Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
The origins of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre are uncertain. Some claim that the order was created by the Apostle Saint James shortly after the death of Jesus, while others attribute its origins to Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Saint Constantine. Less credulous historians attribute the order to Godefroy de Bouillon, the first King of Jerusalem.
What is known for certain is that an order of canons was estabished throughout Europe during the Crusades to support the church of the tomb of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. After the fall of the Holy City to the infidels, the order fragmented, with different priors claiming the title of Grand Master of the Order but no claim was recognized as legitimate. While knights are attributed to the order, these were most likely retired crusaders, not templars or hospitallers, seeking a life of service to the church in their old age.
In 1312, Pope Clement VI permitted the Franciscans, chief among the missionaries in the Holy Land, to assume custodianship of the order. It is in this century that historians record the creation of the first knights of the order. These knights were pilgrims, however, and it became necessary to permit the prior of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to conduct investiture as only rarely was a knight available to perform the ritual.
In 1615, the duc de Nevers was elected Grand Master of the Order by a group of French knights, but the Knights of Malta objected and Nevers was no longer permitted to invest new knights or claim control of the order shortly thereafter.
A pilgrimmage to Jerusalem to be invested in the Order remains popular among devout nobles, though the journey remains a perilous one and is undertaken by few.