In 1738, Roman Catholics in Germany were forbidden to join the Masons by Pope Clement XII’s bull, “In Eminenti Apostolatus Specula,” and those that did were excommunicated. Nevertheless, the group continued under the name, “Mopsorden” (the order of the Pug)” because of the breed’s loyalty, trustworthiness and steadiness. Not surprisingly, the Pug became the group’s secret symbol.
According to “Freemasons for Dummies” by Christopher Hodapp (a former editor of the “Journal of The Masonic Society”), members called themselves Pugs, and newbies (required to wear a dog collar) gained entrance to the lodge only by scratching at the door. Initiates were hoodwinked and led around a symbol-filled carpet nine times while the assembled “Pugs” of the Order barked loudly and yelled “Memento mori” (‘Remember you shall die’). The blind candidate was required to kiss the Grand Pug’s backside under his tail as an expression of total devotion (in reality, a porcelain pug dog). Women were allowed, but the Grand Master was always a man. Each lodge required two lodge masters (or Big Pugs, one man and one woman) who shared the governing role.
Owning a Pug became a subtle way of showing solidarity with England’s revolution without getting locked in the stocks or hurled into a dungeon. In Paris, Pugs became associated with Voltaire and Diderot.
Around 1740, German sculptor and master model maker of the Meissen porcelain factory in Germany, Johann Joachim Kaendler, was commissioned to create a curious series of sculptures which were a group of porcelain Pug dogs designed as secret emblems for the Mopsorden (see image). The Order of the Pugs was outlawed in 1748.