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History of the Order


After  Jerusalem  was  freed  from  the  Seljuk  Turks  in 1099, Godfrey de Bouillon,  Duke  of  Lower  Lorraine, principal leader of the First Crusade for four difficult years,   was  elected  "Protector  and  Advocate  of  the  Holy Sepulchre".   As part of his operations to organise the religious, military and  public  bodies  of the territories newly freed from Muslim control, he founded the Order of Canons of the Holy Sepulchre. According to accounts of the  Crusades,  in 1103 the first King of Jerusalem, Baldwin I, assumed the leadership  of this canonical order, and reserved the right for himself and his successors (as agents of the Patriarch of Jerusalem) to appoint Knights to it, should the Patriarch be absent or unable to do so. In 1496, Pope Alexander VI created the office of Grand Master of the Order, with the office vested in the papacy.


The Order’s members included not only the Regular Canons (Fratres) but also the  Secular  Canons  (Confratres) and the Sergentes. The latter were armed knights  chosen  from the crusader troops for their qualities of valour and dedication;  they  vowed  to obey Augustinian Rule of poverty and obedience and  undertook specifically, under the command of the King of Jerusalem, to defend  the  Holy Sepulchre and the Holy Places. Though Godfrey died a year later,  Pope  Paschal II formally approved of Godfrey's initiative and gave papal approbation in 1113. The office of Grand Master remained vested in the papacy until 1949. Since then a cardinal has been grand master. The Pope is sovereign of the Order which enjoys the protection of the Holy See and has its legal seat at Vatican City.


Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem


Pius IX re-established the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1847. He ordained that the Order's cape (or mantle), as worn by the original knights, be a "white cloak with the cross of Jerusalem in red enamel."

  banner-of-the-orderBanner of the Order

Pius X assumed the title of Grand Master. The title of Grand Master is now held by a cardinal of the Roman Curia who is resident in Rome at the Ceremonial Headquarters, Palazzo della Rovere, the 15th century palace of Pope Julius II, immediately adjacent to the Vatican. It serves as the Order's international headquarters.

Women Admission to the Order

The tapestry under is displayed in the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem. In picture form the admission of ladies is illustrated. By the Brief Venerabilis frater of August 3rd, 1888, Pope Leo XIII authorized the concession of the cross in three classes to ladies who have served the church with particular merit - this became the first Order under direct Papal supervision which could be conceded to ladies.

Restoration of the Patriarchate

Pius_IXOn July 23rd we celebrate the restoration of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1847. In fact, it was through the apostolic letter Nulla Celebrior that Bl. Pius IX announced the event

Here are the main excerpts in English of the of the original Latin Apostolic Letter (July 23, 1847) issued by Pope Pius 1X:

No city has been honored with a religious cult as remarkable as that of Jerusalem. No region have ever been so visited by Christians, with the most distinguished manifestations of Palestinian devotion.
It is the city that contains the famous monuments, witnesses of the actions of our Lord Jesus Christ and reflecting in a certain way in his likeness the most sacred examples of virtue by which the Divine Redeemer of human nature ennobled in a special way this city, so that, from the beginning of the Church, Christians have honored it an extraordinary way. (…)
What we recall proves, with just cause, that Jerusalem and Palestine have attracted the veneration of Christians, both in ancient times than today. Now, with regard to the ecclesiastical hierarchy, nothing is better known in the history than the honor which has always surrounded the seat of the Bishop of Jerusalem.
Without going back to ancient times, it is certain that in the first general council of Nicaea in 325, it says in the seventh Canon: the Bishop of Aelia (Jerusalem) will be honored in accordance with ancient customs and traditions.
Everyone knows that after this, the Church of Jerusalem was invested with patriarchal dignity and rights attached thereto. It is a constant fact that, after several centuries, when Jerusalem had been liberated and conquered by European princes, the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem was established. Then began the series of Latin Patriarchs and several Latin Bishops occupied the patriarchal see. The fourth Lateran Council under Innocent III in 1215, upheld the dignity of the patriarchal see of Jerusalem.
But, as a result of the terrible events and calamities that hit the Christian armies, the city of Jerusalem once again returned to Muslim hands, and changed the face of things.
However, although the Patriarchs could not, therefore, reside in Jerusalem and give their flock the care they needed, although the Roman Pontiffs, Our predecessors, tended to the needs of the faithful in another way, they not cease, however, to appoint Latin Patriarchs, while exempting them from the obligation to reside there, as their church would remain under the domination of infidels.
Today, there are no reasons which prevent the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem from residing in his diocese, and ensuring the salvation of his flock.
Therefore, as soon as We were raised to the Chair of St. Peter, despite our unworthiness, amid the many affairs of the Church, We thought it was good and that it was time to send back to the city of Jerusalem, a Patriarch of the Latin rite, for the good of religion, to raise the dignity of the ancient See of Jerusalem, to spread the Catholic faith more fully. (…)
So with the authority of Almighty God and of the Apostles Peter and Paul and also of our authority, we are restoring to Jerusalem the exercise of jurisdiction of the Latin Patriarch; We declare that henceforth it will be held at the residence, as in the past.
As regards the limits of the Patriarchate, We order and direct that, until otherwise decided by the Apostolic See, all regions and all locations that are currently subject to the jurisdiction of our son, Custos of the Holy Sepulchre, Guardian of the Holy Land, the Order of Friars Minor of St. Francis, submit to the authority of the Patriarch.
As for the institution of suffragan bishops of the Patriarch, we reserve our decision to be seen later, and we reserve this issue to our judgment and that of our venerable brethren, the Cardinals of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. (…)

Given at Rome, at St. Mary Major, under the Fisherman’s Ring, 23 July 1847, the second year of Our Pontificate.
For Cardinal Lambruschini
A. Picchioni, Substitute