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What Is The Shrine?

"World's Greatest Philanthropy"

In 1870, many Masons had lunch at a restaurant called the Knickerbocker Cottage. One particularly jovial group used to meet regularly at a special table on the second floor. They became known for their good humor and wit and often discussed the idea of a new fraternity for Masons, in which fun and fellowship would be stressed more than ritual.

Brothers Walter M. Fleming, M.D., and William J. Florence, an actor, grew serious about the idea.. Billy Florence, the actor toured London, Europe and Middle Eastern countries. While on tour in Marseilles, France, Florence attended a party given by an Arabian diplomat where he saw an elaborately staged musical comedy. Afterward, the guests became members of a secret society. On two other occasions, once in Algiers and again in Cairo, he attended the ceremony again. He made copious notes and drawings at that time.

When he returned to New York in 1870 and showed his material to Dr. Fleming. They realized that this might well be the idea for a new fraternity. Dr. Fleming converted the ideas supplied by Florence into what would become the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (A.A.O.N.M.S.).

With the help of other Masons who met at the Knickerbocker Cottage, Fleming drafted the ritual, designed the emblem and ritual costumes, formulated a salutation and declared that members would wear a red fez. The initiation rites, or ceremonials, were drafted by Fleming with the help of three Brother Masons: Charles T. McClenachan, a lawyer and expert on Masonic Ritual; William Sleigh Paterson, a printer, linguist and ritualist; and Albert L. Rawson, a prominent scholar who provided much of the Arabic background.

What Is A Shriner?

What is a Shriner? What kind of organization attracts truck drivers, dentists, contractors, heads of state, carpenters, movie stars, generals, plumbers, clergymen and accountants?

Shriners, or Shrine Masons, belong to the Ancient Arabic order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America (A.A.O.N.M.S.).  The Shrine is an international fraternity of approximately 600,000 members who belong to the Shrine Temples throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Republic of Panama.  Founded in New York City in 1872, the organization was composed solely of 32nd degree Scottish Rite Masons or Knights Templar York Rite Masons. Recently however, (at least in Texas) all that is required is that an applacant be a Master Mason in good standing.

The Shrine is best known for its colorful parades, its distinctive red fez, and its official philanthropy, Shriners Hospitals for Children, which is often called, "the heart and soul of the Shrine."

The Salutation

Dr. Fleming and his coworkers also formulated a salutation still used today by Shriners — "Es Selamu Aleikum!" — which means, "Peace be with you!" In returning the salutation, the gracious wish is "Aleikum Es Selamu," which means "With you be peace."

Why do Shriners wear a Fez?

The red fez with a black tassel, the Shrine's most distinctive symbol, has been handed down through the ages.  It derives its name from the place where it was first manufactured -- the holy city of Fez, Morocco.  The fez was chosen as part of the Shrine's Arabic (Near-Eastern) theme, around which the color and pageantry of the Shrine are developed.

What is the Shrines connection to Masonry?

In order to become a Shriner, a man must first be a Mason.  The fraternity of Freemasonry is the oldest, largest and most widely known fraternity in the world.

What are the steps to becoming a Shrine Mason?

Every Shriner is first a Mason; however, in many parts of North America, Masonry does not solicit members.  In these areas, no one is asked to join.  A man must seek admission of his own free will. A man is fully accepted "Blue Lodge" Mason after he has received the first three degrees, known as Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason.  After that, he can belong to many other organizations which have their roots in Masonry and which have Blue Lodge Masonry as a prerequisite.  A Master Mason can also petition to become a Noble of the Mystic Shrine (except in the Philippines and Mexico).


If you would like to learn more about the Shrine and Shriners, visit the Arabia Shrine Web Site at


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