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The Order of the Holy Sepulchre originates in a Christian organisation, the Canons, established at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1099, immediately after the conquest of the City by the Crusaders. It has religious aims and the function of protecting pilgrims to the Holy Land. Different to other knightly Orders towards the end of the 13th century, members of the Order settled in a number of western European States where the history of each individual group was rich and well documented.

At the beginning of the 15th century the Supreme Pontiffs dealt with this complex reality by granting it the true form of a knightly Order.

In the mid-19th century the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre from various countries were reunited in a single body under the guidance of the Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Pope Pius XII transferred the government of the Order from Jerusalem to Rome in 1949, assigning from then on the title of Grand Master to Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. The Order is led by the Grand Master, assisted by the General Governor and the Grand Magistery. The latter is composed of sixteen brethren chosen from the members of the countries in which the Order resides, governed by Lieutenancies heading the Sections and Delegations.

In 1996 Pope John Paul II granted the Order Vatican legal status with a legal seat in the Vatican State. At present, the Order has more than 27,000 Knights and Ladies. It is established in more than 29 countries with 49 Lieutenancies, 20 of which are in America, 23 in Europe, 4 in Australia and 2 in Asia.

The fundamental aims of the Order are to strengthen the Christian way of life of its members, with absolute faith in the Supreme Pontiff, in addition to sustaining and aiding works and institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land. The Order contributes to the preservation of ecclesiastical bodies, hospitals, dispensaries, laboratories and social centres. It finances 68 parishes, 40 nursery schools and elementary schools, 26 lower secondary and 7 high schools. Its staff consists of 862 teachers, 107 nuns and 18,000 pupils of all religious faiths.

The Order lastly assists in limiting the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land by providing financial and technical aid for building houses, for social welfare purposes and training projects.

For an in-depth analysis of the history of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, but from a different perspective visit:
Guy Stair Sainty's Page on the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem

The Nature of Membership
An Article by H.E. Russell Kendall on the Importance of the Work of the Order in the Holy Land
Study of the Situation in the Bethlehem Area
Investiture Speech (1999) by Bro. David Carroll, FSC, Ph.D.
Saints and Beati Proper to the Order
Various Insignia of the Order
Main Page

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