Saturday 26 February 2011


I thought this extract from a short work by ROBERT CHARLES HOPE, F.S.A., F.R.S.L., might be of interest to members.

It is from a lecture delivered in Christ Church Schoolroom, Scarborough, on Thursday, March 5th, 1891.


There was a special order of Knights founded very early, in Jerusalem, united to the general order of the Knights Hospitallers, whose especial province was to look after the sick, particularly Lepers.... We first hear of them in England, in the reign of King Stephen, when they seem to have made their headquarters at Burton-Lazars, near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, where a rich and famous Lazar House was built by a general subscription throughout the country, and greatly aided by the munificence of Robert de Mowbray. The Lazar-houses of S. Leonard’s, Sheffield; Tilton, in Leicestershire; Holy Innocents’, Lincoln; S. Giles’, London; SS. Mary and Erkemould, Ilford, Essex; and the preceptory of Chosely, in Norfolk, besides many others, were annexed to it, as cells containing fratres leprosos de Sancto Lazaro de Jerusalem. The house received at least 35 different charters, confirmed by various sovereigns. Camden in his Britannia, p. 447, says that “The masters of all the smaller Lazar-houses in England, were in some sort subject to the Master of Burton Lazars, as he himself was, to the Master of the Lazars in Jerusalem.”

The rules of these Lazar-houses were very strict. The inmates were allowed to walk within certain prescribed limits only, generally a mile from the house. They were forbidden to stay out all night, and were not on any account permitted to enter the bakehouse, brewhouse, and granary, excepting the brother in charge, and he was not to dare to touch the bread and beer, since it was “most unfitting that persons with such a malady, should handle things appointed for the common use of men.” A gallows was sometimes erected in front of the houses, on which offenders were summarily despatched from this world, for breach of the rules.

The comforts in these houses varied greatly as the house was richly, or poorly endowed. At some of the smaller ones, the inmates would seem to have depended almost, if not entirely, on the precarious contributions of the charitably disposed for their very sustenance. At Beccles, in Suffolk, one of the Lepers of S. Mary Magdalene’s, was by a royal grant empowered to beg on behalf of himself and his brethren. Sometimes, these poor and wretched outcasts would sit by the roadside, with a dish placed on the opposite side, to receive the alms of the good Samaritans that passed by, who would give them as wide a berth as possible. The Lepers were not allowed to speak to a stranger, lest they should contaminate him with their breath. To attract attention, they would clash their wooden clappers together.

In the larger and richer houses, the inmates were well provided for. The account of the food supplied to the inmates of the Lazar House of S. Julian, at S. Albans, c. 1335-1349, is very curious:— “Let every Leprous brother receive from the property of the Hospital for his living and all necessaries, whatever he has been accustomed to receive by the custom observed of old, in the said Hospital, namely—Every week seven loaves, five white, and two brown made from the grain as thrashed. Every seventh month, fourteen gallons of beer, or 8d. for the same. Let him have in addition, on the feasts of All Saints, Holy Trinity, S. Julian, S. John the Baptist, S. Albans, The Annunciation, Purification, Assumption, and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for each feast, one loaf, one jar of beer, or 1d. for the same, and one obolus[a] which is called the charity of the said Hospital; also, let every Leprous brother receive, at the feast of Christmas, forty gallons of good beer, or 40d. for the same; two qrs. of pure and clean corn—which is called the great charity; also at the Feast of S. Martin, each Leper shall receive one pig from the common stall, or the value in money, if he prefer it.” The pigs were selected by each leper according to his seniority in having become an inmate; also, each Leper shall receive on the Feast of S. Valentine, for the whole of the ensuing year, one quarter of oats; also, about the feast of S. John the Baptist, two bushels of salt, or the current price; also, on the feast of S. Julian, and at the feast of S. Alban, one penny for the accustomed pittance; also, at Easter, one penny, which is called by them ‘Flavvones-peni’; also, on Ascension Day, one obolus for buying pot herbs; also, on each Wednesday in Lent, bolted corn of the weight of one of their loaves; also, on the feast of S. John the Baptist, 4s. for clothes; also, at Christmas, let there be distributed in equal portions, amongst the Leprous brethren, 14s. for their fuel through the year, as has been ordained of old, for the sake of peace and concord; also, by the bounty of Our Lord the King, 30s. 5d. have been assigned for ever for the use of the Lepers, which sum, the Viscount of Hertford has to pay them annually, at the feasts of Easter and Michaelmas.

At the Lazar House, dedicated in honour of “The Blessed Virgin, Lazarus, and his two sisters Mary and Martha,” at Sherburn, Durham, which accommodated no less than 65 Lepers, a more varied, and at the same time less complex dietary was in vogue. The daily allowance was a loaf of bread weighing 5 marks and a gallon of ale to each; and betwixt every two, one mess or commons of flesh, three days in the week, and of fish, cheese, and butter, on the remaining four. On high festivals, a double mess, and in particular on the Feast of S. Cuthbert. In Lent, fresh salmon, if it could be had, if not, other fresh fish; and on Michaelmas Day, four messed on one goose. With fresh flesh, fish, or eggs, a measure of salt was delivered. When fresh fish could not be had, red herrings were served, three to a single mess; or cheese and butter by weight; or three eggs. During Lent, each had a razer of wheat to make furmenty, and two razers of beans to boil; sometimes greens or onions; and every day, except Sunday, the seventh part of a razer of bean meal; but on Sundays, a measure-and-a-half of pulse to make gruel. Red herrings were prohibited from Pentecost to Michaelmas, and at the latter, each received two razers of apples. They had a kitchen and cook in common, with utensils for cooking, etc.:—A lead, two brazen pots, a table, a large wooden vessel for washing, or making wine, a laver, two ale and two bathing vats. The sick had fire and candles, and all necessaries, until they became convalescent or died.

Each Leper received an annual allowance for his clothing, three yards of woollen cloth, white or russet, six yards of linen, and six of canvas. Four fires were allowed for the whole community. From Michaelmas to All Saints, they had two baskets of peat, on double mess days; and four baskets daily, from All Saints to Easter. On Christmas Day, they had four Yule logs each a cartload, with four trusses of straw; four trusses of straw on All Saints’ Eve, and Easter Eve; and four bundles of rushes, on the Eves of Pentecost, S. John the Baptist, and S. Mary Magdalene; and on the anniversary of Martin de Sancta Cruce, every Leper received 5s. 5d. in money.

This luxurious living was not without its leaven. The rules of the House were strict, and enforced religious duties on its inmates, of a most severe and austere nature. All the Leprous brethren, whose health permitted, were required daily to attend Matins, Nones, Vespers, and Compline.

The bed-ridden sick were enjoined to raise themselves, and say Matins in their bed; and for those who were still weaker, “let them rest in peace.” During Lent and Advent, all the brethren were required to receive corporal discipline three days in the week, and the sisters in like manner.
From the rules of the Lazar House of SS. Mary and Erkemould, at Ilford in Essex, which accommodated 13 Lepers—we learn, in 1336, that the inmates were ordered “to preserve silence, and, if able, to hear Mass and Matins throughout, and whilst there, to be intent on prayer and devotion. In the hospital, every day, each shall say for morning duty a Pater-noster and Ave Maria thirteen times; and for the other hours of the day—1st, 3rd, and 6th of Vespers; and again, at the hour of concluding service, a Pater-noster and Ave Maria seven times; besides the aforesaid prayers each Leper shall say a Pater-noster and Ave Maria thirty times every day, for the founder of the Hospital—the Abbess of Barking, 1190—the Bishop of the place, all his benefactors, and all other true believers, living or dead; and on the day on which any one of their number departs from life, let each Leprous brother say in addition, fifty Paters and Aves three times, for the soul of the departed, and the souls of all diseased believers.” Punishment was meted out to any who neglected or shirked these duties.

As soon as a man became a prey to the disease, his doom on earth was finally and irrevocably sealed. The laws, both civil and ecclesiastical, were awful in their severity to the poor Leper; not only was he cut off from the society of his fellow-men, and all family ties severed, but, he was dead to the law, he could not inherit property, or be a witness to any deed. According to English law Lepers were classed with idiots, madmen, outlaws, etc.

The Church provided a service to be said over the Leper on his entering a Lazar House. The Priest duly vested preceded by a cross, went to the abode of the victim. He there began to exhort him to suffer with a patient and penitent spirit the incurable plague with which God had stricken him. Having sprinkled the unfortunate Leper with Holy Water, he conducted him to the Church, the while reading aloud the beginning of the Burial Service. On his arrival there, he was stripped of his clothes and enveloped in a pall, and then placed between two trestles—like a corpse—before the Altar, when the Libera was sung and the Mass for the Dead celebrated over him.

After the service he was again sprinkled with Holy Water, and led from thence to the Lazar House, destined for his future, and final abode, here on earth.

A pair of clappers, a stick, a barrel, and a distinctive dress were given to him. The costume comprised a russet tunic, and upper tunic with hood cut from it, so that the sleeves of the tunic were closed as far as the hand, but not laced with knots or thread after the secular fashion of the day. The upper tunic was to be closed down to the ankles, and a close cape of black cloth of the same length as the hood, for outside use.

A particular form of boot or shoe, laced high, was also enjoined, and if these orders were disobeyed the culprit was condemned to walk bare-footed, until the Master, considering his humility said to him “enough.” An oath of obedience and a promise to lead a moral and abstemious life was required of every Leper on admission. The Bishops of Rome from time to time issued Bulls, with regard to the ecclesiastical separation and rights of the afflicted.

The whole text can be found here.

Saturday 19 February 2011

Impression from a seal matrix of Burton Lazars hospital

Having received a gift of land from the Earl of Arundel at Wymondham, Norfolk, in c1146, the Order of St Lazarus became properly established in England somewhere around 1157 after his noble cousin, Roger de Mowbray, had returned from the Second Crusade. Mowbray must have known of the Lazarite hospital of Jerusalem, and with the support of King Henry II he granted a manor and lands to the Order for the foundation of a leper hospital in Leicestershire. The veteran crusader and patron of several monastic orders died in the Holy Land in 1188. The Preceptory he founded near Melton Mowbray became known as Burton Lazars, a name that remains to this day. It prospered and attracted further patrons, including King Edward I.

AD 1400-1500
Found in Suffolk, England

The Latin inscription on this seal refers to Burton Lazars in Leicestershire, the chief English house of the Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem. Length: 60 mm; Width: 39.5 mm
The British Museum PE MLA 1887,0727.31

For a fascinating account of the Seal and its discovery see this article by Dr David Marcombe, Director of the Centre for Local History at the University of Nottingham, and the author of Leper Knights: the order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem in England, c.1150–1544.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

40th Grand Master - Philippe de Courcillon, Marquis de Dangeau

Philippe de Courcillon, marquis de Dangeau,

Grand Master of the Order of St. Lazarus and Mount Carmel, by Hyacinthe Rigaud.

On 24 December 1693 King Louis XIV chose Philippe de Courcillon, Marquis de Dangeau as Grand Master of the united orders of St Lazarus and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In a religious ceremony Dangeau then swore loyalty to the king on 18 December 1695. His reception as head of the Order was celebrated with great pomp on 29 January in a church in Versailles. The new Grand Master sought to raise the prestige of the order.

Louis XIV receives the oath of Dangeau as Grand Master, 18 Dec 1695, by Antoine Pesey.
(source: Ministère de la Culture, base de données Joconde.)

Dangeau's major innovation was the establishment of family (sometimes styled hereditary) Commanderies, actually called "Gradual, Masculine and Perpetual Commanderies" in an act that received royal approval on 9 December 1693. Members of the Order, with the agreement of the Grand Master and Council, were permitted to establish a family property (or donation of funds) as a Commandery. Knights who made such donations were regarded as "Founder Commanders". [Commandeur fondateur] Certain of these Commanderies could be established with the right of succession to a Commandery, and heirs of such Commanderies who could prove their Catholic faith could apply for the Cross of the united Orders with no further requirements. Inheritance of a "gradual and perpetual" Commandery did not automatically confer knighthood in Saint Lazarus as the would-be knight still had to apply for the Cross and be received as a member according to the forms required in the Statutes. Six "gradual and perpetual" Commanderies were established initially, of which one ceased to exist with the renunciation of its founder. The first was that of the des Courtils family, the Commandery of La Motte (1701), then that of Saint François, of the Bailleul family (1710), that of Saint Charles, of the Bory family (1711), the fourth that of Saint Michel de Bruxelles (1712), and the fifth that of Saint Anthony of Castille, founded in 1712 by a Spanish nobleman. That of Saint Eulalie of Barcelona, founded in 1709, converted to "gradual and perpetual" in 1711, ceased to be such when the Commander, Don Juan Graëls, renounced the right to nominate a successor in 1714.

During Dangeau's administration there were four hundred and thirty five new members received, with many being unable to make the proofs for Knight of "Justice". Dangeau was succeeded in 1720 by Prince Louis de Bourbon, Duc d'Orléans, the son and heir of the French Regent, Philippe, Duke of Chartres.

Arms of Philippe de Courcillon, Marquis de Dangeau (1693 - 1720)
He bore: Argent, a Bend lozengy Gules, in chief a Lion rampant Sable.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

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Monday 14 February 2011

41st Grand Master - Prince Louis de Bourbon, Duc d'Orléans

41st Grand Master of the Order, Prince Louis de Bourbon, Duc d'Orléans,
Chartres, Valois, Nemours et Montpensier (1720-1752)

In 1720, the duc d'Orléans became Grand Master of the Order of Saint Lazarus, a title he held until his death in 1752. From 1720 to 1745 under his leadership 175 knights were appointed to the Order. As of 1741, the order had 591 members, of whom 440 were knights.

In 1742, the pious duke decided to retire to the Abbaye Sainte-Geneviève de Paris. From then on, he became known as Louis le Génovéfain and seems to have lost all interest in the management of the order, and no further appointments were made. The orders' maritime activities (around 10 ships) ceased after 1748. As he retired into private life, Louis spent his time translating the Psalms. Like his cousin, the Duke of Penthièvre, he was praised for his charitable works. After the birth of his son, Louis was often preoccupied with the education of his son.

He died in 1752, at the age of forty-eight, at the Abbaye de Sainte Geneviève, having lost most of his sanity. On his deathbed, on suspicion of Jansenist views, he was refused communion by the Abbé Bouettin of the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont church, but was given the last rites by his own chaplain. Louis d'Orléans had outlived all his siblings apart from Charlotte Aglaé, the Duchess of Modena and Reggio, and was buried at the Val-de-Grâce in Paris.

Louis was praised for his piety and his charity; in Versailles the now destroyed College d'Orléans was named after him due to his generous patronage of the college's construction. He also remodelled the gardens at the Palais-Royal as well as the Orléans country residence, the Château de Saint-Cloud (c.1735). Louis also gave generous financial aid to victims of floods in the Loire in 1731 and again 1740. In all of this he showed the true spirit of the Order of St Lazarus and proved himself a worthy Grand Master.
After the duke's death in 1752, the order was without a Grand Master for several years.

Jetton with the arms of Louis d'Orléans, Grand Master of the Royal Military and Hospitaller Orders of St. Lazarus and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Source: Compagnie Générale de Bourse, Paris, France

Arms of Louis d'Orléans, Duke of Chartres, later Duke d'Orléans (1720 - 1752)
He bore: Azure, three Fleur de lys Or, a Label Argent.

Friday 11 February 2011

43rd Grand Master - Prince Louis-Stanislas-Xavier de France, Comte de Provence, Duc d’Anjou

Prince Louis-Stanislas-Xavier de France, Comte de Provence, Duc d’Anjou (1773-1814)
Brother of King Louis XVI, later King Louis XVIII (from 1814)
43rd Grand Master of the Order of St. Lazarus (and Mount Carmel)
by François Hubert Drouais. (source: Ministère de la Culture, base de données Joconde.)

I found this interesting jetton being sold by price €95. (The Grand Prior of Great Britain has now purchased this jetton!) It commemorates the Order's 43rd Grand Master - in fact the last Grand Master until 1930! (the Order was under the direction of the Council of Officers from 1814 - 1841 & the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchs from 1841 - 1930). On becoming titular king, in 1795, as Louis XVIII, the Comte de Provence became ‘Protector’ of the Order (no Grand Master was appointed). He reigned until 1824 and was suceeded by his brother Charles X. He was ousted in 1830 and died in exile.

Jetton with the arms of Louis-Stanislas-Xavier, fils de France, brother of the king, Grand Master of the Royal Military and Hospitaller Orders of St. Lazarus and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The arms are quarterly France a bordure indented gules and argent a cross vert, cross and collar of the order, mantle, crown of a prince du sang, and the motto Atavis et Armis on a scroll.

The date 1773 refers to his installation as grand-master, not the date of the jetton which must date from after 1774
. Source: Compagnie Générale de Bourse, Paris, France

Arms of the 43rd Grand Master
Louis Stanislas Xavier de France, Count of Provence
He bore: Quarterly, I and IV, France, II and III, Azure, a Fleur de lys Or, in chief a Label Gules (Provence).

Monday 7 February 2011

Declaration of Legitimacy of the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem


Oxford 5 February 2011

Notification n° 02/011
Declaration of Legitimacy

In accordance with the Constitutional Charter of The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem ("The Order") and in full concordance with the Constitutional Council, the Governing Council of Heads of all national Jurisdictions wherein the Order is represented, and with the Grand Magistry of the Order hereby declare:

i. That the Constitutional Charter drawn up by the duly appointed Constitutional Council under mandate of the Governing Council of the Order, confirmed in writing by the Temporal Protector, and unanimously adopted by all members of the Governing Council entitled to vote at its meeting held in Prague on September 21 2006 is, as approved by the 2006 Chapter General, the sole Constitution Governing the Order.

ii. That the temporal protection of the Order guaranteed by H.R.H. the Count of Paris, Duc de France, Head of the Royal House of France, as its fons honorum assures the traditional and historical legitimacy of the Order, with the added grace of ensuring that The Order is not in the patrimony of the Royal House of France.

iii. That this sole and unique legitimacy of the Order is represented exclusively by the Grand Master of the Order and provides the Order, according to ancient tradition, with its sole Supreme Head.

iv. That the unanimous and lawful election by all members of the Order entitled to vote in the Chapter General held in 2004 in the Chateau Royal de Blois of H.R.H. Prince Charles-Philippe d'Orléans, Duc d'Anjou, as the legitimate and legal 49th Grand Master of the Order.

v. That according to The Constitutional Charter Article 20, paragraph 20.1 and to article 24, paragraph 24.6 H.E. Jan Count Dobrzenský z Dobrzenicz was lawfully elected by all members entitled to vote in the Chapter General held in November 2010 in the Chateau La Ferté near Orléans and installed in the Cathedral of Orléans as the 50th Magnus Magister circa et ultra maria, Praeceptor Boignaci.

vi. That the Order professes and continues to maintain its historic ties with the Roman Catholic Church and its Spiritual Protection, thus ensuring the authentic ecumenical character of the Order, whose members are drawn from the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions as a Christian Brotherhood.

vii. That all members of the Order remain free to practice their Christian Faith according to the ecclesiastical tradition of their choice, in ecumenical harmony with their fellow brothers and sisters, and for the greater glory of God and the service of the Order.

viii. That all who are loyal to their investiture oath of obedience to the hierarchy of the Order remain honourable members, fulfilling the spiritual, charitable, and traditional aims of the Order.

In Consequence of the above, The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem neither authorises nor has any relation with any association or self-styled Order which, though representing itself with similar names, customs, or symbols, is not under the jurisdiction of the sole legitimate Grand Master of the Order, H.E. Jan Count Dobrzenský z Dobrzenicz, 50th Grand Master.

A list of such associations, which sow confusion in the public perception and thus bring themselves and the Order into disrepute, is maintained by the Grand Secretariat. They, and they alone, bear the full responsibility of their acts.

The Order, its Officers, and Members strongly condemn those who under the pretext of the Green Cross indulge in words and actions that, in the end, replace the true raison d'etre of the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, which is to assist the Poor, the Sick, the Needy, and especially those who are in need of a Compassionate Heart.

Proclaimed in the month of February in the year of Our Lord 2011.

The Constitutional Council -- The Governing Council -- The Grand Magistry -- The Membership


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Sunday 6 February 2011

Papal Bull of Pope Innocent III

Members may be interested in this Papal Bull, dated June 8, 1216, promulgated by Pope Innocent III (1160-1216). The manuscript on vellum concerns the rights of the Order, and was donated to Washington State College, U.S.A., by the Friends of the Library in 1951.

(The following is quoted from the documentation by Paul Philemon Kies accompanying the papal bull, on file in Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections)

"This bull was executed at Perugia (Italy), where the great Pope died only thirty-eight days later (July 16, 1216). It confirms the rights and property of the order of St. Lazarus, which 'was a religious and military order founded in Jerusalem about 1150 A.D. Its primary object was the tending of the sick, especially lepers, of whom Lazarus was regarded as the patron saint. In the 13th century the order made its way into various countries of Europe--Sicily, Lower Italy, Germany, and esp. France. In 1253, Louis IX 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.' (Ency. Brit.)

"Being dated June 8, 1216, the present bull seems to indicate an earlier papal confirmation than at present known to historians. The particular house whose possessions and rights were confirmed by this document evidently was at Caen, France--if the first word of the second line (an abbreviation) is correctly interpreted as 'Caenensis.'

"Because some of the words are practically obliterated and abbreviations are freely used, this document was hard to decipher. Special thanks are due to Dr. F. F. Potter and Prof. Louis McNew for assistance in the task."

INNOCENTIUS, episcopus, servus servorum Dei, dilectis filiis, magistro et fratribus domus leprosariae Sancti Lazari a cruce

Caenensis, salutem et apostolicam benedictionem. Cum a nobis petitur quod iustum est et honestum tam vigor aequitatis

quam ordo exigit rationis, ut id per sollicitudinem officii nostri ad debitum perducatur effectum. Eapropter, dilecti in Domino filii, vestris iustis precibus inclinati, personas et domum vestram cum omnibus bonis quae impraesentiarum rationabiliter possidetis aut infuturum iustis modis praestante Domino poteritis adipisci sub beati Petri et nostra protectione suscipimus. Specialiter autem possessiones et alia bona vestra sicut ea omnia iuste ac pacifice possidetis, vobis et per vos eidem domui vestrae auctoritate apostolica confirmamus, et praesentis scripti patrocinio communimus. Nulli ergo omnino hominum liceat hanc paginam nostrae protectionis et confirmationis infringere vel ei ausu temerario contraire. Si quis autem hoc attemptare praesumpserit, indignationem omnipotentis Dei et beatorum Petri et Pauli apostolorum eius, se noverit incursurum.

Datum Perusii vi idus Junii pontificatus nostri Anno Nonodecimo

INNOCENT, bishop, servant of the servants of God, [sends] greetings and the apostolic blessing to the beloved sons, the abbot and brothers of the leper house of St. Lazarus of the Cross at Caen [?]. Since a thing just and honorable is asked of us, not only the power of justice but also the order of reason demands that it be led to its proper conclusion through the care of our office. Wherefore, beloved sons in the Lord, being swayed by your just prayers, we take under the protection of St. Peter and ourselves your persons and your house with all the goods which you reasonably possess or in the future will be able to possess in a just manner in the presence of God. And especially the possessions and all your other goods such as you possess justly and peacefully we confirm to you and through you to your house by our apostolic authority, and we fortify this confirmation with the protection of the present document. Let it be permitted to no man to violate or, in rash daring, to act contrary to this page of our protection. If anyone, however, will presume to attempt this, he will know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of Blessed Peter and Paul, His apostles.

Given at Perugia on the 8th day of June in the 19th year of our pontificate [1216].

Friday 4 February 2011

The Order of St. Lazarus in the Latin East

By Natalie Kohout

Natalie has kindly allowed us to post this interesting piece on the history of the Order. It was the "Grand Prize winning article of the 2005 Grand Medieval Historian Competition".

Natalie Kohout is originally from southern California, but now lives in Michigan. She graduated in 2005 from the California State University of Fullerton with a Bachelor of Arts in history and a minor in anthropology, and in 2010 completed a Masters of Arts in history at Wayne State University. After completing her masters, she began teaching history at Baker College of Clinton Township. Medieval Europe is her chosen area of study with a special interest in lepers and their interaction with medieval society.

The First Crusade culminated with the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, and within decades new institutions military orders were founded in the newly claimed Latin East.(1) These orders consisted of members who lived according to rules which resembled existing monastic regulations. The defining feature of these orders was that this religious way of life was combined with fighting.(2) They existed as the only authority to hold an always ready standing army. These orders also had many rights of exemption and often pursued their own policies, in effect making them a state within a state.(3) The Knights Templar, the Knights of St John and the Teutonic Order are all examples of military orders which were born out of the Latin East. However, one military order stood unique above the rest. Nowhere else in Christendom had anyone conceived of forming a military organization which allowed lepers to join and fight. The Order of St. Lazarus was a military order similar to the aforementioned ones, but it was very different in that it allowed lepers to take up military duties in its name.

Lepers have existed as a marginalized group for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and this phenomenon in the Latin East is worthy of attention when one considers the medieval attitudes concerning the affliction. In Europe, a stigma with negative moral implications and severe social consequences was attached to leprosy.(4) Leprosy was seen by many, including the church, as a punishment for moral failing.(5) Those diagnosed as lepers were often segregated from society for the rest of their lives and in many areas were declared legally dead.(6) There was another view of lepers which pervaded the medieval landscape in which the leper was seen as someone enduring purgatory on earth as a special reflection of Christ's suffering.(7) Overall, most medieval thinkers appeared to regard the disease of leprosy as something which degraded the individual in both a physical and a moral sense.(8) Keeping these ideas in mind, one should be able to appreciate the exceptionality of a military order of leprous knights within the crusader states, the home of Christendom's holiest city, Jerusalem. A brief history of the order, an examination of the leper hospital from which the order grew out of, and an exploration of the known military exploits shall be tackled in an attempt to illuminate the history of the only military order of leprous knights.

Any account of the Order of St. Lazarus must begin with a brief look at the leper hospital from which it sprang. The origins of the leper hospital in Jerusalem are controversial and ambiguous.(9) Empress Eudoxia, wife of Arcadius (383-408), was known to have instituted a leper hospital at Jerusalem. However, this particular hospital cannot be concretely linked to the crusading period.(10) Others claim that St. Basil founded the hospital in the 4th century(11), and even other possibilities such as Judas Maccabeus have been suggested.(12) The hospital existed under the protection of the Greek patriarchs of Jerusalem from 629 until 1054. From 1098 until 1187 it was under the authority of the Latin patriarchs.(13) At the time of the First Crusade, it stood as one of three hospitals in the city. Collectively these hospitals, St. Mary Latin, St. John the Almoner and St. Lazarus were known as the Hospital of Jerusalem.(14) Pilgrim accounts contemporary to the time of the crusades place the leper hospital near the northwestern corner of the city, between the Tower of Tancred and St. Stephen's Gate.(15) The hospital had a wide range of benefactors, even noble and royal patrons, these supporters included King Fulk, Queen Melisende, Baldwin III and Amalric I. (16)

The military order of St. Lazarus was established sometime in the 12th century(17) to accommodate those who were diagnosed with leprosy in the crusader states.(18) By 1255 the order is known to have followed the Augustinian rule. However, it is unknown which rule the order followed prior to that.(19) Another important landmark in 1255 included recognition of the order's existence by Pope Alexander IV.(20) Their habits were black and resembled those of St. John. The green cross associated with the Order of St. Lazarus was not adopted until the 16th century.(21) While this order is unique in that it consisted of lepers, healthy men did serve alongside the leprous knights, as noted by Pope Alexander IV in 1255.(22) These knights with leprosy often came from other military orders after they were diagnosed.(23) The Templars decreed that a member who developed leprosy should join the Order of St. Lazarus.(24) The Hospitallers stated in their rules that a member who is a leper cannot remain amongst their order.(25) Instead of simply ostracizing these leprous knights, those in the crusader states continued to utilize them, through the conduit of the Order of St. Lazarus.

The Order of St. Lazarus remained primarily a Hospitaller order, but did take part in several battles, albeit, not very extensively nor very successfully.(26) It is uncertain when exactly the order took up military duties.(27) Most contend that the first solid evidence of military activity can be found in 1244(28), although there is a contention that a small detachment may have been present at the Battle of Hattin.(29) In October of 1244, the order participated in the battle at La Forbie. The battle was a disastrous loss for the crusaders and especially for the Order of St. Lazarus since every one of its knights perished.(30) During the crusade of Louis IX, knights of the order were present at the debacle at Marsuna in 1250 in which the king was captured by the Egyptians.(31) In Acre, the new capital since 1191 after Jerusalem had been lost in 1187, the Order of St. Lazarus was reported to have been entrusted with the defense of a tower and a section of the wall.(32) Later, when the city found itself under siege by the Mameluks under al-Ashraf, a force of 25 knights was provided for the city's defense. Again, all of the participants of the order perished, as did the crusaders' last stronghold in the East.(33) Overall, the order's military contribution to the crusader states was nominal compared to the other military orders, although this hinged mainly on a lack of resources such as land and manpower.(34)

After the fall of Acre in 1291 the Order of St. Lazarus was compelled to return to the properties they held in Europe.(35) Slowly the order disengaged itself from active crusading and the disease of leprosy.(36) The image of knights afflicted by leprosy, surely in some cases literally falling apart from the ravages of the disease, was never again to be seen. In what were the crusader states archeological evidence of the order's life is nearly nonexistent. A mosque covers the site where the leper hospital stood and in Acre almost everything was destroyed. Documentation of the order's history is only sketchy at best.(37) Despite these handicaps a basic history of the Order of St. Lazarus is still discernable and speaks to larger questions of the status of leprosy in the Latin East. Several theories of contributing factors concerning this special treatment of lepers in the Order of St. Lazarus have been debated. The dire, persistent shortage of manpower in the crusader states may have been an aspect to take into consideration.(38) To simply ostracize a knight who happened to develop leprosy may have been argued as something unthinkable and so a role was created for them.(39) To accommodate such an environment which was so drastically different from their homeland, the crusaders had to reconcile their own customs to the new situations posed to them in the East.(40) Leprosy, in and of itself, may have even been viewed differently by those dwelling in the Latin East.(41) At any rate, the Order of St. Lazarus is important to take note of because of its unique contribution to history as the only order of leprous knights who performed military duties in the crusader states.

1 Hans Eberhard Mayer, The Crusades, trans, John Gillingham (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 77.

2 Alan Forey, "The Military Orders 1120-1312," in The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades, ed. Jonathan Riley-Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 184.

3 Hans Eberhard Mayer, The Crusades, 78.

4 Saul Nathaniel Brody, The Disease of the Soul: Leprosy in Medieval Literature (London: Cornell University Press, 1974), 197.

5 Alexandri III Romani pontificis Opera omnia, id est epistolae et privilegia, ordine chronologico digesta, ed. Jacques-P. Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 200 (Paris: n.p., 1855), col. 1294C-D; Peter Richards, The Medieval Leper and His Northern Heirs (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1977), 45.

6 Piers D. Mitchell, "The Evolution of Social Attitudes to the Medical Care of Those With Leprosy Within the Crusader States," Lepreux et sociabilite du Moye aux Temps modernes 11 (2000): 21.

7 David Marcombe, Leper Knights: The Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem in England, c.1150-1544 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2003), 6.

8 James, Brodman, Charity and Welfare: Hospitals and the Poor in Medieval Catalonia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), 74.

9 David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 6; Adrian J. Boas, Jerusalem in the Time of the Crusades: Society, Landscape and Art in the Holy City Under Frankish Rule (London : Routledge, 2001), 28.

10 David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 7.

11 Gerard A. Lee, Leper Hospitals in Medieval Ireland: With a Short Account of the Military and Hospitiller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1996), 65; Adrian J. Boas, Jerusalem in the Time of the Crusades, 28.

12 David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 7.

13 Gerard A. Lee, Leper Hospitals in Medieval Ireland, 66.

14 Adrian J. Boas, Jerusalem in the Time of the Crusades, 28.

15 Anonymous, The City of Jerusalem, trans. C.R. Conder, The Library of the Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society Vol. VI (New York, AMS Press, 1971), 16; Theoderich, Description of the Holy Places, trans. Aubrey Stewart, The Library of the Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society Vol. V (New York: AMS Press, 1971), 43.

16 Adrian J. Boas, Jerusalem in the Time of the Crusades, 29; David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 10.

17 David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 12; Hans Eberhard Mayer, The Crusades, 80; J.M.Upton-Ward, trans., The Rule of the Templars: The French Text of the Order of the Knights Templar (Rochester: Boydell Press, 1997), 115.

18 Piers Mitchell, "The Archaeological Approach to the Study of Disease in the Crusader States, as Employed at Le Petit Gerin," in The Military Orders. Volume 2, ed. Helen Nicholson (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 1998), 49.

19 David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 9.

20 Gerard A. Lee, Leper Hospitals in Medieval Ireland, 68; David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 12; J.M.Upton-Ward, trans., The Rule of the Templars, 115.

21 Desmond Seward, The Monks of War: The Military Religious Orders (London: Eyre Methuen, 1972), 33.

22 David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 14.

23 Adrian J. Boas, Jerusalem in the Time of the Crusades, 29; David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 13.

24 J.M.Upton-Ward, trans., The Rule of the Templars, 118.

25 E.J. King, The Rule Statutes and Customs of the Hospitallers 1099-1310, With Introductory Chapters and Notes, London: Methuen & CO. LTD., 1934.

26 David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 247; Desmond Seward, The Monks of War, 33.

27 Jonathan Phillips, "The Latin East 1098-1291," in The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades, ed. Jonathan Riley-Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 186.

28 Hans Eberhard Mayer, The Crusades, 80.

29 Desmond Seward, The Monks of War, 45.

30 David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 13-14; Desmond Seward, The Monks of War, 67.

31 David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 14.

32 Piers D. Mitchell, "The Evolution of Social Attitudes to the Medical Care of Those with Leprosy within the Crusader States," Lepreux et sociabilite du Moye aux Temps modernes 11 (2000): 25.

33 David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 15, Desmond Seward, The Monks of War, 81.

34 David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 30.

35 Ibid., 247.

36 Ibid., 22.

37 Ibid., 25.

38 Ibid., 13.

39 Ibid., 11.

40 Jonathan Phillips, The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades, 119.

41 David Marcombe, Leper Knights, 6.

Sources Cited
■Primary sources:

■Alexandri III Romani pontificis Opera omnia, id est epistolae et privilegia, ordine chronologico digest. Ed. Jacques-P. Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 200. Paris: n.p., 1855.

■Anonymous. The City of Jerusalem. Trans. C.R. Conder. The Library of the Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society Vol. VI. New York, AMS Press, 1971.

■King, E.J. The Rule Statutes and Customs of the Hospitallers. London: Methuen & CO. LTD., 1934.

■Theoderich. Description of the Holy Places. Trans. Aubrey Stewart. The Library of the Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society Vol. V. New York: AMS Press, 1971.
■Upton-Ward, J.M.Trans. The Rule of the Templars: The French Text of the Order of the Knights Templar. Rochester: Boydell Press, 1997.

Secondary sources:

■Boas, Adrian J. Jerusalem in the Time of the Crusades: Society, Landscape and Art in the Holy City under Frankish Rule. London: Routledge, 2001.

■Brodman, James. Charity and Welfare: Hospitals and the Poor in Medieval Catalonia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.

■Forey, Alan. "The Military Orders, 1120-1312." In The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades, ed. Jonathan Riley-Smith, 184-216. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

■Lee, Gerard A. Leper Hospitals in Medieval Ireland: With a Short Account of the Military and Hospitiller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem. Dublin: Four Courts Press Ltd., 1996.

■Marcombe, David. Leper Knights: The Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem in England, c.1150-1544. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2003.

■Mayer, Hans Eberhard. The Crusades. Trans. John Gillingham. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

■Mitchell, Piers D. "The Evolution of Social Attitudes to the Medical Care of Those With Leprosy Within the Crusader States," Lepreux et sociabilite du Moyen aux Temps modernes 11 (2000): 21-27.

■Mitchell, Piers. "The Archaeological Approach to the Study of Disease in the Crusader States, as Employed at Le Petit Gerin." In The Military Orders. Volume 2, ed. Helen Nicholson, 43-50. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 1998.

■Phillips, Jonathan. "The Latin East, 1098-1291." In The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades, ed. Jonathan Riley-Smith, 112-140. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

■Richards, Peter. The Medieval Leper and His Northern Heirs. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1977.

■Seward, Desmond. The Monks of War: The Military Religious Orders. London: Eyre Methuen, 1972.

Thursday 3 February 2011


The Order now has a presence on Facebook. Click here to visit the site:

Prince Charles-Philippe also has a Facebook page:

Tuesday 1 February 2011

'Leaders Magazine' article about Grand Master

Prague-based 'Leaders' magazine has published an article with pictorial coverage of the election of the Grand Master in November last year in Orleans, France. Download in PDF format here or on the magazine's website here.
"Leaders Magazine focuses on lifestyle, interviews, business, culture and luxury products. Our readers are people from diplomatic society, government officials, decision makers in business, Czech citizens with higher income and tourists".

Three heroes in the fight against leprosy

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski
President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers

The stark contrast between a cult of the body in some regions and a lack of the most basic health care in others is something that particularly affects lepers, says Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski.

The president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry affirmed this in his statement for the occasion of World Leprosy Day, celebrated last Sunday.

The archbishop cited Benedict XVI in referring to the lack of basic health care, saying this is a problem that "touches in a profound and special way the world of lepers."

Though leprosy can now be treated it continues to cause suffering

He said that "ignorance, inequality and discrimination" flourish around this disease, particularly in a failure to understand the need for timely treatment, deficiency in rehabilitation of those who are disfigured by the disease, and a lack of understanding that those who are healed no longer present a risk for spreading the infection.

The archbishop turned his appeal to past and present victims of leprosy, asking them to commit themselves in solidarity with those who suffer, and also to pray for those who "distance themselves calling you 'lepers!' without knowing or wanting to know your name, to recognize your dignity and your story."

Three Heroes

Archbishop Zimowski noted how in the history of the Church, there have been people committed to caring for lepers, to the point of sacrificing their own lives. He mentioned three notable persons in this group.

The first is Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger (1904-1991).

Archbishop Zimowski noted Benedict XVI's reference to the cardinal in his review of his trip to Cameroon, Africa, at the general audience of April 1, 2009.

"A powerful sign of the humanizing action of Christ's message is certainly the Cardinal Léger Centre in Yaounde, destined for the rehabilitation of disabled people. Its founder was the Canadian Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger, who chose to retire after the Council of 1968, to work among the poor," the Pope said on that occasion.

Next, Archbishop Zimowski spoke of Belgian Saint Damian de Veuster (1840-1889).

St. Damian worked with lepers in Hawaii until he himself contracted and died from the disease. (See earlier post)

Finally, the Vatican official recalled Polish Blessed Jan Beyzym (1850-1912).

He worked among the lepers in Madagascar, "and even succeeded in building a specialized hospital on the island still active and able to house 150 patients," the archbishop said.

He cited Pope John Paul II's reflection in Krakow at the beatification of Blessed Beyzym: "The charitable work of Blesssed Jan Beyzym was an integral component of his fundamental mission: bringing the Gospel to those who do not know it. This is the greatest gift of mercy: bringing people to Christ and giving them the opportunity to know and savour his love."