Army of the Living Dead: why the Knights of the Order of St. Lazarus were so called

Army of the Living Dead: why the Knights of the Order of St. Lazarus were so called

Categories: Europe | Health and Medicine | History

Among the military monastic organizations of the Crusaders there was the Order of St. Lazarus, which accepted knights with leprosy. In the Middle Ages, such people were considered dead, and the main goal of the soldiers was death in the name of Christ. 

The Knights of St. Lazarus went into battle with their visors open and tried to sell their lives more expensively.

Army of the Living Dead: why the Knights of the Order of St. Lazarus were so called

Leprosy, a disease also called leprosy, was mentioned in Egyptian papyri, works of Hippocrates and the Bible. In medieval Europe, a special liturgical rite of ritual burial of a leprosy patient arose. A special council of doctors and priests transferred a completely living unfortunate to the status of a "dead man", over whom a symbolic burial ceremony was performed.

Army of the Living Dead: why the Knights of the Order of St. Lazarus were so called

Photos of women with leprosy

Leprosy is a chronic bacterial infection affecting the nerves of the extremities, nose, skin, eyes and upper respiratory tract. Due to the lack of treatment methods, the disease has developed into an epidemic. People with leprosy were doomed to terrible torments. Their body gradually disintegrated, the skin rotted, gangrene began, the person became weak, blind and lost the ability to breathe.

Army of the Living Dead: why the Knights of the Order of St. Lazarus were so called

Patients with leprosy. Medieval miniature

The leper was given special clothes that hid his body and face. In order for healthy people to hear about the approach of a sick person, he was supposed to carry a rattle or a bell with him. After the Third Lateran Council of 1179, lepers were isolated in special shelters called leper colonies, of which there were 19 thousand by the beginning of the XIII century.

In the Middle Ages, both in the West and in the East, leprosy was a common disease, for example, King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem suffered from it. In Jerusalem, lepers were treated in a leprosarium outside the city, near the gate of St. Stephen. The patron saint of the orphanage was Saint Lazarus. The Catholic Church recognizes six saints with this name, but Lazarus of Bethany, who rose from the dead in the book of John, was considered the heavenly intercessor of the leprosarium. Or the leprosy-stricken beggar Lazarus, who has found his place in heaven.

Army of the Living Dead: why the Knights of the Order of St. Lazarus were so called

Reconstruction of the appearance of a knight of the Order of St. Lazarus

All lepers and especially brothers of the military monastic orders who went there voluntarily were admitted to the leper colony of Jerusalem. The Templar charter stated:

Due to the fact that the knights fell ill with leprosy and went to the Order of Lazarus, a military layer gradually formed in it. Nominally, the lepers were already dead, and for a professional warrior, death in battle was better than slow rot and death in torment. The baptism of fire of the Order of St. Lazarus took place in 1187, during the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin.

Army of the Living Dead: why the Knights of the Order of St. Lazarus were so called

Under the green cross of St. Lazarus, both healthy and sick brothers fought, who went into battle with open visors. The Saracens were afraid of getting infected and were terrified of such an opponent. The leper warriors had nothing to lose, and they fought like madmen. Often such knights were used as "cannon fodder". Lazarus' soldiers voluntarily took on the brunt of the Saracens, thereby saving healthy comrades and selling their lives more expensively.

Army of the Living Dead: why the Knights of the Order of St. Lazarus were so called

Sick fighters took part in the battles of La Forbie in 1244, Mansour in 1250, Ramla in 1252. Reports from those times say that the knights of the Order of St. Lazarus always fought in the front ranks. After the Crusaders left Palestine, the Lazarus Order settled in France and continued to care for lepers throughout Europe.

When the plague came to Europe in the 1340s, lepers began to be considered harbingers of the Black Death. Now they were treated not only with disgust, but also with hatred. This was reflected in the attitude towards the Order of Lazarus. Over time, the national branches of the organization lost touch, merged into other order organizations or broke up. However, this is not the most terrible fate for the monastic order. For example, the Templar brothers were burned at the stake.

Army of the Living Dead: why the Knights of the Order of St. Lazarus were so called

Knights of the Order of Saint Lazarus

In the twentieth century, the order resumed its work. Now the Brotherhood of St. Lazarus has seven thousand members. There are order branches in thirty countries of the world, and both men and women are accepted into its ranks. The brothers and sisters of St. Lazarus consider their task to help the poor, elderly and drug-addicted people.

Army of the Living Dead: why the Knights of the Order of St. Lazarus were so called

Ambulance of the Order of Saint Lazarus 

To get into the order, you need to be a Catholic Christian and have recommendations from one full member. The Maltese green cross remains the symbol of the order.

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