket. The jewel, worn around the neck, displays the cross pattée and serves as a visible sign of membership in the degree.
The Order of the St. Thomas of Acon stands as a unique and historically significant degree within Freemasonry. Rooted in the medieval Christian military order associated with the Crusades, this degree offers Freemasons an opportunity to explore themes of loyalty, devotion, and sacrifice. Through its rituals, symbolism, and teachings, the degree provides members with valuable