One of the oldest and most
deeply respected confraternities of chivalry in Christendom, the Military and
Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem was established at the Infirmary
of Saint Lazarus in the year 1098, during the First Crusade. A leprosarium, the
infirmary was located outside the walls of Jerusalem -near the legendary home of
Saint Lazarus, where it had been long maintained by an ancient hospitaller
brotherhood according to tradition founded by Saint Basil the Great in the 4th
The Order of Saint Lazarus
was the only chivalric organisation caring for the needs of lepers, outcasts who
roamed the Near East and Europe throughout the Middle Ages. Known as Lazarists
or Lazarites, members of the Order specialised in caring for lepers and
ministering to those afflicted with other contagious diseases, as well. In order
to protect these victims of disease from maltreatment and to defend their leper
hospices against the infidels, the Order assumed a military role.
In the 13th century, the
Order of Saint Lazarus transferred its activities from Jerusalem to Acre in
preparation for the final defence of the Holy Land. After the fall of Acre and
the expulsion of all Christians from the Holy Land, the Order moved its
headquarters to France, where it came under the protection of the Royal House.
From there, the Order gradually extended its influence across Europe,
establishing numerous leper hospitals (known as lazar-cotes or lazarettes) in
France, Spain, Italy, England. Scotland, Germany, Hungary and Switzerland.
During the Middle Ages,
the Order of Saint Lazarus fulfilled a dual mission. As a military power, it
operated a flotilla of warships in the Mediterranean to protect important sea
routes against pirates and marauders. At the same time, the Hospitallers of
Saint Lazarus protected and treated the victims of Europe's most dreaded
scourge. Today in Paris the district of St. Lazare derives its name from one of
the important medical centers established by the Order.
The decline in incidence
of leprosy in the West reduced the need for special sanitaria. The 20th century
brought new challenges and new opportunities for Christian endeavour: a growing
spirit of ecumenism brought a need for Christian unity and relief for the
victims of oppression around the world, especially those devastated by the
break-up of the Communist empire.
The contributions of the
Order have grown to the point that it is considered a major force in
humanitarian activity The ecumenic activities have been recognised with the Pope
John XXIII Award. The Order endeavours to maintain the Christian presence in the
Holy Land by the construction and maintenance of medical facilities in the Old
City of Jerusalem and in other Christian communities. In recent years the Order
has been engaged in a major program to restore Christianity in Eastern Europe.
Millions of dollars worth of food, clothing, medical equipment and supplies have
been distributed in Poland, Hungary, Romania and Croatia. Because of this
expertise, the European Community commissioned the Order to transport more than
one and a half billion dollars in food to the starving in Russia, resulting in
new laurels for the Lazarus volunteers. Since autumn 2004 the Order once again
enjoys the traditional patronage of the Crown of France and is therefore the
only branch with a "fons honorum"..
Today, more than 900 years
after its birth, the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus remains
actively engaged in service to mankind, keeping faith with a tradition dating
back to the Crusades. As in those days long ago but now on a world wide scale,
the Hospitallers of Saint Lazarus perpetuate the noble ideals of honour,
integrity and charity through the relief of suffering, in the imitation of
Last update 01 04 2006