The modern era of the Freemasons is marked with the founding of the first Great Lodge of England in 1717. There is also written evidence of the Masons dating back to the fourteenth century. These Masons of the Medieval Ages were the same Masons who formed guilds and unions, mostly involving stone work. The Mason's records of their existence go back to the building of King Solomon's temple in the bible. However, no concrete evidence of the existence of the Masons has been recovered from theses times (Darrah, 63-64). Their history is of myth and verbal telling.
During the times of the Middle Ages architects and stonemasons were an elite class, who were able to travel between countries, unlike the everyday commoner or serf, who was restricted on travel. The masons referred to themselves as "free" because they could travel. During the Middle Ages the Masons erected and designed many of the great cathedrals and other beautiful structures throughout Europe. The Masons, as simple craftsmen learned the operative arts of masonry and design in guilds and unions into the sixteenth century (Mackley and McClennachan, 774-750).
The beginning of the seventeenth century marked a huge change in the patronage or membership of the Masons. Membership in the unions and guild had begun to decline, so the elite of society and other prominent members were allowed to join as "patrons of the Fraternity." They were also later accepted as Masons, hence the used of the term "Free and Accepted Masons." At the end of the seventeenth century, a great change occurred within the principles and ideals of the Freemasons. They became more involved in philosophy than actual trade (Darrah, 90-92).
The Freemasons borrowed much of their mysticism from other religious and ethnic groups throughout Europe. There is some documentation of connections with ancient Greek and Roman mysteries. Notably the idea that upon joining the society, one would keep all secrets upon a penalty of death (Casavis, 53).