Frequently Asked Questions - General

FAQs - General

The Order in the Holy Land is first recorded in a will making a donation to the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem in 1073. There is a document of donation from Louis VI to a Brotherhood of Saint Lazarus in France in 1112. Specific mention of the leprosarium outside the walls of Jerusalem was made in a travelogue dated 1128-1135. The Brothers of Saint Lazarus in Jerusalem were definitely acknowledged by Pope Gregory IX in 1234. The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus under Augustinian Rule was confirmed by Papal Bull Cum a nobis of Alexander IV in 1255.

The Order of Saint Lazarus had been originally founded by Papal authority, and hence could only be suppressed by a Papal order and not by any secular or temporal authority.  The Order of St. Lazarus was declared abolished (along with all other royally-awarded Orders) by the revolutionary French National Assembly in 1791, but these abolitions were not recognized by the Papacy or the restored French monarchy who continued these Orders. In 1825, King Charles X decreed that the Order was no longer awarded and “is to be allowed to become extinct”. Note the wording: he did not “abolish” the Order, since only the Pope could do so.  Under Canon Law extinction of an Order occurs 100 years after the death of the last member - the last living member admitted before the revolution died in 1856 and hence the Order would have become extinct in 1956. However, the Order was taken under the protection of the Melkite (Catholic) Patriarch of Antioch and All the East in 1841 (Pope Leo XIII gave the Patriarch jurisdiction over all Catholics in the Ottoman Empire in 1893) and re-organized in 1910, and so extinction was averted. The Order has thus been under the Spiritual Protection of the Patriarchs of Antioch for over 170 years.

Some critics maintain that the present Order is a new foundation dating from 1910. However, the Melkite (Catholic) Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem have maintained (most recently in the Kevelaer Declaration of 2012) that it came under their protection in 1841 and has been under this protection ever since. This is well within the time allowed to rescue an Order from extinction under Canon law (see above question). The Patriarchs supported a re-organization (note: not a new foundation) under new statutes in 1910 under the auspices of a group of French Catholics as a now secularized but still Catholic Order under the control of a Grand Master and protection of the Patriarch. The Greek Melkite church recognizes Roman primacy and dogmatic authority but retain their own canon laws, liturgy and privileges and are called “sister churches” rather than being administratively subordinate to Rome (and elect their Patriarch rather than having him appointed by Rome). The Patriarch, being sui juris (governing in its own right and not under the power of another jurisdiction), thus had full authority to accept the role of Protector. The Order is thus of Patriarchal, not Papal, right. It can hardly be claimed that the Greek Melkite Patriarchs don’t have the status to re-organize and rescue from extinction a Catholic-founded Order.

There is no easy answer to this. The Holy See, as the formal Vatican State, cannot recognize any Order other than its own Pontifical Orders and Chivalric Orders dependent on it – i.e. the Sovereign Military Order of Malta where the Supreme Pontiff appoints a Cardinal Patron, and the Order of the Holy Sepulcher whose Grand Master is a Cardinal appointed by the Pontiff – and those Orders granted by sovereign States with which it entertains diplomatic relations. Notwithstanding this, the Spiritual Protectors since 1841 have been the Patriarchs of Antioch, one of the highest-ranking Catholic prelates and with Catholic jurisdiction over the Ottoman Empire, and a number of Cardinals are protectors of individual jurisdictions. Furthermore, in 1992, Pope John Paul II officially received on a number of occasions senior members of the Order, and even celebrated a private Mass for members of the Order in his chapel.  Peter Bander van Duren notes that we need to distinguish between the Holy See (the Vatican State) and the Apostolic See (the Pope as head of the Church and successor of the Apostles). So a short answer is that the Order seems to enjoy Apostolic recognition, but not Vatican recognition.

Pope John Paul II with H.E. Chev. Klaus-Peter Pokolm, GCLJ, Grand Prior of the Humanitarian Grand Priory Europe.Pope John Paul II with H.E. Chev. Klaus-Peter Pokolm, GCLJ, Grand Prior of the Humanitarian Grand Priory Europe.

Pope John Paul II with members of the Order in the Vatican.

At one time in the past, the Vatican did not recognize the Order. However, on 16 October 2012 the Vatican Secretary of State revised and published the list of Orders recognized and limited it to those actually awarded by the Holy See (the Orders of Christ, the Holy Spur, St Gregory, St Sylvester, the Pian Order, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre). There are no other Orders listed, and no list of “false” orders now exists. The Vatican notes that all other Orders in the world, whether of recent origin or medieval foundation, are unrecognized. Further, as a Catholic-founded but now secularized, and since the 1960s ecumenical, Order, we are not a uniquely Catholic order nor subject to Papal recognition.
The Spiritual Protector of the Order is His Beatitude Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria and All the East, the senior Catholic prelate in the Oriental (Roman Catholic) church. The Ecclesiastical Grand Prior of the Order is Archbishop Michele Pennisi, Archbishop of Monreale, Sicily. Cardinal George Pell, Vatican Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy, is one of the Order’s senior chaplains, as are Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera (Archbishop of Mexico City) and Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda (Archbishop of Morelia). We maintain warm relations with the Apostolic See.

Yes, in the 1970s there were acrimonious splits, most notably into the "Malta" obedience under the (Spanish) Duke of Seville, and the "Paris" obedience under the (French) Duke of Brissac. However, it is important to note that these splits were formally resolved several years ago, under the Houston reunification agreement (2006), and the Norwich Agreements of unity followed by confirmatory Chapters-General in Vienna and  Manchester (2008). The Spiritual Protector encouraged these reunions and a new Grand Master for the reunited Order (Don Carlos Gereda y de Borbón, Marquis of Almazan and cousin of the Duke of Seville) was elected by the combined votes of the Knights and Dames at the Vienna and Manchester Chapters-General. A new constitution was adopted at Houston (2006) to which (following further reunification in 2008) Constitutional amendments have been recommended and accepted subject to the next Chapter-General. Copies of these agreements are under the "Constitution and bye-laws" tab in the Members area of this website.
Unfortunately, other groups as yet remain outside the unification process. French-based schismatic groups, known as the Orléans Obedience and the Saint Lazare International, were for a time under the protection of the Orléans branch of the French Royal family. However, in a communiqué dated 31 January 2014, the Count of Paris withdrew his support and temporal protection and that of his family from these fractions. Other small schismatic groups also exist often with only a local or regional base. The British-based Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem - United Grand Priories of the Order of Saint Lazarus was originally founded in 1995 as a new organization and does not claim to be a descendant of the historic Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem.

The oldest heraldic court in the world that is still in continuous operation – that of the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Scotland, a Great Officer of State of Queen Elizabeth II and head of the Court of the Lord Lyon – in 1967 confirmed in a matriculation to the Order the arms that it bore prior to 1672. This recognizes the Order as the continuation of the old Order of Saint Lazarus.

Yes. The Order has since the late 1960s been Ecumenical, welcoming Christians of any denomination, not just Roman Catholics. It includes Roman Catholics, Protestants, Greek and other Eastern Orthodox, and other Christian denominations. Membership is fairly evenly distributed between Catholics and Protestants. Non-Christians may not be members of the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem but may be awarded the Companionate of Merit of Saint Lazarus, and a number of non-Christian monarchs have been admitted to this latter Order.

It is incorrectly claimed that the Order became secular under the Bull of Clement XIV of 1772: however, that Bull held that members of the Order could not hold ecclesiastical benefices, but it did not alter the fact that it remained under Papal jurisdiction. As there was no alteration of the Order’s statutes or regulations until the reorganization of 1910, this is considered the date of secularization, although the Holy See did not formally indicate its lack of recognition, and thus relinquishment of jurisdiction, until 1935.

The turmoil of the French revolution had put an apparent end to formal admission ceremonies to the Order. This however did not prevent the ruling Grand Master Louis Stanislas Xavier de France, subsequently King Louis XVIII, from investing dignitaries into the Order of St. Lazarus. Notable among these were Tsar Paul I, his sons and members of the Russian Imperial Government, and King Gustav IV of Sweden and other members of the Swedish Court. Other French members appear to have been admitted during the Bourbon Restoration. In 1825, King Charles X, then serving as Protector of the Order, decreed that the Order was no longer awarded and “is to be allowed to become extinct”.  In spite of this, the Order continued to be listed in the official Almanach Royal until 1831 when all the Royal Orders recognized in 1824 had their recognition withdrawn. The members of the Order however remained active and continued to associate together. Loyal members of the Order continued to use their old titles well into the mid-nineteenth century. In 1841, the Order was placed under the spiritual protectorship of the Melkite (Catholic) Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem, and this may have initiated the Order’s support (recorded by Dumas in 1843) towards the building of the Mount Carmel Sanctuary in Haifa, Palestine completed in 1867.

The generally accepted translation of “Atavis et Armis” is “By Ancestors and Arms”.

The Order is a fully-functioning Christian and Hospitaller Order of Chivalry, which was originally founded for care of lepers who were pilgrims in the Holy Land. It also admitted knights and soldiers of the other two military orders, the Templars and the Hospitallers of St John, who had contracted leprosy. Its Hospitaller mission continues today in the same area. In 2011, over 2.3 million Euros (about $US 3 million) were expended on Hospitaller activities, including supporting hospices, support programmes for the elderly and disabled, disaster relief, social welfare programmes, and other health-related charities. Of note, some 10% of that was expended on Hansen’s Disease (leprosy)-related care and treatment projects in India, Africa, the Americas, Asia and the South Pacific, as a continuation of our historic special mission to lepers dating from the 12th century.

That was the title under which the Order of Chivalry was founded in 1255, related to activities in the Holy Land during the Crusades, and which it retains. Nowadays, we are “military” only in the sense that as an Ecumenical order we fight for Christian unity. We also fight for modern day lepers – both actual people with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy), and the sick, stigmatized, disadvantaged and rejected in society. Our beneficiaries and our work cover all religions and our partners in this work are as likely to be Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, or any other religion (or none), as Christian. Despite the historical appellation “military”, we see our work as a contribution to peace.

The traditional headquarters are those of the Order dating from the 12th century at Boigny, in France, and the Castello Lanzun, in Malta, which has been fully restored and also contains the Order’s archives. The Seat of the Order is in Madrid (the residence of the Grand Master) in the San Domingo el Real monastery, and the Chancellery and administrative Offices are in Washington DC.

The Order of Saint Lazarus has official government recognition from the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Croatia, and the Kingdom of Spain.


In Hungary, this is based on the agreement of 18 August 1993. The official Hungarian government communiqué of 9 September 2008 states that:
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that Hungary has interstate diplomatic relationship on Ambassador level only with the Sovereign Order of Knights of Malta based on an interstate agreement. This means that the Sovereign Order of Knights of Malta enjoy diplomatic immunity and rights on Hungarian soil, like in many other countries of the world.
Hungary maintains official relations with the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, the Hungarian Priory of the Order of Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and the Hungarian Chapter of the Johannita Order based on inter-governmental agreements. These orders are granted certain special rights and eases necessary for their charity activity.
Beyond the Orders listed above the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has neither official nor unofficial relations with any other Order.”
On 5 July 2011, The Hungarian Government formally accepted the appointment of Countess Éva Nyáry as the new Head of the Representative Office of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem in Hungary.


In Croatia, recognition is based on the Decree of June 2, 1992, UP/I-230-02/92-01/87, registered as number 514-04/02/-92-2, which “officially recognizes the Military and Hospitaller Order of Jerusalem with its own Constitution, Ordinances and Regulations...” It includes the paragraph:
“Article 3. Members of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem have the right to wear their own insignia, orders and decorations on the territory of Croatia as well as abroad, in conformity with the Regulations and Statutes of the Order and the laws of those countries.”


In Spain, the Order of 9 May 1940 (Boletin Official del Estado, Number 11, pages 3177-3178, published 10 May 1940) recognizes as an institution of official character the Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem and its public importance throughout the whole territory of the Nation. It concludes that:
“… its members have the right to use their badges and insignia as established in Article 12 of their statutes. ”
The Ministry of Defense of Spain has authorized, as recently as 13 January 2009, for military personnel to wear the decorations of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem on military uniform with official permission.


In addition, the Order is recognized and registered as a charity in the majority of the countries in which it operates, in accordance with the relevant local laws. 

eligious Military Orders founded during the Crusades (including the Hospitallers of Saint John, the Templars and the Teutonic Order) had their own Sovereign Head. They owed religious allegiance to the Pope but not temporal allegiance. The Order of Saint Lazarus has always had a Sovereign Head. In general, for orders founded post-1325 by monarchs, this is usually a temporal sovereign; however for Crusader orders founded before this date, the sovereign was the Grand Master (who owed spiritual, but not temporal, allegiance to the Pope). The Order was confirmed by Papal Bull Cum a nobis of Alexander IV in 1255 and in the Bull Inter assiduas of 1565, Pius IV granted the Order the same “privileges, immunities, jurisdictions, exemptions, … dispensations, grants, concessions, dispositions, honours, graces, hitherto conceded or in future to be conceded to the soldiers of St John of Jerusalem…” (Articles 165 & 166). In Sicut bonus agricola of Pius V in 1567, the same rights are repeated almost word for word in Article 68. The Grand Master of the Order thus has explicitly the same rights and privileges as that of the Order of St John (where the Grand Master has always been accepted to be the Sovereign Head). Paul V decreed in Pontifex Romanus (1607) that the Order of Mt Carmel’s “Grand Master who should be the Head and Sovereign of the same militia or order…” (Article II). The Orders of Mt Carmel and Saint Lazarus were amalgamated by a bull of Clement IX over the seal of Cardinal Legate de Vendôme, with the statutes of both orders definitive, and this union was confirmed as late as Militarium ordinum of Clement XIV in 1772: “…decree and confirm the same things … regarding each of the foregoing orders taken separately, now in the case of both orders joined together and perpetually united as one.” The documentary evidence that the Grand Master is identified as the Sovereign Head is clear and unambiguous and the argument that the Order requires some other sovereign is without merit, and based on an erroneous example of monarchially-founded orders post-1325.

Q&As are compiled by the Grand Officer of Arms, Professor Michael Ross; the Historian and Grand Archivist of the Order, Professor Charles Savona-Ventura; and the Vice Grand Justiciar, Mr. Justice Bernard Barton S.C.

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