Royal Arch Masonry (also known as “Capitular Masonry”) is the first part of the York Rite system of Masonic degrees. Royal Arch Masons meet as a Chapter, and the Royal Arch Chapter confers four degrees: Mark Master Mason, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason.
Within the York Rite, a Royal Arch Chapter works the following degrees:
- The Mark Master Mason degree is in some respects an extension of the Fellow Crafts’ second degree. In some jurisdictions the degree is conferred in a Fellow Craft Lodge, that is, the second degree of the Blue Lodge.
- The Past Master (Virtual) degree is conferred because of the traditional requirement that only Past Masters of a Blue Lodge could be admitted to Royal Arch Masonry. Because there are so many applicants for this degree, Virtual Past Master is required to qualify them for it. Much of the work is the same given to install the Worshipful Master of a Blue Lodge. There is no such requirement or procedure outside the USA.
- In the Most Excellent Master degree the building of King Solomon’s Temple, which figures so prominently in Blue Lodge, has been completed. In England the degree is conferred by Cryptic Councils, along with three other degrees below.
- The Royal Arch Mason degree is said by many to be the most beautiful degree in all of Freemasonry. Freemasons who reach this degree may continue to Cryptic Masonry or go straight to Knights Templar (where permitted—requirements vary in different jurisdictions).