A quick reference to check the origins of titles used by Freemasonry.|
Etymology of the titles in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite
Chivalry Titles and their functions
(Grand) Master of the Order, or Sovereign Grand Master.
Master, from Latin magister, mangus, great, plus ‘ter’, the greatest.
Grand Master of the Order of the Temple, or General Master, or Sovereign Master; he was the knight elected by the Council of the Order and General Chapter. The election was ‘for life’.
In Italian Maestro, Grand Maestro, Sovrano.
In French Maitre, Grand Maitre, Souverain.
From Latin seniscalcus, the oldest servant.
The (Great) Seneschal holds the ‘Seal of the Temple and the ‘Bouceant’, which was the Black and White banner of the Order (today used in the 30th degree of the Scottish Rite).
In Italian Siniscalco.
In old French Senechalt, in modern French Seneschal.
From Latin marescalcus, it is the combination of two Anglophone words: mare and shall.
The Marshall of the Temple watched over the discipline in the templar Convent.
During a battle he supervised the execution of the orders given by the Grand Master. He guarded the plunder, the Knights’ arms and the horses.
In Italian Maresciallo.
In French Marechal.
From Latin visere, to go and see, it has been changed into (Grand) Inspector, from Latin inspicere, to look inside.
In the templar Order the General Visitor was elected directly by the Grand Master.
He was responsible for all the European ‘mansions’, accompanied by Visitors-Inspectors, elected by the Grand Master as well, as superintendent of the Western Provinces.
In Italian Visitatore.
In French Visiteur.
(Grand) Commendator, or Commander in Chief
From Latin commendator, cum+man+dare, to give something to someone, it means the person who receives the probation. Commendare (cum+mandare) can be translated with to recommend, to deliver, to entrust which expands to the meaning of Protector.
In the Templar Order Three Commendators could take over the functions of the Sovereign Grand Master.
The Commendator of the Kingdom of Jerusalem superintended the properties of the Order in the Holy Land. He managed the maritime force that referred to the port of Acri (ships, arms, goods, pilgrims and staff on board). He has to justify his actions only to the Grand Master.
The Commendator of Tripoli (likewise in Tripoli)
The Commendator of Antioch (likewise in Antioch)
In Italian Commendatore.
In French Commandeur.
From Latin praeceptor, the man who gives an order, who rules; it comes from the word precept that means:
- Statutory rule
- Teaching of rules or laws
- In religions they are all the imperative rules because they have a divine origin, or else the days of obligatory holiday;
- Indispensable convocation to appear before a Judge;
- In a juridical sense, the precept is a part of the Law that refers to a clause to be observed or a rule for its accomplishment.
Templar mansions (houses) that managed the Provinces were called Balie (*) in Italian; they were ruled by an Orderer or capitaneus magioni.
The Orderer ruled a territorial garrison made of knights, sergeants, squires and soldiers. He supervised the enrolment of local workforce such as carpenters, blacksmiths, masons, stonecutters, cooks, servants, farmers, pickers, nursing assistants, etc.
In Italian Precettore.
In French Precepteur.
* Note: from Balie comes the word Balivo (Balì or Balio), which could replace Orderer.
From Low Latin ‘Balivus’, the man who supports, rules.
In English Bailiff.
In French Baillì.
From Latin ‘prior, prioris’, the man who is at the front, the most important. It originated as an adjective, but in time this word took the ‘dignity’ of ritual function. In the Roman Church he is a monastic officer in charge of a priory. During the Crusades, a Prior was a high Dignitary of the monastic-chivalrous hierarchy.
Monastic origin of the ritual Chapters
The words capitulum, caput (Latin), charter in English and chapitre in French, originate from the subject dealt with in a part of the book. The monks, after praying, gathered to read a Chapter of the Rule. The place where they gathered was called chapter.
In 1115 in Citeaux, during the first general assembly of the monastic orders, it was deliberated that they could legislate, modify, abrogate and interpret the Laws through a body called General Chapter.Since then the General Chapters can:
- Elect a president: «qui praefuturus est omnibus, ab omnibus eligatur…» the person who must rule everybody must be chosen by everybody….;
- Approve by election: «quod omnes tangit, ab omnibus tractari ac approbari debet…»; what interests everybody must be discussed and approved by everybody;
- Have the faculty of delegation: «aliquem legatum mittere…» send as someone’s representative, «…delegare officium alici…» entrust someone with a task… the man who has been designated to a special assignment legatus, praefectus alicuius rei, praepositus…;
- Avail of the principle of revocation: …abrogation, decretum subvertere, abro, viz. Promissum revocare, which means to revoke the assignment from the man who doesn’t deserve it.
Summa potestas est in Capitulo…:
Concilium, consilium, collegium, conventus, consessus.
Miles, patronymic of dominus, master, is the armed man who fights on a horse, the knight. In French it becomes monsieur (my lord), in Italian messere and in English milord. In the same period (11th century) prelates as well decide to use the title of monsignor, translating it into the other languages. Therefore it seems that through the Ordination the priest and the Knight reach an equal status.
by Athos A. Altomonte