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Freemasons in Austria

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When Mozart set off on his famous "journey to Prague", he is said to have travelled via Rosenau Palace. Amadeus, a convinced freemason, wished to visit his fellow masons, who had set up a lodge at Graf Schallenberg's palace in the 18th century.

Rosenau Palace was first mention in documents in 1593, a Renaissance building that was adapted and extended 150 years later to plans by the Baroque architect Munggenast. Frescos discovered in the entrance hall and rooms in the south wing with ceremonial decoration are evidence that a lodge was established here.

The palace suffered badly during the occupation after 1945. Following its sale to the Province of Lower Austria and subsequent restoration, the Grand Lodge set up a Freemasonry Museum on the first floor, which opened on April 23, 1975. It comprises lodge rooms and a reconstructed temple room, while the numerous documents displayed and the various special exhibitions set out the history and activities of freemasonry in Austria.

Freemasonry began its existence in London in 1717, and spread rapidly. It was Duke Franz Stephan of Lorraine, who was to be the husband of Maria Theresia, who brought freemasonry to Austria. He was initiated in a special lodge meeting in The Hague, and subsequently promoted the development of the organisation in Austria, where he succeeded in preventing the papal bull of excommunication against freemasons (1738). Vienna's first lodge, "Aux Trois Canons" was founded in 1742. The ban on freemasonry imposed in 1784 was initially a purely formal regulation, the lodges in Austria having been formally recognised in 1780, and the "Great National Lodge" was established in 1784. Ever since it was founded, Austrian freemasonry has supported the ideas of the Enlightenment and "Josephinism", attracting as members the most important men in cultural and public life, such as the famous physician van Swieten or Joseph von Sonnenfels, as well as Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The latter dedicated his opera "The Magic Flute" to Ignaz von Born, a leading light in masonry, and used him as his model for the figure of Sarastro.

Towards the end of the 18th century, the lodges came under state control, while under Metternich they were the object of spies and persecution. It was only after the settlement with Hungary in 1867 that more favourable times arrived for the freemasons, although they were only allowed to join the "frontier lodges" set up on Hungarian soil, such as that at Neudorfl, in what is today Austria's Burgenland. The "Grand Lodge of Vienna" was founded in 1918, with the "Grand Lodge of Austria" following in 1945, currently boasting 2,400 members in 52 lodges.

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