Jerusalem Cross also known as Jerusalem Commemorative Cross (Jerusalem-Erinnerungskreuz) was nominally instituted on the Reformation Day, October 31, 1898 by the order of the German Emperor and the King of Prussia Wilhelm II as the decoration of the German Empire. Institution of the Jerusalemkreuz commemorated dedication of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer (Erlöserkirche) erected in the Christian Quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem at the site the old Santa Maria Latina church once had been situated. Church of the Redeemer was built on the land given to the King of Prussia Wilhelm I in 1869 by Abdulaziz, the 32nd Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. It was constructed in 1893-1898 by the architect Paul Ferdinand Groth (1859-1955) following the designs of his mentor, architect Johannes Heinrich Friedrich Adler (15.10.1827-15.09.1908) with funding from the Protestant Jerusalem Foundation (Evangelische Jerusalem-Stiftung).
Wilhelm II and German Empress Augusta Victoria entered Jerusalem on October 29, 1898 through two ceremonial arches, erected for that occasion, one as a gift of the Ottoman Empire and second of the local Jewish community. “The appearance of their Royal Highness, the Emperor and Empress of Ashkenaz […], is one of the most important events in the history of the country in the contemporary century”, wrote Abraham Moses Luncz (09.12.1854-14.04.1918), scholar and resident of Jerusalem, who could not be an eyewitness to these events due to his blindness.
During the ceremony of dedication of the church on October 31 the Emperor particularly stated: “From Jerusalem came the light in splendor from which the German nation became great and glorious; and what the Germanic peoples have become, they became under the banner of the cross, the emblem of self-sacrificing charity”. During his seven-day visit to the Holy Land (October 25-31, 1898) Wilhelm II among other things donated a large sum of money for construction of new complex for Bikur Holim Hospital and laid the cornerstone for Auguste-Viktoria-Hospital on Mount Scopus that would later become hospital, hospice and Ascension church (Himmelfahrtkirche).
The reason for the nominal character of the Jerusalemkreuz institution referred to at the very beginning of this article is that it had been actually manufactured on instructions from Wilhelm II prior to his overseas trip. Moreover, the decoration was personally awarded by the Emperor to his entourage on the evening of October 29 after return to the parlor tent from an inspection visit. According to memoirs of Mathilde Gräfin von Keller (01.01.1853-04.11.1945), one of the most intimate ladies-in-waiting of the Empress Augusta Victoria, “The Emperor followed by a servant who carried a box paid visit to our tent. The Emperor took a presentation case from the box and handed it to me with the words: “Take this as a token of remembrance of these days”.
Jerusalemkreuz was accorded quite elevated status that was reflected in Regulations for Wearing the Uniform by Officers, Medical and Veterinary Officers of the Royal Prussian Army with the Annex to Regulations for Wearing the Uniform by Officers dated May 15, 1899 (Bekleidungsvorschrift für Offiziere, Sanitätsoffiziere und Veterinäroffiziere des Königlich Preußischen Heeres (O.Bkl.V.) mit Anhang zur Offizierbekleidungsvorschrift vom 15.Mai 1899). Thus, Regulations stipulated that three decorations only – Pour le Mérite order, Iron Cross 1st Class and Jerusalem Cross were to be worn obligatory with ordinary dress uniform (kleine Dienstanzug), i.e. Waffenrock, Überrock and Litewka.
After demise of the Jerusalemkreuz holder it was kept by the closest relatives of the deceased as a token of remembrance and was not to be returned to issuing authorities.
A few words should be said about holders of Jerusalem Cross. In accordance with orders of Kaiser, decoration was awarded to members of the Emperor’s entourage who accompanied majesties on their visit to Jerusalem. Besides Wilhelm II and Augusta Victoria, it was bestowed upon a number of naval officers from yacht S.M.Y. Hohenzollern (commanded by Kapitän zur See Conrad von Bodenhausen), protected cruiser S.M.S. Hela (commanded by Korvettenkapitän Fritz Sommerwerk), protected cruiser S.M.S. Hertha (commanded by Korvettenkapitän Guido von Usedom) and station yacht S.M.Y. Loreley (commanded by Korvettenkapitän von Witzleben); staff officers; personal bodyguard from the Leibgendarmerie; entourage members; selected clerics. Exact number of Jerusalemkreuz holders isn’t known: some sources mention 171 persons while others – 188.
Classic book “Trip of the Emperor and the Empress to Palestine” (“Die Reise des Kaisers und der Kaiserin nach Palästina”) written by chamberlain (Kamerherr) of His Majesty and senior steward of household (Oberhofmeister) of Her Majesty Ernst Otto Karl Ludwig Freiherr von Mirbach (24.12.1844-06.04.1925) and published in 1899 by the Berlin-based Ernst Sigfried Mittler und Sohn publishing house, contained list of male and female attendants who accompanied Wilhelm II and Augusta Victoria. Totally 188 persons figured on that list: 79 men from the entourage of Wilhelm II; 8 ladies from the entourage of Augusta Victoria; 47 naval officers; 45 clerics who came with His Majesty from various German churches; 9 clerics from overseas Lutheran churches. Whether all of them were awarded with Jerusalemkreuz as well as whether more decorations were made upon return to Germany isn’t known yet. However, there’s photographic evidence of non-commissioned naval personnel wearing Jerusalem Crosses on their medal bars, e.g. Oberbootsmann von Mühldorfer from S.M.Y. Hohenzollern and unidentified Stabshoboist from armored cruiser S.M.S. Fürst Bismarck, as well as unknown Musikmeister from a unit stationed in Berlin.
Total number of crew members from the German squadron that accompanied Kaiser on his overseas trip was as follows: S.M.Y. Hohenzollern – 307 men, S.M.S. Hela – 169, S.M.S. Hertha – 478, S.M.Y. Loreley – 50 (1,004 sailors in total).
Jerusalemkreuz had a shape of the so-called Jerusalem Cross, a heraldic symbol consisting of a large cross potent surrounded by four smaller Greek crosses, one in each quadrant. All the five crosses with polished gilt borders were covered with red enamel. Laterally-pierced scrolled suspension was situated at the top of the decoration. Circular silver-gilt medallions with raised borders were superimposed on the centre of both obverse and reverse of the decoration. Jerusalem Crosses with medallions made of pure gold are known to exist but they are considered to be post-1898 privately purchased pieces. Face of medallion with radiant rays coming from the centre bore cipher of Emperor and King Wilhelm II – “IR W II” (“Imperator Rex Wilhelmus II”) – topped with the German Imperial crown with two flying ribbons. Reverse of medallion with pebbled surface showed the date in Roman numerals the Church of the Redeemer was consecrated: “XXXI” (“31”) above, “X” (“October”) in the centre, “MD”, “CCC” and “IIC” (standing for “1898”) at the left, right and at the bottom. Central digit “Х” was considerably larger thus standing at the same time for the symbol of Christ.
Jerusalemkreuz was manufactured of gilt silver with application of red enamel. As mentioned above, some presumably privately purchased pieces had central medallion made of pure gold. Decoration measuring 45,5x37,5 mm weighed 21,04 g. It was worn suspended from plain red silk ribbon by men and from traditional female bow by ladies.
Berlin-based court jeweler company Königliche Hofjuweliere J.Godet & Sohn was the sole official manufacturer of the award having produced the batch of 200 pieces prior to the overseas trip of Their Majesties. Those were the decorations distributed by Wilhelm II to his and Empress’ entourage on October 29, 1898. Upon return to Germany many holders of Jerusalemkreuz privately purchased additional copies of decoration for wearing on various types of uniform. Miniatures of Jerusalem Cross were manufactured by “J.Godet & Sohn” company as well.