Masonic Congress of Wilhelmsbad


Masonic Congress of Wilhelmsbad – The above was painted by Anton Wilhelm Tischbein (1730-1804) in 1783. The scene depicts the grounds of the spa – the ruined castle, the kitchen and the carousel in the background. In the foreground (right) is the hereditary prince William IX of Hesse-Kassel (1743-1821) with six year-old son William. William IX, at the time, was the ruler of the principality of Hanau, subsequently becoming William IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel – after his father Frederick II, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel had died in 1785 – and then William I, Elector of Hesse.

The Hanau-Wilhelmsbad spa, fashionable from 1777 to 1785, was the location of the Masonic Congress in the summer of 1782 (16 July – 29 August). William IX made it his summer retreat, and the ruined castle, prominent in the painting, was where high-degree Masons from the whole of Europe had deliberated the fate of the rite of Strict Observance.

Photographer “Big Mike” in Germany, has this to say about the castle:

The Ruined Castle built between 1779 and 1781 close to the spa baths, although separated on its artificial island behind gnarled oaks, is the earliest pseudo-medieval castle on the European continent to have been purpose-built for a landscaped park in the form of a ruin. In fact, it served Wilhelm, the invested heir to Hesse-Kassel, as a summer residence. Its apparently dilapidated tower has been deliberately designed to bewilder the visitor, for it accommodates an elegant apartment on its ground floor and a magnificent domed hall with portraits of ancestors by Anton Wilhelm Tischbein on its upper floor.

There’s also a pyramid on the grounds, erected in 1784, in honor of William IX’s son Friedrich who died prematurely just shy of his twelfth birthday; designed by Franz Ludwig von Canerin.

William IX wasn’t a Freemason, but his brother Prince Karl, Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel (1744-1836), was. Karl was the chief organizer of the conference, and second in command to Grand Master (Magnus Superior Ordinis; ‘Eques a Victoria’) Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Wolfenbüttel (1721-92) – Illuminatus, February 1783.

The following is a list of the official deputies of the Strict Observance who attended the gathering:

  • Landgrave Karl von Hessen-Kassel (Eques a Leone Resurgente) –Illuminatus, February 1783; Coadjutor for the Duke of Brunswick
  • Johann Joachim Christoph Bode (a Lilio Convallium) – Illuminatus, 1782 (insinuated at Wilhelmsbad); the representative of Ernst Johann von Fircks (ab Aquila Rubra) and Christian Friedrich Kessler von Sprengseysen (a Spina), and the towns of Bremen, and Meiningen
  • Ernst Traugott von Kortum (a Fonte Irriguo); the representative of Alois Friedrich von Brühl (a Gladio Ancipiti)
  • Johann Friedrich (von) Schwartz (ab Urna) – Illuminatus, March 1783; archivist for the Strict Observance and the conference secretary for the German language; treasurer for Konrad Franz von Rhetz (a Mergite); and representing Brunswick, Hanover, Königsberg, Batavia and the Brothers in Russia
  • Imperial Count August Dietrich Marschall von Burgholzhausen (a Thymalo) – Illuminatus; master of ceremonies at the conference
  • von Jahn (a Cancro Aureo)
  • Otto Friedrich Adolph von Köppern (a Tribus Uvis) – Illuminatus, April 1783; Copenhagen representative
  • Johan Christoph Dertinger (a Metallis); representative for Grand Dignitary of the 8th Province, Ernst Friedrich Hektor Falcke (a Rostro) – Illuminatus, December 1780
  • Franz Christian Eckbrech Baron von Dürckheim (ab Arcu) –Illuminatus, May 1784; representing the Prefecture of Schleswig
  • Franz Dietrich Baron von Ditfurth (ab Omo) – Illuminatus, April 1781
  • Georg Heinrich von Rosskampf (ab Equo Bellicoso); representing the Stuttgart chapter
  • Th. Bauer (a Vomere)
  • Wolfgang Heribert von Dalberg (a Tumba Sancta) [brother of IlluminatusKarl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg]; representing the Priory in Munich
  • Karl Friedrich Kasimir Wundt (a Laurea) – Illuminatus, 1782 [grandfather of experimental psychologist Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt]; representing Munich
  • H. von Heiden (a Cidonia); representing Frankfurt
  • Albert Baron von Seckendorff (a Capricornu); representing Ansbach
  • Count Franz Joseph von Kolowrat-Liebensteinsky (ab Aquila Fulgente) – Illuminatus, August 1782 (insinuated at Wilhelmsbad); representing Vienna and Sibiu [Hermannstadt] in Transylvania
  • Count [later Prince] Karl Josef zu Salm-Reifferscheidt (ab Intacto Fulmine Laureo); representing the National Lodge of Austria
  • Johann Eubert Bödecker (a Lapide Cubico); representing the National Lodge of Austria
  • Count Paul Szapary (a Gladio Hungarico); for Poznań and Budapest
  • Count François-Henri de Virieu (a Circulis); representing the Duke d’Havré-Croy (a Porto Optato)
  • Chevalier Gaspard de Savaron (a Solibus); Provincial Visitor General; repesenting the Prefectures of Lyons and Chambéry
  • Jean-Baptiste Willermoz (ab Eremo); Cancellarius Provinciae; representing the Auvergne Treasurer Lambert de Lisieux (ab Turri Alba) and the Grand Master of the Cermonies, Chevalier de Rachais (a Leone Strenuo)
  • François-Marie Marquis de Chefdebien d’Armissan (a Capite Galeato) –Illuminatus, 1787 [insinuated by Bode]; representing the Grand Priory of Montpellier
  • Friedrich Eilbert von Dürckheim (ab Ave)
  • Johann von Türckheim (a Flumine) – Illuminatus; conference general secretary for the French language; Provincial Visitor General; representing the Prefecture of Saarbrücken
  • Diethelm Lavater (ab Aesculapio); Helvetic Grand Prior
  • Christoph Kayser (ab Pelicano); for the Prefecture of Zurich
  • Friedrich Rudolf Salzmann (ab Hedera) – Illuminatus; Chancellor for the Grand Priory of Austrasie [northern France]
  • Bernhard Friedrich von Türckheim (a Navibus) [the brother of the previously-mentioned Türckheim]; negotiating for Strasbourg and for the Prefecture of Alsace
  • Hyacinthe Chappe de la Henrière (a Cruce Caerulea); for the Prefectures of Metz and Nancy
  • Chancellor Sébastien Giraud (a Serpente); representing the Grand Priory of Italy, with authority from Count Gabriele Asinari di Bernezzo (a Turre Aurea) and Baron J. Gamba della Perosa (a Cruce Argentea)

[The above was compiled from the following sources: René Le Forestier, Les Illuminés de Bavière et la Franc-Maçonnerie Allemande [Paris: 1914], Archè reprint, 2001; Ludwig Hammermayer, Der Wilhelmsbader Freimaurer-Konvent von 1782 (Wolfenbütteler Studien zur Aufklärung. Geheime Gesellschaften 2) Heidelberg 1980; René Le Forestier, Antoine Faivre, La Franc-Maçonnerie Templière et Occultiste aux XVIIIe et XIXe Siècles, Aubier-Montaigne, 1970; Hermann Schüttler, Die Mitglieder des Illuminatenordens 1776-1787/93 (Munich: Ars Una 1991); Gérard van Rijnberk, Robert Amadou, Martines de Pasqually: Un Thaumaturge au XVIIIe Siècle. Sa Vie, son Œuvre, son Ordre (Georg Olms Verlag, 1982); Acta Latomorum, volume 2; “Stricte Observance Templière: Obituaire SOT“]

During the Wilhelmsbad Congress the self-styled Knights [Eques] of Templar Strict Observance were ostensibly abolished, and the “Unknown Superiors” (Superiores Incogniti) declared a fraud. Two systems emerged triumphant: Willermoz’s Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité Sainte [Order of Knights, Beneficent of the Holy City] (C.B.C.S.), and especially the Bavarian Illuminati. Both Landgrave Karl von Hessen-Kassel and the Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick, the two heads of the Strict Observance and indeed German Freemasonry as a whole, were recruited into the Illuminati soon after; and it was because of the contacts (and good impression) made at the Congress of Wilhelmsbad that the Illuminati truly became a formidabe power throughout Europe.

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