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History of the Grand Priory

The Maltese Jurisdiction of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem has a relatively recent history. There are no direct references to any links between the Order of Saint Lazarus and the Islands during the Medieval period, though regulations relating to the Order in Sicily would have applied to the Islands as well. During 1268-1272, Charles I of Anjou adopted Pope Clement IV’s bull of August 1265 and ordered that all the leprosaria in his domains were to be placed under the protection and government of the Order of St Lazarus who was further to be given all the property belonging to lepers. This edict would have extended to the Maltese Islands so that had any lazarettos or land holdings been extant there, these would have fallen under the governance of the Order.

During the Hospitaller period, a number of 16th century Grand Masters of the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem had probably spent time on the Maltese Islands having been first professed as knights of the Order of Saint John in Malta. These include: Jean de Lévis [professed Knight OSJ: 1532; elected GM OSL: 1557]; Michel de Seure de Lumigny [professed Knight OSJ: 1539; elected GM OSL: 1564/1586]; François Salviati [professed Knight OSJ: 1544; elected GM OSL: 1578]; Armand de Clermont de Chastes [professed Knight OSJ: 1566; elected GM OSL: 1593]; and Jean-Charles de Gayand de Monterolles [elected GM OSL: 1599]. Their sojourn on Malta however would probably have predated their appointment to the post of Grand Master of the Order of Saint Lazarus. Similarly members of the Order of St John were admitted to the fused Order of St Lazarus and Mount Carmel during the 17th and 18th century usually after obtaining a dispensation to get married. Examples of such individuals include Louis de Bethune (admitted 1675); Claude Pottier de Novion (ad. 1681); Jacques de Rostaing de Mesangeres (ad. 1682); Annibal de Bethune (ad. 1683); Alexandre Vaultier (ad. 1684 – Commander of the Order of St John); François-Antoine Comte de Bercheny (ad. 1769); Hugues de Bar de La Garde et de Croizat (ad. 1784); and Pons-Simon de Pierre de Bernis (ad. 1788 – Grand Cross of Honour of the Order of St John). Other members of the Order of St John exiled from Malta were in 1800 admitted members of the Order of St. Lazarus. These included Baille de Flashlander, Grand Bailli baron Jean Baptiste de Pfirdt-Blumberg Karspach, General Lamb, and Comte Theodore Rostopchine.

After the departure of the Order of Saint John from the Maltese Islands in 1798, the political and cultural history of the Islands became interlinked with that of the British Isles. The origins of the present Maltese jurisdiction are therefore linked to the development of the English Tongue historically based upon Scotland, England and Ireland. The Order of Saint Lazarus had been suppressed in the British Isles by King Henry VIII in 1544. It was re-established in the United Kingdom in 1960 when Lord Mowbray was appointed Grand Prior of England and Wales. This was followed by the re-institution of the English Tongue that was formally declared on the 25th November 1961 under the Presidency of the Commissioner General and Grand Bailiff for the English Tongue, Lt. Colonel Robert Gayre of Gayre and Nigg, Laird of Lochore. Bailiwicks were soon established in the English-speaking world – not only in Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales; but also in the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda, Germany and Scandinavia. Original members of the Scottish Grand Bailiwick were the Maltese Sir Hannibal Publius Scicluna MBE KStJ GCM KCMM KCSG KLJ and his spouse Lady M.H. Scicluna DLJ. In 1964, Colonel Joseph Vincent Abela MBE OBE KCStJ KLJ was also admitted a knight of the Order.

In 1965, steps were taken to form the Independent Commandery of Malta with Col. J.V. Abela as its first member. Subsequent members admitted in 1967 included Elias Zammit; Anthony Zammit; Anthony Miceli-Farrugia; Robert Biasini dei Conti Stagno Navarra; Prof. Canon Carmelo Muscat; Prof. J.V. Zammit-Maempel; Ms. Evelyn Abela; Major Albert Edward Abela; and J. Amato Gauci. On the 15th April 1969, the Independent Commandery of Malta was raised to the status of a Priory of Malta with a roll amounting to 17 Maltese members. The Priory of Malta hosted the Grand Magistral Council meeting held in Malta on the 3rd-5th October 1969 during which its members participated actively. The Delegations attending the Council were received by His Grace the Archbishop and His Coadjutor Bishop Gerada at the Curia. In 1971, a Gozo Delegation of the Priory of Malta was set up in the sister island with Dr. J.R. Pace serving as the delegate. This coincided with the award of the Grand Cross of Merit to the Bishop of Gozo Giuseppe Pace [b.1890; d.1972; con.1944]. The Gozo delegation however was disbanded and amalgamated within the mother Priory of Malta after Dr. Pace moved residence to Malta.


By 1983, the Priory of Malta was elevated to the status of Grand Priory of the Maltese Islands with Judge W.D. Harding serving as Grand Prior. A subsidiary jurisdiction - Commandery of Gozo - was again set up in 2005. The Grand Priory has throughout its history been active in the philanthropic scene on the Maltese Islands. Its philanthropic works are today organized under the umbrella of two registered NGO affiliates - The Ordo Sancti Lazari Melitensis Fundatio - NGO No. VO/0835 and Raoul Follereau Foundation (Malta) - The Order of Charity - NGO No. VO/0980.

The Maltese Islands have since the 1970s served as an important outpost of the International Order. The Order has its international headquarters and its archives stationed in the Maltese Islands at Torri ta' Lanzun. it is represented by two main jurisdictions: the National jurisdiction represented by the Grand Priory of the Maltese Islands with its subjurisdiction in Gozo; and the Grand Commandery of the Castello which falls directly under the Grand Master's responsibility.


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Heads of the Maltese Jurisdiction

  • Sir Hannibal Publius Scicluna [Bailiff, 1967]

  • Col. Joseph Vincent Abela [Prior, 1969]

  • R. Biasini dei Conti Stagno Navarra [Prior, 1970]

  • Judge William D. Harding [Grand Prior, 1983]

  • Antoine Zammit [Prior, 1985]

  • Jamie H. Cremona [Grand Prior, 1993]

  • Antoine. Zammit [Grand Prior, 1997]

  • Josie R. Pace [Grand Prior, 2004—splinter group]

  • Josie R. Pace [Grand Prior, 2007—united group]

  • Charles Savona-Ventura [Grand Prior, 2013]

Heads of the Gozo sub-Jurisdiction

  • Josie R. Pace [Delegate, 1971]

  • Paul Banavage [Commander, 2005]

  • Carmel Saliba [Commander, 2013]

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