Deutsches Freimaurermuseum (German Freemason Museum)
Bayreuth, Urban municipality / Oberfranken
The only museum of freemasonry in Germany was founded in 1902 by Georg Niehrenheim and installed in the house of the Bayreuth lodge "Eleusis zur Verschwiegenheit" (Eleusis of Reticence, built in 1880) in the palace garden next to Villa Wahnfried. The aim of the museum was and still is today to present the history of freemasonry and to oppose common prejudices of a "secret society" by publicly presenting the culture of freemasonry in documentations and explanations. The collection grew fast, but had to be closed during the National Socialist era and suffered greatly under looting during the war. After the Second World War the Museum Society rebuilt the museum and was able to reopen it in 1954; the collection was newly arranged in 1986. 500 of about 3500 objects are shown in three rooms. Aprons and sashes, lodge badges, medals and cups illustrate the traditions of the freemasons. There is a documentation of the history of the lodges - the lodge in Bayreuth was founded in 1741, the first one in England in 1717 - from their beginnings in medieval cathedral stonemason's lodges until today. The museum also illustrates how much the principles of the freemasons influenced the 18th century enlightenment and democracy. Of the many famous personalities, who were members of a lodge, we would like to mention only a few: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johann Gottfried von Herder, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Kurt Tucholsky, Voltaire, Winston Churchill or Frederick the Great. The Museum also has a public special library comprising 16000 volumes as well as an archive and has thus become a centre for the study of freemasonry.