“I appreciate the opportunity that has been offered to me to come on a pilgrimage to a land that is hallowed by the footsteps of patriarchs and prophets, a land that Christians hold in particular veneration as the setting for the events of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I take my place in a long line of Christian pilgrims to these shores, a line that stretches back to the earliest centuries of the church’s history and which, I am sure will continue long into the future.”
– Pope Benedict XVI, Arrival in Tel Aviv – May 11, 2009

As knights and dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, we are aware of our obligation to travel as pilgrims to the Holy Land and to visit its Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Such pilgrimages not only help us gain insight into our lives as “pilgrimages of faith,” but help us to understand better our faith in the Resurrected Jesus and express our solidarity with our sisters and brothers of the faith living under trying circumstances in the Holy Land.

The situation in the Holy Land, however, remains uncertain. Thus, we have suspended pilgrimages out of an abundance of concern. However, to help deepen our identity as knights and dames, the chair of our lieutenancy’s pilgrimage committee, Ms. Hélène Chazal de Kytspotter, has proposed a spiritual journey to her native France, which has a long connection to the Holy Land, from the tombs of Mary Magdalene and Martha of Bethany in the south of France to the relics of the Passion brought to Paris by the king, St. Louis, in the 13th century. 


A Spiritual Journey to France

November 1-10, 2024

Time is running out to register for our exclusive spiritual journey to France, scheduled for 1-10 November. Created by Peter’s Way Tours, the tour includes visits to important sites long associated with our order and the Holy Land, including the traditional tombs of Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany, the shrines housing the relics of the Passion of Jesus brought to Paris by St. Louis, and a visit to the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, which houses the relics, before its grand reopening in December.

To learn more and register, click here.

Pilgrim Shell

The Pilgrim Shell is the choicest decoration of the Order, and is awarded by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. Any knight or lady of the Order in good standing, who makes a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and prays at the site of the Holy Sepulchre of our Risen Lord, can earn the Pilgrim Shell. It testifies that the knight or lady of the Order has seen the results of his or her charity and knows the importance of the mission of the Order and the fulfillment of the apostolate. It is the goal of every member.

The Pilgrim Shell is a scalloped shell, the ancient badge of a pilgrim, oxidized in silver and overlaid with the Cross of Godfrey of Bouillon enameled in red and bordered in gold. It is worn on the outside of the cape, scalloped edge down, centered on the red felt cross of the Order. The Pilgrim Shell and the 2000 Jubilee medal are the only decorations to be worn on the cape. When worn with other decorations on business or formal attire, no decoration is placed above the Pilgrim Shell.

The identification of a seashell with a pilgrim is of ancient origin. In the beginning, the shell was never awarded or conferred on the recipient as it is today. Instead, it was a self-chosen decoration that the pilgrim proudly pinned on his own cloak, so that as he returned homeward, other pilgrims would know that the wearer had made it to the place of pilgrimage.

Legend has it that St. James, the apostle, had been the apostle of the Iberian Peninsula and had first brought the Good News of salvation to the people of that part of the world. He subsequently made his way back to Palestine to die and after death his body was returned to Spain to be buried in his own mission land in the city now called Santiago de Compostela, in honor of the apostle. In the ninth century, the place of his burial was rediscovered and gradually became a place of pilgrimage.

Before the first Crusade in the 11th century, Christians were not allowed by the Seljuk Turks to visit the Holy Land and Jerusalem. As a result, the faithful started to flow from all parts of Europe by different routes and streams, to pay homage to Our Lord at the spot where one of His apostles lay buried — Santiago de Compostela. Each year thousands of pilgrims visited and prayed at the tomb of St. James. Since Santiago de Compostela is so close to the sea, seashells were abundant and they became the badge of one who had traveled there. As they started the long walk home, the shell on their garment was a symbol of encouragement to those whom they passed who were on their way to visit the Tomb of St. James.

As history changed, pilgrims once again started their arduous trips to Palestine and the land of Jesus, but the Sea Shell of Santiago de Compostela had become the sign of a successful pilgrimage, and out of faith and tradition it remained the badge of pilgrims. To this day, the Pilgrim Shell is the most coveted award to be earned by a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem who has made a prayerful pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Receiving a Pilgrim Shell

Members who are planning a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and who would like to receive their Pilgrim Shell from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, should contact the Holy Sepulchre office via email or phone. Members should provide dates and times when they will be in Jerusalem at least 3 weeks prior to their visit so that a meeting can be arranged.


Grand Magisterium – Vatican

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

The Holy See

Custodia Terrae Sanctae

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