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This article concerns the former religious; Catholic-founded secular order of knighthood. For other uses of the name Lazarus, see Lazarus .

Cross of the Order of Saint Lazarus
The Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem— OSLJ— is an order of chivalry which originated in a leper hospital founded by Knights Hospitaller in the twelfth century by the crusaders of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Order of Saint Lazarus is one of the most ancient of the European orders of chivalry. It was originally established to treat the virulent disease of leprosy, its knights originally being lepers themselves. It is one of the less-known and less-documented orders.


From its foundation in the 12th century, the members of the Order were dedicated to two ideals: aid to those suffering from the dreadful disease of leprosy and the defense of the Christian faith.

The first mention of the Order of Saint Lazarus in surviving sources was in 1142. The order was initially founded as a leper hospital outside the city walls of Jerusalemmarker, but hospitals were established all across the Holy Land dependant on the Jerusalem hospital, notably in Acremarker. It is unknown when the order became militarised but militarisation occurred before the end of the twelfth century due to the large numbers of Templars and Hospitallers sent to the leper hospitals to be treated. The order established ‘lazar houses’ across Europe to care for lepers, and was well supported by other military orders which compelled lazar brethren in their rule to join the order on contracting leprosy.

The Order of Saint Lazarus remained primarily a hospitaller order but it did take part in a number of battles including the Battle of La Forbie on 17 October 1244 where all of the lazar brethren who fought died and the Battle of Al Mansurahmarker in 1250. The leper knights were protected by a number of able-bodied knights but in times of crisis the leper knights themselves would take up arms. The Order of Saint Lazarus quickly abandoned their military activities after the fall of Acre in 1291 and the dissolution of the Templars due to expense, being a relatively poor order.

In 1572, Pope Gregory XIII merged the Italian foundation of the Order of Saint Lazarus with the Order of Saint Maurice (founded in 1434) as the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus. This became an national order of chivalry on the unification of Italy in 1861, but has been suppressed by law since the foundation of the Republic in 1946. King Umberto II did not abdicate his position as fons honorum however, and the head of the former Royal House of Savoy remains the Order's Grand Master today.

Current operations

Today, the revived organisation has been engaged in a major charitable program to revive Christianity in Eastern Europe: Russiamarker, Ukrainemarker, Armeniamarker, Georgiamarker, and the Near East: Lebanonmarker, Syriamarker, Palestine. Millions of dollars worth of food, clothing, medical equipment and supplies have been distributed in Polandmarker, Hungarymarker, Romaniamarker and Croatiamarker. Because of this experience, the European Community commissioned the Order to transport more than 1.5 billion dollars in food to the hungry in Russiamarker.


  1. David Marcombe, Leper Knights: The Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem in England, c. 1150-1544 (Rochester, NY: Boydell) 2003; Chapter 1 gives the general history.

External links

Organisation's Official Websites: Different and alternative views on St. Lazarus Order history:


  • Belloy, Pierre de, De l'origine et institution des divers ordres de chevalerie tant ecclésiastiques que prophanes, Parismarker, 1604, 2nd edition Toulousemarker, 1622
  • Gautier de Sibert, History of The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, Paris, 1772
  • Francis Elphinstone, The Opponents of St Lazarus which appeared, The Armorial, vol.III, no.4, November 1962, Edinburghmarker
  • Algrant y Cañete, James J. / Beaugourdon, Jean de St. Vincent de, Armorial of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, Delft, 1983
  • Morris of Balgonie, Stuart H., Ygr., The Insignia and Decorations of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, Perthshire, 1986
  • Francis Elphinstone, The Opponents of St Lazarus, The Armorial, vol.III, no.4, November 1962, Edinburghmarker
  • Bander van Duren, Peter, Orders of Knighthood and of Merit-The Pontifical, Religious and Secularised Catholic-founded Orders and their relationship to the Apostolic See, Buckinghamshire, 1995, p. 495-513, XLV-XLVII
  • Montilla Zavalía, Félix Alberto, Las Órdenes de Caballería y las Órdenes Honoríficas Católicas en la actualidad (Una visión histórico-jurídica y política) introduced by Dr. Isidoro J. Ruiz Moreno, Argentinian Lieutenant of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, Editorial Dunken, Buenos Airesmarker, 2001, p. 16
  • M. Ellul, The Green Eight Pointed Cross, Malta, 2004
  • Charles Savona-Ventura, The Knight Hospitallers of Saint Lazarus, Maltamarker, 2006

  • D. Marcombe, Leper Knights: The Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem in England, 1150-1544 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2003).
  • D. Seward, The Monks of War: The Military Religious Orders (London: Penguin Group, 1995).

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