Posts tagged ‘order of chivalry’

Further on the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem


I have written before about the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem several times and my personal opinion on their status is on public display right here on this blog. Since writing that original article I have been contacted over the years by many individuals that are members of the various factions of the group. Some have been unchivalrous but most have been very kind in their communications. All, however, tried to prove that the particular Lazarite faction they belong to is legitimate and some even tried to recruit me!

In any case, I have decided to put together a quick reference guide in response to some of the most common arguments presented by the Lazarite supporters.

Fons Honorum

The fundamental requirement for any chivalric order is to have a fount of honor (fons honorum) backing it up. The requirement exists because the chivalric order is a conferral of a distinct kind of honor that elevates the recipient. Such an honor can be granted solely by one that has the capacity to do so, in other words a source for the honors. In practical terms, this means that founts of honor are:

  • Regnant Monarchs of Sovereign States. Examples are the King of Spain, the King of the Belgians, etc.
  • The Head of State of a Republic of a Sovereign State. Examples are the President of the USA, the President of the Hellenic Republic, etc.
  • Heads of formerly regnant Sovereign Houses. Examples are the Royal House of Portugal, the Imperial House of Russia, etc.
  • The 5 Ancient Apostolic Sees of the Christian Church:
    • Holy See of Rome, in the person of the Pope. Note: The sovereignty of the person of the Pope is through the recognition of the sovereignty of the Holy See and not that of the Vatican City State
    • Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, in the person of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Note: beyond the Apostolic See, he is also co-sovereign of the State of Mt. Athos
    • Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in the person of its Patriarch
    • Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, in the person of its Patriarch
    • Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, in the person of the Pope & Patriarch of Alexandria
    • Note: Though not widely known in the Roman Catholic and Protestant West, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchates are considered sovereign in their own right, particularly the Ecumenical Patriarchate, based on the same principles as those of the Holy See only in a different geographical area.

There is also the unique case of an Order being in itself sovereign: The Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Rhodes, and Malta. They are today known simply as the Order of Malta or SMOM.

So, let’s examine the Order of St. Lazarus today and their main factions starting with the “Paris-Malta Obedience”, generally referred to as the “Spanish Branch”.

The “Spanish Branch” is currently headed up by its Grand Master Don Carlos Gereda y de Borbón, de jure uxoris Marquis de Almazán. However, he is not a fount of honor and cannot confer honors. Now, if the Order of St. Lazarus were placed under the Spanish Crown, it would become a Spanish Royal Order and effectively a new creation.

I should also note that Francisco de Borbón y de La Torre, de jure uxoris Duke of Seville, under whose Grand Magistry the Order of St. Lazarus was allegedly reconstituted in 1930 (after deciding in 1910 that they are to be governed by its knights without the need of a temporal protector), was also not a fount of honor.

The other main faction is known as the “Orléans Obedience“, under the Royal House of France (Orléans). This one would be considered as a legitimate and valid chivalric order since the Royal House of France is indeed a fount of honor. One can even argue that it would be a sort of revival of the ancient Order that was merged with the Order of Mt. Carmel by the French Crown in the 17th century. However, in a statement made by Henri, Count of Paris & Duke of France, on January 31, 2014 in his capacity as Head of Royal House of France (Orléans) the temporal protection of any group named as “Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem” has been rescinded since Easter 2012. I am including an image of the declaration from the website.

Statement by Count of Paris regarding the Order of St. Lazarus

This means that today, there is absolutely no group with the Lazarite name that has any sort of fons honorum to back it up.

Recognition by the Spanish Crown or any other State

This has been brought up so many times that it never ceases to amaze me how some people just don’t understand what they’re saying. Having a registered legal entity in any jurisdiction does not mean State recognition. It simply means that the proper paperwork was filed and the fees paid to set up a corporation (for-profit or non-profit). Nothing more and nothing less.

Then there are the examples brought forward of certain States, for example the Republic of Hungary, thanking or in some other way acknowledging the Order for something. This is interpreted as recognizing the Order as being a valid Chivalric Order. It’s not. This is the same sort of acknowledgement given to such organizations as the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, etc. and using the name the group uses for itself. It does not mean anything else.

However, let’s hypothetically accept that the group is recognized by a sovereign State. What exactly is being recognized? Is the Order of St. Lazarus claiming to be a sovereign entity in its own right like the Order of Malta? Is the Order of St. Lazarus being recognized as an Order of the sovereign State doing the recognition? What exactly is being recognized other than there exists a group that calls itself “Order of St. Lazarus”?

Finally, many insist that by having Carlos Gereda y de Borbón, de jure uxoris Marquis de Almazán, as the Grand Master of the Paris-Malta Obedience it means that the Royal House of Spain approves the Order. This is a preposterous claim! Carlos Gereda y de Borbón is the 6th cousin once removed on his mother’s side of HM King Felipe VI of Spain, not exactly a close relative.

Protection by the Melkite Patriarch

The Melkite Patriarch has repeatedly confirmed his protection of the Order of St. Lazarus and its various factions. Nobody can dispute this fact. However, this does not make the order anything more than an ecclesiastical honor for the simple reason that the Melkite Patriarch is not a fount of honor and is subordinate to the Roman Pontiff. The Melkite Patriarch has asserted that he is “equal” to the Bishop of Rome but, it is patently clear that is not the case:

  • The Melkite Patriarch has accepted Roman Supremacy and being fully subordinate to the Holy See of Rome
  • Pope Gregory XVI granted Patriarch Maximos III Mazloum the titles of “Patriarch of Alexandria and Jerusalem” in 1838, an action no typically done to one’s equal.
  • In around 1891/2, during Melkite Patriarch Gregory II Youssef’s visit to Rome he was forced to the floor in front of Pope Pius IX and the latter placed his foot on the Patriarch’s head, reminding him of his place.[1][2] The Melkite Patriarch continues to this day to be subordinate to Rome.

This protection is also referenced to cover the gap in the Order of St. Lazarus from 1830 when the Royal House of France decreed it no longer offers its protection to either 1910 (when the Order of St. Lazarus decided it no longer needed a fons honorum) or 2004 (when the Orleans branch of the Royal House of France granted temporal protection, rescinded Easter 2012). It should also be noted that there really isn’t any documentation to cover the period between 1830 to 1910 and much of what is claimed about the period is based on interpretations of insignia seen in paintings that resemble (under certain angles, lighting, and discoloration assumptions) those of the Order of St. Lazarus (maybe).

Finally, support and/or protection of a bishop or archbishop or even the head of a particular Church that makes up the Roman Catholic Church does not grant a group any status above that of ecclesiastical decoration for the simple reason that the fons honorum is not present.

  1. Zoghby, Elias (1998). Ecumenical Reflections. Fairfax, VA.: Eastern Christian Publications. p. 83. ISBN 1-892278-06-5.
  2. Parry, Ken; David Melling (editors) (1999). The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity. Malden, MA.: Blackwell Publishing. p. 313. ISBN 0-631-23203-6.

VIP Membership

Another argument put forward to support the legitimacy of the Lazarite groups is the very impressive list of members they have. Nobody can argue that having Grandees of Spain, Flag Officers of the Military, Peers of the UK, and Bishops is not a big deal; it definitely is. However, regardless of the length and breadth of the VIP member list, it does not make it a chivalric order. It makes it a great club for networking but not an order of chivalry.


Closing remarks

In closing this article, I will repeat what I have said many times before. Most of the Lazarite groups do amazingly good charity work, moreso than many legitimate chivalric order or even NGOs. I am first to recognize this work and commend them for that; they surely deserve congratulations and admiration for that work. However, they could do that same work without the trappings of a chivalric order and losing their credibility.


Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem

lazarus_crossLazarus Cross

There has been much talk about the Order of St. Lazarus (OSLJ) recently and though my personal opinion on the Order has already been published elsewhere on the excellent blog “Blog de Heráldica” maintained by my friend Maj. José Juan Carrión Rangel, I felt I should expand upon it here (this *is* my blog after all 🙂 ).

The OSLJ presents itself as an Order of Nobility that continues the traditions of the ancient crusader Order of Saint Lazarus. Critics claim that the OSLJ is a self styled Order and it is no way, shape or form a nobiliary corporation.

There are many sources one can look to for the Order’s history, including the Catholic Encyclopedia, the research done by Guy Stair Sainty, the organization’s own site and, of course, Wikipedia.

I won’t try to go through the history of the Order, though you are welcome to read through the links above yourself.

One thing that will become evident is that the French Revolution of 1789 really muddied the waters. This is when the accounts of the Order and those of its critics diverge. The official history of the OSLJ claims that new members were admitted by the King of France in exile while critics point to a statement by the Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honor from 1824 where the text reads “…Orders of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem and Our Lady of Mount Carmel united…this last has not been awarded since 1788 and is to be allowed to become extinct“. (Note that the OSLJ and Our Lady of Mount Carmel had been united in 1608)

Order of St. Lazarus and of Our Lady of CarmelOrder of St. Lazarus and of Our Lady of Carmel

Furthermore, critics claim that as the provisions of Canon Law state that an Order becomes extinct 100 years after the death of its last member and the last member died in 1857, the Order formally became extinct in 1957.

Of course, what has been mentioned above is the story of the “renegade” Lazarites in France, under the Commandery of Boigny.

In 1572, Pope Gregory XIII had united the Sicilian branch to the Crown of Savoy. The reigning head of the House, Philibert III, decided to unite this order with his House’s existing Order of St. Maurice (founded in 1434). Henceforth, the name of the united order became the Order of Sts. Maurice and Lazarus. This Order is still awarded today as a dynastic Order by the House of Savoy.

OSSML CommanderInsignia of a Commander of the Order of Sts. Maurice and Lazarus

Critics who assert that the French Order of Lazarus ceased to exist practically in 1857 and formally in 1957, acknowledge that the Savoian Order is the legitimate successor of the ancient Order of St. Lazarus.

To continue, though, with the modern Order of St. Lazarus, let’s examine some more information.

In the 1830s, it is claimed that since the Order no longer had a protector, a new one was sought in the Melchite-Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch (not to be confused with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch).

It is said that in 1841, the Melkite-Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Maximos III accepted for himself and his successors to be the Spiritual Protector of the Order.

Though critics question this original acceptance, subsequent Patriarchs have acknowledged this role of theirs in published statements. Personally, I am willing to accept the claim that the OSLJ is under the Spiritual Protection of the Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch.

However, now we reach the crux of the issue with the OSLJ.

As with all Orders of Knighthood, one must determine whether a valid fons honorum is covering the Order. In other words, who is the Temporal Protector of the Order?

Catholic Orders have the Pope as the fons honorum, others have either reigning or previously reigning heads of state. For example, the Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem is under the currently reigning monarch of the UK, HM Queen Elizabeth II. Another example is the Order of Sts. Maurice and Lazarus that is under the previously reigning House of Savoy. Both completely valid and unquestionably valid Orders.

However, who is the fons honorum for the OSLJ?

The Melchite Greek Patriarch is in communion with the Pope and thus under the latter’s jurisdiction and subordination. Additionally, Patriarchs (both Catholic and Orthodox) have never acted or considered as sovereigns nor did they ever have temporal powers. At most, during the Ottoman occupation, they had some civil powers over their flock but, it was equivalent to a ministerial position.

It is my opinion that the modern OSLJ is indeed lacking a valid fons honorum to claim nobiliary status. At most, I would consider it a church award given by the Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch.

Having said that, let’s examine the Order as it is today beyond the claim to nobility.

The Order counts amongst its knights members of ancient nobiliary houses of Europe, including Grandees of Spain. Additionally, the Patron of the Order in Spain is none other than the Cardinal Primate of Spain, the Archbishop of Toledo.

Despite the criticism it has received, it has been accepted as a legitimate Order of Chivalry in several countries and its decorations are allowed to be displayed alongside those of other Orders and military awards.

The OSLJ truly believes in its hospitaller mission and has a very much respected humanitarian role. The Order’s work has been acknowledged by the European Union parliament, where funds were entrusted to the OSLJ to manage aid in Easter Europe. Also, perhaps ironically, Pope John Paul II welcomed knights of the OSLJ in their full regalia to his palace in Rome in recognition of their work in Poland. However, once again, the Pope did not extend his acknowledgment of the Order.

Finally, from what I have seen, the Order comports itself in the spirit of traditional chivalry and try to maintain its alleged roots. The knights of the Order try to be examples in their communities and to represent the OSLJ in the best possible way.

OSLJ OfficerInsignia of an officer of the Order of St. Lazarus

To summarize my opinion, I don’t consider the OSLJ to either be the actual successor of the ancient Order nor does it have a fons honorum; but, I consider them to act in a more chivalrous way than some of those “legitimate” Orders. Therefore, I see it as complete irony for those who claim to be true knights to treat the OSLJ in the most unchivalrous of behaviors.

The OSLJ deserves our respect, if nothing else, for its proven, hands-on humanitarian work.

Whether the Order of St. Lazarus truly is a “legitimate” Order of Chivalry or not, is up to you as this post only represents my own opinion.

The website of the modern Order of St. Lazarus is:
The website of the Order of Sts. Maurice and Lazarus is:

See also: Further on the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem

Note: Images courtesy of Wikipedia and Morton & Eden Ltd.


Orthodox Orders

There are many orders of chivalry, knighthood or merit in the world. Some of them are completely secular, such as the Légion d’honneur of France while others are completely religious and tied to a specific church such as the Papal Order of Christ.


Officier Légion d'honneur Order of Christ


The insignia above are those of a knight of the Légion d’honneur (on the left) and the star and badge of the Order of Christ.

The majority of orders are somewhere in between though one can argue that almost all of them have a religious aspect to them. Some, of course, more than others.

One thing that differentiates the Orthodox Orders from all the others is, as the name implies, their foundation on Eastern Orthodox Christianity and under the spiritual protection of one of the Orthodox Patriarchates or Autocephalous Churches. There is a debate in the West on whether the heads of any of these Churches or even the Ecumenical Patriarch have the fons honorum to establish an Order of Chivalry however in the East they always enjoyed a sovereign status and continue to do so to this day. Regardless though, the notion of a religious Order of Chivalry is a foreign concept to the Eastern Churches; however, in the past century or so they have started giving out awards that even though they may resemble a knightly Order, they are clearly Orders of Merit. One of these meritorious Orders is the Order of St. Andrew or Archons under the auspice of the His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constaninople.


Archon crossArchon cross

Naturally, the Orthodox lands have had royal sovereigns to rule them and in their capacity as sovereigns, with a font honorum that cannot be disputed, had or have instituted Orders of Chivalry under their Grand Mastership and the spiritual protection of their Archbishop or Patriarch. Perhaps the most widely known Orthodox sovereigns were the Czars of the Russian Empire who where under the spiritual guidance of His Holiness the Patriarch of All Russia. Though, it must be noted that there were many other Orthodox sovereigns that were either completely independent or autonomous and under a greater and more powerful king/emperor.

Since there is so much written about all the non-Orthodox Orders while very little, if anything, about the Orthodox ones, we’ll be examining them one at a time as my research completes for each. I hope you enjoy this journey and if you can contribute or correct anything, please comment or contact me!

Display of decorations and awards in heraldic achievements

As mentioned in a previous entry on chivalric orders, members can display their decorations in their heraldic achievements.

Each order has it’s own rules on the display of the decorations but, they all have the same general guidelines. The lower level members typically have a decoration that is much like a military medal worn on the breast. These members can display the decoration suspended from the bottom of the shield, i.e. beneath the shield.

Higher level members may have what is termed a “breast star” that resembles (as the name implies) a large metal star with the insignia of the order. These breast stars are worn on the breast of the member and are much larger than the smaller medals worn by low level members. These individuals usually can display their decoration as well beneath their shield. (Below left: badge of the Most Venerable Order of St. John; Below right: Arms of Dr. Charles Drake, member of the Order)

The highest level members usually wear a decoration around the neck, much like an elaborate necklace or collar. These members can have that collar encircle their shield. (Below left: Collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece; Below right: Arms of HM the King of Spain)

As mentioned, these are the general rules of thumb but each order has it’s own specific rules. Sometimes, an order may explicitly state that another order (in general or specific) cannot be displayed with it. An example of such an order is the Légion d’honneur of France.

Also, there are orders that though they may have medals, ribbons and collars their members typically display their arms with something else. An example is the Order of the Garter whose members encircle their shield with the garter of the order. Though it is not unheard of to have both the garter and the collar, such as with the arms of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough.

Then again, there are orders that, depending on the level of the member (usually senior levels), have a symbol of the order (typically a cross) behind the shield. These are not to be confused with supporters which have a meaning unto themselves. Examples of these orders are the Order of Malta and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

If the member has more than one decoration, they can display them all under or around the shield, depending on the type. There isn’t any known restriction on the number of decorations to display, other than matters of taste.