A Visit to the Museum of Masonic Symbolism

We were walking through the wonderful Oltrarno quarter of Florence and held no expectations except for the obvious - enjoying the authenticity of this artists' quarter and finding more good coffee and food. We were talking about the Rosicrucian layout of the Torrigiani Garden, for which we had managed to receive a private invitation and guided tour the following Monday.

That’s when our friend stopped and pointed to a door to the left. Look, she said, they even have a masonic museum in Florence! That was no small surprise indeed as we had just talked about the Masonic influence on the Torrigiani Garden, but also as our friend has been working in Florence for more than ten years, particularly in this quarter, and had never come across this place before.

I stepped closer to see the opening hours, when the door opened and an old man with a white beard invited me in. How could you possibly not accept such an invitation of fate? So my wife, her friend and my daughter continued walking on to the highly recommendable independent bookshop and coffee bar ‘Black Spring’ (Via di Camaldoli 10R) while I was allowed to disappear into the depth of this little known gem, the Museo di Simbologia Masonic Firenze.

Cristiano Franceschini, the white-bearded owner walked me through the first floor of his impressive collection and pointed out how the countless artefacts had been assembled and grouped into categories. Unfortunately I missed a lot of his introduction, simply because I was so blown away by the sheer vastness of this collection. Since 2012, when the door of the museum opened close to Via Maggio where Italy’s first Masonic lodge was founded in 1731 by a group of English expatriates, Mr.Franceschini is sharing the output of a forty-year-long hunt after Masonic artefacts with the world.

Here is what the local news magazine The Florentine had to say about it when the museum first opened:

The artefacts amassed by the family include historical documents, books, stamps, photos, magazines, application forms and objects used in Masonic rituals. Among these are, for example, the banner of the first Masonic lodge in the United States, in Minnesota and pictures of important Freemasons, among them Kit Carson, the Frontier man who refused to kill Native Americans or capture women. The oldest object is a French standard from 1700, which was buried during World War II to hide it from the Nazis.
— The Florentine, March 2012

What the magazine is not telling you though is that the museum goes way beyond presenting its huge and probably world-wide unique collection. On the second floor we actually get to visit an elaborate Masonic Temple. Even if tiny in its dimension due to the architecture of the old house, Mr.Franceschini pulled it off to provide a comprehensive overview of the type of symbols, their arrangement and order that one can find a classical masonic lodge. Well, and maybe a little more than that? I am sure, not all traditional lodges feature a flickering light-bulb whose filament is delicately shaped in glowing masonic symbols…

To me the most stunning and fun piece of the entire collection, though, was something hidden on its first floor. Due to my lack of Italian and Mr.Franceschini’s limited English unfortunately we didn’t get to talk about it in length. However, close to the entrance I found an entire pamphlet going into great depth exploring the tribe of smurfs as an occult lodge. Obviously I should have known by the shape of their Phrygian caps all along!

Upstairs, shielded from dust and curious hands under several large glass cabinets one can find the one and only Masonic smurf lodge on this planet - frozen in time and heated debate. And of course it includes a very angry Gargamel as the headman!

Enjoy the images of this special place - and make sure this rare museum features high on your ‘must-see’ list whenever you manage to visit Florence.

Ground Floor 

First Floor

Second Floor