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Reviewed by:
  • L’Ordre de Saint-Lazare de Jérusalem au Moyen Âge:
  • Anthony Luttrell
L’Ordre de Saint-Lazare de Jérusalem au Moyen Âge: Milites Christi, Volume 1. By Rafaël Hyacinthe. (Millau: Conservatoire Larzac Templier et Hospitalier. 2003. Pp. 253. €40.)

Well presented, richly illustrated, and based on an extensive bibliography, Hyacinthe's is the first of a series of monographs planned by the Conservatoire Larzac, an organization dedicated both to the preservation of three threatened medieval Templar-Hospitaller villages in Southern France and also to the study of the military-religious orders in general. The minor religious order of Saint Lazarus originated, like that of the Hospital of Saint John, as a hospitaller institution which emerged in the crusading East. Founded between about 1130 and 1142, its particularity was the care of lepers, a class excluded from normal society. Unlike the Hospitallers' sick, the lepers were regarded as incurable and had to remain permanently within their institution. These sufferers could themselves become fully-professed members of the order who were cared for by other fully-professed brethren, the freres sains or "healthy," who resided with the sick in a type of "double" community; all fully-professed members took the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Hyacinthe dispels various early myths, some maintained by the order itself, about its origins. The order soon acquired hospitals in many Western countries, though not in Spain. There was a house at Burton Lazars in the English Midlands by about 1150, and in 1154 another at Boigny in France, which became the order's headquarters after 1291. Shortly before 1244 there developed a class of knight-brethren who fought against the Muslims, notably at the final defense of Acre in 1291. There were for a time examples of leper-brethren who were fighting knights and at one point the order's master was himself a leper, but in general only "healthy" brethren were fighting members.

After 1291 the order lost its military role, but Hyacinthe provides much detail, running into early modern times, on its continued activities in the West, its houses and organization, donations and estates, its buildings and art, and its prayer, which was, not unnaturally, especially concerned with death. The book also provides important information on the medical history and past care of leprosy. Hyacinthe publishes the texts of seventeen documents. He was unable to use David Marcombe, Leper Knights: The Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem in England, c. 1150-1544 (Woodbridge, 2003); nor could he utilize the unpublished studies of François-Olivier Touati on the materials in Turin; however, the latter's article on the Turin materials is discussed by Hans Eberhard Mayer, "Das Turiner Lazariter-Chartular," in Quellen und Forschungen aus italienischen Archiven und Bibliotheken, 82 (2002), 663-676.

Anthony Luttrell
Bath, England


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pp. 308-309
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