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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.