Chi Rho Fraternity, Inc.
For Information on Joining the Chi Rho Fraternity, Inc.. contact W.K. Karl J. Reid, Grand Recorder, 1021 N. McKnight Road, 1K, St. Louis, Mo. 63132. (314) 868-3105, email@example.com.
Chi Rho Fraternity, Inc.
Prince Hall Affiliated
W.K. Walter Easley, Grand Sovereign
W.K. Damajo Smith, Grand Noble Prefect
W.K. Richard Hudson, Grand Centurion
W.K. James Webster, Grand Decurion
W.K. Karl J. Reid, Grand Recorder
W.K. Harold Bendaw, Grand Treasurer
We are indebted to our Beloved Prince Hall for revealing information about our forefathers, who belonged to the Order of St. John, from whence came the Chi Rho Fraternity. Found in Prince Hall’s charge (1792) is a most interesting account of our Order. In that charge, Prince Hall suggested that the members of African Lodge, were descendants of African masons who were members of a Christian masonic knighthood called, the Order of St. John. In order to understand the history of our Fraternity, it is necessary to examine closely the charge delivered by Prince Hall. Part of the charge reads as follows:
I shall now shew you what progress Masonry hath made since the siege and taking of Jerusalem in the year 70, by Titus Vespasian; after a long and bloody siege, a million of souls having been slain or had perished in the city, it was taken by storm and the city set on fire. There was an order of men called the order of St. John, who besides their other engagements, subscribed to another, by which they bound themselves to keep up the war against the Turks. These men defended the missle when on fire, in order to save it, so long, that Titus was amazed and went to see the reason of it; but when he came so near as to behold the Sanctum Sanctorum, he was amazed, and shed tears, and said, no wonder these men should so long to save it. He honored them with many honors, and large contributions were made to that order from any Kingdoms; and were also knighted. They continued 88 years in Jerusalem, till that city was again retaken by the Turks, after which they resided 104 years in the Cyrean city of Ptolemy, till the remains of the Holy Conquest were lost.
Whereupon they settled on the Island of Cyprus, where they continued 18 years, till they found an opportunity to take the Island Rhodes; being masters of that, they maintained it for 213 years, and from thence they were called knights of des, till in the year 1530 they took their residence in the Island of Malta, where they have continued to this day (1792), and are distinguished by the name of the knights of Malta. Their first Master was Villaret in the year 1099. Fulco Villaret in the year 1322, took the Island Rhodes, and was after that distinguished by the title of Grand Master, which hath devolved to his Successors to this day.
Query, whether at that day, when there was an African church, and perhaps the largest Christian church on earth whether there was no African of that order; or whether, if they were all white, they would refuse to accept them as their fellow Christians and brother Masons; or whether there were any so weak, or rather so foolish, as to say, because they were blacks that would make their lodge or army too common or too cheap? Sure this was not our conduct in the late war (Revolutionary War); for then they marched shoulder to shoulder, brother soldier and brother soldier, to the field of battle?.And now, my African brethren, you see what a noble order you are members of. My charge to you is, that you make it your study to live up to the precepts of it, as you know that they are all good; and let it be known this day to the spectators that you have not been to a feast of Bacchus, but to a refreshment with Masons; and see to it that you behave as such, as well at home as abroad; always to keep in your minds the obligations you are under, both to God and your fellow men.
The entire charge is of great importance, for it describes the duty of a Mason as well as providing a quick biography of four of our African forefathers (Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, and Fulgentius). The charge further provided the foundation of information which traces the masonic blood-line of our Fraternity. The reader may notice that the Charge provides information about our Order which is currently missing from most masonic rituals and history. It was from Prince Hall’s ancient Charge that the authority for the Chi Rho Fraternity was established.
The military and fraternal descendants of those African Knights of the Order of St. John would later be among the fifty Christian Knights who came to wear the Greek Letters, Chi Rho on their shields and banner (to include Alpha Omega according to some sources) in battle some two hundred and thirty years later (after 70 AD), around 312 AD. The traditions of the Chi Rho Fraternity (Alpha Omega) are among the oldest and most honorable found within the Knighthood Orders associated with Freemasonry. The Greek letters Chi Rho (pronounced the same as Cairo) were utilized by the Order just after the battle of Saxa Rubra (Red Stones) on October 28, 312 A.D. According to Masonic tradition (Red Cross of Constantine) and Christian tradition (Catholic Encyclopedia), on the eve of the battle, Flavius Constantinius (hereafter called Constantine) drew apart from his army to commune with his pagan gods (one of which was named Sol Invictus), beseeching them to give him assurance of victory. It was then that he was given a vision of the Monogram of Christ (Chi Rho, which are the first letters of Christos; Greek for Christ) in the heavens with the inscription “En Touto Nika”. This vision was said to have been shared by his troops, though only a few were Christians.
That night according to Eusebius and Lactantius, Christ had appeared to Constantine in a dream and ordered him (Constantine) to have the Monogram of Christ placed on the shields of his soldiers and to make a banner after the likeness of the Sign as a protection in his encounters with the enemy. This he is reported to have done. Accordingly, Constantine had his goldsmiths and artificers to make a banner of Victory (Labarum). The result was a long spear overed with gold and a wooden cross-piece attached to it, thus making a cross, from which was suspended a square banner of purple cloth, in the center of which was embroidered in gold, “En Touto Nika”. On the top of the spear was a crown (laurel wreath according to other sources) of gold enclosing the Monogram of Christ (Chi Rho); according to other sources it included Alpha Omega. This was the Labarum, which was to become the Imperial Standard of the Roman Empire. So highly did Constantine prize it that he chose fifty young Christian Knights of proven valor and intelligence and formed them into a Corp d’ Elite to guard it. These fifty Knights (later called the Knights of the Red Cross of Constantine) were chosen from Constantine’s own bodyguard unit (Theban Legion). In war the Labarum was carried in the midst of its bodyguard in the forefront of the legions and in peace was housed in the Royal Palace in safety, each knight taking his turn to guard it for 24 hours. According to an article entitled The Theban Legion of St. Maurice, written by D.F. O’Reilly, the members of this Corp d’ Elite were chosen from among the Thebei Palatini (Theban Legion). Men from the Thebei Palatini were recruited from Thebes, Egypt.
Egyptian soldiers have been part of the Roman army since the days of Julius Caesars. According to the book African Presence in Early Europe edited by Ivan Van Sertima, African soldiers commanded by Julius Caesar invaded Briton around 55 BC. According to the book The Origin of Freemasonry and Knights Templars compiled by John R. Bennett, masons were among those who went into Briton with Julius Caesar.
To each legion there was attached a College or Corporation of Artificers. The members of the colleges erected fortifications for the legions in times of war, and in times of peace, or when the legion became stationary, constructed temples and dwelling houses. One of these legions, under Julius Caesar, advancing into the northern limits of the country (Briton), established a colony, and, to defend themselves, formed an entrenched camp with walls, inside of which, as elsewhere, habitations, temples and aqueducts appeared, which, under the name of Eboricum, gave birth to the city of York, afterwards so celebrated in the history of Masonry.
It may be of some interest to the brothers who are York Rite masons to entertain the possibility that African masons may have aided in the founding of the ancient city of York. The reader may ask if whether or not members of the Theban Legion were masons. Found in an article entitled The Origin of the Legend of St. Maurice and the Theban Legion by David Woods p. 392, is the following:
An inscription survives from Syene in Egypt which records restoration (as in reconstructing an ancient building) work carried out by some Theban soldiers at the command of Mauricius. The restoration work was no doubt synonymous with the reconstruction of an ancient building. The writer having written the author of the above mentioned article, asked for additional information concerning this portion of the article.
Mr. Woods reply was as follows:
The inscription says that the comes et dux Flavius Mauricius ordered “this place” to be restored and that the praepositus Flavius repaired it, together with the Theban soldiers. The inscription occurs on a Temple at Syene which was originally built by Ptolemy Philopator, and names the three emperors Valentinian I, Valens, and Gratian, so it dates sometime during 367-75 (AD). See Revue Archaeologique 12 (1908), p. 463, no. 235. Unfortunately, this is all I know as the above reference provides very little information.
This would qualify members of the Theban Legion as operative masons. According to The Ancient Charge, operative masons were our ancient brethren. According to ?The Charter of Colne written by the installed Masters of the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of St. John, “the Order is more ancient than all orders of Knighthood, and existed in both divisions of the Roman Empire before the Crusades.”
According to the book The Timetables of History by Bernard Grun, the Roman Empire was divided into the eastern and western empires at two different times. The first time was in 285 A.D (during the time of the Theban Legion) and the second was in 340 A.D (after the reign of Constantine). According to Prince Hall’s charge, the Order of St. John bound themselves to keep up the war against the Turks. In 70 AD, the Turks to whom Prince Hall mentioned were from the Parthian Empire. Parthia occupied areas in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Armenia and Turkmenistan. Parthia fought several wars against Rome, defeating Crassus in 53 B.C., Mark Anthony in 36 B.C., losing to Nero in 63 A.D. and their final defeat to Trajan in 116 A.D. According to Josephus, the 5th and the 15th Legions (to include their auxiliary units) were stationed in Alexandria, Egypt and both legions served in the Parthian war as well as the Jewish and Roman war, which according to Prince Hall resulted in the siege and taking of Jerusalem in the year 70, by Titus Vespasian.
The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem and the Federation of Autonomous Priories of the Knights of Malta confirms the African origins of the Knights of St. John. In their Historical Perspective, the Knights state that: Though French, the Knights (of St. John) traced their descent from the ancient city of Alexandria in the Holy Lands. It was at this ancient and flourishing city that thousands had been converted to the New Faith by the Disciples of Christ.
The ancient city of Alexandria, to which the Knights of St. John claim descent, is none other than the one in Egypt, Africa. According to masonic tradition (History of the Degree of Rose Croix), St. Mark is credited with converting the descendants of those Egyptian masons (Essenes/Therapeuts) who worked at the building of King Solomon?s Temple, to the Christian faith. These masons would later be known as the Hospitallers of St. John. The Hospitallers would later join the Knights of St. John (Descendants of the Theban Legion) at the first Crusades.
The Masonic tradition of this Fraternity far exceeds the time of the Romans and can be traced to Egypt. According to the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature Vol. IX (Solomon), there is a story of how the King of Egypt sent to King Solomon, 80,000 Egyptian masons to work on the Temple in Jerusalem. One account that is of particular interest with respect to these 80,000 has come down to us from the book, Praeparatio Evangelica, written by Eusebius, (who quotes from a now-loss work by Eupolemus, around 150 BC) an ecclesiastical historian of the third and fourth century A.D. In this account, during the 21st Dynasty, the Pharaoh of Egypt (Psusennes or in the story, Vaphres), whose daughter King Solomon married, sent with his daughter, as dowry, a number of builders, to the tune of eighty thousand. This numerical coincidence with the “fourscore thousand hewers in the mountain” mentioned in the Bible is curious, if not conclusive. This number of 80,000 Egyptian workmen, furthermore, is said in one commentary to be in addition to the 80,000 that are supposed to have come from Tyre.
Taking into consideration the vicinity of Jerusalem to Egypt; the marriage between King Solomon and the daughter of the King of Egypt; the progress of the Egyptians in architectural science; and their attachment to the Mysteries one might begin to understand the masonic contributions made by our ancient forefathers towards the building of the Temple of Solomon. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, under “Solomon” sub-section “Solomon and Pharaoh” is found the following: When Solomon was about to build the Temple he applied to Pharaoh, King of Egypt, for builders and architects.
It is quite interesting that Prince Hall masons are not taught that King Solomon employed African masons at the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. Found in the preface of The Ancient Charge is the following: The ancient charge is the history of the rules of operative masons “Our ancient brethren” Freemasonry gives much import to its historical links into antiquity, especially to the building of the temple at Jerusalem by King Solomon. Here and elsewhere in both Masonic literature and ritual, reference is made to the significant influence of the Egyptians.
Chi Rho Fraternity Reorganized:
On Friday March 10, 2000, in the Holiday Inn Hotel (Airport) in Kansas City, MO, during the Phylaxis Society’s 27th Annual Session, the writer, Brother Charles E. Johnson, Jr., FPS provided a workshop to discuss the history and possible reorganization of the Fraternity. During the workshop, it was determined that the African Christians, who were descendants of the Order of St. John, had become members of Constantine?s elite bodyguard unit. Members of this elite bodyguard unit were honored in the Masonic and Military Order of the Red Cross of Constantine and were among the first to wear and carry into battle the Greek letters, (Chi Rho/Alpha Omega). According to Prince Hall, members of African Lodge were descendants of the Order of St. John. At the conclusion of the workshop, the President of the Phylaxis Society Brother Joseph A. Walkes, Jr. FPS (Life) stated that the Phylaxis Society would indeed assist in the reorganization of this ancient Masonic Greek lettered Fraternity. Immediately after the Annual Session, efforts in research were continued to determine which elements of the Red Cross of Constantine Fraternity would be utilized for the Chi Rho Masonic Fraternity such as, the ritual, statutes and the consolidation of the ancient history. Franchesca A. Johnson, wife of Brother Charles E. Johnson, Jr. typed the revised ritual. Brother Charles E. Johnson, Jr. FPS designed the Escutcheon or shield. In June 2000, a draft copy of the Statutes, Chi Rho: The Untold Story and Ritual were forwarded to Brother Tommy Rigmaiden, FPS for his comments. Coordination was also made with Brother Rabbi Barry Albin MPS, Attorney at Law for actions required for incorporation.
On a rainy Saturday evening, March 3, 2001, twelve members of the Phylaxis Society formally revived the Chi Rho Fraternity. This event occurred in the Elm conference room in the Holiday Inn Airport Hotel located at 1380 Virginia Ave., Atlanta GA at approximately 5:45pm EST. The twelve Charter members included Worthy Knights: James W. Hall (Grand Marshall), Tommy Rigmaiden (Grand Prefect), Howard A. Harvey (Grand Centurion), Ulysses Cooper (Grand Almsgiver), Barry Albin (Grand Tribune), Dannie L. Surry, Sr. (Grand Hospitaller), Douglas W. Evans, III (Grand Tresurer and Recorder), Ralph L. McNeal, Jr. (Grand Orator), Charles E. Johnson, Jr. (Grand Sovereign), Jeffrey L. Mullen, Sr. (Grand Decurion), Khari Cooper (Grand Herald) and Charlie R. Thomas (Grand Standard Bearer). A special dispensation was granted by the Grand Sovereign to allow Worthy Knight Douglas Evans to hold the office of both the Grand Treasurer and Recorder. During the re-organizational meeting of the Fraternity, the Charter members proposed and properly seconded to initiate efforts towards having the Fraternity incorporated. It was decided that Worthy Knight Tommy Rigmaiden would develop the Charter for the Grand Conclave and all subordinate Conclave(s). The group also discussed the design for the Grand Seal, Membership Certificate, Labarum Standard and Fraternity Pin. The group agreed to first, determine the total cost for all administrative requirements, regalia and other elements of the Fraternity before deciding the amount each member would pay for membership.
By the blessings of GOD and the efforts of our beloved brother Rabbi Barry Albin, on March 21, 2001 at 10:57am Central Standard Time, the Chi Rho Fraternity was officially incorporated under the laws of the state of Kansas.
Brothers Joseph A. Walkes Jr., Alton G. Roundtree, Benjamin D. Jones, Robert N. Campbell and James “Rocky” Dallas were all obligated into the Fraternity during the next two months. This brought the total number of Charter members to seventeen. It was during this time that Bro. Roundtree was selected to serve as the Grand Recorder, while Bro. Jones served as Grand Treasurer. Bro. Evans was selected as Grand Sentinel.
Brother Walkes informed Brother Johnson that a sister order should also be considered. Bro. Rigmaiden stated that several members of the Phyllis Society were interested in the idea of a sister order to the Chi Rho Fraternity.
The 1st Annual Grand Conclave was held on 19 March 2002 in the Kellogg Conference Center on the campus of Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama. Present were eight members of the Fraternity (Brothers Rigmaiden, Harvey, Dallas, Roundtree, U. Cooper, Thomas, Albin and C. Johnson). During the Grand Conclave, several issues were discussed. Of those issues discussed, resolutions were made in due form by being motioned, properly seconded and finally being voted on. Among the many topics discussed were the following: the Fraternity fees, Charity Program, Statutes, and Social Events to name a few. The Grand Conclave initiated five new members. The new members consisted of Brothers Larry Moore, Timothy Dunlap, Jermaine Johnson, John Ragland and Brain Abrams (Their class designated was the Thundering Legion, Class of 2002).
The Fraternity did not conduct the annual Grand Conclave in 2003. In 2004, the Grand Conclave was conducted in St. Louis, Mo., where Brother Charles Stewart was inducted into the Fraternity.