History of The Order
The Order of Saint Lazarus saw its origins in the Holy Land after the First Crusade of 1099. Like the other hospitaller and military orders established in the Holy Land to help and succour pilgrims, the Order of Saint Lazarus had a subsequent turbulent and varied history. Its original scope in Jerusalem was to assist and succour lepers within the Kingdom of Jerusalem in its leprosarum just outside the walls of Jerusalem. The earliest documented mention of the leprosis Sancti Lazari is dated to the second decade of the 12th century, while the anonymous travelogue entitled Work on Geography dated to third decade of the 12th century describes “a dwelling of lepers” “beyond the walls of Jerusalem between the Tower of Tancred and the Gate of Saint Stephen”. The leprosis ecclesie Sancti Lazari is further depicted in a contemporary map dated to the 1130s. From its humble origins in Jerusalem, the Order expanded its range of influence in the Holy Land acquiring a church, a convent and a mill in Jerusalem and property near the Mount of Olives. It built a chapel at Tiberias and two hospitals for pilgrims in Armenia. It acquired more establishments at Nablus, Ascalon and Cæsarea. It further established another house in Acre and further expanded its role to other European lands including Southern Italy, Central Europe, France, and England. This ensured that the Order had a modest economic base comprising lands, tithes, rents and privileges sufficient to maintain its activities in the Holy Land. The Order was forced to abandon its leprosarum in Jerusalem in 1191 after Salah al-Dim besieged and captured the city. The Order then established its new base in its edifice in Acre.
By the early 13th century, the Order had expanded its role in the Holy Land. In his Bull dated 1227, Pope Gregory IX refers to the brothers, knights and clerics of Saint Lazarus. This suggests that the Order had assumed a military role and contemporary texts do confirm that members of the Order of St. Lazarus participated in the campaigns in the defence of the Holy Land including the Battle of Gaza in 1244 where contemporary texts state that “all the leper knighrs of the house of Saint Lazarus were killed”, and in the Battle of Mensura in 1250. In spite of the military defeats, by 1256 the Order of Saint Lazarus had grown considerably and its existence under the Rule of St. Augustine was recognized by Pope Alexander IV. Knights of the Order also participated in the defence of Acre in 1291 when the Saracen army under Sultan Khalid laid siege. Together with the other four military Orders – the Templars, the Hospitallers of St. John, the Teutonic Knights, and the knights of St. Thomas – the Lazarites fought bravely to maintain their stronghold but were overwhelmed by the Saracen onslaught. All the military brethren of the Order of Saint Lazarus present in Acre were killed during the defence of the city.
Following the expulsion of the Christian forces from the Holy Land, the Order of Saint Lazarus restationed its headquarters at Boigny near Orléans in France. The property at Boigny was originally donated to the Order by King St. Louis VII after his return from the Crusade in 1154 and erected as a barony in 1288. The other houses in other European lands remained subservient to the mother house in France.
By the 15th century, the scourge of leprosy in Europe had markedly diminished and the Order of Saint Lazarus had slowly lost its raison d’etre. Political machinations led Pope Sixtus IV in 1479 to allow the English Lazarite house stationed at Burton Lazars to severe its administrative links from Boigny. The English branch of the Order was eventually abolished by King Henry VIII in 1544; though not by Papal consent. Pope Innocent VIII in 1489 attempted to transfer the holdings of the Order of Saint Lazarus to the Order of Saint John then stationed in Rhodes, in effect amalgamating the two Orders. The Lazarite knights strongly objected and refused to recognise the validity of the Papal Bull. The 1489 Bull was reversed by Pope Leo X in 1517 who re-established the Order of Saint Lazarus with a centre in Capua in Southern Italy. The French knights resisted this transfer of the Order’s mother house to Southern Sicily. The establishment of two central houses led to a split within the Order – the traditional centre at Boigny and the new centre at Capua. Both were to follow different courses in their subsequent history. The Capuan House was in 1572 amalgamated by Pope Gregory XIII with the Order of St Maurice eventually united the new Order – now named the Order of St. Lazarus and St. Maurice - with the House of Savoy and the Grand Mastership was assumed by the Duke of Savoy Emmanuelle Filberto.
The French Lazarite knights continued to resist the amalgamation of the Order with the House of Savoy and maintained their own organization supported by the King Henri III. In 1608, King Henri IV combined the administration and holdings of the Order of Saint Lazarus with the newly established Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, both being placed under one Grand Master - Philibert, Marquis de Nérestang de Saint-Didier. This administrative union of the Ordres Royaux Militaires et Hospitaliers de Saint-Lazare et de Notre-Dame de Mont-Carmel received Canonical acceptance confirmed by the Bulls issued by Cardinal de Vendome in 1668 and Pope Innocent XII in 1695. The joined Orders were declared protectorates of the French Crown and the junior Order linked to the École Militaire. The scope of the united Orders had now changed into awards given for military distinction or for services rendered to the Crown. The two Orders remained separate entities and retained different insignia both based on the eight-pointed cross for use by their members.
After the second decade of the 18th century, the relationship of the joined Orders to the French Royal house was further augmented since the reigning French Regent Philippe Charles d’Orléans in 1720 appointed his son Louis d’Orléans et de Châtre as Grand Master of the Orders. This started the trend whereby the subsequent 19th century Grand Masters and/or Protectors were members of the French Royal House. These included the sons of King Louis XV: Louis de France de Berry eventually King Louis XVI [GM 1757-1773; protector 1773-1792], and Louis Stanislas Xavier de France de Provence eventually King Louis XVIII [GM 1773-1814; protector 1814-1824]. King Charles X served as protector during his reign [1824-1930].
The financial and social problems that plagued French society during the latter half of the 18th century led to a period of political and social upheaval in France. The French Revolution movement started in 1787, but erupted into a violent turmoil in 1789. This turmoil was to see the trial and execution of the king, vast bloodshed and repression during the Reign of Terror, and warfare involving every other major European power. The Revolution set out to abolish all the symbolic paraphernalia that represented the Ancien Régime. These included the Chivalric Orders in France including the Orders of Saint Lazarus and of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. A series of legal enactments promulgated by the French National Assembly led in 1793 to the suppression of the Orders in France. The Orders thus ceased to have legal recognition in France for the duration of the First French Republic [1792-1804] and the First French Empire [1804-1814]. However, both Orders having been established by Papal authority, the suppression in France was not a legal dissolution since no contrarius actus was forthcoming from the Holy See. The Grand Master Louis Stanislas Xavier went into exile with a band of loyal followers including members of the Order. During this period, the Grand Master invested a number of dignitaries into the Order of Saint Lazarus including in 1798 Tzar Paul I and his sons Grand Dukes Alexander and Constantine, together with twenty other personalities in the Russian Court.
In 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte embarked on an invasion of Russia. This campaign was the turning point of his fortunes and he was forced to retreat and surrender in 1814. Louis Stanislas Xavier, head of the Bourbon Family, was asked by the French Senate to re-assume the throne of France. On assuming the kingship, the new king Louis XVIII proceeded to revive the Ancien Régime’s chivalric orders including the Order of Saint Lazarus. He however gave up the magistry but became the Order’s Protector leaving the management in the hands of Lieutenant-General Claude Louis Raoul de Le Châtre, assisted by Augustin Francoise de Silvestre, the Herald Bon-Joseph Dacier and chaplain Father Picot. In 1824, both King Louis XVIII and the Duc de Châtre died. Their respective roles were taken up by King Charles X and Jean Louis Beaumont d’Autichamp. While during the Bourbon Restoration Period, the Order did not enjoy the same prestige and status of the Ancien Régime, it slowly resumed its recruitment. The 1830 July Revolution was to turn the fortunes of the Order of Saint Lazarus. The July Revolution forced the abdication of King Charles X and his son King Louis XIX. The kingship was assumed by Louis Philippe d’Orléans. In 1830, an edict withdrew the Royal protection for the Order of St. Lazarus, though the Order still retained its original Papal fons honorum and its members continued to associate and organize themselves using their old titles well into the mid-19th century. The government of the Order was led by a Council of Officers that initially included d’Autichamp, Jean de la Rochefoucauld, de Silvestre, Dacier, and Fr. Picot.
By the mid-19th century, the Order had transferred its attention to the philanthropic support of the rebuilding of the Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Haifa in the Holy Land. This activity, together with a visit of the Melkite Patriarch Maximos III Malzoum to Paris, probably led to the establishment of links between the Order and the Melkite Patriarch who had been delegated the responsibility for all Christians in the Holy Land by Pope Gregory XVI in 1838. The original Papal fons honorum was apparently retained even though the Melkite Patriarch accepted to serve as the Spiritual Protector of the Order. The social milieu prevailing during the July Monarchy and at the beginning of the Second French Republic in 1848 was not very conducive to an active recruitment drive. By 1850, the Order numbered only about twenty members, a number of whom had been admitted during the Ancien Régime. The last Ancien Régime member Antoine de Carry des Gouttes died in 1857 ensuring that in the absence of a contrarius actus being promulgated by the Holy See, the legal existence of the Order was guaranteed by Canon Law until 1957. Recruitment during the second half of the 19th century remained limited to a number of distinct Melkite prelates and distinct French politicians and naval officers. By 1896, members of the Order were being termed either the Hospitaller Nobles of St Lazarus or the Hospitaller Knights of St Lazarus.
At the turn of the 19th century during the reign of the Melkite Patriarch Cyril VIII Geha, a series of administrative reforms were initiated whereby the Order’s Chancery was re-established in its historic seat in France. The statute of the Order, now named the Chevaliers Hospitaliers de Saint Lazare de Jerusalem et de Notre Dame de la Merci, was reviewed. The governance was explicitly placed in the hands of the Magistracy whose decision were sovereign and irrevocable, thus completely laicizing the Order. The Melkite Patriarch was identified as the Supreme Pontiff. The members of the Order were to provide resources that were to be transmitted without delay to the Patriarchate. These resources were then to be used among the hospices, missions and works in Palestine and the East for the greater glory of the Holy Church, evangelization of the infidel, and the solace of the poor and sick. The Council of Officers included Chancellor Paul Watrin [admitted 1909]; Judge of Arms Paul Beugnot [admitted 1910]; and Chaplain and Almoner Canon Jean Tanski [admitted 1863]. After this reorganisation in a long letter dated 3rd June 1911 addressed to the new Chancellor, Patriarch Cyril VIII discussed the role of the Eastern Church in which the Order was interested, and concluded: “Finally, as a pledge of our recognition and affection, we grant our blessing to all the Order”.
These newly initiated administrative reforms received a significant setback with the eruption of the First World War in 1914. The Ottoman Government in the Near East sentenced Patriarch Cyril VIII to death because of his opposition to its policies. The Patriarch escaped to Egypt where he was compelled to stay until his death in 1916. Following the end of the First World War in 1918 and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, a new Patriarch in the person of Demetrios I Cadi was elected in March 1919. Under this Patriarchy and that of his successor Cyril IX Moghabghab [1925-1947], the Order strengthened its organization and increased its recruitment. In March 1926, the Patriarch wrote a lengthy letter from Beirut to the members of the Order, in which he said: “The work of the recruitment of priests and their support in poverty-stricken villages.., accomplished by my beloved hospitaller sons of St Lazarus of Jerusalem, is a work of essentially missionary character and worthy of their traditions. God will assuredly reward them a hundredfold, for they shall have the merit of saving thousands of souls for God. In especially commending all these endeavours to you, I send to you and to all your confrères in the Order my paternal benediction...”.
In conformity to the 1901 French legislation regulating non-governmental bodies, the Order in 1927 organised itself as the Association Francaise des Hospitaliers de Saint-Lazare de Jérusalem under the presidency of the Marquis de l’ Eglise de Ferrier de Felix [admitted to Order in 1920]. Mgr. Attié, the Melkite Patriarch's archimandrite and rector of the Church of Saint Julian the Poor in Paris, was installed as Chaplain of the Order. In 1929, the Order published an edition of its Rules and Statutes, which recapitulated the Order's ancient customs whilst adapting them to modern times and relying upon the basis of the Fundamental Statute of the Knights and Hospitallers which had been drawn up in 1841 at the time of the resumption of the links between the Knights and Hospitallers and the Melkite Patriarchate. The subsequent years saw the expansion of the Order beyond the French borders, notably in Spain and Poland but also the Americas. In 1929, more than fifty individuals joined the ranks including the Bishop of Lille Cardinal Lienart, the Archbishop of New York Cardinal Hayes, the Bishop of Luck and Zytornec Mgr Dub. Dubowski, General de Castelnau, Admiral Lacaze, General Weygand, don Francisco de Borbón y de Borbón, the Duc de Clermont-Tonnerre, the marquis de Migré, the marquis de Bellevue and Colonel Raoul Hospital. Heads of States such as the Presidents of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Brazil were further honoured by the Order.
In 1930, the Council of the Order proposed re-establishing an administrative link to the traditional protectors of the House of Borbón, and in December 1935, H.R.H. Francisco de Paula de Borbón y de la Torre, Duke of Seville and Grandee of Spain (a second cousin of King Alfonso XIII) was appointed the 44th Grand Master of the Order. The Duke, a direct descendant of the kings of Spain and France, who distinguished himself on the field of battle during the Spanish Civil War and was known as the "Hero of Malaga," accepted the office. He worked for the revitalization of the Order by rallying the knights to its traditional double mission: aid to lepers and collaboration in the defence of the Christian Faith. This administrative re-orientation led to the recognition of the Orden Hospitalaria de San Lazaro de Jerusalen by the Spanish Ministry of the Interior in 1940. This was reiterated in 1946 by decree signed by General Franco which associated the Order with the National fight against leprosy, skin disorders and sexual diseases. In 1948, the statutes of the Order were revised as a summation of all the previous Statutes and Decrees of the Order. After the Second World War the Order's expansion reached its zenith. Membership grew as did its charitable missions. The Duke of Seville melded some of the Order's ancient traditions with modern reforms with evident success. The Order, wishing to revert to its original mission, became actively involved in the care of lepers in Spain. In 1952 the Duke of Seville died. His son and co-adjutor, don Francisco Enrique de Borbón y de Borbón, was named Lieutenant General of the Grand Magistracy and elected Grand Master six years later. Because he was a serving officer in the Spanish army and resided in Spain, he was unable to devote himself fully to the Order. In 1956, he appointed Pierre Timoléon de Cossé-Brissac, twelfth Duke of Brissac, a member since 1954, Administrator General of the Order.
This move eventually resulted in new fragmentation of the Order since the French administration complained that Lt. Colonel don Francisco Enrique de Borbón y de Borbón, the Grand Master, was increasingly tied up by his military and personal obligations and was unable to fulfill his commitments, and that a de facto vacancy existed in the grand magistracy. Don Francisco immediately issued decrees annulling the appointments of the Duc de Brissac as Administrator-General and the other members of the Paris administration and reassumed the grand magistracy. The Parisians paid no attention to the decrees. They convened the membership in a Chapter General to depose Don Francisco and elected H.R.H. Prince Charles Phillip of Orleans, Duc de Nemours, Duc de Vendôme, Duc d'Alençon and First Prince of the Blood of France, as Grand Master. They easily accomplished their aims and created the second scission in the Order at the negligible cost of losing the Spanish jurisdiction which understandably remained loyal to don Francisco. Thus there were now two Grand Masters, the Duc de Nemours in Paris and don Francisco in Madrid, who, as a consolation prize was named Grand Master Emeritus of the Order and Grand Prior of the Spanish Grand Priory by the members in Paris. The Supreme Council re-established the Grand Magistracy at Boigny, returning it to the status it held for 500 years before the French Revolution.
A major organizational drive was subsequently undertaken in the 1960s aimed at making the Order ecumenical and thus opening membership to other Christian religions particularly in the English-speaking world. This required the promulgation of a number of Grand Magistral decrees. Lt. Col. Robert Gayre of Gayre and Nigg was given responsibility for propagation of the Order in Britain and the Americas. The Duc de Nemours was educated in England and an ardent anglophile. He married Miss Margaret Watson, an American lady from Virginia, and the couple spoke English at home. It was only natural that he and Gayre, the Commissioner-General for the English-speaking world, would soon become fast friends. This was resented by the Administrator General of the Order and his entourage, and forebode another storm. The Duc de Nemours appointed Col. Gayre Grand Referendary of the Order to replace the deceased marquis de Cardenas de Montehermoso, which provoked the wrath of Brissac and his staff. This was tantamount to turning over the control of the Order to Gayre, which was totally unacceptable to Paris.
The Duc de Brissac once again convened a Chapter-General and deposed the Duc de Nemours. This time the move was much more costly because Gayre, who had been active in recruiting in the English-speaking countries, took with him more than half of the Order's membership, with the exception of Canada. The members in Paris appointed the Duc de Brissac Supreme Head of the Order, without naming him Grand Master. Gayre and the Duc de Nemours moved their faction's headquarters to the island of Malta and the appointed the Grand Master's nephew, Prince Michael of France, co-adjutor with right of succession to the Grand Magistracy. Gayre continued to travel and recruit extensively. The Duc de Nemours died suddenly in Paris in 1970 and the group on Malta found itself without a Grand Master. Prince Michael of France, the co-adjutor temporarily assumed the duties until a permanent replacement could be found. It was not long before Gayre decided to call upon don Francisco de Borbón in Madrid and propose to him that he return to the head of the largest faction in the Order. Don Francisco would be Grand Master, his seat would be in Madrid and he would have direct control over the Spanish jurisdiction. This was the fourth scission but it resulted in the Order's being reduced to two obediences, one known as the Paris obedience and the other, for convenience's sake called the Malta obedience because the Order's Grand Chancellory was situated there, and because Gayre maintained a residence on the island.
Maintaining a Grand Magistery in one country and a headquarters in another was bound to bring on problems, especially when the lines of communication between the Chancery and the Grand Magistery were hampered by the lack of a common language. In this case the Grand Master spoke only Spanish and French and Gayre spoke only English. Admittedly the Grand Chancellor, Chev Joseph Amato Gauci, did have an assistant who was familiar with Spanish, but the latter's duties as a Maltese civil servant left him little time for the affairs of the Grand Chancellory. While there were no official contacts between the two obediences during this period, members of the rank and file of each made efforts to convince their leaderships that the Order be reunified, if for no other reason than to better be able to withstand the attacks against the divided Saint Lazarus made by that segment of the European press which covered the activities of the European nobility, and others who specialized in heraldry and genealogy. Tentative contacts between members of each obedience were made, and it looked as if each leadership was coming around to the general principle of a reunification. The Canadians who had gone over to the Paris side and those Canadians who remained loyal to don Francisco decided to set an example and joined forces, pledging allegiance temporarily to a commonly elected Grand Prior of Canada. The Americans, who had been urging a reunification for some time, helped to arbitrate and welcomed this first step.
Dissatisfaction arose over the administration of the Order in Spain. Gayre, because he had delegated authority to the Grand Chancellor, Amato Gauci, and his assistant, was unable to control matters. The Grand Chancellor was perfectly aware of what was happening in the Grand Magistracy but, personally loyal to Don Francisco, did not see fit to influence him. Gayre, realizing his own lack of control decided that the problem required radical action and vowed to jettison the Grand Master and rejoin the Paris Obedience. His Beatitude Georges Hakim Maximis V, Melkite Patriarch of Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch and All the East, the Spiritual Protector, agreed to head a reunification committee to which don Francisco refused to name members, sensing a coup. Preliminary meetings took place at Philadelphia, Paris and London, to which Malta sent "observers." These deliberations resulted in a meeting in Washington in 1984 which was attended by the marquis de Brissac, representing his father, the Grand Master of the Paris Obedience, and don Francisco de Borbón y de Borbón, representing Malta. A declaration of intent to unify was drawn up at Washington which provided for both grand masters to step down and become "Grand Masters Emeriti" so that an election could be held to select a grand master for a unified Order. The representatives of Paris signed the declaration, don Francisco refused to sign, saying he had to consult his advisers and constituents on return to Madrid.
The Patriarch called for a chapter general at Oxford in 1986, which don Francisco refused to attend and ordered his followers to boycott. The Duc de Brissac gave up the reins of his obedience to his son, the marquis de Brissac, who was one of the three nominees at the Oxford election. The Malta Grand Master and the Prince zur Lippe were the others. The marquis won handily and was acclaimed as the 48th Grand Master by an overjoyed assemblage, who thought they had at last healed the breach. The Malta Grand Master refused to acknowledge the validity of the election and resolved to carry on as before. Instead of a reunification, a realignment occurred. The Paris obedience acquired the largest (more than 500 members) and richest of the Order's jurisdictions, that of the United States, as well those of England, Lochore (Gayre's personal jurisdiction), Holland, and several others. Germany, Austria, Italy and Hungary remained divided.
After the failed attempt at reunion, tempers flared at first, but as they gradually cooled down members of good will on both sides made new overtures. The members in the U.S. belonging to the Malta Obedience were incorporated in Paris Obedience Grand Priory of America for administrative purposes. Both divisions turned to their charitable efforts which both feel must be significant in order to justify their claim to be an Order of Chivalry. Efforts at reunification persisted culminating with the eventual stepping down of both Grand Masters – H.R.H Francisco de Paula de Borbón y de Escasany Grand Master: Malta Obedience and H.E. François de Cossé Marquis de Brissac Grand Master: Paris Obedience – both becoming emeriti. The two branches formally reunited September 2008 with the election of H.E. Carlos Gereda y de Borbón, Marquis de Almazan as the 49th Grand Master of the reunited Order. H.H. Francisco de Borbón y Escasany was appointed by a unanimous decision of the Chapter General Grand Master Emeritus. The Melkite Patriarch His Beatitude Gregory III remained the Spiritual Protector of the united Order.
The Order of Saint Lazarus is an ecumenical organization of Christian hospitallers whose spirit goes back to the Holy Land and the Crusades. The United looks to His Beatitude Gregory III, Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem and all the East, for spiritual support as the constitutional Spiritual Protector.
With the exception of the Teutonic Order, the Order of Saint Lazarus is the smallest of the orders so far mentioned. Its membership numbers approximately 7000 members in Grand Priories, Priories, Commanderies and Delegations in the five continents. The Order's traditional humanitarian activities are in the field of leprosy. It maintains leprosaria and dispensaries and sends medical supplies to various medical missions in Africa, and in the Pacific islands. A recent thrust of the American Grand Priory is the support of organ donation, led by its Hospitaller, the Deputy Surgeon General of the US. The Order is also involved in geriatric care for the needy, it operates several Volunteer Ambulance Corps including one for young drug addicts and directly supports a medical and religious mission in Kenya. Among the more noteworthy projects undertaken by the Order has been the weekly transport of basic food and medical supplies to Poland, Russia, Jugoslavia, Macedonia, Kosovo and the Asia Relief Project after the Tsunami disaster in Indonesia on the isle of Nias.
There are two categories of membership in the Order: Justice, for individuals able to submit nobiliary proofs, and Magistral Grace for those unable to do so. Christians may be admitted in the following grades: Member, Officer, Commander, Knight or Dame, Knight or Dame Commander, Knight or Dame Grand Cross. As a mark of the Grand Master's special esteem, the Order may also award a Collar to a head of State and very occasionally to its high dignitaries. The Order also confers decorations of merit to its members and to individuals not necessarily members of the Order who have contributed, by their service, to its humanitarian work.
The Order's badge is a green Maltese cross edged in gold, worn in different sizes according to rank. The decoration of merit is a green cross flory, with crossed swords in the angles, in the center of which is a circle surrounding the order's green Maltese cross on a white background. The badge depends from a green ribbon edged with purple. It is awarded in the same grades as that of the order. In the English-speaking jurisdictions of the Order members, use post-nominal initials indicating their rank (MLJ,OLJ,CLJ,KLJ,GCLJ) on internal correspondence, and in the ranks of KLJ and above refer to and address one another as "Chevalier".