Saint Lazarus of Bethany

He was born around year 1 in Bethany. He died around the year 60. The exact place of his death could not be determined yet. Lazarus was the brother of Mary Magdalene and Martha, as well as a good friend of Jesus.

Saint Lazarus is the patron saint of butchers, gravediggers, beggars and lepers. His name means ‘God has helped’.

When Jesus learned that Lazarus had died, he wept over his death. He then made the four-day journey to Bethany where he raised Lazarus from the dead. He then attended the feast at Simon the Leper’s house, and many people came to see the saved man.

The resurrection of Lazarus from the dead was the culmination of Jesus’ acts of miraculous signs in John’s gospel and became the occasion for the decision to crucify, as well as to Hosianna on his entry into Jerusalem, and the basis of self-revelation: “I am the resurrection and the life”.

Lazarus as an individual is not interesting here, but as an example for all people whom Jesus loves. It is a powerful reminder that with God, nothing is impossible and that even in the face of death, hope always prevails.

A legend of the High Middle Ages made Lazarus the son of a duke, who renounced all vanity of the world. The Jews, together with his sisters and friends Maximin and Cedonius, gave him up to the wind and the waves on the sea on a ship without oars and sails. The ship therefore landed in Marseille, where Lazarus was elected bishop.

Saint Lazarus

Saint Lazarus ressurection in Santa Maria Maddalena (Rome)


Other legends let him fall asleep peacefully under Emperor Claudius, who reigned from 41 to 54; again others tell that he was threatened under Domitian, who reigned from 81 to 96, and called upon in vain to pagan sacrifice, then dragged and thrown into the dungeon where Christ appeared to him and encouraged him before he was beheaded.

Already Eusebius of Caesarea knows the tradition according to which Lazarus after his resurrection – at which he was 30 years old – moved to Kítion – today’s Lárnaka – on Cyprus and lived there for another 30 years.

When Paul came together with Barnabas to Cyprus, he met Lazarus and appointed him as bishop; so he became the first bishop of the city. Further traditions know Lazarus as living and dying in Ephesus or in Alexandria.

Other traditions tell of the kidnapping of the bones in the year 1204 by crusaders to Marseille. On it the legends of Lazarus go back as bishop of Marseille.

Betania was renamed Lazarion in honor of the saint. There a Lazarus grave is supposed to have been testified already in the year 333 by pilgrims. This is the place where the saint rested until his resurrection.

Likewise in the 4th century a hospital was established in Jerusalem, which cared for leprosy patients. It was led by a brotherhood of Lazarus which became the Lazarus order during the first crusades. Later additionally the mission order of Saint Lazarus developed, which likewise cared for leprosy patients in numerous hospitals. Members of the order were called Lazaristen and their hospitals lazaretto.

Of course numerous miracles are attributed to saint Lazarus, among them above all healings of the sick.

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