|HISTORY OF THE PAPAL ORDERS|
© Guy Stair Sainty
|The Holy See has awarded the distinction of knighthood since the early medieval period. Such honors originally conferred nobility, personal or hereditary according to the rank, but today the Papal Orders are a means by which the Holy Father might personally distinguish those who have particularly served the Church and society. The crosses of the Papal Orders are visible marks of recognition and mirror the awards made by most states to their citizens and others for public and private services. The present Pontiff, Pope John Paul II, has extended membership in the Pian Order, Saint Gregory the Great and Saint Sylvester to ladies as well as gentlemen. Nominations for appointment to the Papal Orders are generally made by parish priests to the local Ordinary who, after due consideration, may forward the recommendation to the Papal Secretariat of State. Recommendations are also made by Apostolic Nuncios in post and by senior members of the Papal Curia. A tax is charged in respect of each nomination to cover the expenses thereof, which is the liability of the nominator but normally payable by the recipient.|
|There is no surviving documentary evidence of a precise foundation date of the earliest Papal Chivalric institution, the Golden Militia, now represented by the second of the Papal Orders, that of the Golden Spur. However, the superior authority of the Holy See as a source of honor was first acknowledged by the Crusader knights who formed the Templar and Hospitaller Orders in the early twelfth century. The highest Papal Order, the Order of Christ, was last awarded in 1987 to the late Frà Angelo de Mojana, 77th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, to honor him on the 25th anniversary of his election. Instituted in 1318 by King Denis I of Portugal as a Military Religious Order, the then Pope, John XXII, reserved the right for him and his successors to appoint knights. By 1522, the Order was effectively divided and, while the Portuguese decoration became increasingly widely distributed, the Papal distinction gradually fell into disuse until being revived as the highest Order of Chivalry of the Roman Church in 1878. It is awarded exclusively to male Catholic Sovereigns or Heads of State. There are presently no living members.|
The third, and more commonly awarded Order (although generally fewer than seventy awards are made annually world-wide), is the Order of Pius IX. An Order of Pian knights was founded by Pius IV in about 1560, but this fell into disuse and the present Order, instituted by Pius IX in 1847, may be regarded as a new foundation. There have been several reforms of the Statutes and today the highest rank is the gold Collar of the Order, the most common award to Heads of State on the occasion of official visits to the Holy See. The Grand Cross, the highest Papal award given to lay men and women, is also given to Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See after two years in post, and to leading Catholics in the wider world for particular services, mainly in the international field and particularly for outstanding deeds for Church and society. The next rank is that of Knight (and now Dame) Commander, to whom the Star (the same as worn by the Grand Crosses) may be given as a higher distinction. The lowest rank is that of Knight or Dame. It is awarded to Catholics and non-Catholics and, on occasion, to non-Christians.
The fourth Order but, of those now awarded, effectively the second, is that of Saint Gregory the Great. Founded in 1831, its grades now mirror those of the Pian Order but without the rank of Collar, while since 1834 it has had civil and military divisions. Like all the Papal Orders, it was reformed in 1905, and is given for conspicuous service to the Church and society, regardless of religious allegiance. The fifth Order is that of Saint Sylvester Pope, separated from that of the Golden Militia in 1905, and established with the same ranks as Saint Gregory. It is intended to award laymen who are active in the Apostolate, particularly in the exercise of their professional duties and mastership of the different arts. It is also conferred on non-Catholics, but more rarely than Saint Gregory.
Each of these Orders have their own particular decorations. In the three Orders presently awarded, the Pian Order, Saint Gregory and Saint Sylvester, knights and dames wear the badge suspended from a ribbon on the left breast. Knight Commanders wear the badge on a ribbon around the neck, while Dames wear it from a bow on the left breast; those decorated with the Star wear it on the lower left breast, and Grand Crosses wear the badge suspended from a broad ribbon over the right shoulder across to the left hip along with the breast star. The ribbon of the Pian Order is a dark blue with two scarlet stripes on each side; that of Saint Gregory is a red ribbon with a broad orange stripe at either side; that of Saint Sylvester is black with three narrow red stripes, two on each side and one in the center. The cross of the Pian Order is a gold star with eight blue enameled rays and the words ORDO PIANO on a white enamel and gold medallion ensigned in the center. The cross of Saint Gregory is an eight pointed "Maltese" cross in gold with red enamel and gold balls on the end of each point, ensigned with a gold medallion bearing the image of Saint Gregory and the words Pro Deo et Principe on the reverse; the badge of the civil division is surmounted by a green enamel laurel wreath, the military division by a trophy of arms in gold. The cross of Saint Sylvester is similar to Saint Gregory but with white enamel, and the image of Saint Sylvester on a gold medallion surrounded by gold rays between the arms of the cross. Each also have their own military style uniforms, whose design was regulated in the 1905 reforms. That of the Pian Order is dark blue, with a red collar and cuffs decorated with gold braid; that of Saint Gregory is dark green, with silver buttons and braiding; that of Saint Sylvester is black, with gold buttons and braiding.
Papal knights and dames do not have any specific obligations by virtue of their having been given the personal honor of membership in these Orders. It is customary, however, for them to be invited to participate in major events of their diocese, such as the consecration of Bishops, the ordination of Priests, and the introduction of a new Bishop into his diocese. On such occasions it is recommended that they wear the uniform of their respective Order.
|TO THE HEREDITARY OFFICES OF THE PAPAL COURT|
© Guy Stair Sainty
FOR THE LATEST ON THE ORDER OF CHRIST AND THE PAPAL ORDERS, SEE BURKE'S PEERAGE AND GENTRY WORLD ORDERS OF KNIGHTHOOD AND MERIT, purchase at www.exacteditions.com/burkespeerage/wokmThis rarely given distinction cannot strictly be characterized today as an Order of Knighthood, but more as an award of honor of the highest possible standing. The recent reforms of the Papal Orders by Pope Paul VI,  the Order of Christ was reserved to Catholic Heads of State to whom it might be given only to commemorate very special occasions at which the Pope himself was present.  This Order was last awarded in 1987 to the late Frà Angelo de Mojana, 77th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his election to the Grand Magistery; he died the following year. With the recent death of King Baudouin of the Belgians the are no living Knights of the Papal Supreme Order of Christ and there is a considered opinion that the present Pope may have decided to let it fall into abeyance, at least for the present.
The original foundation was actually a religious military Order under the rule of Saint Benedict, constituted in Portugal by King Denis I on 14 August 1318, confirmed and granted statutory regulation by the Bull Ad ea ex quibus of Pope John XXII, given at Avignon 14/15 March 1319. The Order's endowment was established with the surviving estates of the recently dissolved Order of the Temple, just as in Spain most of these estates were used to establish the Order of Montesa. The first Grand Master, Dom Gil Martins or Martinez had been a knight of Saint Benedict of Aviz, originally a branch of the Order of Calatrava. Originally based at Castro Marino, in the Diocese of Faro, they moved their headquarters to Thomar, near Santaren, in 1366 (under the 6th Grand Master, Dom Nuño Rodriguez). Although at first the Order's rules required the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, these were modified by Pope Alexander VI at the end of the 15th century, dispensing with that of poverty and allowing the knights to marry provided Commanders undertook to continue their responsions (one third of their revenues) to the Order's treasury.
To the PORTUGUESE ORDER OF CHRIST
FootnotesIn the Bull Equestres Ordinis of 15 April 1966.
The same Bull restricted the Order of the Golden Spur to Christian, not necessarily Catholic, heads of State.
This began, "Joannes Episcopus, servus servorum Dei. Ad perpetuam rei memoriam. Ad ea, ex quibus cults augeatur divinus, fidelium quies in quiete proficiat, & defensionis murus....".