On Sunday 13 February, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli celebrated an Investiture Mass, during which he conferred knighthood and damehood upon two new members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. These members were Damian Noseda and Deloraine Keegal.

The Order of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the oldest surviving Orders of Chivalry, existing under the authority of the Papal See.

‘Becoming a knight or dame means dedicating your life with commitment to profess the faith of Christ through witness, generosity, and love of the Gospel,’ the Archbishop said.

This implies placing Jesus Christ at the centre of our existence and every personal, family, or social project.’

Integral to the ceremony was the making of promises. Both members promised to observe the Constitution of the Order and to accept the ideals of the Christian Gospel and everything that entails.

After the investing, each member received a cross around their necks, ‘a sign of honour and pledge of eternal glory,’ the Archbishop said.

The Archbishop also said that members are to:

Know how to preserve the great riches of the values of the past, while living the present intensely, committing yourselves to today, looking forward to the future, opening horizons of hope to give a more human face to a society, and to make Christ the heart of the world.’
Members of the Order gather outside St Patrick's Cathedral, with Archbishop Peter A Comensoli and Fr David Cartwright Supplied

A brief history

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem has a staggering history, going back to the First Crusade (1096-1099). After the liberation of Jerusalem by Godfrey de Boullion, the Order of Canons of the Holy Sepulchre was founded, the purpose of which was to help organise the territories that had been freed from Muslim control, and protect pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land.

The members of this Order included Regular Canons (Fratres), Secular Canons (Confratres) and Sergentes. The Sergentes were armed knights specially chosen from among the Crusaders to defend the Holy Sepulchre and other holy places in Jerusalem.

The Order would go on to establish a vast network of priories across Europe, a network that would come in handy when Saladin took back Jerusalem in 1182, leaving them without a leader. They continued to exist despite an inability to fulfil their mission of defending the holy places of Jerusalem.

Jump forward to 1847 and Pope Pius IX modernised the Order, issued it a new Constitution, and defined its role more narrowly: upholding the works of Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and propagating the faith. What this essentially meant was that a scattered and fragmented Order became united under one governing authority.

Under Pope Pius XII the Order was placed under the authority of Rome. In 1992 Pope John Paul II enhanced the Order’s status to a Public Association of the faithful with a legal, canonical and public personality.

Australian presence and symbol

The Order has seven Lieutenancies across Australia. The Victorian Lieutenancy was inaugurated at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1995, and over the years has built up to more than 100 members. Melbourne priest Fr David Cartwright has been the Chaplain to the Order since 2001.

The symbol of the Order is what’s known as the Cross of Godfrey, or the Jerusalemite Cross, or even the quintuple Cross. Legend has it this was the insignia Godrey de Boullion wore when he first liberated Jerusalem. It consists of one large red cross, and four smaller crosses in each quarter.

Jerusalem Cross of the Holy Order of the Sepulchre, at the Mount of Olives Wikimedia Commons

These five crosses recall the five wounds of Christ, and the scarlet colour is a reminder of the blood shed on Calvary. They are also said to represent the virtues of gentleness, courtesy, charity, loyalty and generosity, the virtues all members are encouraged to live by.

The mission of the Order, to this day, remains not only propagation of the faith but assisting in charitable, cultural and social works in the Holy Land and supporting the faith there.