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The Commemorative Order of St.Thomas of Acon
The Commemorative Order of St Thomas of Acon is of English origin and is the only English Order of Knighthood created during the Crusades.
It is based on the history of the Third Crusade which began in 1189 AD, when on the 8th June 1191 King Richard 1 (Richard Coeur de Lion) arrived with his forces, before the seaport of Acre, and captured the city in five weeks.
Amongst the English force was 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 few helpers he buried a large number of the dead, and tended the wounded.
Seeing that his actions were being appreciated, William formed an Order for the express purpose of burying Christian Knights who fell in battle in the Holy Land.
To this first purpose he added a second, the raising of monies to redeem ransomed captives captured by the Saracens.
The Order being formed at Acre its name was incorporated in the title (the Anglicised version of Acre being Acon). The Order was so successful that William was able to build a church and churchyard that he dedicated to St Thomas ‘a Becket, thus the Order became entitled the Commemorative Order of St Thomas of Acon, Through disease and death of the other knights fighting in the Holy Land, this Order of English monks was pressed into service as replacements, and became an Order of military monks fighting alongside the Knights of the Temple, the Knights of the Hospital of St John the Almsgiver, the Knights of the Hospital of Lazarus and the Teutonic Knights of the Hospital of St Mary. King Richard 1 rewarded their valour by according them the status of an Order of Chivalry.
Of all the five noble Orders of knights in the Holy Land at this time, only this Order had a purely English foundation. In England the Order acquired the property of the Becket family in Cheapside where they built a Chapel and a headquarters.
Following the battle of Acre, the Order of St Thomas of Acon merged temporarily with the Order of the Temple.
When the knights were subsequently driven out of Cyprus, the Chapel of the Order of St Thomas was the only church on the island permitted to ring its bells. Remains of this church can still be visited. Old records are sparse, the last admission into the Order being recorded on the 2nd February 1367, but that the order continued is not in doubt as the records of the Installation of a Master in 1510 demonstrate and it was listed as one of the Orders dissolved by Henry VIII. At the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, Henry VIII offered the Chapel of the Order for sale, and, in memory of St Thomas (Thomas ‘a Becket being canonised barely two years after his death in 1173), and in view of the association of his father, Gilbert, with their trade, the Worshipful Company of Mercers purchased it.
The Chapel in Cheapside was destroyed in the Great Fire of London and the present Mercers Hall and Chapel were built on the site. The first Grand Master of the Order, John E. N. Walker (Sir John of Dorking), spent more than twenty years searching the archives of the Guildhall Library for information about the Order of St Thomas of Acon intending initially to write its history.
After discovering a report of the Installation of the Master in 1510, an account so unusual and so typically English, that he felt compelled to revive the Order as a Masonic Organisation. The Order of St. Thomas of Acon was established in 1974 when the first Chapel was formed in Blackheath, London and now operates under the official title of The Commemorative Order of St Thomas of Acon.
The basic organisation of the Order is called a Chapel. The Order now has ninety Chapels in the United Kingdom, the U.S.A., Spain, Canada, Australia & New Zealand. The Chapel of St Paul was consecrated (with twenty three founders) in Melbourne on Saturday 21st August 2004 and was subsequently followed by the consecration of Chapels in all mainland states and New Zealand. Currently in the Province of Australia South and New Zealand there are three Chapels in Victoria, one in South Australia and one in New Zealand.
Commemorative Order of St Thomas of Acon is a Christian Masonic Order which teaches members to assist others in times of need and encourages them to be humble in accordance with the lesson of humility reported in the book of Luke, where it is recorded that Jesus told his Disciples, “
When thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher, for he that exalted himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
The charities associated with Commemorative Order of St Thomas of Acon raises money for the support and upkeep of Canterbury Cathedral.
The regalia worn by members of the Order is similar to that worn by a Knight Templar and consists of: a white tunic and mantle, a crimson velvet cap and a Templar pattern sword worn on a brown leather belt.
A scallop shell badge is worn on the tunic, mantle and cap, is in colour; bronze silver or gold in accordance with rank.
The Order is led by a Grand Master, supported by the Grand Master’s Council. The membership is divided into Provinces led by a Grand Preceptor who is supported by a Grand Preceptor’s Council. Chapels generally meet twice annually and perform one ceremony Admission as a Knight of the Order.
The ceremonial ritual centres on the life and death of Thomas a Beckett.
When one is installed a Knight of Acon, the member takes a knighthood title.
This must be based the member’s preferred Christian name and on some geographical location which has some association with him, for example where he was born or has lived.
Membership of the Order is by invitation only and is restricted to Christian Masons who shall be a Master Mason, a Royal Arch Mason and a Knight Templar of a Preceptory holden under a Great Priory recognised by the Great Priory of England.
There is only one ceremonial, Admission as
Knight of the Order.