Special Investitur oft the Knighthood of Honour

A report by „Spectator“, pictures by Hannes Hochmuth – Press Photographer

On September 24th, 2013 , 22 Knights of Honour, Commanders, Grand Commanders, and Grand Cross Knights of Honour from the Lazarus Union as well as more officers, the Honour Guard, and private guests met at Kreuzenstein Castle to celebrate in an extraordinary atmosphere the ceremonial investiture of Hans Christian Count Wilczek, the lord of Kreuzenstein Castle and of Col. Mag. Bernhard Heher, the Music Commander and bandmaster of the Austrian Army Guard Regiment Music Corps.

On explicit request by Hans Christian Earl of Wilczek the investiture bestowing upon him the honour of a Collar Knight of Honour of the Lazarus Union, the highest award the Lazarus Union is able to give, was celebrated in the chapel of the castle which is also the burial site of his ancestors. Before, this honour was only bestowed upon Minister a.D. Dr. Werner Fasslabend, one of the “founders“ of the Knighthood of Honour. His decree as a Lazarus Union Knight of Honour holds the serial number 1.

We are also proud that Colonel Bernhard Heher MA has accepted the dignity as a Lazarus Union Knight of Honour. There is a close friendship and bond between our music corps and the Austrian Army Guard Regiment Music Corps, a companionship which cannot be valued highly enough.

This ceremony was purposely not announced on our homepage in advance and only Knights of Honour, selected officers, and private guests were invited as the locale provided only very limited space. All assembled in front of the new tavern and then marched together into the terrific inner ward to the doors of the chapel.

Words cannot describe the atmosphere this part of the castle provided on this late afternoon shortly before twilight fell in. The faces of the participants were proof that no one could exclude himself from the spiritual atmosphere which was almost to be felt physically.

After a solemn entry procession, the CSLI fanfare and a welcome by the Grand Master of the Knighthood of Honour Senator h.c. Wolfgang Steinhardt there was the ceremonial renewal of the officer‘s promise of the Lazarus Union, followed by the Grand Master‘s address and the blessing of the insignia by the Reverend GR Mag. Wolfgang Berger.

All parts of this extraordinary investiture were framed by music from the Lazarus Union Music Corps, directed by Franz Lentner. A big compliment and a huge thank you to our music corps.

The climax was the investiture ceremony. One could hear a needle drop as the Grand Master asked the two postulants: “I ask you therefore, before the assembled congregation:Do you of your own free will as a Knight of Honour want to belong to our community and accept our mission? and Are you aware what it means to be a member of this community?” and they both answered “I want it with all my heart!” andYes, I am!

After this public promise, the handing over of the sword, the coat and the insignia and a blessing the new Knights of Honour were welcomed with big applause and the corps fanfare was played to honour them.

After a prayer the remembrance for dead comrades was held.

While “The Good Comrade“ was played the audience payed homage to H.E. Vice President Colonel retd. Reinhard Wassertheurer, Grand Marshal of the Knighthood of Honour Lazarus Union, a dear loyal faithful comrade and friend, who recently passed away.

After Beethoven‘s “Ode to Joy“ the leaving procession took place and the traditional group photograph was taken in front of the chapel, accompanied by congratulations. Then there was a get-together in the castle tavern with good food and drinks. With talks and friendly conversation this culminating event sadly came to a finish.

Thanks also to LtCol retd. Rudi Murth, our protocol officer who guided safely though the celebration and also to Hannes Hochmuth, as always responsible for pictures, and to all who participated in making this a successful investiture.



Pre assembly

 Procession into the castle

Welcome address

Officers pledge

Ensemble of the Music Corps

Addresses and insignia blessing

Investiture of Colonel Bernhard Heher MA

Investiture of  Hans Christian Earl of Wilczek

Remembrance for the died comrades

Exit and congratulations

Final in the taverne of the castle

 Many special thanks to our photographer Hannes Hochmuth!

Address of the Grand Master
Spiritual Dignitaries, dear Postulants and Knights of Honour, dear Guests, dear Officers and Comrades!

I would like to give the postulants Hans Christian Earl of Wilczek and Colonel Bernhard Heher MA some thoughts for their onward journey.

The Union Corps Saint Lazarus International, in short called CSLI or Lazarus Union, sees itself a little bit in the tradition of the old knightly armies and feels especially obliged to the ideals and the mindset of St. Lazare of Bethania. The four cornerstones all CSLI members try to live up to and act accordingly, are

tolerance, humbleness, charity, and mercy.

The CSLI is not a “knightly union“ or a “knight order“ but an international association trying in accordance to its possibilities and local customs to help people or at least simply give them a little joy. Currently the CSLI has more than 16,000 members in over 60 organisations in more than 70 different countries on all continents and grows continuously.

The knightly virtues our association feels bound to do not lack any of their meaning in modern times. To hold a knightly attitude does not depend on birth, religion, colour, status, and money. This attitude dwells and prospers only within those humans holding it in their hearts, willing to fight and stand up for it.

To be a knight resp. to act in a knightly fashion never was easy and will also make high demands on us in the future, stressing us to our limits. Methinks that to accept this in humbleness and dignity is a privilege not granted to everybody. So we should meet this task with pleasure and dedication and prove ourselves worthy to it. Personal pettishness shall and must be put below the big common goals.

Yet on a day like today I must mention that the Wilczek dynasty which dates back to 1240 was raised to earldom in 1713, exactly 300 years ago and that the grandfather of our Hans Christian Earl of Wilczek would celebrate his 100th birthday this year.

When one looks at the history of  Kreuzenstein Castle which we call proudly our titular seat today and in which chapel we are able to celebrate such a tremendous act one can easily see why Kreuzenstein Castle is such a perfect place for a titular seat for the Lazarus Union Knighthood of Honour.

Like the castle which was never conquered until the Thirty Years‘ War and destroyed in 1675 the original Order of St. Lazare existed until the French Revolution and was dissolved in 1830.

In 1937 idealists brought the Order of St. Lazare back to life following the old traditions and also the Wilczek family began reconstructing this castle, following the old traditions, by the end of the 19th century.

The new castle looks a bit different, compared to the old Kreuzenstein Castle although much of the old substance was reused. Also the new “Order of St. Lazare“ goes back to the crusader‘s roots. But in fact it is a new construction (a new castle) and just like the Lazarus Union, a worldwide acting charity organisation being founded upon the ideals of the original Order of St. Lazare without necessarily being an order (neither a spiritual nor a profane one)!

Being build upon the medieval basements the parts of the old castle are easily spotted, just like the Lazarus Knighthood of Honour makes visible the old knightly virtues it cherishes so much in a modern society.

So the turbulent history of Kreuzenstein Castle and the similarly turbulent history of the Lazarus Union Knighthood of Honour match together well and so we are more than happy that especially this Kreuzenstein Castle has become our titular seat. I love this castle since having been her for the first time as a 6 year old boy scout and this love has remained until today. That I am able to celebrate this investiture here with you as a Grand Master of the Knighthood of Honour certainly is one of the summits in my life.

You, dear postulants, have always strived to live up to these knightly virtues and to act accordingly. Your attitude towards our mission statement is exemplary and by this you have rightly earned the dignity and honour to become members of the Lazarus Union Knighthood of Honour. But this statement shall not be a snapshot and so I want to give you a quote by the late Pope John XXIII for your onward journey. He said

“My sisters and brothers, don’t ever even think about giving up. Be always ready to make a new beginning!”

Like in former days when the deeds of a single person could decide a battle also today it depends on every single person how he or she is able to fulfil tasks as a “modern knight.“ Be brave! Be consequent and live up to your honour!

As a Grand Master of our Knighthood of Honour I have the great privilege and the great pleasure to publicly honour your merits in this investiture and to bestow upon you the dignity of a Lazarus Union Knight of Honour, after an unanimous and secret voting by the chapter.

I hope that your example will also inspire others to not only have their own self in mind but also unselfishly provide some joy to other fellow humans.

Our literal roots go back to the year 340 when the term “Lazarite“ was first mentioned in a document, standing for a leprosy hospital outside Jerusalem.

At the time of the crusades, knights suffering from leprosy were attended there and from this the military branch of the “Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem“ developed. It consisted of knights of Outremer suffering from leprosy and forming the “army of the living dead,“ famous for their brave fighting as they preferred dying in battle to rotting away slowly because of their disease.

After the loss of Akko the Lazarus knights left Outremer and made their way to France via Cyprus, Rhodes, and Malta. For almost 600 years they were protected by the Kings of France and the officers of the French fleet came from their ranks. After the French revolution the order was dissolved and according to its rules finally terminated in 1907, 50 years after the death of the last knight in 1857.

In 1937 the secular order was founded anew and currently there are (alas) almost a dozen “orders of St. Lazare“ all claiming to be the “original order of St. Lazare.“ As their proofs and decrees are mostly absurd and self-fabricated, no one of these newly founded groups has been accepted by the Holy See. So they strictly speaking are all “knightly associations“ and not orders in the strict sense of the word. They are organised in part as companies and mostly as unions and associations.

The LAZARUS UNION has always stated from its very beginning and states here once more that it is neither a secular nor a religious knight‘s order, adhering to no specific religious group and having no obligations toward sone. The Lazarus Union never claimed clerical recognition in any form so nor will it do so in the future. The Lazarus Union wants to cooperate respectfully in peace with all religions, groups, and persons, segregating nobody. We have anchored tolerance, humbleness, charity, and mercy in our mission statement.

Values our postulants stand for and they will in a short time receive the honour of a Lazarus Union Knight of Honour, giving publicly proof to all of us by their own word.

Thank you for your attention!