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Charles Magnette, Belgian Grand Master in 1914: Cosmopolitan or Nationalist Icon ?

Issue: Vol 1 No. 1 (2010)

Journal: Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism

Subject Areas: Religious Studies

DOI: 10.1558/jrff.v1i1.94


Since the rise of the modern nation-state there has existed an essential tension between cosmopolitan and nationalist identifications within freemasonry. World War I and its exacerbated nationalisms only magnified this tension. Belgium, a small, neutral country brutally attacked by the German invader, was caught in the middle of this tempest. In Belgium, and within Belgian freemasonry, unprecendented levels of nationalist feelings and a strong hatred for the enemy flared up. Simultaneously the Belgian masonic world was faced with subnational tendencies and internationalist and pacifist movements. One can thus wonder how these apparently conflicting attachments could coexist within Belgian freemasonry. Could they even be present in one and the same personality? Charles Magnette, Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Belgium during the war, embodied these national, subnational and international currents. Because of his masonic activities during the conflict, he would eventually be turned into a nationalist icon by Belgian freemasons after the war. A role seemingly contradictory with his cosmopolitan allegiance, or was it ?

Author: Anaïs Maes

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