Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

These frequently asked questions were sourced from the members' only area of the International Order of Saint Lazarus's website and revised to include questions & answers pertaining to the Grand Priory in Canada. If you should have a question that is not on the list, and feel that it should be on this list, please contact the Order by email with:

Q. When was the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem founded?

A. The Order in the Holy Land may have been set up for leprous knights by the Blessed Gerard, founder of the Knights of St John (Hospitallers), in the early 12th century, although this is speculation. There is a document of donation from Louis VI to a Brotherhood of Saint Lazarus in France in 1112. The first extant document to mention the St. Lazarus lepers of Jerusalem is a charter given by King Henry I of England between 1106 and 1120. Specific mention of the leprosarium outside the walls of Jerusalem was made in a travelogue dated 1128-1135. The Brothers of St. Lazarus in Jerusalem were definitely acknowledged by Pope Gregory IX in 1234. The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus under Augustinian Rule was confirmed by Papal Bull of Alexander IV in 1255.

Q. Wasn't the Order abolished by the French monarchy?

A. The Order of Saint Lazarus had been originally founded by Papal authority, and hence could only be suppressed by a Papal order and not by any secular authority. The Order of St. Lazarus was declared abolished (along with all other royally-awarded Orders) by the revolutionary French National Assembly in 1791, but these abolitions were not recognized by the restored French monarchy who continued these Orders. In 1825, King Charles X decreed that the Order was no longer awarded and "is to be allowed to become extinct". Note the wording: he did not "abolish" the Order, since only the Pope could do so. Under Canon law extinction of an Order occurs 100 years after the death of the last member - the last living member admitted before the revolution died in 1856 and hence the Order would have become extinct in 1956. However, the Order was taken under the protection of the Melkite (Catholic) Patriarch of Antioch and All the East in 1841 and re-organized in 1910, and so extinction was averted. The Order has thus been under the Spiritual Protection of the Patriarchs of Antioch for over 170 years.

Q. Is the Order of Saint Lazarus a new or revived Order or a continuation of the old Order?

A. Some critics maintain that the present Order is a new foundation dating from 1910. However, the Melkite (Catholic) Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem have maintained (most recently in the Kevelaer Declaration of 2012) that it came under their protection in 1841 and has been under this protection ever since. This is well within the time allowed to rescue an Order from extinction under Canon law (see above). The Patriarchs supported a re-organization (note: not a new foundation) under new statutes in 1910 under the auspices of a group of French Catholics as a now secularized but still Catholic Order under the control of a Grand Master and protection of the Patriarch. Since the Melkite (Catholic) Patriarchs of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria and All the East rank in status just below the Pope (who is Patriarch of the West), it can hardly be claimed that they don't have the status to re-organize and rescue from extinction a Catholic-founded Order.

Q. What is the attitude of the Catholic Church to the Order of Saint Lazarus?

A. There is no easy answer to this. The Holy See, as the formal Vatican State, cannot recognize any Order other than the Pontifical Orders and Chivalric Orders dependent to it - i.e. the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) where the Supreme Pontiff appoints a Cardinal Patron, and the Order of the Holy Sepulcher (OHS) whose Grand Master is a Cardinal appointed by the Pontiff - and those Orders granted by sovereign States with which it entertains diplomatic relations. On this basis, the Vatican has issued notices in L'Osservatore Romano (the Vatican semi-official newspaper) including the Order of Saint Lazarus among the list of Orders that it does not recognize (most recently in 1970). Notwithstanding this, the Spiritual Protectors since 1841 have been the Patriarchs of Antioch, one of the highest-ranking Catholic prelates, and a number of Cardinals are protectors of individual jurisdictions. Furthermore, in 1992, Pope John Paul II officially received on a number of occasions senior members of the Order, and even celebrated a private Mass for members of the Order in his chapel in the Vatican. Peter Bander van Duren notes in his book on Catholic-founded Orders of Knighthood that we need to distinguish between the Holy See (the Vatican State) and the Apostolic See (the Pope as head of the Church and successor of the Apostles). So a short answer is that the Order seems to enjoy Apostolic recognition, but not Vatican recognition. Since the Order is now Ecumenical (since the late 1960s), it is arguable that as a Catholic-founded but now secularized Order, it is not up to the Vatican (the Holy See) to recognize it or not any more.

On 16 October 2012, the Vatican announced that they were simply separating orders into those awarded by the Vatican plus the two where the Pope was Protector (SMOM and OHS), and all others. No Orders were now specifically named as "unrecognized" and the previous list of unrecognized orders was removed. The Order of Saint Lazarus was thus in its history without formal Papal recognition for 1489-1519, 1560-1565, 1567, and for the Order under the French Crown and subsequently the Patriarchs of Antioch, 1573-1668, and 1935-2012.

Q. Wasn't the Order split into several factions?

A. Yes, in the 1970s there were acrimonious splits, most notably into the "Malta" obedience under the (Spanish) Duke of Seville, and the "Paris" obedience under the (French) Duke of Brissac. However, it is important to note that these splits were formally resolved several years ago, under the Houston reunification agreement of 2006. Subsequently, the Norwich Group agreed to support a new Grand Master at its meeting in Vienna in 2008. Later in 2008, a Chapter-General of the Order was held in Manchester where the Spiritual Protector encouraged the reunion and a new Grand Master for the united Order (Don Carlos Gereda de Borbón, Marquis of Almazán and cousin of the Duke of Seville) was elected by the combined votes of the Knights and Dames at the Vienna and Manchester Chapters-General. Since then, constitutional amendments have been recommended and accepted subject to the next Chapter-General. Copies of these agreements are under the "Constitution and By-laws" tab in the Members area of this website. Unfortunately, other small groups as yet remain outside the unification process.

Q. Does the Order have recognition from heraldic and legal authorities?

A. The oldest heraldic court in the world that is still in daily operation - that of the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Scotland, a Great Officer of State of Queen Elizabeth II and head of the Court of the Lord Lyon - in 1968 confirmed in a matriculation to the Order the arms that it bore prior to 1672. This recognizes the Order as the continuation of the old Order of Saint Lazarus.

Q. Is the Order still Christian?

A. Yes. The Order has since the late 1960s been Ecumenical, welcoming Christians of any denomination, not just Roman Catholics. It includes Roman Catholics, Protestants, Greek and other Eastern Orthodox, and other Christian denominations. Membership is fairly evenly distributed between Catholics and Protestants. Non-Christians may not be members of the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem but may be awarded the Order of Merit of Saint Lazarus, and a number of non-Christian monarchs have been admitted to this latter Order.

Q. When did the Order become secularized (i.e., under lay jurisdiction)?

A. It is incorrectly claimed that the Order became secular under the Bull of Clement XIV of 1772; however, that Bull held that members of the Order could not hold ecclesiastical benefices, but it did not alter the fact that it remained under Papal jurisdiction. As there was no alteration of the Order's statutes or regulations until the reorganization of 1910 which gave control to the Magistracy, this is considered the date of secularization, although the Holy See did not formally indicate its lack of recognition, and thus relinquishment of jurisdiction, until 1935.

Q. Was the Order still awarded or active in the 19th century?

A. The turmoil of the French revolution had put an apparent end to formal admission ceremonies to the Order. This however did not prevent the ruling Grand Master Louis Stanislas Xavier de France, subsequently King Louis XVIII, from investing dignitaries into the Order of St. Lazarus. Notable among these were Tzar Paul I, his sons and members of the Russian Imperial Government, and King Gustav IV of Sweden and other members of the Swedish Court. Other French members appear to have been admitted during the Bourbon Restoration. In 1825, King Charles X, then serving as Protector of the Order, decreed that the Order was no longer awarded and "is to be allowed to become extinct". In spite of this, the Order continued to be listed in the official Almanach Royal until 1831 when all the Royal Orders recognized in 1824 had their recognition withdrawn. The members of the Order however remained active and continued to associate together. Loyal members of the Order continued to use their old titles well into the mid-nineteenth century. In 1841, the Order was placed under the spiritual protectorship of the Melkite (Catholic) Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem, and this may have initiated the Order's support towards the building of the Mount Carmel Sanctuary in Haifa, Palestine completed in 1867.

Q. What is the translation of the Latin motto of the Order?

A. The generally accepted translation of "Atavis et Armis" is "By Ancestors and Arms".

Q. What is the purpose of the Order?

A. The Order is a fully-functioning Christian and Hospitaller Order of Chivalry, which was originally founded for care of lepers who were pilgrims in the Holy Land. It also admitted knights and soldiers of the other two military orders, the Templars and the Hospitallers of St John, who had contracted leprosy. Its Hospitaller mission continues today in the same area. In 2011, over 2.3 million Euros (about $US 3 million) were expended on Hospitaller activities, including supporting hospices, housing and support programmes for the elderly and disabled, disaster relief, social welfare programmes, and other health-related charities. Of note, some 10% of that was expended on Hansen's Disease (leprosy)-related care and treatment projects in India, Africa, the Americas, Asia and the South Pacific, as a continuation of our historic special mission to lepers dating from the 12th century.

Q. Why is it still referred to as a "Military" Order?

A. That was the title under which the Order of Chivalry was founded in 1255, related to activities in the Holy Land during the Crusades, and which it retains. Nowadays, we are "military" only in the sense that as an Ecumenical order we fight for Christian unity. We also fight for modern day lepers - both actual people with Hansen's Disease (leprosy), and the sick, stigmatized, disadvantaged and rejected in society. Our beneficiaries and our work cover all religions and our partners in this work are as likely to be Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, or any other religion (or none), as Christian. Despite the historical appellation "military", we see our work as a contribution to peace.

Q. Where is the Headquarters of the Order?

A. The traditional headquarters are those of the Order dating from the 12th century at Boigny, in France, and the Castello Lanzun, in Malta. The Seat of the Order is in Madrid (the residence of the Grand Master) in the San Domingo el Real monastery, and the Chancellery and administrative Offices are in Washington DC.

Q. Does the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem have official government recognition from any state?

A. The Order of Saint Lazarus has official government recognition from the Republic of Hungary based on the agreement of 18 August 1993. The official Hungarian government communiqué of 9 September 2008 states that:

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that Hungary has interstate diplomatic relationship on Ambassador level only with the Sovereign Order of Knights of Malta based on an interstate agreement. This means that the Sovereign Order of Knights of Malta enjoy diplomatic immunity and rights on Hungarian soil, like in many other countries of the world.
Hungary maintains official relations with the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, the Hungarian Priory of the Order of Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and the Hungarian Chapter of the Johannita Order based on inter-governmental agreements. These orders are granted certain special rights and eases necessary for their charity activity.
Beyond the Orders listed above the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has neither official nor unofficial relations with any other Order."
On 5 July 2011, The Hungarian Government formally accepted the appointment of Countess Éva Nyáry as the new Head of the Representative Office of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem in Hungary.

The following questions and answers were sourced from the Order of Saint Lazarus News, Vol.6, No.1, October 1985, the publication prior to the Gazette

Q. What is the date of Saint Lazarus Day?

A. 17th December

Q. Who was brother Gérard Tenque?

A. A monk at Jerusalem, founder and first Administrator of the Order.

Q. What has always been the special commitment of the Order?

A. The care of lepers.

Q. Where was the great Convent & Hospice of Saint Lazarus in the Holy Land during the Crusades?

A. At Bethany.

Q. After 1291, when the Crusaders were driven from the Holy Land, where was the Order's Headquarters?

A. Boigny, France.

Q. What was a Lazar House and why was it called that?

A. A hospice for lepers served by Brothers of the Order of Saint Lazarus.

Q. What important event for the Order occurred in 1772?

A. The Order became secular.

Q. When the Order returned to Canada in 1962, who was the first Grand Prior?

A. Col. the Hon. Keiller MacKay who served as the 19th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1957 to 1963. He was born in 1888 in the village of Plainfield in Pictour County, Nova Scotia.

Q. Which of our Knights have (a) been awarded the Victoria Cross? (b) received the Nobel Prize? (c) served as Governor General of Canada?


(a)Rev. John Weir Foote, VC, CD, KLJ was a Canadian military chaplain and politician. He received the Victoria Cross for his actions during the Dieppe Raid in 1942.
(b)Dr. Charles Herbert Best, CC CH CBE FRS FRSC FRCP, KLJ Born in West Pembroke, Maine on February 27, 1899 to Luella Fisher and Herbert Huestis Best, Canadian born physician from Nova Scotia.[2] Best grew up in Pembroke before going to Toronto to study medicine in 1915. As a 22-year-old medical student at the University of Toronto he worked as an assistant to the surgeon Dr. Frederick Banting[5] and contributed to the discovery of the pancreatic hormone insulin, which led to an effective treatment for diabetes.
(c)Rt. Hon. Roland Michener, PC, CC, CMM, OOnt, CD, QC, FRHSC(hon), KLJ. Daniel Roland Michener was a Canadian lawyer, politician, and diplomat who served as Governor General of Canada, the 20th since Canadian Confederation.

The following question and answer were sourced from the Order of Saint Lazarus News, Vol.5, No.2, February 1985, the publication prior to the Gazette

Q. Why is it called a "Chapter General"?

A. In the 12th century, Saint Lazarus was an Order of military monks and nursing sisters. Whenever the monks assembled, the meeting started with a chapter of the Bible being read. This assembly or meeting eventually was referred to as "a chapter". Later, the individuals who organized the meeting were called the "Chapter". The meeting place was called the "Chapter House" and a meeting for everyone was a "Chapter General". Today, true to that early tradition, the Order's meetings begin with the Prayer of the Order.