by William Almeida de Carvalho5 - Marcos Jose da Silva - PP

Translation José Filardo


This article aims to give a panoramic view of the Brazilian Freemasonry through the history of the Grand Orient of Brazil – GOB, the base stem, and its subsequent spin-offs, mainly the one in 1927 and of 1973. For a more complete and thorough view on the subject, one can consult the book History of the Grand Orient of Brazil by José Castellani and William Carvalho by Madras Editora, 2009. Until the first split of 1927, the history of the Brazilian Freemasonry merged with the history of Brazil. Thereafter, that is,  the moment when Freemasonry ceases to be a strategic group, History forks, following parallel paths, with some incidental contact. Since the tenure of Jair Ribeiro Assis (1983-1993) with the GOB, there was an inflection point in the progress of Freemasonry in Brazil. Currently growing at Chinese rates, but not yet returned to the condition of a strategic partner of the country, as it used to be in the past.

The Brazilian Freemasonry, at least, is entering a level of cultural and educational excitement with the creation of research lodges, loges made up of college students, academies etc. that soon will, inevitably, have significant developments. As in the past, Freemasonry lent its organization to a country that had no political parties, and it may, at the threshold of the 21st century, help the country, which still has political institutions with a rancid pre-Enlightenment performance, creating truly republican values and institutions. Brazil has proclaimed the Republic, but its values are still patrimonialist. The great challenge is that Freemasonry can help Brazil adjusting its scale of values and performance in this century.

We gave particular emphasis to the two divisions in the twentieth century for their strategic importance. Two annexes also make up the present work: i) the list of GOB’s Grand Masters; and ii) a statistical table on the Obediences and the Brazilian freemasons considered as regular, such as the GOB, the Grand Lodges and the COMAB (Masonic Confederation of Brazil.) It should also be noted that all splits in Brazil are due to the defeat in elections, rather than doctrinal differences. From the data presented here, one can say that Brazil has more than 6,000 masonic lodges, and nearly 200,000 members. These are the so-called regular powers.


With the data available today, the first known reference to a Brazilian Masonic Lodge would have been in the territorial waters of Bahia in 1797, in the French frigate, La Preneuse, called Knights of the Light, shortly after transferred to Barra, a district of Salvador. However, the first regular Lodge in Brazil was the Reunião, founded in 1801 in Rio de Janeiro, affiliated to the Orient of the Isle of France (Ile de France), former name of the Mauritius Island, at the time a French possession, currently British.

Two years later, the Grand Orient Lusitano, wishing to spread in Brazil, the “true Masonic doctrine,” appointed for this purpose three delegates, with full power to create regular lodges in Rio de Janeiro, affiliated to that Grand Orient. They created then Lodges Constancia and Filantropia, which, along with Reunião, served as a common center for all existing freemasons in Rio de Janeiro, regular and irregular, promoting the initiation of others, up to the degree of Master. Despite controversies requiring further research in this area, these were the first official lodges considered regular, as there were, previously, secret groups, in more or less Masonic forms, functioning more like clubs or academies, but they were not Lodges in the sense of the word.

After the foundation of those first three “official” lodges, they spread in the early years of the nineteenth century, Lodges in the provinces of Bahia, Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro, free, or under the auspices of the Grand Orient Lusitano and the Grand Orient of France. It should be noted that the colonial governments of the day were precisely instructed to prevent the functioning of Lodges in Brazil. So much so that those lodges – Constancia and Filantropia – were closed in 1806 in Rio de Janeiro, ceasing Masonic activities in this city, but continuing and expanding, especially in Bahia and Pernambuco. Rio de Janeiro, however, could remain without a Lodge, and despite this ban, the work proceeded with the Lodges São João de Bragança and Beneficencia.

An important fact for the future history of the Grand Orient of Brazil was that the Lodge Commercio e Artes founded in 1815 retained its independence, postponing its affiliation to the Grand Orient Lusitano, because its members wanted to create a Brazilian Obedience. It should also be noted that in 1817 there were two events of great severity in terms of lese-majesty. Two revolutions broke out: i) the Pernambuco Revolution of 1817, a revolutionary movement of strongly nationalistic character, intending to implement the Republic in the state of Pernambuco, and ii) the Liberal Conspiracy of Lisbon in 1817 led by our Brother General Gomes Freire de Andrade, a former Grand Master of the Grand Orient Lusitano. Given this climate of sedition, both in Portugal and in Brazil, a draconian decree was issued on March 30, 1818, which prohibited the functioning of secret societies. The lodges then decided to cease their work until they could be reopened safely. The freemasons, however, continued to work secretly as the Club of the Resistance, founded in Rio de Janeiro.

The Liberal Revolution of Porto broke out in 1820, led by Portuguese freemasons, demanding the return of D. João VI to Portugal. Since then, the events begin to precipitate. A Revolution also breaks out in Spain in 1820. The liberal vague (Masonic) began to challenge the absolutist states of the Iberian Peninsula. In Brazil, 1821 began with a series of military-political events that culminated in the independence of Brazil. Since at that time political parties did not exist, an organization was needed to coordinate and mobilize the political discontent, and the Brazilian Freemasonry lent its organization for that purpose. It returned, then, to full-fledged activity.

The first event was the sedition of the troops on February 26 that imposed King John VI the oath to the Portuguese Constitution, which caused the onset of an intense conspiracy, including many freemasons, seeking the independence of Brazil. The following events were those of April 20th and 21st, when there was a sedition of the voters, demanding the king’s residence in the country, causing the prompt reaction of the Portuguese troops, which secured the embarkation of the royal family. All these facts have attracted police attention against the freemasons, what did not, however, prevent that the Lodge Commercio e Artes return to work secretly, resuming its activities on June 24, 1821. Now with the name Lodge Commerce and Arts of the Golden Age, under the auspices of the Grand Orient of Portugal, Brazil, and Algarve.

The influx of adhesions was so great in the following months that soon it was considered the creation of a national Obedience, what would happen on June 17, 1822, with the subsequent spin-off of the “Commerce and Arts” lodge, forming the trio of founding lodges of the Great Orient. As of this moment, the Brazilian Freemasonry ceased to be a heterogeneous group of scattered lodges connected to some foreign Obedience, to turn into another cell of the world obediences system.

The following is a brief summary of the beginnings to the founding of the Grand Orient of Brazil, the oldest, largest, and most traditional Brazilian Obedience. Despite the precariousness of documents, one can display the following chronology: 1796 – Foundation in Pernambuco, of the Areopagus of Itambé, which was not exactly a Lodge, though created under Masonic inspirations, it was not totally composed of freemasons;

1797 – Foundation of the Lodge Cavaleiros da Luz at the village of Barra, Bahia;

1800 – Creation, in Niterói, of the Lodge União;

1801 – Installation of Lodge Reunião, successor of the Lodge União;

1802 – Creation in Bahia of the Lodge Virtude e Razão;

1804 – Foundation of the Lodges Constancia and Filantropia;

1806 – Closure of the Lodges Constância and Filantropia by the action of the Count of Arcos;

1807 – Creation of Lodge Virtude and Razão Restaurada, the successor of Virtude and Razão;

1809 – Foundation of the Lodge Regeneração in Pernambuco;

1812 – Foundation of the Lodge Distintiva in S. Gonçalo da Praia Grande (Niterói);

1813 – Installation of the Lodge União in Bahia;

1813 – Foundations of ephemeral obedience without legal support – which some regard as the first Brazilian Grand Orient – consisting of three lodges from Bahia and one from Rio de Janeiro;

1815 – Foundation of the Lodge Commercio e Artes in Rio de Janeiro;

1818 – Issuance of the Permit of March 30th, prohibiting the functioning of secret societies, which caused the suspension – at least apparently – of the Masonic work;

1821 – Reinstatement of the Lodge Commercio e Artes in Rio de Janeiro;

1822 -June 17th: foundation of the Grand Orient.