Interrogation of a French freemason by the Spanish Inquisition

I’ve always thought of freemasonry in Spain as being roughly analogous to free black Christian sects in British colonies: providing a substitute channel for social organisation for those denied legitimate political and trade union activity. However, I’m still pretty ignorant about this kind of stuff, and so here I’ll pass on a couple of interesting little things I just found and OCRed.

Albert Gallatin Mackey’s Lexicon of freemasonry: containing a definition of all its communicable terms, notices of its history, traditions, and antiquities, and an account of all [sic] the rites and mysteries of the ancient world (1860) tells us that

The first lodge established in Spain was in 1726, at Gibraltar. Another was constituted the year following at Madrid. A third was formed at Andalusia in 1731. The persecutions of the priests and government were always obstacles to the successful propagation of masonry in this kingdom. Lodges, however, still exist, and work in various parts of Spain, but their meetings are in secret.

Here’s the interesting stuff: the alleged transcript of the interrogation of a French mason captured in Madrid in 1757, taken from a digest of the work of Juan Antonio Llorente, ex-Secretary of the Inquisition, entitled The history of the Inquisition of Spain from the time of its establishment to the reign of Ferdinand VII (1826):

M. Tournon, a Frenchman, had been invited into Spain, and pensioned by the government, in order to establish a manufactory of brass or copper buckles, and to instruct Spanish workmen. On the 30th April, 1757, he was denounced to the Holy Office as suspected of heresy by one of his pupils, who acted in obedience to the commands of his confessor.

The charges were: 1st. That M. Tournon had asked his pupils to become freemasons, promising that the Grand Orient of Paris, should send a commission to receive them into the order, if they should submit to the trials he should propose, to ascertain their courage and firmness; and that their titles of reception should be expedited from Paris. 2nd. That some of these young workmen appeared inclined to comply, if M. Tournon would inform them of the object of the institution. That in order to satisfy them, he told them several extraordinary things, and shewed them a sort of picture, on which were figured instruments of architecture and astronomy. They thought that these representations related to sorcery, and they were confirmed in the idea, on hearing the imprecations which, according to M. Tournon were to accompany the oath of secrecy.

It appeared from the depositions of three witnesses, that M. Tournon was a freemason. He was arrested and imprisoned on the 20th of May. The following conversation, which took place in the first audience of monition, may ben interesting to some readers. After asking his name, birthplace, and his reason for coming to Spain, and making him swear to speak the truth, the Inquisitor proceeded:–

Question. Do you know or suppose why you have been arrested by the holy office?
Answer. I suppose it is for having said that I was a freemason.
Q. Why do you suppose so?
A. Because I have informed my pupils that I was of that order, and I fear they have denounced me, for I have perceived lately that they speak to me with an air of mystery, and their questions lead me to believe that they think me an heretic.
Q. Did you tell them the truth?
A. Yes.
Q. You are then a freemason?
A. Yes.
Q. How long have you been so?
A. For twenty years.
Q. Have you attended the assemblies of freemasons?
A. Yes, at Paris.
Q. Have you attended them in Spain?
A. No; I do not know if there are any lodges in Spain.
Q. If there were, should you attend them?.
A. Yes.
Q. Are you a Christian, a Roman Catholic?
A. Yes, I was baptized in the parish of St. Paul, at Paris.
Q. How, as a Christian, can you dare to attend masonic assemblies, when you know, or ought to know, that they are contrary to religion?
A. I do not know that; I am ignorant of it at present, because I never saw or heard anything there which was contrary to religion.
Q. How can you say that, when you know that freemasons profess indifference in matters of religion, which is contrary to the article of faith, which teaches us that no man can be saved who does not profess the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman religion?
A. The freemasons do not profess that indifference. But it is indifferent if the person received into the order be a Catholic or not.
Q. Then the freemasons are an anti-religious body?
A. That cannot be, for the object of the institution is not to combat or deny the necessity or utility of any religion, but for the exercise of charity towards the unfortunate of any sect, particularly if he is a member of the society.
Q. One proof that indifference is the religious character of freemasons is, that they do not acknowledge the Holy Trinity, since they only confess one God, whom they call the Great Architect of the Universe, which agrees with the doctrine of the heretical philosophers, who say that there is no true religion but natural religion, in which the existence of God the Creator only is allowed, and the rest considered as a human invention. And as M. Tournon has professed himself to be of the Catholic religion, he is required by the respect he owes to our Saviour Jesus Christ, true God and man, and to his blessed mother, the Virgin Mary, our Lady, to declare the truth according to his oath; because, in that case, he will acquit his conscience, and it will be allowable to treat him with that mercy and compassion which the holy office always shewed towards sinners who confess: and if, on the contrary, he conceals anything, he will be punished with all the severity of justice, according to the holy canons and the laws of the kingdom?
A. The mystery of the Holy Trinity is neither maintained nor combated in the masonic lodges: neither is the religious system of the natural philosophies approved or rejected; God is designated as the Great Architect of the Universe, according to the allegories of the freemasons which relate to architecture. In order to fulfil my promise of speaking the truth, I must repeat, that in the masonic lodges nothing takes place which concerns any religious system, and that the subjects treated of are foreign to religion, under the allegories of architectural works.
Q. Do you believe as a Catholic, that it is a sin of superstition to mingle holy and religious things with profane things?
A. I am not sufficiently acquainted with the particular things which are prohibited as contrary to the purity of the Christian religion; but I have believed till now, that those who confound the one with the other, either by mistake, or a vain belief, are guilty of the sin of superstition.
Q. Is it true that in the ceremonies which accompany the reception of a mason, the crucified image of our Saviour, the corpse of a man and a skull, and other objects of a profane nature, are made use of ?
A. The general statutes of freemasonry do not ordain these things; if they are made use of, it must have arisen from a particular custom, or from the arbitrary regulations of the members of the body, who are commissioned to prepare for the receptions of candidates; for each lodge has particular customs and ceremonies.
Q. That is not the question; say if it is true that these ceremonies are observed in masonic lodges?
A. Yes, or no, according to the regulations of those who are charged with the ceremonies of the initiation.
Q. Were they observed when you were initiated?
A. No.
Q. What oath is necessary to take on being received a freemason?
A. We swear to observe secrecy.
Q. On what?
A. On things which it may be inconvenient to publish.
Q. Is this oath accompanied by execrations?
A. Yes.
Q. What are they?
A. We consent to suffer all the evils which can afflict the body and soul if we violate the oath.
Q. Of what importance is this oath, since it is believed that such formidable execrations may be used without indecency?
A. That of good order in the society.
Q. What passes in these lodges which it might be inconvenient to publish? A. Nothing, if it is looked upon without prejudice; but as people are generally mistaken in this matter, it is necessary to avoid giving cause for malicious interpretations; and this would take place if what passes when the brethren assemble was made public.
Q. Of what use is the crucifix, if the reception of a freemason is not considered as a religious act?
A. It is presented to penetrate the soul with the most profound respect at the moment that the novice takes the oath. It is not used in every lodge, and only when particular grades are conferred.
Q. Why is the skull used?
A. That the idea of death may inspire a horror of perjury.
Q. Of what use is the corpse?
A. To complete the allegory of Hiram, architect of the temple of Jerusalem, who, it is said, was assassinated by traitors, and to induce a greater detestation of assassination and other offences against our neighbours, to whom we ought to be as benevolent brothers.
Q. Is it true that the festival of St. John is celebrated in the lodges, and that the masons have chosen him for their patron?
A. Yes.
Q. What worship is rendered him in celebrating his festival?
A. None; that it may not be mingled with profane things. This celebration is confined to a fraternal repast, after which a discourse is read, exhorting the guests to beneficence towards their fellow creatures, in honour of God, the great Architect, cCreator, and preserver of the universe.
Q. Is it true that the sun, moon, and stars are honoured in the lodges? A. No.
Q. Is it true that their images or symbols are exposed?
A. Yes.
Q. Why are they so?
A. In order to elucidate the allegories of the great, continual, and true light which the lodges receive from the great Architect of the world, and these representations belong to the brothers, and engage them to be charitable.
Q. M. Tournon will observe that all the explanations he has given of the facts and ceremonies which take place in the lodges, are false and different from those which he voluntarily communicated to other persons worthy of belief; he is therefore again invited, by the respect he owes to God and the Holy Virgin, to declare and confess the heresies of indifferentism, the errors of superstition which mingle holy and profane things, and the errors of idolatry, which led him to worship the stars: this confession is necessary for the acquittal of his conscience and the good of his soul; because if he confesses with sorrow for having committed these crimes, detesting them and humbly soliciting pardon (before the fiscal accuses him of these heinous sins) the holy tribunal will be permitted to exercise towards him that compassion and mercy which it always displays to repentant sinners; and because he is judicially accused, he must be treated with all the severity prescribed against heretics by the holy canons, apostolical bulls, and the laws of the kingdom.
A. I have declared the truth, and if any witnesses have deposed to the contrary, they have mistaken the meaning of my words; for I have never spoken on this subject to any but the workmen in my manufactory, and then only in the same sense conveyed by my replies.
Q. Not content with being a freemason, you have persuaded other persons to be received into the order, and to embrace the heretical superstitions and pagan errors into which you have fallen.
A. It is true that I have requested these persons to become freemasons, because I thought it would be useful to them if they travelled into foreign countries, where they might meet brothers of their order, who could assist them in any difficulty; but it is not true that I engaged them to adopt any errors contrary to the Catholic faith, since no such errors are to found in freemasonry, which does not concern any points of doctrine.
Q. It has been already proved that these errors are not chimerical; therefore let M. Tournon consider that he has been a dogmatizing heretic, and that it is necessary that he should acknowledge it with humility, and ask pardon and absolution for the censures which he has incurred; since if he persists in his obstinacy he will destroy both his body and soul; and as this is the first audience of monition, he is advised to reflect on his condition, and prepare for the two other audiences which are granted by the compassion and mercy which the holy tribunal always feels for the accused.

M. Tournon was taken back to the prison; he persisted in giving the same answers in first and second audiences. The fiscal presented his act of accusation, which, according to custom, was divided into the articles similar to the charges of the witnesses. The accused confessed the facts, but explained them as he had done before. He was desired to choose an advocate, but he declined this, alleging that the Spanish lawyers were not acquainted with the masonic lodges, and were as much prejudiced against them as the public. He therefore thought it better to acknowledge that he was wrong, and might have been deceived from being ignorant of particular doctrines; he demanded absolution, and offered to perform any penance imposed on him, adding, that he hoped the punishment would be moderate, on account of the good faith which he had shewn, and which he had always preserved, seeing nothing but beneficence practised and recommended in the masonic lodges, without denying or combating any article of the Catholic faith.

The fiscal consented to this arrangement, and M. Tournon was condemned to be imprisoned for one year, after which he was to be conducted under an escort to the frontiers of France; he was banished from Spain for ever, unless he obtained permission to return from the king or the holy office. During the first month of his imprisonment, he was directd to perform spiritual exercises, and a general confession: to spend half an hour every morning in reading the meditations on the book of spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius de Loyola, and half an hour in the evening in reading the considerations of Father John Eusebius Nieremberg, in his work on the difference between temporal and eternal; to recite every day part of tje Rosary of Our Lady, and often to repeat the acts of faith, hope, charity, and contrition; to learn by heart the catechism of Father Astete, and to prepare himself to receive absolution, at Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.

A private auto-da-fé was celebrated in the hall of the tribunal, in which M. Tournon appeared without the san-benito, and signed his abjuration, with a promise never again to attend the assemblies of the freemasons.

M. Tournon went to France, and it does not appear that he ever returned to Spain.

The office’s worries about celestial imagery are amusing given its own penchant for sun goddesses–check the wonderful Úbeda virgin in Barcelona’s church of Santa Anna sometime; I’ve also got various related posts. I don’t know if this paranoia helps explain the slow development of astronomy in Spain.

(Prompted by a post by El Bibliómano on early-ish twentieth century publications, including Masonería by J Boor, aka Francisco Franco. )

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