Volume LIVFebruary 2007Number 1

A Grand Opening... The Grand Lodge of Cyprus
by Glenys Waldman, Librarian, The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania

Not since 1980, when Freemasonry was formally established in Cyprus with a District Grand Lodge, under the United Grand Lodge of England (Freemasonry having been in Cyprus since 1888), has there been such Masonic excitement: a new Grand Lodge has been consecrated! Through the courtesy of Mayor Michael Zampelas, of Nicosia, capital of Cyprus, and the Antiquities Department of the Republic of Cyprus, a Masonic temple was set up especially for this great occasion at the Famagusta Gate in the Venetian walls of the city.

The Consecration ceremony was performed on Oct. 8, 2006, in the presence of 235 Brethren and 90 other distinguished guests, including our own R.W. Grand Master Ronald A. Aungst, Sr.; the M.W Grand Master of Greece, Spyridon Paizis; and the M.W. Grand Master of Austria, Michael Kraus. Accompanying Grand Master Aungst from Pennsylvania were Deputy Grand Master Stephen Gardner, Past Grand Secretary Thomas W. Jackson, Executive Secretary of the World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges; and Allen J. Henninger, Senior Grand Deacon. Bro. Jacob Vorkas was consecrated and welcomed as the world's newest Grand Master, together with his grand officers.

In Cyprus at present, there are 12 lodges operating under the English Constitution. The new Grand Lodge of Cyprus was formed from six lodges originally on the rolls of the Grand Lodge of Greece and will have lodges working in the Greek, Turkish, Armenian and English languages.

Well-populated by 3700 B.C., Cyprus has long been a crossroads between East and West. Nicosia, at nearly the geographical center of the island and the largest city and business center, has always been the capital. Because of its location in the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, desire for control of Cyprus has spawned constant battles. Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks and Romans all dominated it. (Under the Romans, copper, although known in other parts of the world, was principally mined here, hence the word "copper" through Latin cyprium shortened to cuprum, "metal of Cyprus").

Cyprus was part of the Byzantine Empire for 800 years, beginning in 364 A.D. King Richard I (the Lion-Hearted) of England pried it away in 1191 on his way to Jerusalem on the Third Crusade (1190-92), then sold the island to the Knights Templar. The unhappy natives chose Guy de Lusignan, who had meanwhile bought Cyprus from the Knights Templar, their ruler in 1192. (Lusignan was a part of Aquitaine, whose ruler, Queen Eleanor of England, was the mother of Richard I!) Guy, in his zeal for fortification, constructed great Gothic buildings, some of which are still extant. His Lusignan dynasty reigned until 1489, when the Venetians wrested Cyprus from them. Their fortress engineer, Giulio Savorgnano, in an effort to keep out the Ottoman Turks, oversaw the building of the walls that still stand. Only three gates, open sunrise to sunset, allowed access to Nicosia. One gate, Famgusta, would become the site of the Consecration of the Grand Lodge of Cyprus. This architectural gem, according to the Grand Lodge of Cyprus, was designed by Leonardo DaVinci. Although Cyprus is still plagued by unrest, the growth of Freemasonry is a hopeful sign.

Grand Master Aungst was most touched by the Mediterranean hospitality of his hosts. The informal dinner before the Consecration ceremony was particularly memorable, as the guests were presented with a buffet board groaning with local delicacies, featuring lamb (the most popular meat in Cyprus), fruit and especially, the power-punching schnapps, "ouzo!" "Food lasts for a moment, friendships last as long as determined, but memories last forever," the Grand Master said.

Left to right: Grand Master Aungst; Spyridon Paizis,
M.W. Grand Master of Greece; Jacob Vorkas, M.W. Grand
Master of Cyprus; and Andreas Ashiotis, M.W. Deputy
Grand Master of Cyprus

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