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Short History

 

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 century.

 

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 Christ.

Last update 01 04 2006