SOME MASONIC RESEARCH.
I'm not a Mason (yet), but I am interested in the fraternity---and I'd like to share the story and some pictures of a very interesting Lodge in Bratislava. The Kosmopolis Lodge is English-speaking only, which is interesting in itself, but here's a few pictures of their beautiful Lodge Hall and logo.
The story of how they came to get their Hall is beautiful and sad at the same time. Freemasonry used to be a HUGE thing in Austria-Hungary. Even Mozart was a member. Then, the Emperor Franz II made it illegal in Austria in 1794, and this law was not repealed until 1918. Of course, the clever Masons came upon a work-around: they'd meet in nearby Hungary (which, at that time, included present-day Slovakia). There were both Austrian and Hungarian lodges in Pressburg: one day, Austrian Lodge "Zur Verschwindigkeit" (funny---it means "Silence"!) would meet at the Hall, and then the next day, the Hungarian Lodge "Testveriseg" would meet at the same Hall. Back then, this language segregation was STRICTLY enforced. Even the native Slovaks had a lodge (although it met in a different hall), "Most" (Bridge), so-named because it was non-sectarian and brought Czechs and Slovaks, Hungarians and Austrians, in short, everyone together. World War I came around, but everything was all right, although the name of the city changed to Bratislava.
Then came World War II, and the new Fascist President, Josef Tiso, made Masonry illegal in Slovakia, too, because that's where all the Jews went, and we couldn't have any dirty Jews spoiling it for us, could we. That much was true. For example, the "Philanthropia" lodge had a membership of 778: 331 Jewish brethren, 31 Slovaks, 80 Germans, 51 Hungarians, and the balance---220 brethren---were of other nationalities. There were businessmen, judges, pharmaceutical chemists, and office workers, as well as insurance people and bank managers.
In 1939, the Masonic Light was extinguished at the old Lodge Hall, and it became the property of the State. The Russians came and nationalised some more---of course, the old Lodge Hall couldn't be returned, because they had no truck with "secret" (ha, ha ha!) societies and their bourgeois ways. In 1951, Masonry became fully illegal in Czechoslovakia. Finally, in 1989, the Soviet Union came crashing down, and the Lodge Hall was given to a Hungarian cultural agency called Csemadok.
Freemasonry was coming back, too. In 1991, the Grand Lodge of the Czech Republic was formed, and, with it, twenty-six Blue Lodges: in the order of precedence (and skipping inactive Lodges), 1. Národ ("Nation"), 2. Dílo ("The Work"), 3. Most ("Bridge"), 4. U tri hvezd ("Three Stars"), 5. Josef Dobrovsky, 7. Alphonse Mucha (a French lodge), 8. Goethe (a German lodge), 10. U vychazejíceho Slunce ("Sunrise", the oldest Lodge in the Czech Republic), 11. Kosmopolis (an English lodge), 12. Hiram (another English lodge), 13. La Sincérité (another German lodge), 14. Libertas ("Freedom"), 15. Comenius, 16. Dílna Lidskosti ("The Workshop of Humanity"), 17. Cestou svetla ("The Path of Light"), 18. [Humanismus](www.humanizmus.sk), 19. Lux in Tenebris, 20. Petra Solaris ("The Rock of the Sun"), 21. Sibi et Posteris, 22. Santini (an Italian lodge), 23. Templum Sapientiae ("The Temple of Wisdom"), 24. Bratrství ("The Fraternity"), 25. Lasenic, 26. Josef Gocar. Whew, that's a lot of Lodges.
When Freemasonry was finally made legal in 1991, only three per cent of the 779 members of Most were still alive. They had to work hard to re-build their Lodge; the aprons had to be imported from France, at great cost. Eventually, Kosmopolis, Humanitas, and Libertas split off to form the Grand Lodge of the Slovak Republic. Kosmopolis originally met in the small minting town of Kremnica, but this proved to be insufficient, and so they began meeting in the old Lodge Hall in Bratislava, at Námestie 1 Mája, number 22. At first, they had to rent one tiny room, putting in the furniture at the opening of the Lodge, and then clearing it away afterwards. Some people were actually jealous---one female neighbour actually said that she saw them "parading with candles and a sword and a skull" (the sword I can understand---the Tyler HAS to provide some security!)
Now, they own the place, and they have made the old---and the new---Bratislava Lodge Hall truly beautiful, with a starry ceiling and a fresh chequered floor, exactly as a Lodge should have.
Lodge 1 Kosmopolis is now Bratislava's only English-speaking lodge. Nevertheless, it's a tradition that European lodges don't include the letter G in their symbols: I've seen anchors and crosses and shamrocks and hearts aplenty, but no letter G. Lodge no. 3 "Most" has a bridge, appropriately enough. The friendly square-and-compasses symbol also seems to be a bit less prominent in contrast to the triangle and Eye of Providence. I also noticed that there's far less Masonic information published by Czech sources; the Masons themselves like to play up the "secret society" angle, as well as that of "centuries of tradition", unlike the way the Americans do it. I think I like the Czech way moderately better, but only because I tend to skew European.