Brief History of the Great Priory of the Gauls
The Great Priory of the Gauls (Grand Prieuré des Gaules – GPDG) takes it roots in France in the 18th century, when a prominent Mason, probably the most prominent of his time, directing two groups of Brethren, one in Lyon and the other one in Strasburg, built up a new and self-specific Masonic System: the Scottish Rectified Regime (Régime Ecossais Rectifié).
It was a double-tiered System:
The first was the Masonic Class, constituted of four degrees: Apprentice, Companion, Master and Scottish Master of Saint-Andrew (Maître Ecossais de Saint-André);
The second was the Inner Order (Ordre Intérieur), a Chivalric Order of two levels of qualification : Squire-Novice, preparatory to the summit of the Regime which was called Knight Benevolent of the Holy City (Chevalier Bienfaisant de la Cité Sainte).
That was the first specificity of the Regime.
The second was that all the managers, at every level of the Regime, governed both the Masonic Class and the Inner Order under different denominations and titles peculiar to each one.
The third specificity was the doctrine in respect of initiation, – a Christian doctrine that the Scottish Rectified Regime is the one and only System to possess.
The Rectified Scottish Regime in the 18th and 19th century
This Regime was officially recognised on the national level by the Convent of the Gauls (Convent des Gaules ) held at Lyon in 1778, and later on the European level by the Convent of Wilhelmsbad held in Germany in 1782, presided over by the Princes Ferdinand of Brunswick-Luneburg and Karl of Hessen-Kassel.
The Regime was eclectic and yet homogeneous in its constitution. It borrowed some elements of the Masonic degrees from the French Masonic customs of that time (which were to become later the so-called French Rite – Rite Français); and some others from the German Strict Observance.
The Chivalric Order’s organic structure was closely copied from the Strict Observance’s equivalent.
However the most important aspect was not there. It consisted in the doctrinal content already mentioned, which came from Martines de Pasqually’s teachings, corrected by an assiduous practice of that of the Fathers of the Christian Church.
The French Revolution, which destroyed many valuable things, destroyed also the Rectified Regime. When the State was afterwards re-established by Napoleon Bonaparte, Willermoz remained almost alone with it, as he wrote to Prince Karl von Hessen in 1810.
Some revivals came to light during the first half of the 19th, e.g. in Paris and Marseilles, but without lasting success. Nevertheless, as the Grand Orient of France had acquired the right to practise these degrees according to a treaty concluded in 1776 with the Rectified Regime, one of its Lodges, based in Besançon, carried on this practice until at least l870.
After that, all was finished in France. But not in Switzerland.
For Switzerland, which had been erected as a Grand Priory by the Wilhelmsbad Convent, had since then maintained the Regime in its wholeness if not in its purity (the original rituals were amended with the passing of time).
The Regime in the 20th century
Be that as it may, in the 20th Century, two groups of Brethren belonging to the Great Orient of France got in touch with the Independent Great Priory of Helvetia (Grand Prieuré Indépendant d’Helvétie, official name of the Swiss Great Priory ), and received patents:
the first group in 1910 in order to found a new Grand Lodge (which became later, after the World War II, the French National Grand Lodge, Grande Loge Nationale Française, GLNF) which practised inter alia the Masonic degrees of the Rectified Regime, and the second group in 1935 in order to re-establish the Chivalric Order under the name of Grand Prieuré des Gaules.
It is clear that, although the Great Priory of the Gauls dates under this denomination from 1935 only, its ancestry goes back to 1778 – its ancestry, and also its rights as historic founder of the Scottish Rectified Regime.
All the Masonic or Chivalric Obediences which practise its degrees result in all regularity from that single source.
During World War II, as a result of the anti-masonic legislation of the so-called Etat français (French State) of Marshall Pétain, Masons were declared outlaws and Masonic temples and archives were confiscated.
After the Liberation of France, Masonic workings began again and, in 1958, the GPDG and the GLNF signed a Treaty (Convention) of mutual recognition and cooperation: the GPDG entrusting the GLNF, by formal delegation of powers, with the management of the three first Masonic degrees – the 4th Masonic degree and the Chivalric Order remaining under its own jurisdiction.
The Great Priory of Gauls in the 21st century
In June 2000, the GLNF broke off suddenly, and with no regard to its legal obligations, the Treaty. For that behaviour it was condemned twice by the civil Courts of Paris (the judge on first hearing had even formally forbidden it to practice the Rectified degrees!).
The GPDG therefore retrieved the direct management of its Masonic lodges and in this way brought together again all the elements and both classes of the Regime, restoring it as it was originally during its first years 1778-1782.
In the interim, the GPDG had received :
– the degrees of the Order of Malta from the Great Priory of England and Wales
– those of the Order of Knights Templar from the Great Priory of Scotland, and
– those of the Rose-Croix from the Dutch Order of High Degrees.
So the GPDG decided to practice those Systems in full from the Masonic degrees upwards, thus creating, besides the Scottish Rectified Regime (Rite Ecossais Rectifié), two other bodies: the Scottish Rite of Scotland (Rite Ecossais d’Ecosse) and the French Rite (Rite Français), using the purest original rituals of each.
Today, the GPDG is recognised by all the Masonic Obediences and Great Priories in France (except of course that of the GLNF) as a Masonic Obedience and Chivalric Great Priory. Many other Masonic Obediences and Great Priories outside France are in amity with the GPDG – the latter entertaining the very best relations possible with all of them.