The Origins of the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Hungary
As part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the history of Freemasonry in Hungary parallels that of all Central Europe. The first Hungarian Lodge is documented in Brasso, Transylvania, in 1749, although little is known of it. There were certainly military-type lodges working in Hungary by the 1770’s, notably to the twin cities of the then Buda and Pest, and a lodge is documented in Pozsony in 1775. Hungarian lodges were united with those of Austria in 1781 under a Provincial Grand Lodge, which functioned until 1786. The Hungarian Emperor started to suppress Masonry about 1780, and in 1795 Imperial Edict dissolved lodges.
Hungary became a separate kingdom in 1867, enabling Freemasonry to formally re-establish itself. In addition to St Stephen Lodge which was warranted in 1864, seven further lodges were erected under the Grand Lodge Zur Sonne of Bayreuth, Germany, and in 1870 they formed a National Grand Lodge (often called The Grand Lodge of St. John). A Grand Orient was erected separately in 1872 by several lodges chartered by the Grand Orient of France. These two bodies united in March 1886 to create The Symbolic Grand Lodge of Hungary, then comprising twenty-six lodges.
By the First World War, the Grand Lodge possessed thirty-two lodges in Budapest and fifty-one in wider Hungary, with over 10,000 members. The Grand Lodge was widely recognized as regular throughout the Masonic world. Sadly, the Grand Lodge was dissolved by decree in 1920, and by the end of the Second World War there were only about 300 Masons left in the country. The Grand Lodge was revived in 1946, and made very rapid progress, and by 1950 membership had recovered to 1500, although the communist takeover in 1948 saw a large increase in Masonic emigration.
On 12 June 1950, the secret police occupied and confiscated the Grand Lodge building in Budapest, and the Grand Lodge was forcibly dissolved. Thereafter, a Masonic Aid Fund for Hungary was set up under the sponsorship of the Austrian and German Grand lodges, which cared for Masons in Hungary. Hungarian Masonic refugees set up lodges in Canada, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, France, and Austria.
Following the fall of the communist regime in 1989, plans were made to resuscitate the Grand Lodge. Four lodges were chartered in Vienna, and these were transferred to Budapest on 27 December 1989, and the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Hungary re-consecrated under the sponsorship of the Grand Lodge of Austria. Fraternal recognition has followed from many Grand Lodges and the United Grand Lodge of England recognized the SGLH in September 1990.
The Grand Lodge celebrated 250 years of masonry in Hungary in 1999, the year that St Stephen Lodge was re-consecrated.