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This article explores how Freemasonry served as an important institutional setting where the core tenets of the Catholic Enlightenment shaped the social lives of ordinary people during the prerevolutionary and revolutionary eras (ca. 1775–1800). Through an examination of the books brethren owned, the rituals they performed, and the partnerships they forged with local priests in poor relief, it demonstrates that lodges promoted a form of Catholicism that was irenical, practical, simplified, and Christocentric. Archival material includes meeting registers, account books, correspondence between brethren, and ritual manuals housed either in underexploited provincial archives or in the Russian archives of the Grand Orient de France in Paris. This investigation demonstrates that the Catholic Enlightenment was not only a movement of ideas but also a sociocultural phenomenon and that Old Regime Freemasonry, unlike its modern iterations, was imbued with Christian ethics and embedded within a Christian symbolic order.




University of Chicago Press

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The Journal of Modern History

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