Many historians trace the Order’s origins to the First Crusade and the conquest of Jerusalem by Geoffrey de Bouillon in the year 1099. De Bouillon found the Holy Sepulchre and Mount Calvary in the keeping of a handful of Canons Regular of the Order of St. Augustine, governed by their Patriarch, the Bishop of Jerusalem. He at once installed, in the remains of the original Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, a selected number of his knights to assist the Canons in the guardianship of the Holy Places.These were the first Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.The Foundation of the Order received the approval of Pope Paschal ll in 1113 and Pope Callistus ll in 1122. After the destruction of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem after the Battle of Hattin, and the expulsion of the Knights from the Holy Land at the end of the 13th century, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre was kept in being in a number of countries in Europe as a religious military Order.
When the Latin Patriarchate was abolished, responsibility fell upon the Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land to choose new Knights,to be created from among the fervent Christian pilgrims devoutly going to the Holy Sepulchre to receive
Investiture according to the ancient ceremony of Christian Knighthood still in use within the Order.The religious and charitable work of the Order throughout the centuries brought repeated and fervent praises from Popes, Kings, Bishops and Princes, after being specially commended and favoured by the Supreme Pontiffs, Alexander V1, Julius 11, Leo X and Clement X11, Benedict X1V gave the Order a new Constitution in 1746.
Death of Geoffrey de Bouillon
In 1847 a further stage in the Order’s history was marked by the restoration of the Latin Patriarchate by Pius 1X. He bestowed upon the Patriarch the responsibility of ruling and administering the Order. At this time the knights were given the specific task of supporting the Patriarch’s work for the maintenance and advancement of Christianity in the Holy Land. In 1888 Pope Leo X111 approved
the entry of women into the Order as Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre. In 1907 St. Pius X assumed the title of Grand Master, Pius X1 reappointed the Latin Patriarch as Regent of the Order.
Pope Pius X11 transferred the direction of the Order from Jerusalem to Rome and in a new
constitution decreed that the Order should be governed by a Cardinal appointed by the Holy Father to be Grand Master, and that the Latin Patriarch should be Grand Prior of the Order. The Cardinal Grand Master is supported by a governing body known as The Grand Magisterium and by National Lieutenancy’s of the Order.