This article concerns the former religious; Catholic-founded secular order of knighthood. For other uses of the name Lazarus, see Lazarus (disambiguation).
The Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem was an order of chivalry which originated in a leper hospital founded by Knights Hospitaller in the twelfth century by the crusaders of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Order of Saint Lazarus was one of the most ancient of the European orders of chivalry. It was originally established to treat the virulent disease of leprosy, its knights originally being lepers themselves. It is one of the less-known and less-documented orders.
From its foundation in the 12th century, the members of the Order were dedicated to two ideals: aid to those suffering from the dreadful disease of leprosy and the defense of the Christian faith.
The first mention of the Order of Saint Lazarus in surviving sources was in 1142. The order was initially founded as a leper hospital outside the city walls of Jerusalem, but hospitals were established all across the Holy Land dependant on the Jerusalem hospital, notably in Acre. It is unknown when the order became militarised but militarisation occurred before the end of the twelfth century due to the large numbers of Templars and Hospitallers sent to the leper hospitals to be treated. The order established ‘lazar houses’ across Europe to care for lepers, and was well supported by other military orders which compelled lazar brethren in their rule to join the order on contracting leprosy.
The Order of Saint Lazarus remained primarily a hospitaller order but it did take part in a number of battles including the Battle of La Forbie on 17 October 1244 where all of the lazar brethren who fought died and the Battle of Al Mansurah in 1250. The leper knights were protected by a number of able-bodied knights but in times of crisis the leper knights themselves would take up arms. The Order of Saint Lazarus quickly abandoned their military activities after the fall of Acre in 1291 and the dissolution of the Templars due to expense, being a relatively poor order.
In 1572, Pope Gregory XIII merged the Italian foundation of the Order of Saint Lazarus with the Order of Saint Maurice (founded in 1434) as the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus. This became a national order of chivalry on the unification of Italy in 1861, but has been suppressed by law since the foundation of the Republic in 1946. King Umberto II did not abdicate his position as fons honorum however, and the head of the former Royal House of Savoy remains the Order's Grand Master today.
In 1604 Henry IV of France declared protectorate of French Crown over French branch and in 1608 the Order was merged in union with Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel into Royal, Military,and Hospitaller Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Lazarus of Jerusalem. During 1660s the Order operated war ships in St. Malo against England.
Today, the "Lazarus-Hilfswerk" an accredited (international NGO) organisation is linked to the Order of St. Lazarus through the European Humanitarian Grand Priory, an jurisdiction which is standing under the direct patronage of the Grandmaster of the Order. The LHW has been engaged in a major charitable program to help people in need and to revive Christianity in Eastern Europe: Kithunia,Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, and the Near East: Lebanon, Syria, Palestine. Millions of dollars worth of food, clothing, medical equipment and supplies have been distributed in Poland, Hungary, Romania and Croatia, Lithuania,Macedonia, Bulgaria,Kosovo. Because of this experience, the European Community commissioned the accredited the Lazarus-Hilfswerk (Humanitarian Grand Priory Europe) to transport more than 21.000 tons in food to the hungry in Russia. By financial support of the Order the LHW (GP-EU)organized food-aid and manged reconstruction-projects after the Tsunami Catastrophe in Indonesia on the Isle of Nias the projects were cofinanced by ADH because of the NGO-membership of the LHW
Organisation's Official Websites:
Different and alternative views on St. Lazarus Order history:
ST, ORDER OF LAZARUS, a religious and military order founded in Jerusalem about the middle of the 12th century. Its primary object was the tending of the sick, especially lepers, of whom Lazarus (see Lazar) was regarded as the patron. From the 13th century, the order made its way into various countries of Europe - Sicily, Lower Italy and Germany (Thuringia); but its chief centre of activity was France, where Louis IX. (1253) gave the members the lands of Boigny near Orleans and a building at the gates of Paris, which they turned into a lazar-house for the use of the lepers of the city. A papal confirmation was obtained from Alexander IV. in 1255. The knights were one hundred in number, and possessed the right of marrying and receiving pensions charged on ecclesiastical benefices. An eight-pointed cross was the insignia of both the French and Italian orders. The gradual disappearance of leprosy combined with other causes to secularize the order more and more. In Savoy in 1572 it was merged by Gregory (at the instance of Emanuel Philibert, duke of Savoy) in the order of St Maurice (see Knighthood And Chivalry: Orders of Knighthood, Italy). The chief task of this branch was the defence of the Catholic faith, especially against the Protestantism of Geneva. It continued to exist till the second half of the 19th century. In 1608 it was in France united by Henry IV. with the order of Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel. It was treated with especial favour by Louis XIV., and the most brilliant period of its existence was from 1673 to 1691, under the marquis de Louvois. From that time it began to decay. It was abolished at the Revolution, reintroduced during the Restoration, and formall y abolished by a state decree of 1830.
See L. Mainbourg, Hist. des croisades (1682; Eng. trans. by Nalson, 1686); P. Helyot, Hist. des ordres monastiques (1714), pp. 2 57, 386; J. G. Uhlhorn, Die christliche Liebesthiitigkeit im Mittelalter (Stuttgart, 1884); articles in Herzog-Hauck's Realencyklopddie fiir protestantische Theologie, xi. (1902) and Wetzer and Welte's (Catholic) Kirchenlexikon, vii. (1891).