The History of the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem


Charles Savona-Ventura
University of Malta, Malta

Series: Religion and Spirituality
BISAC: REL062000

The Order of Saint Lazarus is a lesser known Crusader Order that saw its development in the wake of the First Crusade in the 12th century together with the more popularly known Crusader Orders – the Order of Saint John [Hospitallers] and the Order of the Temple [Templars]. Its original brief in the Kingdom of Jerusalem was to succour the victims of leprosy but eventually assumed a military role. Supported by various European Royal houses, the Order expanded its range of influence to Europe. Following political machinations, it saw itself divided into two main branches: 1. A Savoyan branch – the Order of Sts. Lazarus and Maurice; and 2. A French branch – the Order of Saint Lazarus and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Both Orders are still active today.

The book reviews in detail the history of the Order of Saint Lazarus from its conception to the modern period using whenever possible access to original documentation and contemporary texts. Unfortunately, much of what has been written about the Order in the past has been based on biased secondary sources which have had a specific agenda either to denigrate or to support the Order. By reviewing the history using primary sources, whenever possible, one would hope that the reader would be able to identify fact from fiction throughout the historical timeline. The Order’s raison d’etre has changed over the centuries from a specific hospitaller Order caring for victims of leprosy adding on a military role in later years, to a Chivalric Order enjoying Papal and French Royal protection, to a philanthropic Order enjoying the fons honorum of the Melkite Patriarch and eventually becoming increasing secular in an organization with a primary philanthropic role on an international scale.

The book targets a varied audience ranging from individuals interested in Medieval, Crusader and Military history, and is suitable for the non-academic readers such as current members of the present Orders of Saint Lazarus to undergraduate and postgraduate academic researchers. (Imprint: Nova)

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Medieval Pilgrim Services in the Holy Land

Chapter 2. The Brethren of Saint Lazarus in the Holy Land

Chapter 3. The Brethren of Saint Lazarus in Medieval Europe

Chapter 4. The Papal Bull <i>Cum solerti meditation pensamus</i> of 1489

Chapter 5. The French First Colonial Empire

Chapter 6. The Fused Orders of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and Saint Lazarus

Chapter 7. The Modern Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem


Index of Names


“It was in 1972 that I, as Chaplain, was contacted by a member of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem to conduct a memorial service for one of the inmates of the local prison. An inmate, still a young man, who had committed suicide. Suicide in prison happens frequently. For certain reasons my other Christian colleagues had no ear for the family and the friends of the deceased. I had never heard about this Order and had even little or no knowledge about any such Order! The service was held in a small church. The family and the friends were thankful. The fact that it happened in an (official) church was for most of the attendees a reason to be joyful. It meant that the deceased in any case was a human being. He was not — as people would say — put in a grave as a dog although some dogs get sometimes greater attention than a human being.

The fact that The Order of Saint Lazarus is not restricted to one instituted church is very important. It’s ecumenical in the right sense of the word; Roman Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Anglicans and members of other Christian denominations have always been active. Why? It is an Order; more Eastern than Western. It always was spiritually protected by the Eastern Church. To be exact: by the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate. It is one of the oldest Orders of Chivalry since 1841. Right now the ‘spiritual’ father is the patriarch Gregorius III Laham. Certainly many of such Orders were created in the wake of the Crusades. Its real origins are somehow shrouded in a haze of reality and myth (page 14). The Order base their existence and mission on the story that before the actual Crusades took place there was, outside the walls of Jerusalem, a hospital for lepers under the patronage of Saint Lazarus ( This book gives a clear picture of the Order; its quarrels, its schisms, its frustrations, its regional and national downfalls, its links with Governments and so often with the head of the Latin Church. The author reviews the Order in 7 chapters; Medieval Pilgrim Services in the Holy Land, The Brethren of the Order in the Holy Land, The Brethren of the Order in Medieval Europe, The Papal Bull Cum solerti meditation pensamus of 1489, The French First Colonial Empire, The Fused Orders of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and Saint Lazarus, & The Modern Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem. Certainly important are the aims of today’s evolution and philanthropic activities as seen in the light of our secular world. One of the important witnesses in the world of its humanitarian vocation was the fact that the theologian, missionary and medical doctor Albert Schweitzer (died 1965) was one of the prominent chevaliers. This book is both a well documented report (10 pages bibliography!) and an invitation to respect and to put into practice the message of Christian love and care for our fellowman in present-day society.” -Chris Vonck, Rector FVG, published in Acta Comparanda XXVI

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