Order of Our Lady of Carmel and Saint Lazarus

The Order of Saint Lazarus was originally established in the Holy Land during the twelfth century. Crusading knights afflicted with leprosy were sent to the care of a hospital maintained by the order, and in time the knights formed their own hospitaller cadre. The fall of the kingdom of Jerusalem and the other crusader kingdoms in the thirteenth century forced the order to relocate several times, to Cyprus, Sicily, and then to France, in Boigny near Orleans; some of the brother-knights of the order established themselves in Sicily and Italy instead, eventually taking on a distinct identity from the French knights. In 1489, Pope Innocent VIII merged the order with the Knights of Saint John, but the French knights refused to accept the papal bull and did not yield their commanderies and priories.

The order stagnated; as leprosy all but disappeared among the population of Europe and the crusading spirit was replaced with strife between the states of Europe, the order found itself with little to justify its continuing existence. The Italian branch of the order was merged with the Savoyard Order of Saint Maurice and began a new mission of protecting the Italian coast from Barbary corsairs and other pirates.

In 1608, Henri IV created a new order, the Order of Our Lady of Carmel, and installed the same grand master over both the new order and the French branch of the Order of Saint Lazarus, effectively uniting the two orders; a zeal for Catholicism and the desire to prevent the Knights of Saing John from seizing the French properties of Saint Lazarus are each cited as reasons for Henri’s unusual creation.

The knights of Saint Lazarus wear a distinctive green eight-pointed (Maltese) cross as their insignia.

Order of Our Lady of Carmel and Saint Lazarus

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