Knights of the Holy Sepulcher

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Formally known as The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (Ordo Equestris Sancti Sepulcri Hierosolymitani ), the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher is a confraternity of persons bound together solely by the pious custom of receiving knighthood at the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Legend attributes the foundation of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher to godfrey of bouillon, one of the leaders of the First crusade, who, after the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, was elected Advocatus sancti sepulchri. Historical data to support this account are entirely lacking. The Knights of the Holy Sepulcher ought not to be confused with the Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulcher, nor are they to be thought of as a military religious order similar to the templars or the knights of malta. The origin of the confraternity can be traced to the above-mentioned devotion, which was practiced by many pilgrims to the Holy Places.

Technically members of the knightly classbut often in fact, notthose so knighted in Jerusalem could be described as Knights of the Holy Sepulcher. At first, knighthood was always conferred by a member of the knightly class. The franciscans, to whom Pope Clement VI entrusted the custody of the Holy Land in 1342, always conferred the benedictio militis and, in the absence of a knight, even the accolade upon prospective knights. At the close of the 15th century, the superior of the Franciscan monastery in Jerusalem assumed the title of grand master of the Holy Sepulcher and was so recognized by the Holy See. In 1847 Pope Pius IX accorded the title to the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, with authority to admit knights to the confraternity. From 1907 to 1928 the popes held the grandmastership, which is now given to one of the cardinals. In 1868 and again in 1949, 1962, and 1977 the popes promulgated statutes for the knights. At present the knights are organized in five classes: knights of the collar, knights grand cross, commanders with plaque, commanders, and knights. Investiture has been open to women since 1868. The insignia are a white cape and a red enameled cross of Jerusalem.

Bibliography: m. h. a. d'assemani, The Cross on the Sword: A History of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (Chicago 1944). x. de bourbonparma et al., Les Chevaliers du SaintSépulcre (Paris 1957). g. tessier, "Les Débuts de l'Ordre du St. Sépulcre en Espagne," Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes 116 (1958) 528.

[j. f. o'callaghan]