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"Until the 12th century our knowledge of the Masonic associations, other than the schools of architecture which were established in the bosom of the monasteries, is unsupported by any documentary evidence. Indeed, the first written Constitution of the German Freemasons which has reached the present day is that of Strasburg, in the year 1459, which purports, however, to be a revision of the Regulations of the Stonecutters founded at that city in 1275. Of the latter there is no copy extant."
Strasburg Cathedral
THE Abbé Philip Andrew Grandidier was a learned historian and canon of the great choir of the Cathedral of Strasburg. He was the author of several historical works on Alsatia and Strasburg, where he was born in 1752.
Among them were Historical and Typographica Essays on the Cathedral Church of Strasburg.1 It is evident that he had paid much attention to the antiquities of his native city, and although not a Mason, his learning, his impartiality, and his abundant opportunities of acquiring information, gave no little authority to the views that he may have expressed on the antiquities of German Masonry.
In the year 1778 he wrote a letter to Madame d'Ormoy, which first appeared in the following year in the Journal de Nancy and which, copied ten years afterward in the Marquis de Luchet’s Essai sur la Secle des Illumine’s, has since been repeated in French, German, and English, in dozens of Masonic books and magazines.
This letter he afterward enlarged and made it the frame of a narrative which he embodied in his Historical Essays, published four years afterward. In this work he has advanced a theory on the origin of Freemasonry which, notwithstanding Dr. Krause’s disparaging criticism,2 has been accepted as true by most of the recent Masonic historians.
As the statement of the Abbé Grandidier is very interesting, it is here presented to the reader as a groundwork of what will be said, with some modifications, on the same subject in the present chapter. And I shall interpolate some portions of the letter which are not embraced in the essay.
The Abbé begins by saying that, "opposite to the church and the episcopal palace is a building appendant to the Cathedral and the Chapel of St. Catherine which serves as the Maurerhof, or workshop, of the Masons and Stonecutters of the Cathedral. This workshop is the origin of an ancient fraternity of Freemasons of Germany."3 The Cathedral Church of Strasburg, and especially its tower, which was begun in 1277 by the architect Erwin of Steinbach, is one of the masterpieces of Gothic architecture. The edifice as a whole and in its details is a perfect work and worthy of all admiration, since it has not its equal in the world. In foundation was built with such solidity that, notwithstanding the apparent fragility of its open-work, it has to the present day resisted storms and earth-quakes.4 The tower of the Cathedral was finished in 1439. This prodigious work spread far and wide the reputation of the Masons of Strasburg.
The Duke of Milan, in the year 1479, wrote a letter to the magistrates of Strasburg in which he asked for a person capable of directing the construction of a superb church which he wished to build in his own capital.5 Vienna, Cologne, Zurich, Friburg, and Landshutt constructed towers in imitation of that of Strasburg, but they did not equal it in height, in beauty, or in delicacy. The Masons of those different fabrics and their pupils spread over the whole of Germany, and their name soon became famous.
As an evidence of their renown he quotes Jacobus Wimphelingius, who flourished at about the end of the 15th century, as saying that the Germans are most excellent architects and that AEneas Silvius (who was Pope of Rome from 1458 to 1464) declared that in architecture they excelled all other nations.
That they might distinguish themselves from the common herd of the Masonic craft, they formed associations to which they gave the German name of Hutten, signifying lodges. All of these lodges agreed to recognize the superiority of that of Strasburg, which was called Haupthutte or Metropolitan or Grand Lodge.
Afterward the project was conceived of forming, out of these different associations, a single society for the whole of Germany; but it was not thoroughly developed until thirteen years after the complete construction of the tower of Strasburg.
Jodoque, or Jos Doizinger, of Worms, who succeeded John Hultz in 1449 as architect of the Cathedral, formed, in 1452, a single body of all the Master Masons who were dispersed over Germany. He gave them a particular word and sign by which they could recognize those who were of their fraternity.
The different Masters of the particular lodges met at Ratisbon on April 25, 1459, and there drew up their first statutes. The act of confraternity digested in this Assembly constituted Jos Dotzinger and each of his successors, by virtue of the office of architect of the Cathedral of Strasburg, as sole and perpetual Grand Masters of the General Fraternity of Freemasons of Germany.
The second and third General Assemblies of the lodges were held at Spire on April 9, 1464, and April 23, 1469. The Constitutions of the fraternity were confirmed, and it was enacted that a Provincial Chapter should be annually held in each district. John Hammerer, who lived in 1486, and James of Landshutt, who died in 1495, succeeded Jos Dotzinger in the place of Architect of the Cathedral of Strasburg and in that of Grand Master of the Masons of Germany. Conrad Wagt, who succeeded them, obtained from the Emperor Maximilian I. the confirmation of their institution and of the statutes of the lodges. The diploma of this Prince is dated at Strasburg, October 3, 1498. Charles V. and Ferdinand I., and their successors, renewed these privileges on different occasions.
This Fraternity, composed of Masters, Companions, and Apprentices (in German, Meister, Gesellen, and Diener), formed a particular jurisdiction independent of the body of other Masons.
The Society of Strasburg embraced all those of Germany. It held its tribunal in the lodge, or, as it is now called, the Maurerhof, and judged without appeal all causes brought before it, according to the rules and statutes of the Fraternity.
The inhabitants of Strasburg resorted to it in all litigated cases relating to building. In 1461 the Magistracy entrusted to it the entire cognizance of such cases, and in the same year prescribed the forms and the laws which it should observe, and this privilege was renewed in 1490. The judgments which it gave received the name of Huttenbrief or lodge-letters. The archives of the city are full of such documents, and there are few old families in Strasburg which have not preserved some of them among their papers. But its jurisdiction has been much diminished, especially since 1620, at which time the Magistracy took from the Lodge of Strasburg the inspection of buildings which had so long been entrusted to it. The necessity for this suppression arose from the abuse of its authority by the lodge.
The statutes or constitutions of the Freemasons of Germany, at first limited to the number of thirteen, were afterward extended to seventy-eight regulations. These were renewed and put in better order by the General Assembly of the Grand Lodge, held on August 24, 1563, at Basle, and on the 29th of the following September, at Strasburg, seventy-two Masters and thirty Companions were present at this Assembly, which was presided over by Mark Schau, the architect of the Cathedral. Twenty-two lodges directly depended on the Grand Lodge of Strasburg. The lodges of the Masons of Swabia, of Hesse, of Bavaria, of Franconia, of Westphalia, of Saxe, of Misnia, of Thuringia, and of the countries situated along the river Moselle, as far as the frontiers of Italy, acknowledged the authority of the same Grand Lodge.
At the beginning of the 18th century the Master Masons of the fabric of Strasburg imposed a fine on the lodges of Dresden and Nuremberg, and the fine was paid. It was only by an edict of the imperial diet of Ratisbon that the correspondence of the Grand Lodge of Strasburg with the lodges of Germany was interdicted.6 The Grand Lodge of St. Stephen of Vienna, which founded the lodges of Austria, of Hungary, of Styria, and of all the countries adjacent to the Danube, the Grand Lodge of Cologne, which had under its dependence the places on the west bank of the Rhine, that of Zurich, whose jurisdiction extended over the lodges of Berne, of Lucerne, of Shaffhausen, of St. Gal, and of the cantons of Switzerland, all these referred in all grave and doubtful cases to the Mother Lodge of Strasburg.
The members of this Society held no communication with the other Masons, who knew only the use of mortar and the trowel. The erection of buildings and the cutting of stone constituted their principal labour. So they regarded their art as far superior to that of the other Masons. The square, the level, and the compasses became their attributes and their characteristic marks.
As they were resolved to form a body distinct from the herd of workmen, they invented for their own use rallying words and grips for mutual recognition. These they called das Worizeichen, or the "word sign," der Gruss, or the "salute," and the Handschenk, or "grip." The Apprentices, Companions, and Masters were received with certain ceremonies which were performed in secret.7 The Apprentice when he was advanced to the degree took an oath never to divulge by mouth or by writing the secret words of the salute. The Masters as well as the Companions were forbidden to divulge to strangers the constitutional statutes of Masonry. It was the duty of every Master of a lodge carefully to preserve the book of the society, so that no one should transcribe any of the regulations. He had the right to judge and punish the Masters, Companions, and Apprentices who belonged to the lodge.
The Apprentice who desired to become a Companion had to be proposed by a Master, who, as his sponsor, bore witness of his life and manners. A Companion was subject to the Master for the time fixed by the statutes, which was from five to seven years. Then he might be admitted as a Master.
Those who did not fulfil their religious duties, who led a life of libertinism, or who were scarcely Christians, or who were known to be unfaithful to their wives, were not received into the society, or were expelled from it, and all Masters and Companions were forbidden to hold intercourse with them.
No Companion could depart from the lodge or speak while in it without permission of the Master.
Every lodge possessed a chest in which the money given by Masters and Companions at their reception was deposited. This money was used for the relief of poor or sick brethren.
The Abbé Grandidier thinks that in these traits we may recognize the Freemasons of modern times. In fact, he says that the analogy is plain, and the allegory exact. There is the same name of lodges for their places of meeting; the same order in their distribution; the same division into Masters, Companions, and Apprentices; both are presided over by a Grand Master; both have particular signs, secret laws, and statutes against profanes—in fine they may say to each other, "my brethren and my companions know me for a Mason."
For so much are we indebted to the letter and to the Essay of the Abbé Grandidier. The Abbé has been supposed to be the first writer who has adverted to the history of the Strasburg Masons as a fraternity. But this is not the fact. Nearly thirty years before the publication in the Journal de Nancy of his letter to Madame d'Ormoy, attention had been called to this subject by John Daniel Schoepflin, whose work, entitled Alsatia Illustrated, first appeared at Colmer in the year 1751. Schoepflin, who died in 1771, had been for fifty years professor of history in the Protestant University of Strasburg. In the work referred to he gives an account of the Masons of Strasburg, to which Grandidier must have been indebted for much that he has written on the same subject.
From the Alsatia Illustrated of Schoepflin, the following fragment is translated, that the reader may compare the two accounts.
"Before dismissing the subject of the government and judicial institutions of the city, some notice must be taken of the singular institution of the Masons of Strasburg, who formerly held not the lowest place in the city, and at this day of all the Masons of Germany occupy the highest. The construction of the magnificent cathedral, and especially of its tower, greatly extended the fame of the Masons of the city and excited an emulation among the other German craftsmen. Vienna and Cologne erected towers after the model of that of Strasburg, and the associations of workmen and the workshops of those cities were pre-eminent. To these Zurich was added, with which Cologne not long after was joined.
"On these principal workshops called Tabernacles8 (lodges) depended from olden time all the rest of the cities of Germany.
"In former times there was a long deliberation at Strasburg, Spire, and other cities on the subject of constituting a common society of all the Stonemasons.
"Finally at Ratisbon, on St. Mark’s day (25th of April), 1459, was instituted that great society under the name of a Fraternity, of which the Master of the work of the Cathedral of Strasburg was constituted the perpetual presiding officer.
"This institution having been for a long time neglected the Emperor Maximlian I. confirmed it at Strasburg by a solemn charter in the year 1498. This charter was renewed by Charles V., Ferdinand I. and by others.
"In the lodge tribunal the Masters and their Companions sat and judged causes and pronounced sentences according to the statutes without appeal.
"The authority of this tribunal was acknowledged by the Masons of Saxony, Thuringia, Westphalia, Hesse, Franconia, Bavaria, Swabia and all the region of the Moselle.
"The lodge at Vienna, from which those of Styria and Hungary are derived, and of Zurich, under which are those of Switzerland, in all grave and doubtful cases resort to the lodge at Strasburg as to a mother.
"All the members of the sodality have in common a secret watch-word.
We know that the society of Stonemasons spread throughout Europe has this form and origin. There is the same division of the Order into lodges, Masters of lodges, Companions and Apprentices; there are the same laws and secret words. A Grand Master presides over all.
"The Stonecutters9 have an aversion to the common tribe of Masons who are enrolled with them, because they think not unjustly that their art of stonecutting is far above the Craft of the Operative Masons.
"The citizens of Strasburg often submitted questions concerning building to the judgment of the lodge, wherefore the Magistracy in the year 1461, committed to it the power of deciding on building matters, and prescribed for this purpose certain laws and regulations. To these officers was added a Scribe skilled in the laws. But as in the course of time this power of adjudication began to be abused, it was taken away in 1620 and committed to a smaller court"10 The reader may now compare these two accounts, that of Grandidier with that of Schoepflin. The former was written in the letter in 1778, and in the Essays in 1782. The latter was published in 1751.
Now it is very evident that Grandidier has borrowed almost his very language from Schoepflin, if they did not both borrow from Father Laguille, as I have suggested in a note.11 Both were men of learning—both were natives and residents of Strasburg—and both had devoted their minds to the study of the antiquities of that city and of the province of Alsatia. We may, therefore, accept what they have said on the subject of the Masons of Strasburg and their connection with the Cathedral as historically authentic facts.
But we shall find that they are further confirmed by other documents, which are in existence, and to which both of these writers have referred.
Grandidier has, however, fallen into one error which Schoepflin had escaped, and which is to be attributed in all probability to the fact of his being a profane and not therefore conversant with the peculiar differences between Operative and Speculative Masonry. He says that while the usages of the two bodies of Masons, with whose existence at Strasburg he was acquainted, show a palpable nanalogy between the Stonemasons of Strasburg whose association he supposes to have been founded in 1459 and the more modern Order that came over from England near the middle of the 18th century, he yet appears to be wholly ignorant of the historical connection that can easily be traced between them. While he gives a greater antiquity to the old association of Strasburg Operative Masons than to the recent one of Speculative Masons, he does not comprehend the fact that the latter was merely a modification of the medieval system of the Traveling Freemasons from whom both associations were descended.
It is this error that he who would write a true history of the rise and progress of the German Steinmetzen must carefully avoid.
There have been evidently three distinct periods in the history of Freemasonry in Germany.
The first period beginning with the introduction of architecture into Germany, from Gaul, and from Italy, extends to the 12th century. In this period we have no documentary evidence of the organization of a fraternity. We know, however, from their works, that there were during that time architects and builders of great skill, and we have every right to suppose that the feudal system had the same effect upon the Masons, as it had upon other crafts in giving rise to the formation of protective guilds.
The effect of the feudal system in the Middle Ages was to concentrate power in the hands of the nobles, and to deprive the people of their just rights. The natural result of all oppression is to awaken the oppressed to a sense of the wrong endured long before the oppressor is aware of the injustice he inflicts.
The people therefore combined together by the bond of a common oppression to secure by their combination the undoubted rights which should never have been denied them. Thus it was that "the butchers, the bakers, the brewers of the town met secretly together and swore to one another, on the gospels, to defend their meat, their bread, and their beer."
Doubtless the Masons followed the example of the butchers, the brewers, and the bakers, and although, as Findel very justly remarks, we have no written constitutions to prove the existence of such associations, we can hardly doubt the fact. Those who were free born, of good manners, and skilled in their craft, it is reasonable to suppose, united themselves into associations whose members were governed by a common obligation and constituted a common brotherhood.
The history of this period in German Freemasonry has already been discussed in the preceding chapter.
The second period begins with the organization of the corporations of Freemasons at the building of the Cathedrals of Cologne and Strasburg. Some writers think at an earlier period.
The third period commences with the introduction of Speculative Freemasonry into Germany in the 18th century under the auspices of the Grand Lodge of England, at London.
The second period alone occupies our attention in the present chapter.
It has been very generally believed that this second period—the period marked by a well-defined organization of the craft—dates its origin from the time when that style of architecture, denominated the Gothic, began to flourish.
In this style the high pitched gable and the pointed arch took the place of the low, flat gable and the semicircular arch, which had hitherto prevailed.
Of this style of architecture much has been written by the ablest professional pens, and much as to its history and its character has been left undetermined. When was it first known, and when did it cease to exist? Who was its inventor? And in what distinct and salient points does it differ specifically from other styles? All these are questions to which no qualified school of architects has yet been able to respond with satisfaction either to the querist or to the respondent.
One thing, however, we do know with very great certainty. And this is that it was the style universally practiced by the Freemasons of the Middle Ages in all countries of Europe, having been introduced about the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century.
We have also the tradition, which is not altogether a tradition, that these Freemasons, wandering from country to country, and planting everywhere the almost divine principles of their symbolic art, were really the inventors of Gothic architecture.
But be that as it may, the memorials of these arts, in the massive buildings which they erected, have so mixed up the history of Gothic Architecture with that of Freemasonry in the Middle Ages, that it is impossible, in any treatise on the latter subject, to leave the former unnoticed.
"The spirit of the Middle Ages," says Frederic Schlegel, in his History of Ancient and Modern Literature, "more especially as it developed itself in Germany, is in nothing so impressively manifested as in that style of architecture which is called the Gothic.... The real inventors of this style are unknown to us; yet we may be assured that it did not originally emanate from one single master-mind, or else his name would certainly have been transmitted to us. The Master artificers who produced those astonishing works appear rather to have formed a particular society or corporation, which sent out its members through different countries. Let them, however, have been who they may, they did more than merely rear stone on stone, for in doing so they arrived at expressing bold and mighty thoughts."
Mr. Paley expresses the same exalted opinion when he says that medieval architecture, by which he means the Gothic, "was not a mere result of piling together stone and timber by mechanical cunning and ingenious device. It was the visible embodying of the highest feelings of adoration and worship and holy abstraction; the expression of a sense which must have a language of its own, and which could have utterance in no worthier or more significant way."12 This symbolic style, in which the Stonecutter became not only the builder of churches, but the preacher to their congregations, and in which there were literally "sermons in stones," was gradually developed by the skill of the Freemasons, and lasted from about the middle of the 12th to the middle of the 16th century.
These are Paley’s dates, but Dr. Moller13 gives the style a more diffused extent and an earlier origin, though he confines the true Gothic within the limits of four centuries prescribed to it by Paley.
He says that the various styles of architecture which appeared in Europe after the decay of Roman architecture, and continued till the 10th century, when they were superseded by the modern Graeco-Roman art, were all for a long time comprised under the general name of Gothic architecture. This epithet was afterward applied to the pointed arch style which predominated in the 13th century.14 I have said that the invention of this style, so expressive in all its manipulations of a profound thought, has been attributed to the medieval fraternity of Freemasons. And if this hypothesis be correct, of which there can scarcely be a doubt, then that invention was most probably made, or at least perfected, after the Masons had released themselves from ecclesiastical control, and withdrawing from the monks and the monasteries had become an independent Order of laymen.
"If we consider," says Boisseree, "the impetus given in the 13th century by the wealth and the liberty of the cities to commerce, to industry, and to the arts, we will readily comprehend that it is in the class of citizens, and not in that of the clergy, that we are to look for the inventors of that admirable architecture which was consecrated to divine worship.
Notwithstanding all the great and useful things that the clergy have done for literature and science, they have been deficient in that liberty which comes from an active life in the world, and which is a necessary element in the elevation of the arts, as well as of poetry."15 This new style, the invention of the Freemasons after their separation from ecclesiastical control, prevailed at the same time in all the countries of Europe. In Germany the two most celebrated instances are the Cathedrals of Cologne and Strasburg.
Each of these cities has been claimed by different authors as the birthplace of German Freemasonry in its guild or corporate form.
What has been said by Schoepflin and Grandidier in reference to the pretensions of Strasburg to be the center whence Freemasonry sprung in the 13th century, has been heretofore shown.
Of Cologne the pretensions are equally as strong, although not so demonstratively expressed, nor has it furnished any documents, as Strasburg has done, of its claims to be the Masonic center of Germany.
The document known as the "Charter of Cologne," if it had really emanated from the lodge of that city, would undoubtedly have been of great value as testimony in favour of the theory that makes Cologne the seat of German Freemasonry. But, unfortunately, there is now no doubt, among Masonic archaeologists, that document is spurious.
Boisseree, whose work on the Cologne Cathedral exhibits much research, seeks to remove the difficulty arising from the rivalry of Cologne and Strasburg by proposing a compromise.
He says that as the city of Cologne gave the first example of a fraternity of Masons, the Architect of the Cathedral was considered as the chief of all the Masters and Workmen of Lower Germany, just as the Architect of the Cathedral of Strasburg, which was commenced nineteen years after that of Cologne, was made the Chief of all the Masters and Workmen employed in constructions of the same kind in the countries situated between the Danube and the Moselle. Thus, he says, the lodge of Stonecutters employed at the Cathedral of Cologne, was the seat of the Grand Mastership of Lower Germany, and that of the Cathedral of Strasburg was the seat of the Grand Mastership of Upper Germany.
Afterward there was established, he says, a central Mastership for all Germany, and Strasburg, where the works were continued for a long time, disputed this preeminent position with Cologne as Lubeck did for the Hanseatic league.
It would seem then, that, according to Boisseree, there were at first two Grand Lodges, one at Cologne and one at Strasburg, between which the jurisdiction over Germany was divided; that afterward there was but a single central head for all Germany, which was claimed by both Cologne and Strasburg.
But Boisseree produces no authority to substantiate this statement, and we shall therefore have to be satisfied with looking to Strasburg only as the seat of the first known and recognized head of medieval Freemasonry in Germany.
But Cologne must not be passed over in silence. Whatever may have been the authority that its lodge exercised as a Masonic tribunal, it must at least be acknowledged that in its Cathedral, the purely symbolic principles of Gothic architecture, as the peculiar style of the medieval Masons were developed in a profounder significance than in any other building of the time.
It may be permitted to suspend for a time our researches into the progress of medieval Freemasonry and devote, as an episode, a brief chapter to this wonderful Cathedral.

1. "Essais Historiques et Typographiques sur I'Eglise Cathedral de Strasburg," Strasburg, 1782.
2. "Kunsturkunden der Freimaurersbrudersheft," iv., p. 251.
3. "Essais Historiques et Typographiques," p. 413.
4. Lettre a. Madame d'Ormoy.
5. From the Letter. Grandidier says, "I possess a copy of this letter in Italian." It is a pity that the writers of the 18th century, when referring to facts connected with Masonic history, have so often made their accuracy doubtful and their authority suspicious by careless anachronisms or improbable statements. In 1479, the Duke of Milan was a boy of fifteen, the son of the licentious tyrant Galeaz, who had been assassinated in 1476. The Duchy was administered by the Bonne of Savoy, the widow of Galeaz, as regent, during the minority of her son. Nor was Milan, torn at that time by intestine contests and the revolution of the Genoese, in a condition to indulge in the luxury of architecture.
6. This was because Alsace, of which Strasburg was the capital, had ceased to be a part of the German Empire and been annexed to France. This was the first precedent of the doctrine now held by American Masonic jurists, that Masonic and political territorial jurisdiction must be coterminous.
7. In the letter the Abbe says that they took for their motto "liberty," which they sometimes abused by refusing the legitimate authority of the Magistrates.
8. In classical Latinity the word "tabernaculum" denotes, according to Festus, a tent made like a booth or hut with planks with a boarded roof and covered with skins or canvas. The medieval writers on Masonry have accepted it as the appellation of the "Hutte," which afterward became the "Loge" in German and the "Lodge" in English. The word is thus used in the Charter of Cologne, which may be taken or not, as the reader pleases, for an evidence of the genuineness of that much disputed document.
9. Schoepflin makes in this passage a distinction which is worthy of notice, between the "lapicida," or stonecutter and the "coementarius," or worker in rough stones, such as are used in building walls. The medieval Germans preserved this distinction, when they called the higher class of Freemasons, "Steinmetzen" or Stonecutters and the lower class, who were not free of the Guild, "Maurer," or wall-builders. The reader will remember the degrading use of the term "rough-masons," constantly used in the old Constitutions of England.
10. "Alsatia Illustrated," tome i., p. 338.
11. It is possible that both have borrowed from the Jesuit Laguille, who published, in 1725, at Strasburg, in two volumes, 8vo, a "Histoire d'Alsace, ancienne et moderne." I can not decide the point because I have not been able to get access to a copy of Laguille’s work.
12. "Manual of Gothic Architecture," chap. i., p. 5.
13. "Denkmaler der Deutschen Baukund," cap. i., p. 9.
14. "Spilter wurde dieser Name nur auf den im 13 Jahrhundert herrschend werdenden Spitzbogen style angewendet."
15. "Histoire et description de la Cathedral de Cologne," par Sulpice Boisseree, Munich, 1843, p. 14.

"Strasburg Cathedral" frontispiece. Chap. xviii, "The Cathedral of Strasburg and the Stonemasons of Germany." New Revised Enlarged Mackey’s History of Freemasonry by Robert Ingham Clegg with the co-operation of many eminent authorities including William James Hughan. vol. 3 The Masonic History Company, Chicago, New York, London. 1921. [663-]1016p. 27 cm x 21 cm


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