An Historical Perspective of the 29th Degree (August, 2011)

posted May 22, 2015, 3:58 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite   [ updated May 23, 2015, 1:14 PM ]
San Jose Scottish Rite 29th Degree Team (Great Job Guys!)
by Mete Talimcioglu, 32°,MSA
Valley of New York City

The 29th Degree, Knight of St. Andrew, takes place in the interior of the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Patras, Greece. The year is 1396 A.D., the age of the Crusades. The western crusader army, while advancing towards the east to Jerusalem (literally means “city of peace”), clashes with the mighty army of the 4th Ottoman Sultan, Beyazid I, also known to Turks as “Yildirim”, the Thunderbolt. The theater is Nicopolis (Nigbolu) in present day Bulgaria.
The Battle of Nicopolis took place in 1396 between a French-Hungarian Alliance and the Ottoman Empire. This campaign, as recorded in history as the Crusade of Nicopolis, was the largest and the last large-scale crusade of the Middle Ages.
In 1394, Pope Boniface IX proclaimed a new crusade against the Turks, which resulted in an alliance between France and Hungary to join forces. The 100,000-strong army of French-Hungary Alliance under the command of both King Sigismund of Hungary and John de Nevers of France faced the equally strong Ottoman army under the command of Sultan Yildirim Beyazid at Nicopolis on September 25, 1396. The French commanders, not being aware of ingenious Turkish war tactics, led the Alliance army to its ultimate defeat. Among those defeated, John de Vienne, Admiral of France, was killed in action, while John de Nevers, Enguerrand VII de Coucy (son-in-law of King Edward III of England) and Jean Le Maingre, Marshal of France, were captured.
The main theme of the 29th Degree Drama focuses on the fictionalized events, which take place after the capture of the chivalric Knights of the Alliance. Sultan Beyazid receives at his temporary court, set in the interior of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, several chivalric Knights who belong to the Order of St. Andrew. Quoting from the prophet Mohammed, “Thou shalt not degrade noble enemies!”, the Sultan immediately unchains the Knights and provides a respectful opportunity to eventually set them free. While the incidents portrayed in this degree are not historical in fact, the lesson taught in the drama – Toleration - is one of the great tenets of Freemasonry. This degree is unique in the sense that it is the only Scottish Rite degree where religious tolerance, particularly between Christianity and Islam, the second largest monotheistic religion in the world, is emphasized.
While witnessing this deeply touching drama, one might immediately ask the question: “What is the correlation of St. Andrew, an Apostle of Christ, with the romanticized Knights of the Crusaders as portrayed in this degree?” The author believes that the answer lies in the legends of St. Andrew: Very little is really known about St Andrew, except that he is the first Apostle, a fisherman by trade, brother of Simon Peter (St. Peter, the founder of the Christian Church). He was also a devout follower of St. John the Baptist, the Patron of Freemasons. Born in Bethsaida in Galilee (now part of Israel), St. Andrew traveled with Jesus, and preached his teachings both before and after Jesus’ death. St. Andrew is said to have been instrumental for spreading the tenets of the Christian religion through Asia Minor and Greece.
Today, St. Andrew is recognized as the Patron Saint of Scotland, and St. Andrew’s Day is celebrated by the Scots around the world on November 30 of each year. The flag of Scotland is the Cross of St. Andrew, which is widely displayed as a symbol of national identity in Scotland. How did St. Andrew become the Patron of Scotland? Tradition suggests that the Apostle was put to an agonizing death by the Romans in Patras, Greece, by being pinned to a diagonal shape (X-shaped) cross called a “Saltire” that appears on the Scottish Flag. The remains of this cross are currently on display in the St. Andrew Cathedral in Patras, Greece (picture was taken by the author during a visit there).
Upon crucifixion, the bones of the Apostle were entombed for about 300 years, and were later moved by Constantine the Great to his new Capital, Constantinople (renamed by Turks as Istanbul during the reign of Yildirim Beyazid, long before the capture of the city by Mehmet II, the Conqueror, on May 29, 1453). Legend tells that a Greek Monk, called St. Regulus (Rule), was directed in a dream by an Angel to move and spread the St. Andrew’s remains throughout the world for safe-keeping. St. Rule, dutifully following these directives, removes a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap and some fingers from St. Andrew’s tomb, and transports these relics as far away as he could. Legend also suggests that St. Rule shipwrecks on the East Coast of Scotland at a Pictish settlement, which later became the town of St. Andrews. Perhaps more likely than the Legend of St. Rule, the Bishop of Hexham, who was a renowned collector of relics, brought these precious body parts to St. Andrews in about 733 A.D. The relics were kept in a Chapel, which later became a Cathedral that was a pilgrimage center of religious focus in Scotland. There are other legends of how St. Andrew and his remains became associated with Scotland (which might potentially include the infamous San Greal or Sang Real legend of the Knights Templar, which recently became the center of attention in the media through Dan Brown’s bestseller: Da Vinci Code).