Order of St. Thomas of Acon
MARSHAL: Sir Knights, upstanding.
PRIOR: Bro. Deputy Marshal, what is the first duty of Knights of St.Thomas of Acon when in Chapel assembled?
DEP.MAR.: To see that the Doorkeeper is at his post and in communication with the Sentry.
PRIOR: Command him to do his duty.
DEP.MAR.: Bro.Doorkeeper, do your duty.
Doorkeeper opens the door and takes pass-word from the Sentry, then closes door.
DOORKEEPER: Bro.Deputy Marshal, the Sentry is at his post and is in possession of the password.
DEP.MAR.: Eminent Prior, the Doorkeeper is at his post; he is in communication with the Sentry who is in possession of the password.
PRIOR: Bro. Deputy Marshal, what is the second duty of Knights of St. Thomas of Acon?
DEP.MAR.: To see that all present are members of the Order.
PRIOR: See that they be so.
Beginning with the Master, then following the sun, the Deputy Marshal takes the password from each Knight, finally communicating it to the Prior. If any fail to give it, the Marshal and Deputy Marshal shall escort them from the Chapel.
PRIOR: Bro. Deputy Marshal, what is the third duty of Knights of St. Thomas of Acon?
DEP.MAR.: To see that the Knights are properly armed.
PRIOR: You will examine them for that purpose.
DEP.MAR. proceeds to South West corner before saying: Sir Knights, to Order.
The Knights stand at the 'carry'. The Prior clasps an Holy Bible in front of him. When the Deputy Marshal is satisfied that all are correctly armed, he reports: Eminent Prior. the Knights here assembled are all properly armed.
PRIOR, uncovering: Sir Knights, let us pray.
Almighty and Everliving God, we beseech Thee to strengthen in us our belief and lively faith in Thee. Preserve us from the attacks of evil men, and so direct our spiritual and temporal powers that we may be able to use them to serve Thee. Guide us in all our understandings and inspire our hearts with wisdom so that our actions may proclaim Thy glory all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. AMEN.
ALL: Our Father. which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. for ever and ever. AMEN
Prior opens the Holy Bible at John 1 vs.1 and places it on the altar.
DEP MAR.: Sir Knights, be seated.
Hereafter, upon being addressed, a Knight shall be named, thus: "Sir John of Gaunt", except where indicated in the ritual, and save only the Worthy Master, the Most Worthy Grand Master, and the Eminent Prior who shall always be addressed as such.
PRIOR: Sir of , please read the minutes of our last meeting.
PRIOR: Sir Knights, you have heard the record of our last meeting. If you deem it correct, be silent.
If any Knight wishes a correction, he must rise and address the Prior.
The Deputy Marshal takes the Minute Book to the Prior for signing.
From this point the Chapel, and all business thereof, is under the direction of the Worthy Master. Historically it is not known when the Master took precedence over the Prior other than that the custom was established by the time the Order settled in Ironmonger Lane.
Admission of a Candidate
When the Master indicates that the Chapel is ready, the Doorkeeper advises the Sentry and leaves the door ajar. Kts. Nos. l, 2, 3 and 4 retire to the ante chamber; Kt. No. 3 leaves his mantle under his seat. The Candidate wears his K.T. regalia, with sword but without jewels. The Sentry hands him a water bottle, packet of bread, and a small leather bag in which to put his Fee - which must be in silver. He tells him to advance into the ante chamber and do "what seemeth thee good".
Upon entering the ante chamber the Cand. sees Kts. Nos. 1, 2 and 3 standing about wiping their foreheads and making other signs of fatigue, whilst No.4 is trying to put the c into the c .
They speak one at a time.
No.1: I am so thirsty.
No.2: I am so hungry.
No.3: I am so cold.
No.4: I am so weary.
They repeat these utterances until the Candidate offers them water, bread, and his mantle, and helps to put the c into the c.... Immediately after being assisted, each of the four Knights quietly enters the Chapel and sits in the West.
The Sentry and Candidate are left alone outside the door. which remains ajar but guarded inside by the Doorkeeper.
SENTRY: Are you going in?
SENTRY, if Cand. hesitates: You have done good works, why hesitate, why not go in?
DOORKEEPER: I see you are a Knight of the Temple. Give me the sign and word of a K.T.
Candidate does so, and the Doorkeeper directs him to the centre of the West end of the Chapel.
DEP.MAR.: An intruder! An intruder!
All stand and draw swords.
MARSHAL: Guard the Chapel!
These orders must be obeyed by ALL the Knights in the front row of seats, and should be done with speed. Knights from the North form a line across the centre of the Chapel facing the intruder, and pointing their swords towards him. The Knights from the South form a line behind them with swords at the 'carry'.
MARSHAL: Sir Knights, taking the time with me, advance and repel the intruder.
Keeping in step with the Marshal, the Kts advance slowly so as to give the Cand. time to act and, if he does not draw his sword, to surround him.
MARSHAL, if Cand. DOES NOT draw his sword: Here is a stubborn Knight to oppose us.
Or, if Cand. DOES draw his Sword: Here is a brave Knight to join us.
MARSHAL: Sir Knights, halt! Carry swords.
To your posts, march.
MARSHAL to Cand. if Cand has drawn his sword: Return your sword. Follow me.
As Marshal leads Cand. to the Altar, Kts. Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 follow behind. When Cand. reaches the Altar they strike him lightly with the edge of their hands, on his Right Side, Left Side, back of Neck and back of Knee respectively, whilst No.1 whispers: Kneel on both knees and place both hands on the Holy Bible".
PRIOR: In this impressive posture you will take the Oath of a Knight of St. Thomas of Acon. Repeat your several names at length and say after me: I, , swear by the everliving God to keep secret from all persons whomsoever, the manner of my reception into this Order of St. Thomas of Acon, and the mode of recognition used by my brother Knights, unless in a Chapel of the Order lawfully assembled for that purpose. Furthermore I will consider all charitable claims made upon me by any persons whomsoever, and will assist them when in my opinion they are worthy and I am able to assist. All this I sware by my halidom under a penalty no less than that of being struck down as was St. Thomas, and being forever deprived of the confraternity of this Order.
PRIOR: You will seal this Obligation with your lips four times on the New Testament.
PRIOR, reads from St.Matthew chapter 25 vs. 34 - 40: 'Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee astranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.'
A Chant may now be sung.
MARSHAL: Sir Knights, be seated.
MARSHAL to Cand.: Rise and follow me.
They proceed to the Treasurer.
MARSHAL: Sir of , Worthy Treasurer, this Knight has taken the Obligation of our Order, and I present him to you.
TREASURER: What fee does he bring?
MARSHAL: The fee of a Knight of our Order.
TREASURER: Give it to me. Cand. hands bag of coins to the Treasurer, who counts and checks to see that all the coins are of silver. Satisfied, he nods to the Marshal.
They proceed to the Almoner.
MARSHAL: Sir of , Worthy Almoner, this Knight has take the Obligation of our Order, and has paid the fee of a Knight of St. Thomas.
Will you prove his worthiness?
ALMONER: Are you prepared to collect alms in the cause of knightly charity?
ALMONER: Then you will take this alms dish and collect what alms you may from the Knights here assembled, and return to me.
Marshal stands aside.
Cand. proceeds alone around the Chapel. Returning to the Almoner, he hands him the dish to deposit on the Altar. The Almoner then returns to his seat.
MARSHAL to Cand.: Come with me. They go to Kts. Nos.l, 2, 3 and 4.
MARSHAL: Bro. Knights, this Knight has taken the Obligation of our Order; he has paid the fee of a Knight of St. Thomas; and has collected knightly charity. Have you ought to say in his favour?
No.1: I was thirsty and he gave me water.
No.2: I was hungry and he gave me bread.
No.3: I was cold and he gave me his mantle.
No.4: I was weary and he gave me help.
MARSHAL to Cand.: Come with me.
They proceed to the Prior.
MARSHAL: Eminent Prior, this Knight has taken the Obligation of our Order; he has paid the fee of a Knight of St. Thomas; he has collected knightly alms; he has given water, bread and raiment to those in need and has helped the weary in his labours. He now comes to do homage that he may be received into this Order.
PRIOR: Is it your earnest desire to unite with us in the Lord's Oath, to live in brotherly love, and to serve all men, without fear or favour, as did our blessed Saviour, Jesus Christ?
CAND.: It is.
PRIOR: Then you will kneel before the Altar.
The kneeling stool has been moved by the Deputy Marshal a sufficient distance from the Altar to allow the Master, in due course, to stand before the Cand. He takes the Candidate's sword and places it on the altar.
MARSHAL: Sir Knights, to Order.
PRIOR: You will now recite Our Lord's Prayer.
The Knights assume an attitude of prayer.
CAND. recites Prayer.
PRIOR: Sir Knights, let us implore a Blessing on this Candidate for our Order. Turns to face the Altar.
O Almighty God, look down, we beseech Thee, on this assembly, and impart Thy Holy grace on him who kneels before Thee; that he may, with firm resolve, serve Thee through all dangers and difficulties to Thine honour and glory, in the Name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord.
Cand. remains kneeling. The Knights recover to the 'Order'.
PRIOR: Worthy Master, this worthy Christian Knight has come to do homage that he may be received into our Order. Is it your pleasure to receive and reward him?
MASTER: He is indeed a very worthy Christian Knight. I will receive his homage with pleasure, and will reward him as far as in my knightly power lies.
MASTER to Cand.: Place your hands between mine and say after me: "I pledge my homage to the Prior and the Master of this Chapel of St. Thomas of Aeon, and will obey them in all things whatsoever, those things being consistent with the laws of God, of man and of reason"
Deputy Marshal takes Candidate's sword from the Altar and hands it to the Master.
MASTER: I dub you a Knight of St. Thomas of Acon, and declare you to be a Brother amongst us. Be loyal, brave and true. Arise, Sir of , and receive your sword. Whispers: "sheath it."
Kt. No.4 comes forward and takes water bottle and scrip. No.3 comes forward and places Candidate's own mantle upon him. They retire to their places.
MASTER: Sir of , our Worthy herald, you will present our new Comrade-in-Arms to the Brethren.
HERALD, places Cand. in the East facing West: Sir Knights, I present to you our new Comrade-in-Arms, Sir of , and call upon you to salute him.
The Knights raise their sword arms upwards at full length, flourish their blades and shout: Sir of .
HERALD: Sir Knights, be seated.
MARSHAL to Cand.: Come with me. Takes him to the Historian.
MARSHAL: Sir of ., Worthy Historian, be pleased to instruct our new Comrade-in-Arms in the history of our Order.
Dep.Mar. produces a seat. Marshal whispers to Cand. "sit", and returns to place.
HISTORIAN: Near the end of the eleventh century, in the City of London there lived a young mercer, one Gilbert Beckett, who decided to undertake a perilous journey into foreign parts in order to increase his wealth. This he set out to do with what appeared to be disastrous results, for the ship in which he sailed was captured by Saracens, and Gilbert found himself to be a slave in the home of a heathen Moor. There the enslaved Gilbert toiled, yet his fair hair, blue eyes and generous smile speedily won the heart of his master' s daughter. The damsel became enamoured of Gilbert, and after some fifteen months she arranged for his escape, and he returned to his home in Ironmonger Lane in the City of London.
Such was the tale that Gilbert Beckett told on his return, and all the Mercery and Ironmongery were full of wagging tongues and doubtful thoughts until the seven-days' wonder of his adventures died down. It may well have died altogether had it not been for the arrival in London of a foreign lady with scarce a word of English on her lips save "London" and "Gilbert". She was taken to the house of Gilbert Beckett who took her in. As you may surmise, she was the daughter of the Moor who had enslaved him, and had followed Gilbert to London , Very quickly she became a Christian and took the name of Matilda, thereafter marrying him. Gilbert subsequently became the last Portreeve of the City before the introduction of Sheriffs and Lord Mayors.
Of their several children, one Thomas entered the Church and became secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was brilliant in his work and was appointed Chancellor to King Henry II. The King and Thomas worked as a team for the good of the kingdom and, when the Archbishop of Canterbury died, Henry nominated Beckett to the Archbishopric, assuring himself that Beckett was his right-hand man.
But such was not the case, for no sooner was Beckett on his episcopal throne than he took up with all vigour the side of the Church against the King, who issued in AD 1164 his famous Constitution of Clarendon. Their main dispute was that the Church claimed exclusive jurisdiction over any person who belonged to the ranks of the clergy, including what was practically the lay fringe of that body, and inflicted on them penalties which, from the lay point of view, were grotesquely inadequate. The King could not tolerate this and a fierce quarrel arose
between him and Beckett. Beckett fled to the Continent and stayed there for six years. Then in AD 1170 the King and Beckett appeared to be reconciled and the Archbishop returned to England.
Now during the time that Beckett had been away , the King had had his eldest son crowned as his successor by the Archbishop of York. This action was bitterly resented by Beckett as an infringement of his See. Upon his return to England he foolishly excommunicated all the clergy who had taken any part in the crowning of the young prince. These clergy went to France and appealed to the King. Then came that well-known burst of anger when Henry was reported to have said: "Who will deliver me from this low-born priest." Four Knights left the Council Chamber, hurried to the coast, took ship for England and went straight to Canterbury. There, on 29th day of December 1170, they found the Archbishop in the Cathedral at the time of Vespers, and there and then slew him before the Altar. The nation was shocked at the crime and, almost overnight, Beckett became regarded as a saint.
Deputy Marshal collects the picture of the Acon Church from in front of the Altar and hands it to the Historian to be shown to the Cand.
HISTORIAN: You will have observed this and similar pictures during your journey round this Chapel. These show the remains of an early church of the Order, which was founded as follows:-The Third Crusade began in AD 1189, and on 8th June 1191, Richard Coeur de Lion with his forces arrived before the seaport of Acre which had been besieged for two years by other Christian princes. Richard captured the city in five weeks.
Among the English was one William, the chaplain to the Dean of St. Paul's who, when he saw the corpses of the Christians about the walls of Acre, had compassion on them. With the aid of a small band of helpers he buried a large number of dead and tended the wounded.
This successful act gave William confidence and he formed an Order for the express purpose of burying Christians who fell in the Holy Land. To this first purpose he added a second, which was the ransoming of Christians taken capture by the Saracens.
Back in England, by this time the relics of St. Thomas were said to be working miracles, and the Saint was very popular with the people. Be it remembered that William the chaplain was a Londoner. and we can see how he came to name his Order after St. Thomas of Canterbury. The Order being formed at Acre, its name was always incorporated in the title, the Anglicised form of Acre being Acon. William's Order at Acre was so successful that he was able to build a church with a churchyard, which he dedicated to St. Thomas, calling himself Prior of his Order.
Upon hearing that an Order had been formed for charitable purposes and named after their relative, the family of Beckett gave Gilbert's old home in Ironmonger Lane for the purpose of building a church in his memory, and giving it to the Order of St. Thomas of Acon. This was accomplished and it contained two chapels, one of St. Stephen and the other of St. Nicholas.
Richard Coeur de Lion saw that the Order required protection, and commanded or sanctioned that it should contain a number of Knights. Thus the Order became a chivalry with a Prior, and as such took part in the fighting.
Of this, we, as Englishmen, should be humbly but justly proud. For of all the five noble Orders of Knights, viz. Templars, Hospitaliers, Teutonic, St. Lazarus and St. Thomas, this was the only one with an English foundation.
The Order was always few in numbers. Possibly the idea of burying the dead did not appeal to the gentlemen of the day, or the greater probability that they were overshadowed by the other great Orders, prevented many from joining its ranks. However, from the time of its foundation until the loss of the Holy Land, its members took a gallant part in the very heavy fighting, not only against the Turks, but alas also against their fellow-Christians.
When the Holy Land was lost beyond all hope of recapture, the Teutonic Knights returned to Germany and carried on their activities against the heathen Poles. The other four Orders seized the island of Rhodes in 1309 where they remained until the Turks proved victorious and on 1st January 1523, the Grand Master and the few of his followers who survived, were allowed to sail to Cyprus with the honours of war.
They remained until the Turks invaded and defeated them once more. But it is of the greatest interest to us that, upon its capture, the only Christian church which was allowed to ring its bells was the Church of St. Nicholas Anglicorum, being the church of our Order. That building is still standing, although now used for secular purposes. The four pictures you have observed in this Chapel are photographs of those ruins, and they may be considered equivalent to the Tracing Boards in a Masonic Lodge.
Small though it was, the Order flourished and became of particular importance in the City of London; for it was ordered by the Mayor and Commonalty in 1338 that the wickets of the City were not to be opened until the sixth hour sounded at the church of St. Thomas.
Moreover, the Mayor on his Installation always began that great day by attending Mass in the church of St. Thomas, afterwards proceeding with the members of his Company to St. Paul' s where a further Service was held, and the new Mayor shown to the people who acclaimed him with a great shout. He and his fellows then returned to Guildhall where a banquet was prepared at his cost.
It would appear that, at some time, the Prior lost his leading position, for in 1279 we first hear mention of the Master of the whole Order of St. Thomas of Acon.
The Church of St. Thomas in the City of London has been described as a stately edifice. In it the Livery Companies of London held many of their meetings and dispensed their charity for nearly four hundred years. In it, too, they were buried and held in awed remembrance by their many successors.
The last recorded admission to our Order - before the present recension - was that of Sir Richard de Tykehill, a chaplain from York, who on 2nd February 1367 assumed the habit of the Order from the hands of Brother Hugh de Corteys. However surviving records are sparce, and we can be certain that the Order continued, for it was among those dissolved by Henry VIII.
As with many of the monastries, King Henry VIII in 1530 offered the Church of St. Thomas for sale. In memory of the illustrious Thomas, and the association of his father, Gilbert, with their trade, the worshipful Company of Mercers purchased it. All that remains to-day to remind us of that building is the recumbent statue of Christ which lies at the entrance of the new Mercers' Chapel.
As no doubt you are well aware, many ceremonies which you have enjoyed are matter of pure conjecture in regard to their origins. This Order is, however, base don historical facts in every part thereof, as may be confirmed by you through an examination of various documents and records dating back to the 13th century and held in the library of the City of London in Guildhall.
Marshal takes Cand. to stand before the Master.
Master: The mantle and tunic of the Order should be white with a red cross superimposed by a white cross, charged with an escallop. I now invest you with that badge, the escallop Shell, which I place on the midpoint of the cross on your tunic. If you wish, you may wear a smaller Shell on the cross on your left shoulder, and also as a cap badge. This badge is of bronze, the metal of humility, it will remind you that the perfect Knight is always humble. The sign of the Order is , made with your right hand, to remind you of your Obligation. This sign must be given when you address the Worthy Master or Eminent Prior. The password is A , answered by Acon. The word is T . I am also pleased to hand you a copy of the Constitutions and the ritual. You may now take your seat in Chapel.
The Marshal conducts him to a seat.
The Master rises four times to enquire .
MASTER: I call upon the Eminent Prior to lead us in prayer. Sir Knights, to order.
PRIOR: O Almighty and Everliving God, we beseech Thee so to guide and strengthen us in our faith that, as we return to and work in the world around us, we may practice that virtue of humility that we have been taught in this place.
May our words and actions ever proclaim Thy glory, through the teaching of Thy Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. AMEN.
ALL KNIGHTS repeat Our Lords Prayer.
Prior closes the Altar Bible.
MARSHAL: Sir Knights, return swords.
Sir Knights, you will remain standing whilst the Worthy Master, accompanied by the Eminent Prior escorting the Most Worthy Grand Master, retires.