I. Godfrey of Bouillon
After the misfortune of the first crusade to liberate the Holy Sepulchre a new, this time well prepared military expedition, was set up from the four corners of Europe. (see History)
Raymond of Toulouse, Bohemond of Tarente, Robert of Flanders and Godfrey of Bouillon all had armies prepared and agreed to unite forces on the banks of Bosphorde.
In order to finance his crusade, Godfrey of Bouillon sold his fortress of Bouillon, with rights to recover, to OTBERT Prince-Bishop of Liège, for the very important sum of 1300 pieces of silver, 3 pieces of gold, and one pound of gold.
As head of the northerly crusaders, he left his fortress of Bouillon on August 15th 1096 on his way to Constantinople.
Fortress of Godfrey of Bouillon in Belgium
The moment the 4 army leaders joined forces on the banks of Bosphorde, they were confronted with a typical problem a united army has to deal with, the ultimate command. It is not surprising that Godfrey of Bouillon was elected leader of the combined forces by reason of his remarkable talents, amongst which his knowledge of Germanic and Latin languages. Our regions, estuary of large rivers, have always been the cross roads of Europe where the Latin, German, Anglo-Saxon and Celtic cultures met, as well in times of war as in peace.
Godfrey was therefore appointed by his equals to negotiate with Alexis I Comnenus, Emperor of Byzantium, the crossing of his territories. and obtained the supreme command of the allies forces to prepare the final attack which would lead them to conquer Jerusalem.
The crusaders finally conquered the Holy City on the 15th of July 1099 shouting 'DEUS LO VULT' which the Order up till today preserves as its motto.
Godfrey of Bouillon was offered to assume the kingship of the newly re-won territory but refused the golden crown there where Christ was crowned with thorns. He preferred instead the title of 'Protector of the Holy Sepulchre'.
Godfrey of Bouillon is for our Order an example of courage, efficiency and humility.
To keep alive the memory of Godfrey of Bouillon, one may see on the wall of the sacristy of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre a cabinet displaying a sword and spears, and a stone bearing thefollowing inscription: "From Bouillon to Jerusalem, a stone from the Castle of our Duke Godfrey of Bouillon, Advocate of the Holy Sepulchre. May he rest in peace in these walls."
The sword of Godfrey of Bouillon is wel kept bij the Franciscan Guard
in the sacristy of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Next to it a slab from the castle of Bouillon is sealed on the wall.
II. The Order of the Holy Sepulchre in the Low Conbtries
The archives kept over the years can tell us how many people were knighted in front of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem between 1336 and 1498. In the 14th century of the 20 men knighted there were 5 coming from theLow Countries. In the 15th century there were 515 of which the larger part came from Germany.
In Belgium a certain Anselme Adornes left in 1470 for the Holy Land. His tomb can still be found in the Church of Jerusalem in Bruges, which was build by his father (cfr. Jean Pierre de Gennes).
Between 1500 and 1560, a quarter of the new knights came from our regions, while between 1597 and 1739 this was only 3%. The low number is probably caused by the troubles of the Reformation. Between 1815 and 1848 only 2% of the new knights came from our region. (cfr.Guy Stair Sainty)
The acting custody of the Holy Land possesses very valuable archives, which contain names of people knighted between 1561 and 1847. From this document, though with many errors and shortcomings, our former Lieutenant late Baron de Meester de Ravestein, tried to put together a list of the Belgian knights of the Holy Sepulchre from the beginning up till 1939. Should there be interest in this list, we would be happy to reproduce it on this website.
III. The General Chapter of Hoogstraten (1558)
In the beginning of the 16th century, since the Ottomen were in command of the Mediterranean basin, the Muslim presence was most worrying. The westerners, after having faced a poignant defeat in front of the island of Djerba in 1560, organised an international fleet under the command of Don Juan of Austria, whom in 1571 achieved an overwhelming victory at sea in Lepanto.
The fame of this victory was enormous. It was the first time indeed that the Cristians succeded to inflict a heavy defeat to the armed forses of the Crescent. Unfortunately it did not significantly modify the political or military situation.
Because of this area of tension between the Christians and the Arabs in the 16th century, the military orders revived. Some 30 Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, most of them Flemish, united in Hoogstraten on the 26th of March 1558. Their objective was the creation of an Order so that their personal capacity as Knights of the Holy Sepulchre would be united under the Grand Mastership of King Philip II.
We reproduce below, for illustration purposes only, the start of the official document that was drawn up to conclude the Chapter in Hoogstraten. The full document of the Chapter can be found in the archives of Simancus in Spain.
Two weeks later on the 10th of April, the king accepts the Grand Mastership and appoints his son and crown prince Don Carlos, Prince of the Order. Philip II sent an ambassador to Rome to obtain the approval of the Pope. A number of political intrigues made the attempt fail.
After the death of the Pope, Philip II made a final desperate attempt with the successor, Pope PIUS IV, without any success.
It is interesting to note that the Church of Saint Catherine in Hoogstraten (Belgium), where the chapter took place in 1558, was build in 1525 by Antoine of Lalaing, the first Count of Hoogstraten and Ysabeau of Culembourg, who's mother was the grand daughter of Philip the Good, Duke of Brabant.
The choir of the church, after all these years is intact and the members of the Order still gather in front of the same church windows where their forefathers united. In such occasions, mass is celebrated with the priestly vestments of that time, carrying the coats of arms of the families Lalaing-Culembourg
IV. The Lieutenancy of Belgium today
The Lieutenancy of Belgium was created in 1926 and carried at that time the title of Province of Belgium. On the 11th of April 1930, the Church of Our Lady of Victories in the centre of Brussels was designated Collegiate Church of the Lieutenancy by H.E. Cardinal Van Roey, Archbishop of Malines, Primate of Belgium and Knight Grand Cross of the Order.
Below, you see a picture of the document affirming the appointment.
In 1934, the Belgian Lieutenancy reorganised as a non-profit organisation under Belgian law. The official name became: 'The Belgian Association of Members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem".
To better support its activities in the Holy Land, the "Foundation for the Holy Land" was created by the Belgian Lieutenancy in 1991.
The members of our royal family are traditionally members of the Order.
On the 19th of October 1995, the Lieutenant-general of the Order Prince Paolo-Enrico MASSIMO LANCELLOTTI and the Govenor-general Count Ludovico CARDUCCI ARTEMISIO offered King Albert and Queen Paola, the insignia of Knights and Dame of the Collar of the Order. At the same time the insignia of Knight Grand Cross were given to Crown Prince Filip, Duke of Brabant. Queen Fabiola was already Dame of the Collar of the Order.
HH. MM. King Albert II and Queen Paola
The responsibility of the Belgian Lieutenancy, with approximately 360 members, is designated to H.E. Mr.Jean-Pierre Fierens by our Grand Master. The Lieutenant is responsible for achieving the objectives of the Order in his proper Jurisdiction. He is accountable to the Cardinal Grand Master and is supported in his duties by the Council of the Order:
Lieutenant: H.E. Mr.Jean-Pierre Fierens
Grand Prior: H.E. Mgr. Jean Kockerols
Chancellor: Mr. Charles Thibaut de Maisières
Treasurer: Count Aymar de Brouchoven de Bergeyck
Secretary: Mr.Jean-Marie Scheerlinck
Ecclesiastical Master of Ceremonies: H.E. Kanunnik Felix Rijcken
Lay Master of Ceremonies: Mr. Stephan Janssens
Counselors: Mr. Paul Leysen, Mrs. Albert de Schaetzen van Brienen and Baron Donnay de Casteau
(updated on October 24th 2012)
Secretariat of the Belgian Lieutenancy
1 Parvis de la Basilique B - 1083 Brussels BELGIUM
Telephone: 02/375.80.43. Fax: 02/428.79.99