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Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus
OSSML Commandeur.jpg
Insignia of a Commander of SS. Maurice and Lazarus
Awarded by  Italy
Type Order of knighthood
Eligibility Civilian and military divisions
Awarded for Distinguished service or achievement
Status Awarded by House of Savoy in exile
Established 1572
Next (higher) Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
Next (lower) Military Order of Savoy

The Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus is an order of chivalry awarded by the House of Savoy, the heads of which were formerly Kings of Italy. The order was formed by a union in Italy of the original Order of St Lazarus and the Order of Saint Maurice in 1572 and has around 2,000 members.

History of the order

The Order of Saint Lazarus was established as a military and religious community at the time of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, probably some years before 1090. Presuming a foundation date of 1099 for the Order of the Hospital (now the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Order of Saint John), the Order of Saint Lazarus may be the oldest surviving of the medieval military-religious knightly orders. From its inception, the order was concerned with the relief of leprosy, and many of its members were lepers who had been knights in other orders. It became very rich, its practices dubious, and its funds much abused. With the fall of Acre in 1291 the knights of St Lazarus fled the Holy Land and Egypt and settled in France and, in 1311, in Naples. In the sixteenth century, the order declined in credibility and wealth. With papal support, Duke of Savoy became Grand Master in 1572.

The Order of St Maurice was founded in 1434 by Amadeus VIII, Duke of Savoy, who became Antipope Felix V. The order declined, but in 1572 was reestablished by Pope Pius V at the instigation on the then Duke of Savoy.

Before its transfer to the House of Savoy, the Order of Saint Lazarus maintained a number of leper hospitals, prominent among these an institution in the Italian city of Capua. French knights were reluctant to accept the Savoy grand mastership with effect in their country and the French kings maintained protectorate over Order of Saint Lazarus. In 1572 Pope Gregory XIII merged the Italian foundation of the Order of Saint Lazarus with the Order of St Maurice. The new order was charged to defend the Holy See as well as continue to assist lepers. The war galleys of the order fought against the Turks and the Barbary pirates. When leprosy again broke out the order founded, in 1773, a hospital in Aosta.

With the Italian unification (1860-1871), the order became a de facto Italian state award for civilian and military merit, consisting of five classes: Knight Grand Cross, Knight Grand Officer, Knight Commander, Knight Officer and Knight.

After Italy became a republic in 1946 the order was effectively replaced by the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. Since 1951 it has not been recognised officially by the Italian state. The House of Savoy in exile continued to bestow the order. Today it is granted to persons eminent in the public service, science, art, letters, trade, and charitable works. While the continued use of those decorations conferred prior to 1951 is permitted in Italy, the crowns on the ribbons issued before 1946 must be substituted for as many five pointed stars on military uniforms.[1]

The generally accepted Grand Master of the Order is Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples, the current head of the House of Savoy. Some of Vittorio Emanule's policies as Grand Master have generated controversy. All three of his sisters have resigned from their positions as dames of the order. Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy has criticised her brother for instituting "the payment of membership fees [and] activities such as the sale of objects with the Savoy coat of arms and credit cards of the order".[2] In 2006, Vittorio Emanuele's cousin, Amedeo of Aosta, declared himself Head of the Savoy dynasty and thus Grand Master de jure. For this reason the grand magistry is now contested.


A white Greek cross embellished in the four principal angles with gold eagles displayed and surmounted by a gold crown of four towers.

The former badge of an Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, used from 1951 to 2001.

The Order currently has six classes for gentlemen:

  • Knight Grand Cross, who wears the badge on a sash on the right shoulder, plus the star on the left chest;
  • Grand Officer, who wears the badge on a necklet, plus the star on the left chest;
  • Commander "jus patronato", who wears the badge on a necklet, plus the breast cross on the left chest;
  • Commander, who wears the badge on a necklet;
  • Officer, who wears the badge on a ribbon on the left chest;
  • Knight, who wears the badge without crown on a ribbon on the left chest;

as well as three classes for ladies:

  • Dame Grand Cross, who wears the badge on a bow with golden embroidery on the left shoulder;
  • Dame Commander, who wears the badge on a bow on the left shoulder;
  • Dame, who wears the badge without crown on a bow on the left shoulder.

Eventually, it became a requirement for a person to have already received the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus before receiving the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation.


  • The badge of the Order is in gilt, consists of a white-enameled cross botonny (the Cross of St. Maurice), with a green-enameled Maltese Cross (the Cross of St. Lazarus) placed in saltire between the arms of the cross botonny. The badge of each class except that of Knight and Dame is topped by a gilt crown.
  • The star of the Order is a silver faceted star, with eight points for Grand Cross and four points for Grand Officer, and with the badge (minus the crown) superimposed upon it.
  • The breast cross for the Commander "jus patronato" class is identical to the badge, minus the crown.
  • The ribbon of the Order is apple green, with slight variations for the several classes:
Ribbon Class (English) Full title in Italian
Cavaliere di gran Croce Regno SSML BAR.svg 1st Class / Knight Grand Cross Cavaliere di Gran Croce dell'Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro
Grande ufficiale SSML Regno BAR.svg 2nd Class / Commander First Class (from 1865 Grand Officer) Commendatore di prima classe (dal 1865 Grande Ufficiale) dell'Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro
Commendatore SSML Regno BAR.svg 3rd Class / Commander Commendatore dell'Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro
Ufficiale SSML Regno BAR.svg 4th Class / Officer Ufficiale dell'Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro
Cavaliere SSML BAR.svg 5th Class / Knight Cavaliere dell'Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro
Mauriziana BAR.svg Maurizian Medal (not members of the order) Medaglia Mauriziana pel Merito Militare di dieci lustri

The formerly related Maurizian Medal for Military Merit of fifty years, established in 1839, was one of the few medals not suppressed by the Republic, becoming the Maurizian Medal of Merit for fifty years military career in 1954.[3]

Selected recipients

See also Category:Recipients of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus

See also

  • List of Italian orders of knighthood
  • Dynastic Orders of Knighthood


  1. Ordini Cavallereschi del Regno d'Italia Corpo della Nobiltà Italiana (retrieved 10 September 2009)
  2. "The Fall of the House of Savoy", The Guardian, June 23, 2006.
  3. Established by Royal Magistral Patent dated 19 July 1839, approved by Royal Decree of 21 December 1924 and renewed by Law No. 203(1) of 7 March 1954 Medaglia Mauriziana al Merito di dieci lustri di carriera militare, published in Gazzetta Ufficiale, No. 116, 21 May 1954, as amended by Law No. 1327 of 8 November 1956
  4. Senato della Repubblica: biographical summary
  5. Collezione delle Leggi e de'Decreti Reali del Regno delle Due Sicilie, Stamperia reale, 1846, p.85
  6. Papel Periódico Ilustrado Volúmen 1 año I Número 1 al 14
  7. Head, William Pace (1995). Every Inch a Soldier: Augustine Warner Robins and the Building of U.S. Airpower Volume 37 of Texas A & M University military history series. Texas A&M University Press, 1995: Issue 37, p. 75 ISBN 0890965900, 9780890965900 Retrieved November 2, 2012.

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