History of the Order
Before the Crusades, there was, outside the walls of the Holy City, a leper hospital under the patronage of Saint Lazarus. It was under the jurisdiction of the Greek-Melkite Patriarchs of Jerusalem and served by Armenian monks. It was from this hospital that the Order of Saint Lazarus emerged.
In contrast to the other military and religious orders that established themselves in the Holy Land, which were dependent on the Latin Church, the Order of St Lazarus was under the jurisdiction of the Eastern Church.
After the Crusaders took Jerusalem in 1099, those knights who had contracted leprosy came to be cared for at the Hospital of Saint Lazarus, some of them remaining within the monastic community and taking vows while not abandoning their chivalric commitment. It was thus that the Order of St Lazarus acquired its final identity.
The Hospitallers of St Lazarus cared for lepers and were required to welcome into their number knights from other Orders who had been stricken by this disease. Together they constituted an army and fought for those values that are essential to life.
The Order of St Lazarus is a Christian Order, welcoming into its ranks without partiality Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox and Anglicans.
The coming of the Second World War saw the Order of St Lazarus organising, from 1940 onwards, an ambulance corps for the French front. During the occupation, it set up a corps of volunteer aid workers under the name "Volontaires de l’Ordre de Saint-Lazare", which saved many lives during the bombardments, particularly in Normandy and around Paris.
In 1945, its humanitarian and patriotic efforts were acknowledged by the French government, which conferred the Croix de Guerre on the Order’s Grand Capitular in recognition of the bravery of the Order of St Lazarus’ volunteers during the war.
Once war was over, the Knights of St Lazarus resumed their hospitaller work and their efforts to bring about unity among Christians. To this end, agreements were entered into with Raoul Follereau in order to resume the fight against leprosy, with, inter alia, dispensaries set up in Africa and a village for lepers built in Senegal.
The Order’s conferment of knighthood on Albert Schweitzer was an expression of its twin vocations of humanitarianism and Christian unity, and the Doctor and Pastor of Lambaréné became involved in the Order’s African projects.
As a consequence of all these endeavours, the Order of St Lazarus has been accorded official recognition by a number of states, among them Bolivia, Canada, Austria, Croatia and Hungary.
The Order gained new dynamism when, in September 2004, the Chapter General elected its 49th Grand Master in the person of His Royal Highness Prince Charles-Philippe d’Orléans, Duc d’Anjou.
Fuller history of the Order [PDF format]