The Most Sacred Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers.
The Most Sacred Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers.

The Order was founded in December 1972 by His Beatitude Makarios III, the Cypriot Archbishop and Ethnarch. Makarios was also the first President of the Republic of Cyprus (1960-1977). As Archbishop and President, Makarios decreed that the Grandmastership of the Order should always be vested in the Archbishop of, and Ethnarch in, Cyprus, and that the office of Temporal Protector should be vested in the President of the Republic of Cyprus.
The original conception of the Order was a revival of the Russian tradition of the Order of St John. In its early days, the following introduction was produced by the Order;

"The specific and continuing Hospitaller tradition with which the Order associates itself is derived from the initiative of Pope St Gregory 1 in founding a hospice in Jerusalem in 603 A.D. Upon this foundation, revived in the 11th century by monks from Amalfi, then but lately under Byzantine rule, grew up a great hospice and hospital whose brothers quickly evolved their community into the great Order of St John of Jerusalem, of which, at the end of the eighteenth century, the Orthodox Russian Emperor Paul I was elected Grand Master, at which time a Graeco-Russian Grand Priory of the Order was established, Although the Emperor Alexander I suppressed the Order in the Russian Empire and the Grand Mastership reverted to a Catholic, the spirit of the old Graeco-Russian Grand Priory lived on and now finds a new form and expression in the present Order of Orthodox Hospitallers exemplified by its activities in the area of medical help, care for refugees, relief and general social concerns in respect of which it is registered as a National and Overseas Charity in the United Kingdom and in membership of the U.K. National Council of Social Services.". - [duplicated sheets, 'The Most Sacred Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers', n.d., 8 sides]

Makarios made the headquarters of the Order, the Monastery of St. Barnabas, Famagousta, in the Republic of Cyprus, and the Order did retain its Seat there with the permission of the Turkish authorities after the occupation of the Monastery by Turkey during the civil war in 1974. The Historic Order of  St. John, had its seat in Cyprus 1291-1310, after losing their home in the Holy Land, and before gaining Rhodes.

Membership is restricted those of the Orthodox faith. Other forms of association with the Order have been opened to Heterodox Christians (non Orthodox). Makarios instituted a Decoration which may be conferred on non-Orthodox persons for services rendered to the Order, and conferred in three classes: Companion, Companion First Class and Companion with Star, and very rarely with Cordon. Companionships do not imply membership of the Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers. Makarios decreed that the Apostolic Pro-Nuncios to Cyprus and to Great Britain, the Vicar General of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem in Cyprus, and the Anglican Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf should be offered the Decoration with Star on their appointment. He also recommended that other religious leaders and public figures, especially in countries with large Orthodox communities, should be honoured with a Companionship to further good ecumenical and inter-faith relations.
To be a pan-Orthodox Order and able to operate outside Cyprus, the Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers obtained canonical recognition from the Representatives of other autocephalous Patriarchs, including the Constantinople and Moscow Patriarchates. The Patriarchs of Alexandria, Nicholas VI, and Diodros I of Jerusalem, became High Spiritual Protectors of the Order within their Canonical Territories, a right which can be claimed by all Metropolitans within the territory of their jurisdiction.
The appointment of Brother Serge Baron von Bennigsen, O.H., as Grand Chancellor and Megas Domesticos of the Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers by His Beatitude Archbishop Makarios was confirmed by his successors, the new Archbishop of Cyprus and the newly elected President of Cyprus.

Archbishop Makarios III was not only the Head of the Orthodox Church in Cyprus but also the democratically elected (and twice re-elected) President of the Republic of Cyprus. The Order has continued to enjoy the Patronage of the Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, and the Patronage of the President of Cyprus; therefore Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers is in every respect an unquestionable Chivalric Order which is endowed with all the privileges of an Order instituted by a Head of State. The Decorations and the Companionships conferred by the Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers have therefore the same standing in the World Community as have other decorations conferred by an Chivalric Order recognised by a Nation State.

According to Prince Sergei Troubetzkoy (ex-King Peter Order - King Peter had died and his "Sovereign Order of St John" had split into several factions, one of which was led by Troubetzkoy),  in 1974, some discussions took place with a meeting at Capri between Prince Sergei Troubetzkoy, Baron Eric de Kolb, Wartenberg, Count A. Orssich, Prince Kyril Scherbatow of the ex-King Peter Order and Baron Sergei von Bennigsen, who was Chancellor of the Most Sacred Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers. At that time H.I.H. Prince Dimitri Alexandrovitch Romanoff of Russia (1901-1980) was the Grand Prior of the Most Sacred Order. Count Nicholas Bobrinskoy was brought into the picture just after the meeting. At the time he appears to have been the Prior of the ex-King Peter Order's New York Priory. It appears that as a result of this encounter, Count Nicholas is listed as the Lieutenant Grand Prior of an alliance of Orders consisting of his Priory, other King Peter II units under Troubetzkoy and the group, which made up the Most Sacred Orthodox Order.

Baron Sergei von Bennigsen (1940-2005) had already gained the Protection and Blessing of the Orthodox Church in Western Europe (Moscow Patriarchate) 20th January 1974, and of the Orthodox Church in France, 30th January 1974. The wording on the Blessing from he Orthodox Church in Western Europe is as follows;

"Considering the Sovereign authority and the Canons of the Holy Orthodox Church, and also the aims and the Constitution of the Hospitallers of the Orthodox Tradition of the Russian Grand Priory of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, the Orthodox Hospitallers of Saint John, I, Archbishop Anthony, Metropolitan of Sourozh and Exarch of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russias in Western Europe, bestow my Blessing and spiritual Protection upon, and grant Canonical Recognition to, this truly charitable and hospitable Orthodox Order of Chivalry, and accredit His Excellency the Baron Sergei von Bennigsen Plenipotentiary Minister, extraordinary envoy and Charge d'Affaires of the Orthodox Hospitallers of Saint John as Diplomatic Representative to My Exarchal See in London."

On the 5th April 1974, Metropolitan Iriney, Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All-America and Canada, provides a document which gives his blessing and canonical recognition of the "Hospitallers of the Orthodox Tradition of the Russian Grand Priory of the Sovereign Order of Saint John, of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta" to "Count Nicholas Bobrinskoy, Bailiff, Lieutenant Grand Prior, Plenipotentiary Minister, extraordinary envoy and Charge d'Affaires of the Orthodox Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem...Knights of Malta." The wording was as follows;

"I, Metropolitan IRENEY, Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All-America and Canada, bestow my Archpastoral Blessing and spiritual protection upon, and grant canonical recognition to, this truly charitable and hospitable Orthodox Order of Chivalry, and accredit His Excellency, Count Nicholas Bobrinskoy, Bailiff, Lieutenant Grand Prior, Plenipotentiary Minister, extraordinary envoy and Charge d'Affaires of the Orthodox Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem...Knights of Malta...as Diplomatic Representative to the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America."

Both document are almost word for word, with the "The Most Sacred Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers" using a much longer title of; "Hospitallers of the Orthodox Tradition of the Russian Grand Priory of the Sovereign Order of Saint John, of Jerusalem", with the addition of "the Orthodox Hospitallers of Saint John", for the group as led by Bennigsen, and the addition of "Knights of Malta" to that led by Bobrinskoy.

The alliance or merger between the Orders did not last long and seems to have been abandoned by 1975.

The more recent history of the Order under the name The Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers in the 1990s saw a move of its seat to Greece, - 6 Tzireon Str. 11742 Athens, with a claim to a pre-history, which goes beyond acknowledging its inspiration from the past, to claiming a lineal descent to that past. This claim has been aided by the fact , that it is claimed that some Hereditary Commanders of the Russian Grand Priory ( &   ) have become members of what is a pan-Orthodox Order. These claims have since been toned down or dropped with the move of its seat to London circa 1995, under Dr Michael Brett-Crowther.

The Badge of the Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers is a white enamelled, gold-rimmed, Cross botonnee, worn as a neck badge and also on the left breast. The Decoration which is conferred with a Companionship is a red enamelled round medallion with a white Cross botonnee in the centre, and in the white surround in gold the letters: "For the Glory of God and the Good of Mankind." Companions and Companions First Class wear the badge from a red ribbon, the latter with a red rosette on the ribbon, on their left breast. Companions with Star wear a seven-pointed gilded star with the enamelled badge in the centre. Companions with star and Cordon wear a red moiré sash, eight centimetres wide, over their right shoulder.

Orthodox Hospitallers Links 
The Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers Charity Old Listing in the UK 
The Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers Charity Present Listing in the UK 
Orthodox Hospitallers of Cyprus  
Article on the Charity work of Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers  
The Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers' own Web Site  
The Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers' main Web Site  
Charitable work of the Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers  


Amended 3rd April 2006

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