Historically over many centuries the religious and chivalric Orders have sought to preserve their traditions as well as their sacred religious objects and regalia, and to safeguard the latter against unauthorized or unlawful use.
Membership in these Orders has not permitted the use or retention of individual items of religious regalia or insignia by other than the Member properly vested with the Order’s insignia. Thus the insignia had to be returned to the Order upon termination of the individual’s Membership my death or resignation.
The Grand Priory of America, following this tradition, invests each Member upon admission to the Order with the church Cape, or Mantle, and the insignia of the Order in a formal public religious service held in a cathedral, church, or chapel. This service is conducted by the most senior Knight of the Order present, in compliance with chivalric tradition, custom and lawful practice that only a Knight may invest (and accord the accolade to) another Knight. Before being awarded, all insignia receive the “Blessing of the Crosses” by the senior prelate or clergyman present. Any Member who resigns from the Order is required to return the insignia issued to him or her. For protection against unauthorized manufacture or use by others, the Order’s insignia has been copyrighted on the North American continent by the Grand Priory of America.
In further clarification of existing policies and procedures, the following will apply with respect to the award and use of the Order’s insignia:
- Applicants for Membership after meeting all of the requirements for admission to the Order, and upon formal acceptance for admission, will be presented the insignia of the Order appropriate to the rank in which admitted for use as long as they shall remain Members of the Order in either an active or inactive status.
- Members recommended for and meeting the requirements of promotion to a higher rank in the Order, and upon acceptance of such promotion will receive the insignia of the next higher rank in exchange for the insignia of the Order previously received. Return of the insignia previously received will prevent its falling into commercial or other unauthorized hands.
The purpose of the foregoing policy and procedure is to emphasize the following considerations:
- That the Order’s insignia are held in trust by Members, as in other Orders of Chivalry.
- That Members are to safeguard the Order’s insignia, thereby preventing it from falling into unauthorized hands.
- That insignia are returnable in exchange for insignia of a higher rank upon promotion, and also upon resignation of a Member from the Order.
The Cross of the Order
The modern cross of St. Lazarus is in the form of a green Maltese (that is, an eight-point) cross. However, it should be recognized that the green-enameled gold cross is a relatively recent innovation when one regards the past millennia in the Order’s history. Green was a color most likely selected by default, as the other orders had already claimed red (Solomon, or “the Templars”), white (St. John) and black (St. Mary, or “the Teutonic Knights); and, that green dye and green cloth was relatively easy to make or obtain. One interesting tradition has it that St. Lazarus adopted the use of green to remember Saladin’s honorable and chivalric treatment of the Order. Another tradition had it that the Order adopted the color green after using an Islamic standard captured from defeated Moslem soldiers. Some historians have seen the color as a symbolic challenge by the Order to the Islamic standard use of green. Another legend surrounds King Baldwin IV’s founding of the Lazarus Hospital and Commandery at Seedorf, in Switzerland, after his vision which included finding a green cross in his hand upon waking (this story predates Saladin, as does the next). Yet another legend surrounding King Baldwin IV is that during his coronation in Jerusalem, an eagle dropped onto his head a gold ring with sinople (green) cross embedded.
What is certain is that the green cross and color green have been traditionally associated with the Order of Saint Lazarus, and this has been so at least throughout the second millennia A.D. Green also has an ancient symbolic meaning of life and rejuvenation. From a modern perspective, it can be said that the Order’s active and ecumenical hospitaller activities in Jerusalem and in the West Bank has included active and successful interaction and involvement with the local Moslem communities. Together, Arab Christians and Moslems have united to survive the difficulties that have been imposed under Jewish rule. In this way, green commemorates the united struggle shared by the members of both faiths.
For the first four centuries of the second millennia AD, members wore a green-cloth Latin or Greek cross sewn to their clothing. Reference to this is found in the rules promulgated at the Commandery of Seedorf in 1314, which stipulated that a green cross would be sewn to the front of each knight’s habit, on their mantles, and on the harness of their horses. In his welcome to the French King Charles VI, on the occasion of his visit to the Commandery at St. Antoine de Grattemont in Normandy on the 15th of April 1419, Commander Robert le Conte noted that all members of the Order, including its servants, should wear the green cross on their clothing. In the 15th century, the cross remained a green Latin or Greek design, and some surviving stone effigies of St. Lazarus Knights from the period show a cross suspended from the neck by a ribbon.
The close association of the Order of St. Lazarus with the Knights of St. John in the 16th Century (many Knights were simultaneous members of both orders) probably brought the use of the eight-pointed Maltese Cross into common use. In a Chapter General meeting at Boigny in 1578, Grand Master Francisco Salviati stated that the cross of the order would be a green eight-pointed (Maltese) cross. So, by the middle of the 16th century, it can be assumed that the use of the green Maltese cross was well-established within the Order of St. Lazarus, and remains so to this day.
Surviving examples of crosses include an 18th century badge featuring the eight-pointed cross, cast in gold, white enameled with green interior containing a badge, centered, with two figures: one standing on the left, holding out his hand to touch the head of a second human sitting, with arm outstretched in a show of need. Other crosses from the 18th Century, in France, show the white enameled cross with green interior, with the Fleurs d’Lys quartered. The Grand Cross badge of the period was a gold eight-pointed cross, bearing a four-point Greek-style cross superimposed in the center. Crosses dating from 1820s France (during the royal restoration, 1815-1830) were similar; however, the sitting figure is now on the left, with the standing figure on the right; and the cross is suspended by a modern royal crown. Green ribbon has replaced the red ribbon adopted during the period when the Order of Our Lady of Mount Caramel was integrated by the French Crown.
Additional information may be found in the comprehensive vexillology catalogue featured at the Flags of the World website.