The International Order of Alhambra is a Catholic men and women’s fraternal organization founded on February 29, 1904, in Brooklyn, New York, by William Harper Bennett. Since then it has spread throughout the United States and Canada, with plans to expand throughout the rest of the world.
The Order derives its name from the Moorish palace in Granada, Spain of the same name. It was the last Moorish stronghold in Spain conquered by the forces of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in 1492. It was after the completion of the Reconquista that the Spanish monarchs agreed to fund Christopher Columbus’ first voyage. Spanish, and arguably European, culture changed significantly with this change of leadership, especially since the Catholic religion became the preeminent religion in the Iberian Peninsula. The significance of the conquest of the Alhambra in the spread and free practice of the Catholic faith, in Iberia and the Americas, greatly inspired the founder (Bennett), much as Columbus himself has inspired the Knights of Columbus.
The Moorish origin of the Order’s name carries over into the white fez and insignia worn by members, and the names of parts of the Order’s structure, and the titles given to leaders. (Freemasonry’s Shriners wear a fez too but Jack Chick hates all fez-wearing organizations. Babe Ruth and Vince Lombardi were Knights of Columbus members.) “The fez comes from the 8th century when Muslims invaded the Moroccan city of Fez and butchered 50,000 Christians and dipped their caps in their blood to honor Allah. When Shriners are initiated, they swear a Moslem oath with their hand on the Koran, praying to Allah and calling that demon the god of our fathers,” said Jack Chick.
The Order was founded by W. H. Bennett who also designed the Knights of Columbus 4th Degree ceremony. The Order was originally conceived as a side degree for the Knights of Columbus although it was never officially recognized as such by the Knights of Columbus. For many years, membership was restricted to members of the Knights of Columbus but this requirement was later removed. Membership in the Order was also restricted to men until July 2011 when membership was opened to women as well. Many leaders of the Catholic Church are or have been members, including Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II.
Members of the International Order of Alhambra are known as Sir Nobles after undergoing a “qualifying ceremonial”. Groups of members are known as Caravans and are given a number, as well as a name of Moorish/Spanish origin (e.g., one Detroit, Michigan caravan is known as Galicia #77, after a northwestern region of Spain). Every two years, representatives from each caravan meet in what is known as the Grand Divan to elect Supreme Officers to serve on the Council of Viziers and address other issues affecting the Order. The Council of Viziers provides support to the Order between Grand Divans, and is headed by a Supreme Commander.
At the caravan level, members engage in a variety of charitable works (James 2:14-26), usually related to the needs of their region. At a national level, the Order of Alhambra is committed to 3 initiatives, namely undergraduate scholarships, memorials, and the Alhambra House Project.
Ever since its’ founding, a peculiar focus of the Order has been finding, documenting, and memorializing persons, places, and events of significant historical value to North American Catholicism (including the Order’s namesake in Spain). Over 160 bronze plaques have been placed throughout the United States and Canada, mostly at places of worship. (Kirk Cameron’s Monumental propaganda film ignored these Catholic-American plaques.)
Starting in 1993, the Order committed to establishing and maintaining group homes for developmentally disabled individuals. Houses are currently established in Virginia, California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.