HISTORY / SECRET SOCIETIESHistorians often make a sharp distinction between the operative masonry of the Middle Ages--referring to the associations of builders that formed during that time--and the speculative Freemasonry of modern times, emphasizing that there is no direct bridge connecting the two. In addition, they have scoffed at Masonic claims concerning the close relationships between the Lodge and the Temple. Using medieval archives housed throughout Europe, historian Paul Naudon reveals that there was in fact a very intimate connection between the masons and the Knights Templar. Church records of medieval Paris show that most, if not all, of the masons of that time were residents of the Templar censive, which allowed them to work on the Temple's large building projects and enjoy exemptions and liberties from both Church and state through the protection of this powerful order.Naudon shows that the origins of today's Freemasonry can be traced as far back as the collegia--colleges of artisans--of ancient Rome. He traces the evolution of organizations such as the comacine masters, the Arab turuqs, the brotherhoods of builders created under the aegis of the Benedictines and Knights Templar, and the crafts guilds that formed in England--all of which have contributed to the transmission of a sacred tradition from pre-Christian times to the modern era. This tradition is the source of today's Masonic ritual and symbolism, and it provides the missing link in the transformation of the masonry of the medieval cathedral builders to the spiritual principles of the Freemasonry that exists today.PAUL NAUDON is a law scholar specializing in the history of civil law and institutions. He is also a Freemason who has held many high-ranking posts in France, including that of Grand Prior of the Gauls (Rectified Scottish Rite) and State Minister for the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. He lives in France.