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History of the Order

Saint Lazarus hospital located just outside the walls of Jerusalem created the foundation of The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem 1098. Gerard Tenque who was the first Grand Master of the Order also founded The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (later known as the Order of Malt). The first Papal bull who confirms The Order was signed on the date of February 15th, 1113.

The Order of Saint Lazarus was the only Chivalry Order with dedication curing leprosy; these people became an outcast group in the medieval Europe and Middle East. To defend themselves during the crusades the Order developed a military branch starting 1123. The military history of the Order includes the battle at la Forbie 1244, Al Mansurah 1250 and the defence of Acre 1291. 

After the fall of Acre and the eviction of Christians from the Holy land one branch was settled in the headquarters in Boigny, France, where it received protection under the French crown through King Philippe IV’s in 1308. From this point The Order developed gradually and founded several hospitals in France, Spain, Italy, England, Scotland, Germany, Hungary and Switzerland for the victims of Leprosy. 

The other branch of The Order with its headquarter in Capua in Italy were in direct control under The Holy See. In 1572 Pope Gregorius XIII merged the Capua branch with The Order of Saint Mauritius. From the second half of 15th century there were several trials from the Holy See to get in control of the French branch, which were contradicted by the French Royal family and The Order itself. 

During the French revolution all royal orders were restrained in France. All properties (Chateau de Boigny, military academy and hospitals) got confiscated. The Grand Master at the time, Prince Louis Stanislas Xavier of France left the country and continued his office in exile to the day he could return as King Louis XVIII 1814. At that time he left his position as Grand Master but remained as temporal protector. King Louis XVIII succeeded Karl X in 1824 and was the temporal protector until 1830, when he was forced to abdicate. After his abdication the Order continued without Royal temporal protection until 2004 when HRH Henri, Count of Paris, Duke of France, Chairman of the French Royal family, brought The Order under Royal temporal protection. 

From 1840 to this day The Order remains under spiritual protection of the Greek-Melkitisk Catholic Church. The ecumenical agitation growth after 20th century world wars has characterized the Order, that today remains under spiritual protection from Anglo-Saxon and Lutheran Bishops and one roman-catholic cardinal. The order was assigned Pope Johannes XXIII’s price for it’s ecumenical work. The patriarch from the Greek-Melktic Catholic Church was head of the Order from 1841 and in 1910 Cyril VIII assigned Paul Watrin as Chancellor of the Order. During his governance the order continued to develop and in 1841 Francisco de Paula de Borbón y de la Torre, duke of Seville was elected to Grand Master of the Order. 

Since the en of 1960th, the order has been divided into two obeidences with separated Grand Masters, Paris and Malta. Both obeidences are driving major aid operations.

Today, more than 900 years after it’s advent, the Order continues it’s work to service mankind to defend Christianity. Same as in the ancient times but now in a global community, the order keeps it’s its believes of love to ease burdens for people in need and inspire members to a life following guidelines of Jesus Christ.

The purpose of the order is: 

  • to maintain and defend Christianity, 
  • to help and support vulnerable and ill people, particularly those who suffer from leper. 
  • to promote and perpetuate principles of Christian Chivalry and 
  • to operate in a Christian unity.

Leprosy decreases to be almost extinct and replaced by public health care the presumptions for the Order has changed. Medical and social engagements of The Order have grown to position The Order as an important international aid agency. The Priory of Sweden has focused to be involved in medical support operations in Senegal, Gambia and Baltic countries during decades. These continuous operations have created a history of aid support and further reading is found under Hospitaller operations.