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What is the York Rite College?


The York Rite Colleges exist primarily to be of service to the York Rite of Freemasonry. Illinois York Rite College No. 15 and our constituent knights declare fealty to the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Illinois, just as each college is required to declare fealty to the Grand Lodge of their respective jurisdiction, and to the York Rite Sovereign College of North America.

The pre-requisite for membership, which is by invitation only, is good-standing in all four York Rite bodies: a symbolic (a/k/a "blue") lodge of Freemasons, a capitular chapter of Mark Masters & Holy Royal Arch Masons, a cryptic council of Royal and Select Masters, and a commandery of Masonic Knights Templar.

The Reference for the following information is a pamphlet published by the York Rite Sovereign College of North America. "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave: even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve." Matt. 20:26-28.

Legend of York

"This craft came into England, as I tell you, in the time of good King Æthelstan's reign; he made then both hall, and also bower and lofty temples of great honour, to take his recreation in both day and night, and to worship his god with all his might. This good lord loved this craft full well, and purposed to strengthen it in every part on account of various defects that he had discovered in the craft. He sent about into all the land, after all the masons of the craft, to come straight to him, to amend all these defects by good counsel, if it might so happen, He then permitted an assembly to be made of divers lords in their ranks, dukes, earls, and barons, also knights, squires and many more, and the great burgesses of that city, they were all there in their degree; these were there, each one in every way to make laws for the state of these nations. There they sought by their wisdom bow they might govern it; there they found out fifteen articles, and there they made fifteen points."

A Poem of Moral Duties (a/k/a The Regius Poem, a/k/a the Halliwell Manuscript), circa 1390 C.E., it is the oldest known Masonic poem. Click here to review the poem in its original Middle English.

The York Rite

The York Rite takes its name from the Ancient English city of York, around whose minster (cathedral), cluster many Masonic traditions. Here, these traditions tell us, King Æthelstan, who reigned from 2 August 924 (or 925) until 27 October 939 and who was the first King of all England, granted the first charter to the Masonic guilds.

In 926, the new king and/or his younger half-brother, Prince Edwin (misidentified as the king's son in the ritual), called the first General Assembly of Masons. This gathering, held at York, is discussed in the afore-cited A Poem of Moral Duties (a/k/a The Regius Poem, a/k/a the Halliwell Manuscript).

In 1705 the first Grand Lodge was formed in England, and it is to that Grand Lodge's constitution the Grand Lodge of England later appealed as the true source of authentic Freemasonry. Although early disappearing from the Masonic scene, this Grand Lodge left an indelible impression upon the institution, and its name – York – will survive as long as Freemasonry continues.

Origin of the Sovereign College

The York Rite Sovereign College of North America came into being in the City of Detroit, Michigan on 6 January 1957. It was the result of a meeting called by Richard W. Lewis, Past Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Michigan, and attended by the heads of the four Michigan York Rite grand Bodies and a number of distinguished Masonic leaders from other states. These founders, responding to a need which had long been recognised in the York Rite, outlined the structure and purpose of the new organisation and arranged for its incorporation.


The purpose of the York Rite Sovereign College of North America, as set forth in its Constitution and By-Laws, are as follows:

(1)  To foster a spirit of co-operation an coordination among each of the bodies of York Rite Masonry.

(2)  To assist in worthy efforts to improve the ritualistic and dramatic presentation of York Rite work.

(3)  To conduct an education programme in order to inculcate a greater appreciation of the principles, ideals and programmes of York Rite Masonry.

(4)  To strengthen York Rite Masonry in every possible manner.

(5)  To build up a love of country and to aid and support genuine Americanism.

(6)  To reward outstanding service to York Rite Masonry by awards, honours and other methods of proper recognition.

(7)  To support charitable and benevolent endeavours of Freemasonry.

York Rite Colleges

The first York Rite College was constituted on 15 June 1957 in the City of Jackson, Michigan. Eleven months later, the Sovereign College chartered Illinois York Rite College No. 15. The new organisation spread rapidly from coast to coast, and from north to south. By 1970, colleges had been established in fourteen American states and one Canadian province.

Membership in a college is by invitation, and is restricted to those who hold membership in all of the other principal York Rite bodies. Because the primary object of every college is to foster a spirit of service and to promote and support the York Rite in every way possible, it is no surprise to find many of the leaders of the Craft numbered among its ranks. Here, they find a common ground from which the can act for the welfare of all York Rite bodies without special favour to any. Colleges have been active in the organisation of York Rite festivals, degree teams, drill corps, and many other functions which serve to assist, co-ordinate, and unify the Rite.

The Sovereign College

The York Rite Sovereign College of North America is the supreme governing body for all colleges within its jurisdiction. As such, it endeavours to promote all those activities which favour the accomplishment of its stated purpose. Among these is the awarding of certain honours for outstanding service.

The Sovereign College meets in General Assembly once each year, generally in late July or early August.


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This site was last updated 12/20/15