Order of the Cross with the Red Star
Agnes of Bohemia, inspiredby the example ofher cousin Elizabeth of Hungary, began to gather Prague's poor around her, but when she joined the Holy Order she had to hand the mover to the Brotherhood, foundedby her just to serve the poor and destitute.
Traditionally the first hospitallers were crusaders coming home from Palestine, called the Betlehemites. The Brotherhood was founded in 1233 and its first prior was Master Albert of Sternberg. The Brotherhood was elevated to the independent Hospitaller Order in 1237 by Pope Gregory IX through his Bull "Omnipotens Deus". The Order had to follow the monastic rules of St. Augustine. The new order, which got a large dowry from Saint Agnes, was also supported by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia. Inspite of originating from a Franciscan family, it soon took over the setting up of the knight orders.
Members of the order were mostly unordained friars, and even nuns, who, however, died out in Cheb by the end of the 13th century. In 1240 the friars came to Silesia and Poland thanks to the Blessed Anne of Bohemia, who married Henry II the Pious. The main house of the Silesian Foundation was a monastery and the St. Matthias’ church in Breslau, which served its function up to secularisation in 1810, when it was abolished together with other hospitals and monastic Commendams.
At the same time they also came to Moravia and settled in the Stronghold of St. Hippolytus in Znaim, where they took over a local ancient provost, re-established a hospital and maintained spiritual administration of adjacent villages. From the monastery of St. Francis in Prague the monks moved to the nearby Church of St. Peter in Prague Na Porici. In 1252 they got a prestigious location at the foot of the bridge, bought for them by their foundress.
At the request of St. Agnes they added a six-pointed star to the Red Cross they wore on their robes. The New Order was rapidly spreading, with the friars working mainly in the hospitals or in the parish and also undertaking some scientific tasks. During 1561 - 1694 the grandmasters also held the position of Prague archbishops. The year 1675 is important as Clement X elevated the Hospitaller Orders to the Orders of the Knights; the Grand Master later got the right of abbot benediction and was the first prelate of the kingdom.
Since the18th century, the Order extended to Bratislava, Vienna and Buda, where it founded new major hospitals and achieved a high social recognition at the imperatorial court. The last commendam out side the Czech territory remains to this day at the Karlskirche Church in Vienna. This important Order survived both the Nazi and Communist persecution, but the number ofits members has decreased and it is now the smallest Catholic Order. May God allow, through the intercession of St. Agnes, the Order to flourish so that it can continue its godly activities and its pious service to all in need and to the destitute.