William Harper Bennett founded the Order of Alhambra on February 29, 1904, in Brooklyn, New York as a Catholic fraternal and social association. It was named after the Alhambra, a Moorish palace in Granada, Spain; where the Moors surrendered to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, after occupying Spain for almost 800 years. Within sight of the Alhambra’s red towers the saintly Columbus received the first favorable reply to his lifelong prayers for assistance to embark on his voyage of discovery. The Order, in addition to adopting the name of the Moorish palace, uses the colorful Oriental costuming and settings. The emblem of the Order is the red tower of Castile surmounting the crescent of the Saracen typifying the triumph of Christianity over the Moors. The Fez worn by members of the Order has this emblem as its prominent centerpiece. The Order has been honored by Pope John Paul II accepting a Fez.
The long and illustrious history of the Order is documented in a 100 page book titled THE ORDER OF ALHAMBRA: ITS HISTORY AND ITS MEMORIALS. It was researched and written by Rev. Vincent A. Lapomarda, of Al Salib Caravan No. 243, and published by the International Order of Alhambra in 1994. It carries the Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 94-78195. Anyone interested in purchasing this publication should contact the Executive Secretary for cost and availability. See also the Historical Information Page
The structure of the Order comprises its members, who are known as Sir Nobles after experiencing a qualifying ceremonial. Groupings of members are designated as Caravans with a name of Moorish origin, and a number. Caravans currently exist in the United States and Canada. The governing body of the Order is the Supreme Divan, which meets biennially. The Supreme Divan comprises representatives from all Caravans and Supreme Officers. One of the major functions of the Supreme Divan is to elect the Supreme Officers who supervise the operations of the Order between Supreme Divan meetings. Supreme Officers collectively are known as the Council of Viziers, which in commonly used terminology is the Board of Directors. A Headquarters Office is located in Baltimore, Maryland. Its permanent staff, headed by an Executive Secretary, provides administrative support for the Order, its caravans, committees and Supreme Officers. Caravans are grouped by their regions and are governed by Grand Divans, which are the officers elected by the caravan membership, annually. Membership is open to any Catholic male 18 years of age or older who is in good standing in the Catholic church.
Sociability is a dominant characteristic of the Order. It flows from another stated purpose of the Order, namely, “To promote social, fraternal and intellectual associations and through its Caravans provide a practical means to form enduring fellowship and friendship among its members.” The Order is a “fun” organization dedicated to doing worthwhile charitable work.
Service and Support to institutions and individuals characterize the fundamental purpose of the Order’s existence. These take various forms. Many are conducted in the local areas where caravans exist. Others are in the form of Programs or Projects administered at the headquarters level from caravan donations and interest earned on the Alhambra Charity Fund, Inc. Examples of service and support at the local level are: Donations to private schools educating developmentally disabled children and providing them with vocational skills; participating in Special Olympics; conducting recreation, field day programs and summer camps; providing field trips, boat rides, zoo trips, circus trips, picnics, Christmas parties, dinner dances, etc. The Order provides assistance, education and residences for persons developmentally disabled by mental retardation. It identifies, marks, preserves, and commemorates Catholic historical places, events and persons of international or regional importance. The members of the Order focus on sociability and fund raising to advance its goals and objectives. The wives and lady friends of the members are an integral part of these functions. The sociability aspect provides camaraderie and lasting friendships. Fund raising provides the means to conduct the charitable programs and projects of the Order. In addition to the charitable work done at the Caravan level, the Order sponsors various PROGRAMS and PROJECTS from its headquarters level under the auspices of the Council of Viziers. Currently, these are:
Grants are made to undergraduate students who apply and are approved by a standing Scholarship Committee. These grants are made from interest earned on the Alhambra Charity Fund, Inc., and from donations made expressly for scholarships.
Alhambra houses are relatively new commitment of the Order. The first Alhambra House to receive financial assistance was approved in 1993 and is now in existence. It functions under the auspices of Gabriel Homes, has six residents, and is located in Herndon, Virginia. Others have been approved for grants or interest free loans, in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Memorializing Catholic historical places is one of the original purposes of the Order. It remains as an important function, which is: “To mark, preserve, memorialize, commemorate and identify Catholic historical places, persons or events of international or regional importance.” Over 160 such memorials have been established in the United States and Canada.
Fund raising is the essential ingredient to carry out the charitable endeavors of the Order. The Alhambra Charity Fund, Inc. is the repository of funds donated for charity. Donations to this fund remain intact and only the interest is used to fund the programs and projects of the Order. The Alhambra Charity Fund, Inc. is incorporated and approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit corporation and, as such, all money donated to this fund are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.
The Alhambran newspaper is the house organ of the International Order of Alhambra. It is published bi-monthly and distributed to its members and Catholic Bishops. It is used to publish special messages from the Supreme Chaplain and the Supreme Commander, and to report on the activities and accomplishments of the other Supreme Officers; and to share information about caravan events throughout the Order. Download issues of The Alhambran HERE.
100th Anniversary Testimonials
Five citations were presented at our 100th Anniversary Mass in Brooklyn, the place of our Founding on February 29th, 1904