Monday, 6 December 2010

Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem

Someone pointed out there there were no photos of me at the gathering for the Order of St Lazarus in Orleans the other week. I finally got one from Fr Franck Certin, who was installed as a new Chaplain in the Order. So here I am - to prove that I was there! (Here is a close-up of the group photo showing me also!)
The Order's use of the colour green spans the past millennium. Several legends concern King Baldwin IV who ruled Jerusalem from 1174 to 1183. After founding the Lazarus Hospital and Commandery at Seedorf in Switzerland he had a vision which included finding a green cross in his hand upon waking. Another legend surrounding King Baldwin IV is that during his coronation in Jerusalem, an eagle dropped onto his head a gold ring with a green cross embedded. What is certain is that the green cross and the colour green have been intimatelly associated with the Order of Saint Lazarus throughout the second millennium A.D.

The green cross of Saint Lazarus is also the origin of the international symbol for healthcare. which we see outside Chemists and Pharmacies and on First Aid boxes. The influence of the Hospitaller Orders can still be seen today. (St. John's Ambulance, for instance, draws it's existance from the Hospitaller Order of St.John).



Chaplains of the Order have worn green on their accouterments for many centuries, even though green was a more usual colour for bishops to wear.
An engraving of an Ecclesiastical Knight of the Order from 1714

The Church only began to regulate the colours for ecclesiastical dress in the 1200s, although these became formalised because of heraldry rather than as a result of Church directives. For a long time green was the usual colour for bishops and archbishops and even today, it is the heraldic colour for these prelates, as seen in their galero and fiocchi. It is only since the 1700s that the present purple for bishops has been mandated by the holy See.

A remnant of it is still extant in Malta, where I recall seeing a whole bishop's cassock in green in a church museum. Someone did tell me that is is still a technical right of Maltese bishops to wear green but I'm not sure if that's really the case. Also, those who earn a Doctorate in Canon Law from a Pontifical University are also entitled to a biretta with green trim and pompom, so I presume that might be related to it as well.

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