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 or Lady 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 or female 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. 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 non Lady Noble wives or widows, and widower Sir Nobles, along with each of their companions or friends 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.
Dedicated to the Developmentally Disabled