France - secular?

I live opposite the village church (actually the chapel for the long departed castle that once stood hereabouts) and have noticed that only older people attend the church services, which don't happen that often. There is no resident priest, apparently, the only other functions for the church are for weddings, funerals and a classical music concert once a year. This I accept and, although I am not sympathetic to religion I respect the beliefs of others. I realise it is part of French social/cultural life, although a diminishing one, I suspect.

The building has ancient masonic symbols painted on the plaster work inside and my question is why?

Does anyone know of a connection here? Are they the signature of the builders who worked upon the building or do they have ecclesiastical significance?

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My mother-tongue is Swedish spoken in Finland. We have several french words, like trottoar, lavoar(, ... Not sure when this started. Maybe when Sweden got its king from France 1818.

My point is our languages are so mixed, who knows where a certain word started.

Well maybe one is clear: Window comes from danish.


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Thanks David, I said enough without going into the details you added. I found out after arriving in college in Cambridge and one of the third year students used as a factor to take us to where we would have our rooms, asked if any of us was the son of a mason. It seems that (then, but I would not be surprised if still) two rooms on my corridor could only go to students who would be initiated into Freemasonry through paternal membership. My father's business partner being a real bricklayer I knew what a mason was from him, but had never heard of Freemasons. Mumbo jumbo indeed but they occupy a lot of places of power so never to be underestimated. Mind you, none of them will probably ever have dirtied their hands building anything more than a financial empire.

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Bear in mind how much French has gone into Scots, not the English with Scots accent but the E/NE Scots language, and Gàidhlig. Even haggis is possibly from the Scots hag, to hack or chop,that was possibly formed in imitation of the French hachis or hacher, to mince. A leg of lamb is a gigot, that's an easy one.Tartan is probably from Old French tertaine, a kind of cloth that probably got its name from a distinct kind imported from the far east via Tartary, Central Asia now. A big serving platter is an aseet, clearly the French assiette. I believe some lowland Scots language flowed back into French, since the lairds down there were Norman-Scots who often did their 'studies' in France but often congregated in particular centres of learning, thus spoke Scots among themselves.

Swedish for now is 'nu' like the two Norwegian versions 'nu' and 'nå' depending on where you are, but the latter, , gave us both versions nae and naw. However, bra is indeed the Swedish/Norse that gave us braw. The Normans, being Norse or Vikings who settled in Normandy once reached far into modern France, possible Charente, whereas the various Celtic languages ran a long way down the west coast and between them shaped some strange dialects that persist despite any attempt to standardise French. Actually, my lot are not real Celts, Moray, or Elginshire as some will persist, was an almost Norwegian speaking area to the point that when speaking of a young woman today one would say kwinne (quin) which is almost kvinne in modern Norwegian meaning woman, from which also queen derives. We Scots are everywhere, mainly because so many were either cleared and transported or got out themselves. If we ever converge as a body then the '45 and Charles Edward Stuart will look like a day out at the seaside ;-)

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There aren't enough vocations to provide each village church with a priest. There aren't enough church goers left in the countryside and thus the Roman church like the Anglican has had to fall back on team ministry based in the local town and providing services on an occasional basis in the outlying villages. Such priests as there are minister to several former parishes and maybe Mass on Saturdays and /or Sundays in their home churches.

As to Freemasonry Ivan it's really just an invention of the 17th century full of mumbo jumbo about the secrets of Solomon's Temple it has nothing to do with the building of real cathedrals which were built by real masons possessed of a knowledge of geometry involving little more than a piece of knotted string of which they were regarded in awe by both patron and peasant alike. These masons clubbed together in craft guilds to train and regulate their profession and to guard their trade secrets. To be a member of the guild you would be trained in the skills by your master and then sent on to work as a "journeyman" throughout France and Western Europe (a sort of secular pilgrimage) on your return after seven years you would be fully admitted as a master mason, initiate into the "mysteries" of your craft. If you wish to learn more then Les étoiles de Compostelle a novel by Henri Vincenot makes for interesting reading.

Can't you tell it's raining this afternoon?

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Thank you again Brian, you are very generous with your time. As usual a very illuminating insight.

Nothing to do with Freemasonry, I trust but, as I understand from other posts, you are a Scot. I discovered recently that our local patois, Charentaise, has much in common with the Scottish/Celtic and Swedish languages and I find it fascinating. You Celts get everywhere! In Swedish the word 'good 'is braw, as it is in Scotland and round here. The same goes for the word for 'now'; they do not say maintenant in our neck of the woods, rather they say 'neuw', as indeed they say in Sweden - it's noo in Scotland, of course. There are plenty of other examples.

My French neighbour, who is tryng to improve his english by watching english television on Freeview, said to me yesterday, "Have you seen Warren Pease? He is Russian" After a little head scratching I gathered he meant 'War and Peace'.

Religion is an entirely personal thing, we don't allow it to encroach into public life. The state has nothing to do with it so it is rather up to people if they want to keep a church open or get a priest in from time to time. A local church qua building may get extra subsidies from a village or a town (which is responsible for its basic upkeep as a public building) but then in return it must be available for events other than religious ones, eg concerts.

Freemasonry is most certainly not French in origin. It is unknown where but the Lodge of Edinburgh began a bit before 1600 and the first Grand Lodge was in London in 1700 and something. Both of those were before any existed in France which was about 1720 when lodges of expatriates and exiled Jacobites began in Paris and other cities. Freemasons only left their marks on buildings from around 1600 on anywhere and certainly well after 1720 in France. However, the Freemasons did found their order on the principles of master masons who had been building churches, castles and so on since forever and left all of the symbols and marks they adopted when Freemasonry began. So ecclesiastic symbolism no, Freemasons also not, but simply builders like my father and his partner's little building firm that engraved a hammer and pickaxe crossed with J&L below it on each council house they built in the 1960s through to 80s. Its the equivalent of a painters signature of their work.

The French Revolution closed all the churches and either banned or did away with the priests but relented later, religion actually went underground for that time. However, the mark was made and the church and state separated in 1795, something that was consolidated and enforced with the 1905 law that put an end to the government funding religious groups throughout the country and any of its political subdivisions. It is an officially secular state and slowly but steadily the separation has really taken hold. Yes, the church here basically opens to baptise and bury, sometimes will do a wedding but mostly those who want the church show go into town where it is a bit more showy. Actual services are about one a month with an ever dwindling congregation. Nearby there is, although a small rural church, actually a Church of England that does weekly services and has a small but nothing like as small as French congregation. I know only one genuinely religious French family and even then they have not pushed their children, now in their teens, who do not go to church at all. In fact one was here over last weekend, she is my daughter's friend, and could only be collected after they had been to church which she was saying is not for her, she tried but doesn't believe. But then, from when I first visited Ireland for a folk festival in the 1960s that was not allowed to have music on the Sunday morning but had a priest come to do a service (!!) that country has become so secular that churches are becoming defunct, so it is part of the modern western world, So France is, I am guessing, a bit like other European countries but has formally separated church and state so is genuinely a secular nation.

Masonry is very wide spread in France, where it originated.

There is much things said about masonry so I suggest you do some research.

From the very little I know they had acquired much knowledge about architecture, geometry and its influence in our human world. They were building the cathedrals or churches in a specific way to unleash a certain (beneficial) effect on Human. You can note this by entering some magistral churches/cathedrals and be somehow 'lifted' into another dimension.

Its the Science of Macrocosm and Microcosm, how the universe really is a reflection of one another (as above so below).

THEY don't have necessarily ecclesiastical significance, however if you would have a picture to share we could find out more ;)

Also worth mentioning : Freemasonry is also very widespread and although linked to the former, of a complete different nature. Not always with best intention although they like to make us think so.

As per language secularism: France is not so 'traditionalist' like Italy or Austria or parts of Southern Germany (Bavaria). The church is loosing considerably practicants but still very strong.

French people are generally regarded as more emancipated from that point of view so when we are talking about secularism its not much about whether people believe in a faith or not, whether they are practising it by going to church or not, its more about how the sphere and influence of religion (and religious culture) are kept at bay from mingling in politics and everyday social life.

In Rome for instance the Pope has (despite that Italy considers itself laic and secular) much more sphere of influence in politics than in France. Mainly because he is supported by much more institutions / people and for other reasons.

I was surprised of one thing too this year: In France its hard to find mass in smaller villages. Often the mass runs once a week on sunday and that's it. Especially in smaller towns.

Or unless your in Lourdes ;)

Hi Kit,
This is a ta tangent to the original question but picks up on one of the threads.
I don’t know if you can cross reference any of the symbols to those found at ‘The Circus’ in Bath.

I recall seeing a documentary on the influence of the freemasons on the decor and the street layout but can’t recall where now.

I’m sure there is more info on the topic but the above links might help

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