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Title: The Ecclesiastical Orders of Knighthood
Author: Veldt, James Van der
Language: English
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                       _The Ecclesiastical Orders

                      James van Der Veldt, O.F.M.
                   The Catholic University of America

                The Catholic University of America Press
                       620 Michigan Avenue, N.E.
                          Washington 17, D. C.

                             Reprinted from
                  _The American Ecclesiastical Review_

                   October, November, December, 1955
                           and January, 1956

                       First printing—April, 1956
                       Second printing—July, 1956
                     Third printing—November, 1957


Widespread interest in the Ecclesiastical Orders of Knighthood has been
demonstrated by continual requests for information pertaining to them on
the part of libraries and individual persons, particularly those who
have been knighted. In the United States this interest lies chiefly in
those Orders most familiar to Americans, such as the Order of Malta, the
Order of the Holy Sepulchre, the Order of St. Gregory, and in the medals
Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice and Benemerenti. Such interest prompted the
publication of this booklet which contains reprints of four articles
originally published in the “American Ecclesiastical Review.”

The booklet gives a description of the history, organization, emblems
and membership requirements of the various Orders connected with the
Catholic Church and which are still in existence.

By way of introduction, Part One deals with the historical
background—the origin and development of Knighthood in general. Parts
Two and Three treat the Religious Military Orders which originated in
the Holy Land—The Order of Malta, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, the
Teutonic Order—and the Military Orders of Spain and Portugal. Finally,
Part Four treats of those Orders which are directly bestowed by the Holy
See—the Order of Christ, the Order of the Golden Spur, the Order of
Pius, the Order of St. Gregory, and of St. Sylvester. In addition the
papal decorations are described.

The final pages of the booklet display the insignia of the three
ecclesiastical groups: Military Orders of Knighthood, Pontifical Orders
of Knighthood and Papal Decorations, with a brief description of shape
and color. The pictures present the Knight’s cross, unless otherwise
designated. Since the emblems of the Orders of Calatrava, Alcantara and
Montesa are identical in form, only one picture is used for all three
with a specification of the respective colors. Under the heading of
Pontifical Decorations a picture is given of the Lateran Cross which is
recognized, although not directly bestowed, by the Holy See.

                           TABLE OF CONTENTS

  Part I
      Historical Background                                            1
      Development of the Orders of Knighthood                          7
  Part II
      The Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem           14
      The Order of the Teutonic Knights                               23
  Part III
      The Iberian Military Orders                                     28
      The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem         33
  Part IV
      Pontifical Orders of Knighthood                                 41
          The Supreme Order of Christ                                 42
          Order of the Golden Spur                                    47
          The Order of Pius                                           49
          Order of St. Gregory the Great                              50
          The Order of Saint Sylvester, Pope                          51
          The Papal Decorations                                       52
  Illustrations                                                       55

                                 Part I

                         HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The term ecclesiastical orders of knighthood embraces those knightly
orders which, in one way or another, are connected with the Catholic
Church. At the present time they are in two different groups: the
pontifical orders of knighthood in the strict sense and a group of
chivalric orders which derive from medieval military orders and continue
to come under ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

The Pontifical or Papal Orders of Knighthood are conferred directly by
His Holiness the Pope (_Ordini Equestri Pontifici, conferiti
direttamente dal Sommo Pontefice con lettere apostoliche_). They
include: the Supreme Order of Christ, the Order of the Golden Spur, the
Order of Pius, the Order of Saint Gregory the Great, and the Order of
Saint Sylvester, Pope.[1]

The remaining group identified with ecclesiastical orders of knighthood
is that of religious military orders. Originally they were religious
orders of lay brothers and as such came under the jurisdiction of the
Holy See. They enjoyed the approbation and protection of the Holy
Father, and it is in that sense they partake of the name, pontifical.
Yet they always had a certain autonomy, in that they had their own
government, with a grand master at the head, whose office was similar to
that of a Superior General of a religious order. Most of these ancient
military orders are now extinct or have become purely secular orders of
knighthood. A few have retained some features of their ecclesiastical
character. They are the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, known also as
the Order of Malta, the Teutonic Order, and the Order of the Holy
Sepulchre, as well as the extant Spanish Military Orders.

Difference in objective is another important feature between the two
groups. The military orders, from the outset, pursued a specific
purpose, as the care of the sick and the poor, the protection of the
faith, crusading against infidels. This survives today in the existing
military orders though in a much modified form.

All other existing orders of knighthood, be they ancient or more recent
in origin, are honorary and mere orders of merit. Their only purpose is
that of bestowing tokens of respect for well-deserving citizens, to
reward military or civil services to the country or the crown, to
recognize merit in the field of art, science, charity, or business.
Orders of merit are “orders” only in the broad sense of the term; they
have a constitution or statutes, but such documents usually contain
little more than a description of the origin of the order, its
privileges and the degrees of its members as well as the reason for
conferring the order and its form of the decorations. In fact, the term
“order” has come to be limited to the insignia which the members are
entitled to wear.

Within the framework of the above twofold classification of pontifical
and military orders, another dual grouping exists which is based on
historical criteria. Some of the ecclesiastical orders of knighthood go
back to the age of chivalry; this is certainly the case with the
military orders, the Order of Christ, and probably the Order of the
Golden Spur. The origin of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre is still
historically debatable. The remaining pontifical orders of knighthood
were established long after the age of chivalry came to a close.

Distinct from the orders of knighthood are a certain number of
ecclesiastical decorations. These are marks of honor (_distintivi de
onore_), without, however, extending the title of Knight to the
recipient. It is, therefore, incorrect to designate a person receiving
such an honor as knighted by the Pope, as it is equally incorrect to put
all the ecclesiastical orders of knighthood under the heading of papal

Ecclesiastical decorations, like the ecclesiastical orders of
knighthood, are of two kinds. Those bestowed directly by the Holy See
and consequently strictly pontifical are the Cross “Pro Ecclesia et
Pontifice” and the Medal “Benemerenti.” The second category are those
approved by the Holy See and their recipients may wear the decoration at
the papal court and at ecclesiastical ceremonies. The honor, however, is
not granted directly by the Pope. An example thereof is the Lateran
Cross, which is conferred by the Chapter of the Basilica of Saint John

This brief outline will be clarified as the various orders are treated
in subsequent articles. It is our intention in the present article to
confine ourselves to a survey of the historical background of the orders
of knighthood.

Although much of the information about the early beginnings of
knighthood is rooted in conjecture, a plausible thesis would make
knighthood coincide with the rise of the cavalry in Europe, during the
first half of the eighth century. It coincides with the times when the
Christians in the encounters with the Saracens soon discovered that
their infantry were no match for those who fought on horseback. Such
armies had much greater mobility, and the center of gravity in the
Christian military strategy shifted accordingly.

Throughout the first hundred years after this new horseback “militia”
had been introduced, all free men could join it, on condition that they
were able to provide a horse and equip it at their own expense. Only
people of some means could afford this luxury, and the wealthier class
was that of the landowners. Service in the cavalry, therefore, implied
the possessing of some property, preferably in the form of land.

A revolutionary innovation took place simultaneously in the system of
land ownership, changing from an allodial, i.e., absolute ownership, to
a feudal system. That is why the horseback military service came to be
linked with the feudal method of land tenure. It accounts for the
historical development of knighthood being so closely related to the
history of the feudal system. The history of feudal land ownership is
hardly pertinent here, and it will suffice here to state that the
tenants-in-chief and their subalterns in the feudal system formed the
cavalry of the army; they were the horsemen, chevaliers, or knights.
That is how the original form of knighthood became so intimately
associated with the tenure of land, and how the knights were known as
feudal knights.

While the knights were initially landed gentry, gradually—and already a
considerable time before the Crusades—a different type of knight
appeared, namely, that of the horseman without land. Equally so,
knighthood began to constitute a distinct social class. No longer was
feudal tenure the background of knighthood but rather personal valor.
The development was the consequence of the custom of primogeniture as it
existed in the Frankish form of the feudal system.

Two types of feudal succession were known on the European continent.
Where the Longobard feudal law held sway, as was the case in Italy, at
the death of the feudatory incumbent, the land was divided among his
male heirs. In many cases the original fief was cut into ever smaller
portions during successive generations. This gentry were still
landholders, even though their financial position, due to the divisions
and subdivisions of the ancestral property, might not be much better
economically than that of the peasants who actually worked the land.

In France and other countries where the Frankish feudal system
prevailed, conditions were altogether different. Here, according to the
law of primogeniture, the entire feud passed to the eldest son, who was
then bound by an oath of fealty to his overlord. The younger sons had to
be satisfied with precious little; they might make a livelihood by
offering their service to their eldest brother, in which case they were
obliged to do the menial work of the estate very much the same as that
of domestics and peasants. It is quite understandable that many of these
younger sons, particularly the less amenable and the more venturesome,
could be expected to scorn such an inferior station in life. Being of
noble birth, this dispossessed youth might say with the steward of the
gospel: “What shall I do?... To dig I am not able; to beg I am ashamed.”
Only two callings were open to them, the priestly or the military
vocation, and of the two the calling of soldier was far more attractive.
Upon leaving the paternal domain, they usually were given a horse and
armor to aid in their search for economic independence. For the most
part, they did not have to look long, because war was in progress all
over Europe among the many and small feudal states. Yet, because they
were no longer aligned with the feudal hierarchy, they had no obligation
to render military service to any specific lord and could approach the
highest bidder. This meant that a new and ever increasing group of
independent, non-feudal horsemen came into existence who sought to win
their spurs on their own merit. They became knights, not because they
happened to have a feudal estate, but because of personal exploits on
the battlefield. These soldiers frequently gained more than glory and
honor inasmuch as a grateful employer who had taken them into his pay
would extend his bounty to presenting them with a castle and some land,
upon success in a military expedition. The medieval right of plunder
could provide the victorious knight with the necessary accoutrement to
furnish his newly-won castle. One readily appreciates the consolidation
of the economic position for those concerned. There was this difference,
however, that their possessions came to them not by right of birth but
by personal valor.

The same kind of knight appeared also in the lands of the Longobard
feudal system. The small gentry in Italy, unsatisfied with what little
they possessed, often offered their military services to the rapidly
growing townships. This eventually bettered their economic as well as
their political status.

Two types of knighthood were then in existence, the older form of
territorial knighthood concentrated in ruling fief-holders, and the
newer form, that of chivalry founded on individual military service.
Since the latter was bestowed upon a soldier independently of a fief, it
might be called non-feudatory knighthood.

As the non-feudal knights grew to be the more numerous, knighthood
became a separate class of society. Like any other social institution,
knighthood passed through the storm-and-stress period of adolescence.
Knights in the tenth and part of the eleventh centuries were often
enough no more than bands of lawless brigands. Living as they did
outside the ranks of the feudal hierarchy, these “gentlemen” interpreted
the fact of not being bound by fealty to any particular master as a kind
of charter of freedom from all laws and prohibitions. As narrated in the
medieval lays or ballads, the examples of lawlessness and cruelty among
some knights are, of course, outstanding. Yet, this new social class was
indeed a menace to society. It was understandable, in the long run, that
the authorities should look for means to call a halt to the excesses. In
this effort the civil authorities were strongly supported by the Church,
which launched a kind of peace offensive, endeavoring to direct the
crude energies of knighthood into right channels and make of the new
class an instrument of good in the social structure. There was success
so that little by little knighthood became respectable to a remarkable
degree. The reaction described had set in at the end of the tenth
century, and a century later a change for the better in the moral life
of the knights was everywhere in evidence. The reform was, however, not
due exclusively to outside forces. As a class, the knights had the same
needs and the same aspirations; and the better elements among them would
try to enter into some sort of common tie. That common bond was a code
of honor for knighthood and came to be generally accepted by the end of
the eleventh century, namely around the time of the first Crusade. The
motto of a good knight was succinctly expressed in the following Italian
rhyme: “_La mia anima a Dio, la mia vita al Re, il mio cuore alla Dama,
l’onore per me_ (My soul to God, my life to the Crown, my heart to the
Lady, my own the renown).” The duties of a knight broadened into that of
protecting and defending the Church, the widows, the orphans and the
oppressed, of vindicating justice, and of avenging evil. The catalogue
of the cardinal virtues for chivalry included courtesy, valor, class
loyalty, self-denial, munificence, and hospitality. The code was
well-nigh theoretically perfect, even if all knights did not observe it
in practice. As a matter of fact, the virtues to which the knight was
dedicated sometimes led to exaggerations, distortions, and their very

The high point in the age of chivalry came during the Crusades, those
religious wars waged in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries by the
Christians of Western Europe against the Mohammedans for the recovery of
the Holy Land. An interaction came about between the Crusades and
chivalry. The spirit of chivalry was largely responsible for making
possible these campaigns for a religious ideal. Thereby, the Crusades
provided a powerful impetus in the development of knighthood, for it was
during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that chivalry attained its
highest peak both in quality and quantity. The Crusades did not create a
new type of knighthood, but they gave the knights a chance to show their

When the landless soldiers of the Cross distinguished themselves in
battle just as well or perhaps even better than the feudal knights, it
was reasonable that they should claim their reward. If they fought as
well as those who owed knighthood to their feudal status, why should
they not claim the honors and benefits of knighthood? In that way the
Crusades gave the horsemen large scale opportunity to become knights
through personal valor. However, the _conditio sine qua non_ for
becoming a knight at this time was still the old law that the candidates
should be of noble birth, that is to say, that they could trace their
descent from the ancient feudal families. In the century following the
Crusades the decline of knighthood set in, and it is generally admitted
that by 1500 the age of chivalry had passed. Then it was that its
tradition and spirit were kept alive in the orders of knighthood.


The first orders of knighthood were radically of a religious nature
inasmuch as they pursued a religious purpose and were organized like
other religious communities. The order of knighthood was composed of a
body of knights, united by some common objective as the care of the sick
or the defense of the Catholic faith, and who were pledged with the vows
of obedience, poverty and chastity, led a community life under a chosen
head and professed a common rule approved by the ecclesiastical

The birthplace of all orders of knighthood was the Holy Land and they
appeared during the period of the Crusades. True, some historians
attempt to date the origin of the military orders as far back in
antiquity as possible, for instance, to Charlemagne and his paladins or
to Constantine the Great and his mother, Saint Helena. The claims of
such ancestry fanatics to the contrary notwithstanding, it can safely be
said that no military order of knighthood, either regular or secular,
came into existence before the first Crusade, as the Bollandist
Papebrock said in 1738: “Fallunt aut volentes falluntur adulatores
studio placendi abrepti, quicumque militarium religionum principia ante
XII saeculum requirunt” (_AA. SS. Boll._, Apr., III, 155).

The Holy Land was the scene of the rise of three types of religious
orders. Some were orders of charity, or hospital orders, dedicating
themselves to the care of the poor and sick pilgrims who came to visit
the holy places. The oldest and most famous was the Order of Saint
Lazarus which was functioning even before the Crusades began. Its scope
was the care of lepers; moreover, lepers could become members of the
congregation, and it has been alleged that during a period of its
existence the grand master was chosen from among these sorely afflicted
members. The confraternity always remained primarily an order of
charity. The fact that the brothers admitted some knights stricken with
leprosy who gave aid to the crusaders, particularly during the siege of
Acre, when the common cause demanded everybody’s efforts, is certainly
not sufficient reason to call the congregation of Saint Lazarus a
military order of knighthood. Nonetheless, many centuries after their
expulsion from the Holy Land, the remnants of this congregation were
absorbed into a military order, as we shall see hereafter.

A second group of religious orders founded in the Holy Land had an
exclusively military objective, inasmuch as their purpose was to protect
the pilgrims against the attacks of the Moslems and to defend the cause
of the Cross. The prototype of such knightly societies was the Order of
the Temple.

The third type of religious order in Palestine was of a mixed character,
combining works of charity with military service. The most illustrious
examples of this group were the Order of Saint John in Jerusalem and the
Teutonic Order.

Due to their predominant military character, only the last two groups
are orders of knighthood in the strict sense of the word. Their members
combined the seemingly contrasting qualities of soldiers and monks, of
“militia” and “religio.” Being a “religio” such orders needed
ecclesiastical approbation, but as a “religio militaris” they needed
special authorization from the Holy See which alone could give religious
persons permission “hostem ferire sine culpa,” “blamelessly to strike
the enemy.”[2]

The orders founded in the Holy Land during the Crusades were the
original military orders. The pattern of the military orders founded in
the Holy Land during the Crusades was subsequently copied in various
countries of Europe. We may distinguish several groups which show an
ever increasing secular element and a decrease of ecclesiastical ties.
Of each group only a few examples can be cited, omitting those of lesser

The most faithful imitators of the original orders are the military
orders set up in the Iberian Peninsula. Although founded by the kings of
Spain and Portugal and used by them for their own purposes, these orders
were directly dependent on the Holy See at first. Only later, when the
sovereigns took over the grandmastership and made it hereditary in their
family, did they lose their independence, without, however, abandoning
their religious character.

The principal military orders in Italy came into existence at a rather
late date in history, on or after 1500, a date traditionally accepted as
marking the end of the age of chivalry. With the grand mastership vested
in the crown, these Italian orders harbored the same cause for
deterioration as eventually appeared in the Spanish orders, because they
were dynastic orders from the start. Nonetheless, the Italian military
orders greatly resembled the original ones, both in objective and
organization. They aspired to the protection of the Italian coastline
against the Moslem pirates from the Barbary States in North Africa who
at the time were infesting the Mediterranean; they harassed the merchant
marine and sporadically attacked harbors and towns along the coast. The
objective of these orders, then, was much the same as that of the Order
of Malta at that time, namely sea-warfare against Islam. Such an
organization was the Order of Saint Stephen, established in 1562 by
Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, with the approval of the Holy Father.
The knights of this order which had headquarters at Pisa cleared the
Mediterranean of corsairs and took an active part in the battle of
Lepanto. Eventually, however, it disintegrated, became completely
secularized and survived as an order of merit.

The Order of Saint Maurice and Lazarus, founded in 1572 by Emmanuel
Philibert, Duke of Savoia, has an intriguing history. Comparatively late
in origin, it was a merger of two pre-existing institutions which date
back to much earlier times.

One was the hospital congregation of Saint Lazarus, previously
mentioned. After the fall of Acre the fraternity was transferred to
Europe and for some time flourished in France. The Italian branch soon
declined and was finally suppressed by Pope Innocent VIII in 1490. There
remained, however, the possessions of the order and these were handed
over to certain gentlemen who, far from having an interest in lepers,
did little else but appropriate the revenues for their own use.

The second institution was the so-called Order of Saint Maurice which,
if it was an order at all, hardly merited the name of a military order
by any stretch of the imagination. Yet whatever it lacked of the
military spirit has since been largely supplied by romance, insofar as
it was involved in the story of a layman who became antipope. When
Amadeus VIII, Duke of Savoia, renounced the throne, he retired to
Ripaglia where he had built a church in honor of the holy martyr Maurice
to whom the house of Savoia had a special devotion. There, in 1434, the
duke with five other knights established the Sacred Militia of Saint
Maurice—a rather pompous title for a group of elderly widowers who had
retired into a hermitage.

Four years later, the remnants of the Council of Basle revolted against
the legitimate Pope Eugene IV and elected the above-mentioned Amadeus.
He accepted under the title of Felix V and abandoned his solitude in
Ripaglia in the company of the other knightly widowers. Thenceforth
history has little to tell about the Sacred Militia of Saint Maurice. In
1572, Emmanuel Philibert, after lengthy negotiations, obtained from Pope
Gregory XIII permission to allot the possessions of the Order of Saint
Lazarus in his territory to the languishing Order of Saint Maurice. Out
of this merger developed the military religious Order of Saint Maurice
and Lazarus—the last of the military orders to come into existence. Its
objective was to curtail piracy on the high seas and combat the enemies
of the faith. However, the institution from its very inception was an
affair of the Savoian dynasty, the duke and his successors assuming the
office of grand master. The knights vowed obedience to the duke and were
subject to him not only as vassals but also by virtue of a religious
vow. They pledged themselves to serve in the convents of the order for
five years; one of these convents was in Turin for the ground forces and
the other in Nice for the naval forces. The character of the Order of
St. Maurice and Lazarus was completely changed when Victor Emmanuel II,
in 1860, made it a simple order of merit.

Other dynastic orders of knighthood having some ties with the Church
were quite different. The motives for establishing them were various.
Some owed their origin simply to a chance occasion or a romantic event
not infrequently of a frivolous nature; some were commemorative of a
signal victory in battle or the accession of a prince to the throne.
Often enough, politics played a role, when a sovereign would wish to
bind his nobles closer to the crown.

By way of example, we shall mention here some of the more illustrious
dynastic orders of knighthood.

The Supreme Order of the Annunciation was set up in 1364 by Amadeus VI,
Count of Savoia, during a tournament which was held to celebrate the
victory of Savoia over a rival, the Marquis of Salusso. It would seem
that similar brotherhoods in arms had existed at the Savoyard court
under such romantic titles as the Round Table of the Black Swan, of the
Green Knights, and the like, but the new order was to achieve a
permanent character. At first, the objective of the newly organized
group was only fun and love, as evidenced by the love symbols that
decorated the collar of the knights. For that reason the brotherhood was
dubbed the Order of the Collar. A year later when Count Amadeus made a
trip to Constantinople and came in touch with the then extant religious
military orders, he dedicated the fraternity to the Blessed Virgin. The
religious element was heightened in the symbolic figure of fifteen
knights, representing the fifteen mysteries of Our Lady. When the
knights themselves had no time to say many prayers, they were quite
satisfied to find a convenient substitute for their religious
obligations in the persons of fifteen Carthusian monks at the Chapter
House of Pierre Chatal. The latter became the seat of the order. Their
first and last duty was to honor and serve faithfully their sovereign,
the count, and provide him with material benefits. Such privileges as
exemptions from taxes, a seat in the senate, and financial support from
the crown in case of necessity were given in return to the knights. In
1518 Duke Charles III attached to the knight’s collar a medal
representing the Annunciation of Our Lady, and from that time the
fraternity became known as the Order of the Collar and the Annunciation.
Moreover, the duke augmented the enrollment with five more knights, in
honor of the five wounds of Christ.

In 1869, Victor Emmanuel II, who was soon to become King of a united
Italy, changed the character of the order; it was to be simply a means
of rewarding a restricted number of persons for outstanding services to
the dynasty or the state.

The Order of the Golden Fleece was founded by Philip the Good, Duke of
Burgundy, in 1429, on the occasion of his marriage with the Infanta
Isabella of Portugal at Bruges in the Netherlands. Pope Eugene IV gave
approval in 1433 as did also Leo X in 1516. Of course, the origin and
the name enjoy the aura of the usual legends, one of which is that the
duke wished to commemorate the golden hair of Mary of Rumbrugge with
whom he was supposed to be in love. If such is true, the order was
certainly a peculiar wedding gift for his legitimate wife. The knights,
who numbered thirty-one, were staunchly organized, and the order soon
achieved great fame and was reputed to embody the very spirit of
chivalry. The Dukes of Burgundy and their successors acted as grand
masters. Eventually, it became an order of merit divided into two
branches, one under the jurisdiction of the Austrian Hapsburgs and the
other under the jurisdiction of the Spanish Bourbons. With the overthrow
of both of these houses the order is in abeyance.

The French King Louis XI founded the Order of Saint Michael in 1469.
After having fallen into disrepute, because it took in all kinds of
members, its decoration was dubbed “_le collier à toutes bêtes_—the
collar to fit every animal.” The Order of the Holy Ghost replaced it in
1573 under King Henry III. The investiture of the knights was ritualized
with pompous religious ceremonies.[3]

The foregoing examples emphasize the fact that these and similar
knightly fraternities were not without certain religious features. The
brotherhood was placed under the protection of a patron saint; it might
receive papal approbation; the meeting place of the knights included a
chapel; and the gatherings of the knights as well as the initiation of a
new member were graced with religious rites. The rule of these societies
imposed upon their members a virtuous life, as was fitting for a true
knight, such as the devotion to the Holy Spirit or the Blessed Virgin.
Sometimes the statutes exhorted the members to attend daily Mass, and
prescribed the reception of the sacraments twice or three times a year
as well as the daily recitation of a part of the divine office. However,
the dynastic orders of knighthood were different in character from the
original military orders, with little of “religio” and still less of
“militia.” Despite some religious features, the members did not take the
canonical vows, except the oath of fidelity to the crown, neither did
they live in common. Their military exploits, too, were quite
insignificant in comparison with those of the Templars or the
Hospitallers. When these knights fought at all, they did so not in a
body, but rather as individuals. The very exclusiveness of the Golden
Fleece (thirty-one knights) or the Annunziata Order (fifteen and later
twenty knights) excluded all large scale feats. Besides, the objective
of their military activities was not the defense of the faith, but the
conquest of any enemy with whom their sovereign might become embroiled.

Further development of almost all orders of knighthood is one of
monotonous regularity. Those which did not become extinct were
completely secularized, some during the course of the Reformation and
others during the French Revolution. The latter abolished all orders of
knighthood in France, but in 1802 Napoleon re-established an order of
knighthood—that of the Legion of Honor. It was merely an order of merit,
and served as a model not only for the newer but also reverted upon the
older still existing orders.

A few orders of knighthood did not become reduced to mere orders of
merit and did retain a link with the Church. These include the Order of
Malta, that of the Teutonic Knights, the Holy Sepulchre, and the Iberian
military orders, which will be the subject of the subsequent articles.

                                Part II


This order, also called the Order of Rhodes and more widely known as the
Order of Malta, from the locations of its headquarters after it was
forced to leave the Holy Land, is the oldest order of knighthood in
existence, antedating even that of the Order of the Garter by more than
two hundred years. It is also the most illustrious and meritorious of
the religious military orders. Its origin goes back to the hospital for
Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem, established in the first half of the
11th century by a group of merchantmen from Amalfi, Italy. When the
crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099 the hospital was headed by a layman
named Gerard whose birthplace is variously given as Martiques in
Provence, Amalfi in southern Italy and Tonco in Piedmont, all in line
with the respective nationality of the historians who wrote his life.[4]
This saintly man organized the hospital staff into a community of lay
brothers for whom he drew up appropriate constitutions which were
approved in 1113 by Pope Paschal II. The fraternity became known as the
Hospitallers of St. John, after the patron saint of the church which was
attached to the hospital. This patron was St. John the Almoner,
Patriarch of Alexandria, who had provided the means for rebuilding the
churches of the Resurrection and of Calvary in Jerusalem. Later the
Hospitallers adopted the better known St. John the Baptist as their
patron saint.

Whereas Gerard was the founder of the Order of St. John, his successor
Raymond du Puy, a knight from Provence, became its organizer. While he
was Master of the Hospital (1120-60), the community, although continuing
its hospital work, began also to engage in services of a military
character. The military duties consisted at first in providing armed
protection for the sick and the poor and military escorts for the
pilgrims. Soon the brotherhood took part in the defense of the Latin
Kingdom of Jerusalem and in the battles against the Moslems and thus
became a full-fledged military order. But the order never forsook its
humble beginnings; its militarization only added a new objective to its
activities, as expressed in the age-old motto: _Obsequium pauperum et
tuitio fidei_—service of the poor and protection of the faith.

During the process of militarization three classes of brothers
developed: the knights who led in the fighting and held most of the
higher administrative functions at headquarters and in the other houses
of the order; the chaplains who took care of the spiritual needs of the
other members of the order and of the patients in the hospitals; the
sergeants-at-arms, who were the serving brothers. In the beginning,
persons not belonging to the military aristocracy or nobility could
enter the class of knights, but as from Master Hugh Revel (1258-77) the
rule was laid down that such as desired to be admitted as knights should
prove nobility on both father’s and mother’s side. When occasionally a
few knights were received into the order who were not fully qualified
with regard to their armorial bearings, they were called
Knights-of-Grace (admitted by favor) in contrast to the duly qualified
members who were called Knights-of-Justice, a distinction which has
prevailed until recently.

The number of professed knights was always quite limited, scarcely in
excess of 500 or 600 knights. Since the order was essentially a lay
organization, the number of professed priests always remained very
small. The professed chaplains served mainly in the Convent, that is,
the general headquarters of the order, and were therefore called
Conventual Chaplains. The _cura animarum_ in the houses outside the
Convent was for the most part exercised by priests who did not belong to
the order, but were engaged by the order according to its needs; since
they were throughout the time of office under the jurisdiction of the
grand master they were called Chaplains of Magistral Obedience.

The professed sergeants-at-arms assisted the knights; they were at first
quite important and numerous but eventually almost completely faded out
of the picture, being replaced by hired help. In fact, the knights
employed a considerable number of men for all their enterprises, both
charitable and military: physicians and other personnel in the hospital
were engaged on a paid basis, the soldiers who formed the body of the
order’s army were mercenary troops as were the sailors on their fleet in
the days of Rhodes and Malta.

At the top of this hierarchical pyramid stood the Master. His official
title, ever since the days of Blessed Gerard, was Master of the
Hospital. Although often referred to, even in earlier days, as the Grand
Master, he did not formally assume the latter title until 1489. After
the order had settled on Malta, the Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt
(1601-1622) was given the title of prince of the Holy Roman Empire by
the Emperor and the Pope bestowed on him and his successors a rank equal
to a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church with the title of Eminence.
Besides these sonorous titles, the grand master, like all other
professed members of the order, also uses the religious title Frà
(Brother) which is put before his baptismal name. To date there have
been seventy-six grand masters.

The monastic habit of the order was a wide black cassock with a slit on
each side for the arms. In the days of Blessed Gerard a plain white
cross was sewn on the breast; Master Raymond introduced the
eight-pointed white cross which has become the emblem of the order down
to the present day. Since these bell-like cloaks were rather cumbersome
in battle, Pope Innocent IV in 1248 granted the knights permission to
wear a black surcoat over armour when on active service. Pope Alexander
IV in 1259 changed the color of this tunic to red, with a plain white
cross. The choir dress of the professed knights is even at present a
black mantle with the Maltese cross and a very elaborate maniple.

The headquarters of the order, wherever they might be, in Jerusalem,
Acre, Rhodes or Malta, were called the Convent. In its developed form
this Convent consisted of the palace of the grand master, the living
quarters of the knights and their assistants, the stables for the
horses, the church and the hospital.

Even by modern standards the hospital in Jerusalem was quite large;
Master Roger des Moulins in a letter of 1178 puts the number of patients
at 950. According to the statutes of 1182, the medical staff consisted
of four physicians and a number of male nurses. Special regulations were
laid down concerning hygiene. A wise rule was that each patient, after
admittance, should hand over his valuables to the hospital authorities
so as to prevent protests and reclamations in case of loss or theft. A
religious in charge registered all the belongings of a patient and gave
them back after he was dismissed. The statutes of the hospital in
Jerusalem served as a model for, and sometimes were literally copied by,
other hospital organizations in the Middle Ages.[5]

In view of the fact that before the crusades hospitals in the more
modern sense of the word hardly existed, the charity work of the Knights
of St. John—and to a lesser extent that of the other orders founded in
the Holy Land—has been hailed as a kind of innovation. Historians agree
that the Hospitallers must be credited with having created the hospital
in the organized sense.

Whenever the knights of St. John had to transfer their Convent, they
considered it one of their first duties to attach to it a well-equipped
hospital for “our lords the sick.” The hospital in Rhodes, restored by
the Italian government under Mussolini to its original condition, was a
large and beautiful building. On Malta the hospital or “Sacra
Infirmeria” developed into a center for medical sciences, particularly
surgery and ophthalmology.

The militarization of the order had a double effect. Knights from every
country in Europe enrolled under the red banner with the white cross. At
the same time the military reputation of the order greatly increased the
number of donations and legacies which had been given already at the
time the order was devoted to charity work. These possessions scattered
throughout the Near East and Europe called for administration and
management. Although the supervisory system was very complicated and
only gradually developed, it may be said in general that the order was
divided in bailiwicks and priories which were roughly equivalent to
provinces in other orders and each priory comprised a number of
commanderies. The house of a commander might be a manor, a castle, a
walled-in-portion or a fortified church with an annex. Each house
contained, besides the chapel and the living quarters for the household,
a number of rooms, to be used as a ward for travellers and as a hospital
for sick pilgrims.[6]

The functions of the priors and commanders were manifold: they collected
the revenues of the estates of the order, they gave protection to the
pilgrims, occasionally they built or maintained roads and bridges and
their “mansiones” were recruiting stations for the order. When the days
of the great pilgrimages were over, several hospices of St. John grew
into regular hospitals.

The territorial organization of the order achieved its final completion,
when it was divided into _langues_ or tongues. When the headquarters of
the order were in Rhodes and Malta, the knights of each _langue_ lived
together in their own residence, called _auberge_ or inn, so that the
Convent consisted of a number of national “monasteries.”

Although the training of the Knights of St. John was mainly aimed at
making them good fighters—a life not particularly conducive to
sanctity—yet the chronicles of the order boast a number of men and women
noted for their holiness. To mention a few: Gerard, the Founder, and
Raymond du Puy, who have been always revered as Blessed; St. Hugh,
Commander of Geneva; the sergeant-at-arms Blessed Gerard Mercati who,
however, died as a Franciscan; and the most renowned among the women
saints, St. Ubaldescha, St. Toscana and St. Fiora of Beaulieu.[7]

The military and political history of the Order of St. John is an
eight-hundred-years-long Odyssey which can be best characterized as the
road from Jerusalem to Rome by way of Acre, Rhodes, Malta, and a number
of other places, including a curious detour by Russia. The Hospitallers
stayed in the Holy Land for almost two centuries, until 1291; they then
had their headquarters on the island of Rhodes for another two hundred
years (1309-1522), and afterwards transferred to the island of Malta for
two centuries and a half (1530-1798), finally moving to Rome in 1834.[8]

In the Palestinian period the Hospitallers fought for the defense of the
Latin kingdom of Jerusalem; together with the Templars they supplied the
best-trained and disciplined troops and, especially in the times of
disaster, their forces were the most stable and reliable. During the
last forty years of the kingdom the defense of the country rested almost
completely upon these two military orders.[9]

In the armies of the Christians in the Holy Land the knights formed a
sort of division, composed of between 300 and 500 knights and a number
of hired soldiers. This division was sometimes used as a flank, but more
often as a vanguard or rear guard. Besides, the knights built and
garrisoned an impressive number of fortresses of which the most powerful
were Margat and Crac.

Only seven knights of St. John, including the master, survived the fall
of Acre in 1291. They found asylum on the island of Cyprus. During their
years there, the knights began to build up a naval force. With this they
conquered the island of Rhodes, where they were firmly established in
1308. Thus they became known as Knights of Rhodes.[10]

At Rhodes the knights reached the peak of power and influence, never
quite attained in the same measure before or after. And this is all the
more remarkable because the number of knights on the island never
exceeded three hundred. By building enormous fortifications they made
the island an almost impregnable bastion against the attacks of the
Mamelukes of Egypt and Syria and the Turks of Constantinople. With their
naval power they started a new type of warfare against the old enemies.
In Rhodes the knights became a sovereign power like the sea republics of
Italy or the Hanseatic cities in Germany.[11] Their navy flew its own
flag, a white cross on a red field, they minted their own money, they
concluded treaties with other sovereign states on the basis of equality
and they had their diplomatic representatives at many courts. After
repulsing numerous attacks, the knights finally were overwhelmed by a
strong expeditionary force under Sultan Soliman I and capitulated Dec.
21, 1522.

Once again the remaining knights drifted around in search of a dwelling
place; they established their capital successively in Crete, Messina,
Baia, Viterbo, and Nizza. Finally, on March 24, 1530, they obtained from
Emperor Charles V, in his capacity as king of Sicily, the island of
Malta and adjacent islands as a “perpetual and free feud.” The only
obligation attached to this transfer was that the knights should
annually, on the feast of All Saints, offer a falcon or a hawk to the
King of Sicily, whoever he might be. Thus the Order of Saint John became
a feudatory of the kingdom of Sicily territorially, but as a religious
order it continued dependent on the authority of the Holy See. From
their key position in the Mediterranean, the knights watched the
movements of the Turkish fleet and engaged in battle the corsairs from
Tripoli and the other Barbary States. Twice a year the order equipped a
“caravan,” namely a naval expedition, to ferret out pirates along the
coastline of the Mediterranean. As in Rhodes, in Malta the knights
sustained several attacks from the Turks, the most memorable of which
was the “Great Siege” (1565). The knights were victorious on all
occasions. However, in the eighteenth century a decline in spirit and in
discipline set in. What the Turks failed to achieve, Napoleon did; on
his way to Egypt, without striking a blow he captured the fortress of
Malta, believed to be impregnable (June 12, 1798). The weak Grand Master
Ferdinand von Hompesch soon resigned and the order established a
provisional headquarters at Trieste which at the time was under Austria.

A peculiar situation then arose: an orthodox emperor made himself Grand
Master of this thoroughly Catholic Order of St. John. Paul I of Russia,
who for some time had in mind using the Hospitallers and their island
bastion for political purposes, had managed to establish a grand priory
in Russia. The Russian knights in 1798 elected Paul as Grand Master, but
he died in 1801 without being able to do anything on behalf of the
order. With England taking Malta from the French in 1800, the old
capital was lost for good.

Upon the loss of Malta the order reached the lowest point in all its
glorious history. The order’s headquarters shifted from Messina to
Catania to Ferrara and finally in 1834 they were established in Rome.
The knights had one more grand master after Paul I, but when he died in
1805, the Pope allowed them only to elect lieutenant grand masters who
were to be ratified by him. This state of affairs continued for
seventy-four years until Leo XIII by a Bull of March 29, 1879,
re-established the office of grand master with headquarters in Rome.[12]

From then on the order regained part of its old vitality. It had lost
its territorial sovereignty, military activities had ceased, but it now
reverted to its original objective: _obsequium pauperum_. The order
became again a welfare and charity organization. Looking back over its
long history one might say that at first its master was the
superintendent of a hospital, then he became a commanding army general
(to which office he subsequently added that of an admiral), and in this
age the grand master has become the president of an international
Catholic White Cross which at times collaborates with the international
Red Cross.

The order has built and maintains an impressive number of hospitals—in
Italy alone there are 19 with a total of 5,290 beds; it takes care of a
number of children’s homes, child centers and trade schools for
abandoned children. During the two world wars, the order established
military hospitals and had a number of ambulance trains and airplanes
for the transport of wounded soldiers; in catastrophes such as
earthquakes or other disasters it provides food and medical help. It
also extends financial and medical assistance to the Catholic foreign

Expenses involved in these activities are paid out of the revenues from
the remaining properties of the order and the contributions of its
members throughout the world.

The present organization of the Order of Malta consists of three large
categories, each subdivided into a number of ranks.[14] They are the
Knights of Justice, who take the three monastic vows and form the
strictly religious nucleus of the order; the Knights of Honour and
Devotion who are required to furnish proof of ancient nobility; the
Knights of Magistral Grace who are affiliated to the order and are
somewhat reminiscent of the old class of sergeants-at-arms. Besides,
there are three other groups: the Chaplains, Dames of Honour and
Devotion, and the Donates. The grand master may bestow on persons
outside the order the Cross of Merit of the Order of Malta, an honour
which may be conferred also on non-Catholics and consists of five

The Order of Malta is divided into five grand priories and fourteen
national associations, including the “Association of Master Knights of
the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in the United States of America.”
Those knights who do not belong to any of the priories or associations
depend directly on the grand master and are called _Knights in Gremio

The Order of St. John, although deprived of its territory, retains its
sovereign character. The palace of the grand master and the other houses
in Rome are extra-territorial, that is to say enjoy the same privilege
as that accorded to the other foreign embassies and legations; the order
issues its own diplomatic passports and entertains diplomatic missions
and legations in several countries.[16]

Recently the legal status of the Order of Malta in the Church has been
defined with greater precision. Pope Pius XII, on Dec. 10, 1951,
appointed a special tribunal of five cardinals, presided over by the
Dean of the Sacred College, Cardinal Eugene Tisserant, in order to
determine the nature of the order and the extent of its competence both
as a sovereign and as a religious institution, as well as its
relationship to the Holy See. After long discussions the commission of
cardinals on Jan. 24, 1953, gave the following unanimous verdict:[17]

The Order of Malta is a sovereign order, inasmuch as it enjoys certain
prerogatives which, according to the principles of international law,
are proper to sovereignty. These rights have been recognized by the Holy
See and a number of states. However, these rights do not comprise all
the powers and prerogatives that belong to sovereign states in the full
sense of the word.

Insofar as the Order of Malta is composed of knights and chaplains, it
is a “religio” and more precisely a religious order, approved by the
Holy See, according to the _Codex juris canonici_, Can. 487 and 488, nn.
1 and 2. The purpose of this order is, besides the sanctification of its
members, also the pursuit of religious objectives, charity, and welfare

The sovereign and the religious character of the order are intimately
related, inasmuch as the former serves to attain the objectives of the
order as a religious institution and its development in the world.

The Order of Malta depends on the Holy See and, as a religious order, on
the Sacred Congregation of Religious.

Those persons who have obtained marks of distinction from the order and
the associations of these persons depend on the order, and, through it,
on the Holy See.

Questions concerning the institution’s character as a sovereign order
are treated by the Secretariat of State of His Holiness. Those of a
mixed nature are received by the Sacred Congregation of Religious in
accord with the Secretariat of State.

The present decisions do not interfere with the order’s acquired rights,
customs and privileges which the Popes have granted or recognized,
inasfar as they are still in force according to the norms of canon
law[18] and the order’s own constitutions.[19]


The origin of the Order of the Teutonic Knights was practically the same
as that of the Order of Saint John: the Teutonic Order sprang from a
fraternity of lay men engaged in charitable work. A number of crusaders
from Bremen and Lübeck in Germany, under the leadership of a certain
Meister Sigebrand, operated a field hospital during the dreadful winter
of the Siege of Acre (1190 A.D.), when the Christian army through famine
and sickness was almost decimated. Pope Clement III, recognizing the
remarkable services of the confraternity, gave it his approbation in
1191; the first Superior of this religious congregation was Conrad,
chaplain of Fredrick of Swabia. During the next eight years a number of
German knights joined, and the community gradually assumed the character
of a military order of knighthood, becoming known as the Teutonic
Knights of the Hospital of Saint Mary of Jerusalem. The Pope approved
the Order in 1199 with Henry Walpott of Bossenheim as first master. The
new order was organized along the same lines as the Hospitallers; it
comprised professed knights, priests and lay brothers and its purpose
was to care for the poor and the sick as well as to wage war against the
foes of Christendom. Like the Hospitallers, the knights followed the
Augustinian rule, but whereas the former wore a black mantle with a
white cross, the Teutonic Knights adopted a white mantle with a black
cross. Only German candidates were eligible for the new order, which
rapidly grew in numbers and influence. This may have been due to the
fact that the German knights, always resentful of the predominantly
Latin influence in the existing military orders, were only too happy to
have an organization of their own and thus gave it strong support. The
fourth Master, Hermann of Salza (1210-1239), shifted the military
activities of his order from Palestine, first to Hungary, and then to
the northeastern frontier of Germany, where the order engaged in
fighting the heathen Prussians. But although the Knights operated mainly
in Prussia, their general headquarters still continued at Acre, until
the latter fell in 1291, after which they transferred to Venice.
Finally, in 1309, the seat of the order was established in the famous
fortress of Marienburg in Prussia.[20]

In 1236 the Teutonic Order absorbed the remnants of the Brothers of the
Sword, an order of knighthood which had been founded some thirty-four
years earlier for the purpose of subjugating and christianizing the
peoples of the Baltic countries of Livonia, Lettonia and Esthonia (now
known as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia).

Thus the Teutonic Knights prevailed in these countries. By donations and
conquest the knights gradually increased their holdings, until they
included large parts of Prussia, Kurland and Lithuania. Although these
followers of Christ used the unorthodox methods of fire and sword for
the propagation of the faith, it cannot be denied that they greatly
contributed to the pacification and civilization of the peoples under
their jurisdiction. They encouraged cultivation of the land and built a
great number of towns and villages, providing each with a church. In
some places they erected schools and, faithful to the original purpose
of their order, they established hundreds of hospitals and hospices. In
this respect it is worthy of note that the Teutonic Knights were the
first to establish a mental hospital (Dollhaus) in Germany, namely at
Elbig in 1316. The knights also proved to be clever businessmen inasmuch
as they sponsored profitable markets in foreign countries for the
produce of their land.

For more than a century after the final subjugation of the Prussians in
1283, the Teutonic Knights were the undisputed rulers of a vast and
well-organized domain that stretched along the coast of the Baltic Sea,
from the river Oder to Leningrad. The grand master, residing in his
fortified convent of Marienburg and then from 1457 on at Königsburg, was
_de jure et de facto_ a sovereign, equal to the other princes of the
Empire, and only nominally subordinate to the Emperor. But in the
fifteenth century decline set in. The first blow was struck in 1410,
when in the battle of Tannenberg the Knights were overthrown by the
Polish troops. In 1525 the Order received the _coup de grâce_; its grand
master Albrecht of Brandenburg embraced the Protestant religion,
secularized the possessions of the Order in East Prussia which once he
had vowed to protect, and styled himself Duke of Prussia.[21] When later
this duchy was united with Brandenburg, the foundations were laid for
the kingdom of Prussia and eventually for the German Reich of the
Hohenzollerns. In 1561, when Gotthard Kettler, “Landmeister” of Livonia,
followed Albrecht’s apostasy, the Teutonic Order ceased to be a
sovereign power. However, the loss of sovereignty did not mean the end
of the Teutonic Order, for—although a skeleton of its former glory—it
still possessed large estates and strongholds in Western Germany.
(During the Reformation the Teutonic Knights in the Netherlands
separated themselves from their Catholic brethren. This Protestant
branch was suppressed by Napoleon but was re-established at the time of
the Restoration and is known as the bailiwick of Utrecht.) After the
loss of Prussia the general head of the order became known as “Hoch-und
Deutsch Meister” (Grand-and Teutonic Master). From 1590 on, these grand
masters were almost without exception members of the imperial house of
Hapsburg, which meant that the former independent Teutonic Order became
more and more an appendix of the Austrian crown. Nevertheless, the order
was not completely secularized. True, community life soon ceased to
exist, but the knights still took religious vows. The next blow was
dealt by Napoleon, who suppressed the Teutonic Order in Germany and
confiscated its possessions. The order was now restricted to the
confines of the Austrian empire. Around 1839, attempts were made to
revive the languishing order by dedicating its members—priests and
professed knights—to its original objective, namely ambulance service
and works of charity. Besides, the professed knights, instead of
fighting the infidels, took upon themselves the obligation of serving as
officers in the Austrian army.

The question of profession was settled by a papal indult in 1886
(_Neminem profecto latet_, March 16, 1886), according to which the
knights of the Teutonic Order were to take simple perpetual vows which,
however, included the same rights and obligations as solemn vows.

When the Hapsburg dynasty fell after the first World War, only a handful
of knights were left. On April 30, 1923, the grand master Eugene,
Archduke of Hapsburg-Lothringen, commander in chief of the Austrian
forces on the Italian front in World War I, resigned and was succeeded
by Bishop Norbert Klein.

In 1929 a radical change took place in the entire structure of the
order. The erstwhile military order of the Teutonic Knights was
transformed into a religious community of priests and lay-brothers with
solemn vows similar to any other religious congregation in the Catholic
Church. It assumed the title of _Ordo_ _Teutonicus Sanctae Mariae in
Jerusalem_ (officially designated by the initials O.T.) and is listed in
the _Annuario pontificio_ as a mendicant order. This new community—with
a very old past—devotes itself to parish work and works of charity; it
is divided into five provinces (Austria, Bavaria, Italy, Yugoslavia and
the practically extinct province of Czechoslovakia) with a total
membership of 93, of whom 70 are priests. (See the _Catalogus ordinis
teutonici_, Jan. 1, 1950). A congregation of sisters is affiliated to
the Order, also divided into five provinces with a total membership of
572, mostly dedicated to hospital work.

The superior general has the old title of Grand Master (Hochmeister,
Supremus Magister); he has abbatial rank and enjoys the privilege of the
_pileolus violaceus_. So far his residence is in Vienna, Austria. The
professed knights of the old guard who were still alive when the
transformation was effected became members of the new outfit with the
title of Ordensritter (Knights of the Order). Since the last grand
master, Eugene of Hapsburg, died in January, 1955, only one of the old
knights is left. It is all that remained of an order which at one time
counted its knights by the hundreds. However, as a remnant of the old
prerogatives, the new Teutonic Order has the right to bestow knighthood
on eminent Catholic men, either lay or clerical, and on great
benefactors of the order. These honorary knights are called
_familiares_. Before 1952 the order had made use of this privilege in
only three cases.

                                Part III

                      THE IBERIAN MILITARY ORDERS

In Spain and Portugal the fight against the Moors who since the eighth
century had conquered large sections of the Iberian peninsula prompted
the founding of a considerable number of military religious orders. The
chief ones in Spain were the Order of Calatrava (founded in 1158 and
approved by Pope Alexander III in 1164) which absorbed the smaller
orders of Montjoie (1180) and Montfrac (1198), the Order of Alcantara
(1156), the Order of Santiago (1175) and the Order of Our Lady of
Monteza (1319). Those in Portugal were the Order of Saint Benedict of
Avis, previously known as the Order of the Knights of Evora (1146), the
short-lived Ala Order, so called after the wing of Archangel Michael,
and the Order of Christ (1318).[22]

They were all founded in the second half of the twelfth century, except
the Order of Christ and that of Monteza which originated more than a
century later. The origin of several of these institutions is identified
with the problem of finding a suitable garrison for frontier fortresses.
When a king had captured a Moorish stronghold, he would evidently look
around for some reliable soldiers to whom he could entrust his conquest.
For instance, after the Castilian kings Alphonso III and Sancho III had
conquered the Moorish fortress Calatrava in the Mancha, they entrusted
the defense of this citadel to the Cistercian Abbot Raymond of Fiteiro,
and soon numerous knights and soldiers rallied around the abbot for the
protection of this bastion against the Moors. Thus the Order of
Calatrava came into existence. The members took the rule and the habit
of Citeaux and elected a grand master in 1164. A few years later the
order severed connections with the Cistercians and was approved by
several Popes as an autonomous regular military order. As the Moors were
gradually forced back toward the south, the order changed headquarters
several times; one of its residences was Montsalvat which acquired some
fame in literature as the locale of many romances of chivalry. The
Orders of Avis and Alcantara were established for the same purpose as
that of Calatrava, namely the defense of the boundaries between Spain
and Moorish territory.

The origin of the Knights of Santiago or Saint James of Compostella was
slightly different. Compostella prided itself on possessing the body of
Saint James the Apostle, who, according to tradition, stayed for a while
in Spain to preach the gospel and consecrated the first Spanish bishops.
After the Apostle had been martyred in Jerusalem, his body was
transferred to Compostella, which for that reason ranked in the Middle
Ages as one of the most venerable shrines of Christendom, with an
importance surpassed only by Rome and Jerusalem. However, the numerous
pilgrims from all countries in Europe visiting the Apostle’s tomb in
this far corner of Galicia were often waylaid and robbed by brigands and
Moors. For that reason a number of Spanish knights banded together to
protect the pilgrims on the road to Compostella, and in 1175 this group
of pious soldiers was canonically approved as a religious military
order. The Knights of Santiago erected hospices and strongholds on the
Spanish side of the Pyrenees as did the Knights of St. John on the
French side. A fortified church erected by the Hospitallers at this time
and still in a stage of good repair may be seen at Luz-St. Sauveur near

The origin of the Order of Christ and that of Monteza were quite
different from that of the other Iberian military orders, as we shall
see when we come to speak of the Pontifical Orders of Knighthood.

Although each of the Iberian military orders had, of course, its own,
often fascinating, history, the general development of these
institutions followed very much the same pattern. The knights lived in
their convents and castles ruled by their grand masters; they showed
great prowess in the wars against the Moorish invaders, and
simultaneously they rose to power and political influence, accumulating
immense wealth from the bounty of grateful kings and the pious faithful.
Sometimes one order of knighthood confronted another on the field of
battle, as happened when they took opposite sides in civil wars that so
frequently occurred on the peninsula. This continued until most of the
peninsula was under one rule through the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon
and Isabella of Castile. The reign of these two sovereigns, _los Reyes
Catolicos_, marked the end of the Moorish occupation, but at the same
time accounts for the decline of the religious military orders. After
the surrender of Granada in 1492—the year in which Columbus first sailed
westward from Palos—the Moors were definitely driven off the Iberian
Peninsula, but by the same token the military orders lost their very
_raison d’être_. The fact that the Portuguese Orders of Christ and of
Avis kept the military spirit alive for some time by sending out
expeditions to Africa to fight the Mohammedans in their own stronghold
altered but little the inevitable course of events. The religious
military orders on the Iberian Peninsula were doomed to die a slow

Ferdinand the Catholic administered the first blow in 1482 by assuming
the grand mastership of all the Spanish military orders, with the
exception of the Order of Monteza. Although this seizure was,
canonically speaking, an infraction of the rights of the Church, the act
was legalized some decades later, when the Pope put the military orders
permanently under the Spanish crown. The Portuguese orders followed suit
in 1551, when the mastership was vested in the Crown of Portugal. The
only remaining independent order was that of Monteza which, however,
shared the same fate in 1587. Thus all the military orders of the
Iberian Peninsula lost their independence in the sixteenth century.

During the same century the religious nature of the orders greatly
changed. True, the knights still took the monastic vows, but these vows
came to have a rather indulgent interpretation. The vow of obedience
meant, of course, obedience to the Crown. The vow of poverty was in most
instances altered into a vow to lead an upright life (_conversio
morum_). And the vow of chastity was changed into that of matrimonial
chastity (_castitas conjugalis_). The knights were allowed to marry
once, but the vow implied that if they committed a sin of impurity, they
sinned not only against marriage but also against their vow. In the
Order of Alcantara the vow of chastity was replaced by a vow to defend
the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin.[23]

Although the kings had taken over the title, office and privileges of
grand master, the orders still enjoyed a sort of semi-autonomy, inasmuch
as their possessions still belonged theoretically to the orders as such.
But the ideas of the French Revolution in Portugal and the Napoleonic
occupation of Spain delivered the final blow to the rapidly expiring
military orders. They were completely secularized, and their properties
confiscated. The Restoration almost succeeded in degrading the once
proud knights of Calatrava, Santiago, Alcantara and Monteza to the role
of “carpet knights” and court ornaments. However, not quite. There is
still some difference between the military orders and the mere orders of
merit of the Spanish State as, for instance, that of the Order of Isabel
la Catolica. The organization of the Spanish military orders still
maintains a number of elements that bestow on them a distinctly
ecclesiastical flavor. (While describing the present status of the
Iberian military orders we have limited ourselves to the Spanish; the
Portuguese Order of Avis was suppressed by King Pedro in 1834 and the
present condition of the Order of Christ will be spoken of later).

In the first place, the candidates eligible to these orders must be
Catholic. An additional prerequisite, reminiscent of the original
objective of the orders, is that candidates must evidence that neither
Moors nor Jews are found among their forebears. The reception of the
“habit” is accompanied by a rather elaborate Church ceremonial according
to the ritual of each particular order. This investiture constitutes the
candidates novices of the order. Most of them remain novices throughout
their life, but a number of them take the religious vows—in the sense
explained above (_votum castitatis conjugalis_). These professed knights
have also the obligation of reciting some prayers daily, originally the
equivalent of the Divine Office. Before the pontificate of Pius XI the
professed knights were bound daily to say one hundred Paters, Aves and
Glorias. Since then, however, this obligation has been reduced to one
Pater, Ave and Gloria.

Another important link with the Church is the “Priory of the Military
Orders” which actually is a bishopric comprising more than half a
million Catholics. The establishment of the priory was intended to
compensate somewhat for the loss of property which the Military Orders
had suffered in consequence of the so-called _desamortización_ laws of
the prime minister, Juan Alvarez de Mendizabal. By a decree of Oct. 11,
1835, the latter suppressed most religious orders in Spain and
confiscated their properties. These laws also affected the military
orders, which had jurisdiction over a large number of abbeys, parishes,
monasteries and churches throughout Spain and enjoyed the revenues of
these properties. This infringement upon the rights of the Church was
rectified by a substitute compromise in the Concordat of 1851. The
Spanish province of Ciudad Real (19,741 square kilometers) is set apart
as a “coto redondo,” literally a rounded-off territory, known as the
Priory of the Military Orders. This priory is a “prelatura nullius,”
immediately dependent on the Holy See. The prior is titular bishop of
Dora, his official title being “Obispo Prior de los Ordenes Militares.”
This dignitary is appointed prior by the Spanish King in his capacity of
grand master, but the papal authority is required to elevate the
appointee to the episcopal dignity. The former jurisdictional rights of
the military orders are, so to say, grouped together in this diocese and
vested in the prior. The emoluments of the ecclesiastical properties in
the priory go to the diocese and the salaries of the bishop, canons,
pastors and other parish priests are paid by the Spanish government, in
the name of the grand master. The priests of the diocese of Ciudad Real
must belong to one of the four military orders—an arrangement which
reinstates the old division of the members of the orders into the
classes of knights and priests.

Recently, on Aug. 27, 1953, a new concordat was concluded between the
Holy See and Spain, and thus the status of the Priory of Ciudad Real was
reconfirmed.[24] Article VIII of the concordat reads as follows:
“Continuerà a sussistere a Ciudad Real il Priorato _Nullius_ degli
Ordini Militari.”

Since the office of Grand Master of the Military Orders, after the
abdication of the king in 1931, is in abeyance, the bishop-prior is the
acting head of the orders, inasmuch as he is the chairman of a
commission whose task it is to prepare a project of law designed to put
the orders on a more solid juridical basis. The military orders were
suppressed by the Red Government of 1931-1936, but were re-established
by the Franco regime. The task of this commission is to define with
greater precision the rights and privileges of the Spanish military


The origin of this order of knighthood (_Ordo Equestris Sancti Sepulchri
Hierosolymitani_) is the subject of a great deal of controversy. There
is no doubt that the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre originated in the
Holy Land and existed at the time of the Crusades or possibly even
earlier. There is no doubt either that for many years an order of
knighthood was in existence and called the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
For some time it was listed as a pontifical order of knighthood,
apparently because, off and on, the popes have been its grand masters,
but the _Annuario pontificio_ has ceased to list it as such since 1931,
when Pope Pius XI transferred the grand mastership to the Patriarch of
Jerusalem. However, the order as it presently exists is an
ecclesiastical order of knighthood; article 44 of its statutes,
published in 1949, clearly states that it “is strictly religious, both
in character and objective.” The problem is not only at what time it
originated as an order, but also what its status was; more particularly
whether it ever achieved the status of a religious military order, as
did the Templars or the Hospitallers.

Some writers believe that the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre formed an
order which was founded even before the Crusades. In fact, they are of
the opinion that this order was the cradle from which all other
religious military orders in the Holy Land developed. This is the
position found amongst older authors and at present strenuously defended
in the monumental work of Guido A. Quarti.[25]

According to this author the prototype of the Knights of the Holy
Sepulchre is to be found in the “rabdophoroi,” macebearers, who are said
to have been attached to the church of the Holy Sepulchre from ancient
times to keep order during the ceremonies. These ushers were, according
to Quarti, “i primitivi cavalieri” of the Holy Sepulchre. They are
supposed to have formed a fraternity which was instituted when Saint
Helena, in the beginning of the fourth century, built the basilica of
the Sepulchre. Other authors go even farther back and point out that in
Jerusalem a confraternity of hermits existed to whom Pope Anaclet in 81
is said to have assigned the custody of Christ’s tomb. Some writers
attribute the foundation of this legendary society to the Apostle St.
James, first bishop of Jerusalem.[26]

This confraternity, then, is taken to be the forerunner of the Order of
the Holy Sepulchre. When in 451 the bishopric of Jerusalem was made a
patriarchate, the confraternity of custodians is believed to have been
transformed into a chapter of canons. Whatever the vicissitudes of this
chapter may have been throughout the succeeding centuries, we arrive at
some more solid historical data at the time of the first Crusade. After
Godfrey de Bouillon had captured the Holy City in 1099, a chapter of
canons was instituted in the basilica of the Sepulchre of our Redeemer.
Now, according to Quarti, this chapter was a religious military order,
the oldest of all such institutions.

This opinion is criticized by many authors, even though they admit that
the first knights of the Holy Sepulchre appeared during the reign of
Godfrey. They concede that at the time of the Crusades there was a
chapter of canons attached to the church of the Holy Sepulchre in
Jerusalem. But they find no proof that this chapter formed a religious
order, let alone a military order. The most that can be said is that it
acted in some respects like the orders of St. John or the Temple,
inasmuch as it received ample donations in the form of manors, farms,
fishing rights and the like, not only in Palestine, but also in many
parts of Europe. And like the military orders, the chapter of the Holy
Sepulchre established priories in many lands to administer the estates
it had received.

The most famous of these donations was the bequest made by King Alfonso
of Aragon, who willed in 1134 that his kingdom be equally divided among
the Templars, the Hospitallers, and the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre.
The three organizations wisely ceded their rights to Ramon Berenguer IV,
Count of Barcelona. But the event had an intriguing juridical angle,
because it made it possible for the “Order” of the Holy Sepulchre to
claim at a later date the title of “sovereign order.” For—so it was
argued—the chapter of the Holy Sepulchre was by right the partial
sovereign of the kingdom of Aragon until the disputes concerning this
legacy were settled; and by ceding its rights to the count, the chapter
had acted as a sovereign power.

On the other hand it is admitted that the Crusades gave rise to the
existence of knights who, being knighted at the Holy Sepulchre, were
called after it. During the Crusades, before or after battle, hundreds
of soldiers were dubbed knights, and it was only natural that these
soldiers who came to fight in Palestine for Christ’s sake were eager to
receive the knighthood in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, right at the
tomb where the body of Christ rested for three days. This may have been
the case during the first Crusade when Godfrey de Bouillon assumed the
title of Defender of the Holy Sepulchre; in fact, legend has it that
Godfrey created twenty knights of the Holy Sepulchre. It is also
possible that the soldiers knighted at the tomb of the Saviour assumed a
special distinction which at first may have consisted of the
patriarchical cross with double bar and after the fall of Acre in 1291
assumed the form of the five-fold cross which still is the symbol of the
Knights of the Sepulchre. Wearing the same badge, some knights may have
banded together in groups and fought side by side on the principle of
brotherhood in arms.

However, it is extremely doubtful that these knights formed an order,
like that of the Order of Saint John, for the records make no mention of
monastic vows, rule, community life, community of goods, or regular
organization. It is equally doubtful that the knights formed a secular
brotherhood in arms, but granted that they did, the fraternity had no
permanent organization.

Like most other knights, when these knights of the Holy Sepulchre had
completed their service in the Holy Land they went back home to Europe.
And like all other knights—with the exception only of those of Saint
John—after the fall of Acre they left the Orient for good. Back in
Europe some knights of the Holy Sepulchre may have retired into
monasteries, as many a battle-weary knight did, perhaps to fulfill a
vow. Small groups of knights belonging to the same district may have
founded convents. As a matter of fact, mention is made of several
religious communities of the Holy Sepulchre in Spain, Belgium, France,
Germany, Poland and elsewhere. But it is here that the critics insist
that such communities were not formed by knights, like those of the
Templars and the Knights of Saint John, but by canons and even by
canonesses. These communities were probably independent of one another,
like Benedictine abbeys, but it could be expected that they would be
designated as belonging to the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. It would
follow also that, conformable to the customs of the time and under the
influence of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre who naturally would take
an interest in those convents, the epithet “military” was added to the
term “order.” Such seems precisely to have happened, for one of the
first, or at least one of the most famous of these institutions,
established at Saragosa in 1276 and occupied by women, came to bear the
sonorous title: “Real Monastero de Canonesas Comendadores de la Orden
Militar del Santo Sepulcro”—The Royal Monastery of the
Canonesses-Commanders of the Military Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

At the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries
the monasteries and convents of the Holy Sepulchre seemed to have passed
through a crisis. Pope Innocent VIII issued the bull _Cum sollerti
meditatione_ on March 28, 1489, whereby all the members of the order and
its possessions were incorporated in the Order of Saint John, and the
latter’s grand master still bears the title of the Master of the Order
of the Holy Sepulchre. But many of those concerned objected; they stayed
the execution of the decree until the pope died, and remonstrated with
his successor, Alexander VI. Alexander, in a bull of Aug. 13, 1496,
declared himself grand master of the order, but by then it was an empty
title, because the order soon dissolved into several groups. Emperor
Maximilian obtained from Alexander in 1497 the independence of the
houses of the Holy Sepulchre and made the prior of Miechow the master
general; the king of Spain was the recipient of the same favor from Leo
X in 1512; and the Duke of Nevers became the head of the French group.
In this way the Order of the Holy Sepulchre came to be divided into
three national branches, each closely connected with the ruling dynasty.

Besides, there were still the individual knights of the Holy Sepulchre
who did not form a homogeneous group, but who more than anyone else
could lay claim to that title, inasmuch as they had been knighted at the
tomb of Christ in Jerusalem. The old custom may have been interrupted
for some time after the Christians evacuated the Holy Land, but was
restored by the Franciscans to whom was committed the care of the Holy
Land. They had arrived in Palestine around 1230; after the Christian
armies left they managed as best they could despite opposition and
persecution, and Pope Clement VI in 1342 made them the official
custodians of the Holy Land. In that capacity they formed in a certain
way the continuation of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. And like the
kings of Jerusalem, the superior of the Franciscans who bore the title
of “Custos” continued the old tradition of bestowing the knighthood in
the church of the Holy Sepulchre. But this time the people who received
the honor were not soldiers but rather pilgrims of noble birth—and at
times of not so noble birth—who had made substantial donations to the
holy places. Pope Leo X confirmed the right of the superior of the
Franciscans to continue this practice. About the same time one more
grand master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre entered upon the stage,
inasmuch as the custos assumed the title, and various popes acknowledged
its use. However, the custos who was to bestow the honor ran into
difficulties, historical as well as canonical. In the first place, there
was the age-old tradition according to which a knight could be created
only by a knight. Besides, the dubbing to knighthood involved the use of
a sword, but the custos being a priest was forbidden by canon law to
carry a sword. The usual procedure, therefore, was that the priest would
give the various blessings, and one or another knight, often enough at
hand among the crowd of pilgrims, would carry out the dubbing with the
sword. Thus history records that a certain German count, who in
Jerusalem joined the Third Order of St. Francis and was hence known as
Brother John of Prussia, conducted the ceremonies of conferring
knighthood from 1478 to 1498. But in case no such knightly assistance
was available there was little else left for the priest to do but carry
out the sword ceremonial himself. And here the office of grand master,
being vested in the custos, provided a convenient excuse to circumvent
the canonical irregularity involved in that act.

The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre enjoyed many privileges, some of which
were of a rather peculiar character. They had precedence over the
members of all orders of knighthood, except those of the Golden Fleece;
they could create notaries public, legitimize bastards, and change a
name given in baptism; they were empowered to pardon prisoners whom they
happened to meet while the prisoners were on their way to the scaffold;
they were allowed to possess goods belonging to the Church, even though
they were laymen. In view of such privileges it is not surprising that
many aspired to the honor of becoming Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. The
good Franciscan friars in Jerusalem, too, seem to have made a rather
generous use of their power to confer knighthood.

The history of the order in the last century was not less involved than
in the preceding centuries, especially with regard to the grand
mastership which shifted time and again. When in 1847 Pope Pius IX
re-established the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, he transferred the
office of grand master from the custos of the Franciscans to the
patriarch who from now on possessed the exclusive right of conferring
the knighthood. In 1868 the same pope approved new statutes whereby for
the first time membership was divided into three classes: knights grand
cross, commanders, plain knights, and stipulated the admission fee
according to rank. These contributions were used to defray the expenses
of the seminary and the outlying missions of the patriarchate. Because
this arrangement involved a financial loss for the basilica of the Holy
Sepulchre which up to this time had received the stipends connected with
the enrollment of the knights, Pope Leo XIII founded a cross of honor
which was not intended to confer knighthood but was rather a mark of
distinction bestowed on the pilgrim who visited Jerusalem. This cross
extended to three classes: gold, silver and bronze, and the revenues
derived from it went to the treasury of the basilica. In 1888, the same
pope also approved the establishment of a female branch of the order,
known as the “Dames of the Holy Sepulchre.”

Pope St. Pius X in a letter of May 3, 1907[27] took upon himself the
grand mastership, but delegated the patriarch as his lieutenant who, in
the name of the Holy Father, could appoint the knights. He was also
given the right to erect chapters in various countries. St. Pius X also
unified the use of uniforms and decorations. He gave the knights the
right to wear a mantle of white wool with the red five-fold cross
attached on the left-hand side. In view of the old claim that the order
was a military institution, the pope gave the knights permission to wear
the cross of the order suspended from a military trophy. In the case of
the ladies, the emblem was to be worn hanging from a golden loop.

The office of grand master continued to be vested in the Holy See until
1928, when Pius XI again appointed the patriarch of Jerusalem as “rector
et administrator.”

A complete reorganization of the order was made by Pope Pius XII. By
apostolic letter of July 16, 1940, he appointed a cardinal as the
“Patronus seu Protector” of the order. In a _Motu proprio_ of Aug. 15,
1945, he assigned the Church and the monastery of St. Onophrius in Rome
as the Order’s official center. Finally, by Apostolic Letter _Quam
Romani Pontifices_ of Sept. 14, 1949, the pope promulgated complete new
statutes for the Order.[28] If, up to that date, more and more the order
had assumed the character of an order of merit, this new constitution
gives it explicitly a definite purpose. The objective is “to revive in
modern form the spirit and ideal of the Crusades, with the weapons of
the faith, the apostolate, and christian charity.” More specifically the
purpose consists in “the preservation and the propagation of the faith
in Palestine, assistance to and development of the missions of the Latin
patriarchate of Jerusalem, providing for its charitable, cultural and
social undertakings and the defense of the rights of the Catholic church
in the Holy Land, the cradle of the order.”

The order, as a “juridical person,” is placed under the protection of
the Supreme Pontiff who appoints a cardinal as the grand master. The
order consists of five classes. The first—and very exclusive—class
consists of the “Knights of the Collar,” numbering no more than twelve
persons. In addition this same degree belongs by right to the grand
master, the cardinal secretary of his Holiness, the cardinal secretary
of the Sacred Congregation of the Oriental church and the Latin
patriarch of Jerusalem. Besides this special class there are four
degrees, both for knights and ladies: grand cross, commanders with
plaque (grand officers), commanders and knights.

The distinctive emblem, in its more or less elaborate forms according to
the various ranks, is the five-double cross which in the present
document is constantly designated as the cross of Godfrey of

Besides conferring knighthood, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre grants
three honorary decorations as marks of distinction: the “Palm of the
order,” “the Cross of Merit” which can also be bestowed on
non-Catholics, and the “Pilgrim’s Shell” which is given to those knights
and dames of the order who visit the Holy Land.

The creation of knights and dames of the order is reserved to the
cardinal grand master who transmits the diploma to the secretariate of
state of His Holiness for the visa and the seal. The patriarch of
Jerusalem, who is the grand prior of the order, has also the right of
nomination, but this right is limited to the canons of the basilica of
the Holy Sepulchre and persons residing in the territory of the
patriarchate. Moreover, the patriarch must notify the grand master of
these nominations and the latter then grants the diploma.

The order is divided into several chapters; in the United States there
are two lieutenancies.

The religious character of the knightly order of the Holy Sepulchre
comes to the fore not only in the description of its objective and the
required qualifications of its members, but also in the ceremonial
investiture of the newly elected knights which was approved by the
Congregation of Sacred Rites, Aug. 24, 1945. This ceremony combines a
profession of faith with the ancient ritual used for the dubbing of
knighthood. The candidates do not take monastic vows but promise to live
an upright Christian life in accordance with the commandments of God and
the precepts of the Church, in absolute fealty to the Supreme Pontiff,
as true soldiers of Christ.

                                Part IV


The Pontifical Orders of Knighthood, in contrast with the other
ecclesiastical orders heretofore mentioned, are directly dependent on
the Pope and membership in them is bestowed by the Holy See. They are,
in decreasing order of rank, the Order of Christ, the Order of the
Golden Spur, the Order of Pius, the Order of Saint Gregory the Great,
and the Order of Saint Sylvester, Pope.

That of the Order of Christ can with certainty trace its origin back to
the age of chivalry; and in all probability that of the Golden Spur. The
last three, in their present status, are of more recent date, the Order
of Pius and of St. Gregory being founded in the last century, whereas
the present order of St. Sylvester was established in the beginning of
this century.

All of them are secular orders of merit, even though the ritual of
investiture followed by the Order of Christ contains some elements that
are reminiscent of the ancient religious order from which it descends.

All matters concerning the bestowal, registration, legislation and
description of emblems, badges and uniforms of the pontifical orders are
handled by the chancery of the orders of knighthood which functions
under the “Secretaria a Brevibus Apostolicis Literis,” a section of the
Papal Secretariate of State.

The very exclusive Orders of Christ and of the Golden Spur have only one
degree, that of knights. The other three, at present, consist of three
degrees or classes of which the second class is subdivided: (1) Grand
Cross Knights; (2) Commanders with plaque and Commanders; (3) Knights.
The first wear the cross of the respective order hanging from the grand
cordon, that is to say a large ribbon in the colors of the respective
orders passing from the right shoulder over the breast to the left side
of the body. Besides, the members of this class are entitled to the
_plaque_, an ornamental brooch in the form of a radiating star
surrounding the emblem of the order to be worn on the chest. The knights
commanders wear the cross of the order on a ribbon around the neck; the
first degree commanders are entitled to a _plaque_ of minor dimensions;
those of the second degree do not enjoy this privilege. The class of the
knights wear the cross on a small ribbon pinned on the left chest of the
uniform or suit.

To the question why the Papacy bestows these decorations, the answer is
given by a Pope who certainly disapproved of any vanity or show but who
nevertheless recognized the value of such decorations, namely St. Pius
X. In the preamble to the Brief _Multum ad excitandos_ (Feb. 7,
1905)[30] in which he reorganized the Orders of Christ, of the Golden
Spur and of St. Sylvester, the holy pontiff makes this statement:
“Multum ad excitandos ad egregia facinora hominum animos, praemia
virtuti reddita valent, quae dum ornant egregios bene de re sacra vel
publica meritos viros, ceteros exemplo rapiunt ad idem laudis honorisque
spatium decurrendum.” And his predecessor, Pius IX, in the Brief
_Romanis Pontificibus_ (June 17, 1847),[31] declared that orders of
knighthood “are not instituted to encourage vanity and ambition, but
solely to reward virtue and outstanding merits.”[32]

                      THE SUPREME ORDER OF CHRIST

Saint Pius X in his Brief _Multum ad excitandos_, mentioned above,
decreed that the Supreme Order of Christ is to be considered the highest
ranking of all Pontifical Orders. It looks almost like an ironical twist
of history when we recall that the highest decoration granted by the
Pope at the present day proves to derive from a religious order which
one of the Pope’s predecessors suppressed in the fourteenth century.

The Order of Christ was founded in the year 1318, but since it is a
continuation—under a different name—of the Order of the Templars, it
goes as far back as 1119. In all probability this makes the Order of
Christ the oldest order of knighthood in the world. We say, in all
probability, for there is quite a controversy about the prior antiquity
of the Order of the Temple or that of the Hospital. The most likely
answer seems to be that the Order of the Hospital antedates the former
by a few years, inasmuch as the Hospitallers were organized in the year
1112. However, at first they were an order of charity and only gradually
did they develop into a military order during the reign of the second
master, Raymond du Puy (1120-60), whereas the Templars were organized
from the outset as a military order. For that reason the Temple can be
said to be the prototype of all orders of knighthood.

Although the leaders of the first Crusade had defeated the infidels in
the Holy Land and captured Jerusalem, July 15, 1099, still many bands of
Saracens were left which held several mountain strongholds and were
roving around the countryside, harassing the Christian pilgrims on their
way to the holy places. In view of this state of affairs, Hugh de Payns,
a knight from Champagne, in 1119, twenty years after the capture of
Jerusalem, gathered around him in that city seven companions and formed
with these knights a religious community. In contrast with the ordinary
religious groups, this community had a special character, for the
knights not only took the usual vows of obedience, poverty and chastity,
but they added a fourth vow of a decidedly military nature. In virtue of
this vow the knights became a kind of transport troops, providing the
Christian pilgrims with police escort. Later, the vow assumed a more
general character, namely that of defending the Holy Land. The knights
called themselves _Milites Christi_, soldiers of Christ, but because
their first Convent was a part of the palace of the king of Jerusalem,
which was supposed to have been built close by the place where once
Solomon’s temple stood, they became traditionally known as the Knights
of the Temple, or the Templars.

In the first few years of their existence, they followed the Augustinian
rule, but later adopted a rule written for them by St. Bernard of
Clairvaux, the great promoter of the second crusade and admirer of the
Templar’s ideal. This rule was based on the rule of the Cistercians but
adapted to the way of life of the knights. Because of this connection
with St. Bernard’s order, the knights wore over their armature a white
mantle to which Pope Eugenius III added a red cross. The members of the
Temple were divided into three classes: the knights, the
sergeants-at-arms and priests who acted as chaplains for the order.

In the space allotted it is not possible to discuss in detail the
development, the activities and the decline of the Templars. They proved
themselves real heroes in the battles against the enemies of the Cross,
although at times they were imprudent and reckless, and needlessly
sacrificed their men. Occasionally, they were in arms against their
Christian brothers, especially the Hospitallers of St. John. They had
the reputation of being proud, even to the point of arrogance. Great
wealth they accumulated, but—unlike the Hospitallers—they were little
engaged in works of charity and thus left themselves open to charges of
selfishness and greed as launched against them by their enemies.

After the fall of Acre (1291) the Templars gave up the fight against the
Crescent. The Knights of St. John kept on fighting at sea while the
“Soldiers of Christ” (Knights Templar) retired to Western Europe, and
became bankers as well as financial administrators of kings and

These financial enterprises—so different from the original objectives as
envisaged by St. Bernard—did not last long. Twenty-one years after they
had left the Orient, the Templars were suppressed on April 3, 1312, by
Pope Clement V who acted under pressure from the French king Philip the
Fair. The merits of the trial, in which the charges against the Templars
were weighed is still a matter of debate among historians, the majority
of whom, however, believe that these charges were false in general.
There is the curious note that the Pope in his formula of suppression
stated that the act of extinction was not to be taken as a condemnation
of the Templars; also, that Philip the Fair had the last Grand Master,
Jacques de Molay, burned at the stake (March 18, 1314), before the three
cardinals whom the Pope had ordered to investigate his case had a chance
to bring the trial to an end. It is true, nonetheless, that the Order of
the Templars outlived its usefulness for the Church—except in Portugal
and Spain.[33]

That exception was to have far-flung consequences. The Templars in
Portugal and Spain had not become mere bankers, but still lived up to
the purpose for which they were founded, namely the fight against the
infidel. Hence, King Denis I of Portugal—husband of St. Elizabeth—and
James II of Aragon were quite satisfied with the services of the
Templars in their countries and refused to believe the charges of
idolatry and heresy brought against them. They therefore failed to obey
the directives of the papal decree of suppression. Of course, they could
not possibly allow the Templars to continue under their old name, for
such a flagrant act of disobedience might well have merited
excommunication. In their countries, they allowed the Templars to
reorganize as a new military order of knighthood. Thus the Order of
Christ came into existence in Portugal (1318) and the Order of Our Lady
of Monteza in Spain; the latter was used for the defense of the coastal
areas against the Saracens.[34]

One year after King Denis had established the Order of Christ and had
assigned them the defense of Algarvia, a portion of his kingdom then
threatened by the Moors, the Pope gave his blessing to the “new”
institution. John XXII, successor of Clement V, in the Constitution _Ad
ea, e quibus_ of March 14, 1319[35] gave the approbation, stipulating
that the Knights of Christ should assume the rule of the Cistercians—as
the Templars had done—but, in addition, should follow some of the
customs then in vogue in the Order of Calatrava. Besides, the Pope gave
them all the properties of “the erstwhile Order of the Temple” (_Ordo
quondam Templi_).

The vicissitudes of the Order of Christ in Portugal do not concern us
here. Suffice it to say that they followed the usual pattern. The
knights assisted the kings in their fight against the Moors, had their
inevitable quarrels about jurisdictions and possessions and lost their
religious character before the close of the 15th century. In 1499
Alexander VI freed them from their solemn vows and allowed them to
marry. Eventually, the Order of Christ, like the other military orders
in Portugal, became an order of merit. When the Republic was proclaimed
in 1910, the order was abolished, but was re-established in 1918, with
the President of the Republic assuming the office of grand master.

Of more importance is that the Order of Christ entered into an intimate
relationship with the papacy. When John XXII approved the Order of
Christ, he did so with the proviso that the Holy See had the right to
appoint knights of that order. This regulation has been interpreted in a
two-fold way. Some historians hold that there was originally only one
order of which the Pope was the real head and that the kings of Portugal
were his hereditary lieutenants in that kingdom. Others, however,
believe that ever since 1319 there were two distinct Orders of Christ,
one Portuguese and one Pontifical. The fact is that the Popes, since the
time of John XXII, have conferred the knighthood of Christ. Besides, the
Popes introduced a new element in the concept of knighthood. Instead of
creating the knights by the usual ceremony of dubbing, the Pope
appointed them by “letters patent,” that is to say by issuing a decree
whereby he conferred the rights and privileges of the knighthood upon
those he designated. The purpose of the papal Order of Christ was the
defense of the interests of the Holy See. It was throughout most of its
history quite exclusive.

Pope St. Pius X in the Brief _Multum ad excitandos_ decreed not only
that the Order of Christ is the highest Pontifical order of knighthood
but also specified with greater precision its insignia and the uniform
of the members. The former consists in a red Latin cross surrounding a
white cross and surmounted by a crown, pending from a double golden
chain, an ornamental brooch, called the “plaque” or star and a sword.
The uniform consists of a red tunic, white trousers and a white mantle.

The Pontifical Order of Christ consists of one class only: membership is
reserved mostly to sovereigns and heads of state. In the year 1954 there
were, according to the _Annuario Pontificio_, only five Knights of the
Order of Christ in the world.

Although the Pontifical Order of Christ is an order of merit, its
ancient religious origin is reflected in the fact that its members must
be Catholic, and also in its ritual of investiture. After receiving the
apostolic Brief of nomination (letters patent), the new knight presents
himself with two witnesses before a cardinal of his choice or, if that
is not possible, before the bishop of his diocese to whom he shows the
Brief. He promises obedience to His Holiness the Pope and recites the
profession of faith, whereupon the presiding dignitary invests him with
the collar of the order.

                        ORDER OF THE GOLDEN SPUR
                             MILITIA AURATA

In the Middle Ages, the spur was the symbol of knighthood, and in that
sense all knights could be said to belong to the “Order of the Spur.”
When the Order of the Golden Spur was established is unknown. Pope St.
Pius X in his Brief _Multum ad excitandos_ maintains that it is among
the oldest orders of knighthood and refers to the tradition which would
have Pope St. Sylvester (314-35) the founder: “Neminem latet Ordinem
Militiae auratae, sive ab aureo calcari, inter vetustissimos jure esse
enumerandum: Constantino enim Magno Imperatore, Silvester PP. I sanctae
memoriae decessor Noster, auctor illius fuisse dicitur.” Be that as it
may, the Pope expresses regret that in the course of time “the order has
lost its ancient splendor and dignity because of human weaknesses and
the vicissitudes of the times.”

In the 16th century, for one thing, the right to confer this knighthood
was no longer reserved to the Holy See. In 1539 Paul III Farnese
(1534-49) granted high dignitaries of the papal court and the Roman
princely families the privilege of conferring the Golden Spur. From that
time on the order was so freely bestowed that it fell into disrepute.

To make matters worse, one of the Medici Popes, Pius IV (1559-65),
decreed that membership of the Golden Spur entailed automatically the
personal title of Roman Count for the titulary and hereditary nobility
for his descendents. All this depreciated not only the distinctiveness
of the Order of the Golden Spur but also of the Roman nobility.

Additional confusion was created when the Knights of the Golden Spur
began to wear the coveted eight-pointed white cross of the Knights of
the Order of Jerusalem. Pope Benedict XIV by a Brief of Sept. 7, 1747,
abolished this abuse and ordered that the badge of the Order of the
Golden Spur be an octagonal gilded cross with a small spur hanging from

At long last Pope Gregory XVI took the reformation of the Golden Spur in
hand—a reformation which proved to be quite radical. In a Brief _Cum
hominum mentes_ of Oct. 31, 1841,[36] the Pope practically suppressed
the Order of the Golden Spur and established in its place the Order of
St. Sylvester, presumably the founder of the old order. In remembrance
of the latter, the Pope decreed that the accompanying title of the new
order be _Militia Aurata_. The Pope reserved the right of conferring
this new knighthood to the Holy See exclusively, revoking all delegated
rights once given by his predecessors and abolished the privilege of
conferring nobility. The membership of the order was reduced to 150
commanders and 300 knights and confined within the Papal States.

In 1905 another radical change occurred in the history of the Golden
Spur. Pope St. Pius X by the Brief _Multum ad excitandos_ separated the
Order of the Golden Spur from that of St. Sylvester, making them two
distinct orders from that time on.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma
of the Immaculate Conception, the restored _Militia Aurata_ was put
under the protection of the Immaculate Mother of Christ. Moreover, Pius
ordered that the gilded cross of the order should in its centre carry a
medal with a crowned monogram of Mary. This cross hangs from a trophy
which in turn is attached to a red ribbon with white edgings to be worn
around the neck. The knights also wear a plaque in the form of a silver
star on which the same cross and medal are superimposed; their uniform
is a red tunic and black trousers.

Pope Pius emphatically reiterated that membership does not entail
personal nobility and still less hereditary nobility. The order
comprises only one class, namely that of knights. The number of knights
may not exceed 100, “lest the honor be decreased by too large a number,”
as the Brief states. Actually, in 1954, there were only ten Knights of
the Golden Spur in the entire world. This knighthood is conferred upon
men, “qui vel armis, vel scriptis, vel praeclaris operibus rem
catholicam auxerint, et Ecclesiam Dei virtute tutarint, aut doctrina
illustraverint.” Membership is not limited to Catholics; the sentence
just quoted leaves sufficient room for the candidacy of non-Catholics,
inasmuch as they, too, may help the cause of Catholicism, as in signing
a concordat with the Church or by giving freedom to the Catholic
missions. In fact, four out of the ten existing knights are
non-Catholics: one Greek Orthodox and three Mohammedans, among them the
Shah of Iran.[37]

                           THE ORDER OF PIUS
                              ORDO PIANUS

The Order of Pius is the third in rank of the Pontifical Orders of
Knighthood. It was erected by Pope Pius IX by the Brief _Romanis
Pontificibus_, and was called after the founder, but also to honor the
memory of Pius IV (1559-65) who in 1559 had instituted an Ordo Pianus.
Since the latter had ceased to exist in the course of time, the order
established by Pius IX could not be considered a continuation of it.
However, the Pope stated specifically that he wished to “revive the
ancient appellation introduced by his predecessor.”

The order consisted of two degrees: knights of the first and knights of
the second class. At the moment of nomination, they received title to
personal nobility; in the case of the knights of the first class, the
title was transmissible to their sons. The decoration of the order is an
eight-pointed blue star surrounding a medal with the inscription “Pius
IX” and “Virtuti et Merito”; the reverse bears the date of the
foundation of the order, 1847. The decoration hangs from a blue ribbon
with red edgings. The uniform is blue. The knights of the second degree
were to wear the emblem on the left chest, those of the first degree had
the privilege to wear it hanging from a blue ribbon around the neck. The
latter could also wear a silver emblem similar to the badge but of
larger dimensions on the left chest; only, however, after obtaining the
special and expressed authorization of the Holy See.

Several of the stipulations made by Pius IX were changed within the next
hundred years. One might speak of these changes as the story of the
_minutiae_ of an order of knighthood. In the first place there was the
plaque. Two years after the founding of his order, Pius IX issued at
Gaeta, in exile, the Brief _Cum hominum mentes_ (June 17, 1849), wherein
he ordered that from that date on all knights of the first class enjoyed
the privilege of the emblem, but that a special permission of the Holy
See was needed to wear a jewelled emblem. Moreover, knights of the first
class should no longer wear the star of the order pendent from a collar
around the neck, but from the grand cordon. This rule made them Knights
of the Grand Cross.

By the Brief _In ipso_ of Nov. 11, 1856, issued from the palace of the
Quirinal, Pope Pius IX extended the number of degrees to three: (1)
Knights of the Grand Cross, wearing the grand cordon emblem; (2) Knights
of the Second Class or Commanders, wearing the collar; (3) Knights of
the Third Class, wearing the emblem on a small ribbon on the chest.

Pope Pius X in his Brief _Multum ad excitandos_ reintroduced the famous
emblem and instituted an intermediary degree by dividing the commanders
into two classes: those with the emblem and those without.

Finally, Pope Pius XII in the Brief _Litteris suis_ issued at St.
Peter’s, Nov. 11, 1939,[38] abolished the title to nobility of all
knights to be nominated in the future. In giving the reason for this
rule, the Pope reiterated the words of his predecessor, namely that the
order was not instituted to encourage vanity and ambition, but only to
reward personal merit.

                     ORDER OF ST. GREGORY THE GREAT
                            ORDO GREGORIANUS

In the United States probably the best known of all the Pontifical
Orders of Knighthood is the Order of St. Gregory, although it was
originally instituted to honor the citizens of the erstwhile Papal
States. When the energetic general of the Camaldulese became Pope under
the name of Gregory XVI (1830-46), the Papal States were frequently
troubled with political uprisings. In suppressing these rebellious
movements, the Pope was aided not only by Austrian troops but also by
many of his own faithful subjects.

To honor those who had distinguished themselves in the defense of the
temporal power of the Holy See, Gregory erected an order of knighthood
which he named after the first Pope who bore his own name, Saint Gregory
I (590-604), and who is considered by several historians as the real
founder of the temporal power of the Popes. However, the Brief _Quod
summis quibusque_, issued at St. Mary Major (Sept. 1, 1831), whereby
Gregory XVI erected this new pontifical order, does not restrict its
membership explicitly to his own subjects, but extends it to those
persons who have shown “incontrovertible loyalty to the Holy See,” and
to those who have distinguished themselves by their virtue and piety, by
their social position, by the zeal evidenced in fulfilling high office,
or, in general, by the excellent reputation in which they are held.

The Pope decreed that the emblem of the order should be an eight-pointed
red cross, having a little white medal in the center engraved with a
picture of Saint Gregory the Great, the reverse of the medal carrying
the motto _Pro Deo et Principe_. The cross hangs from a red ribbon with
yellow borders, the colors of the order.

As originally instituted the order consisted of four degrees: (1) the
Knights Grand Cross of the first class, who wore the cross on the grand
cordon, and who were also entitled to wear a large cross in the form of
a jewelled star on the chest; (2) Knights Grand Cross of the second
class, who wore the same large ribbon but only a small single plaque on
the left chest; (3) Knights Commanders whose cross hung from a ribbon
around the neck; (4) Knights who wore the cross on the left chest.

In the Brief _Cum amplissimo honorum_, issued at St. Peter’s, May 30,
1834, Pope Gregory reduced the order to three degrees. The two degrees
of Knights Grand Cross were combined and the right to wear a jewelled
emblem required special permission from the Holy See. This decree also
specified the maximum number of Knights of St. Gregory for the residents
of the Papal States. The Knights Grand Cross should be no more than 30,
the Commanders no more than 70, the Knights no more than 300. However,
the Pope reserved the right to nominate also persons residing outside
the Pontifical States; the number of these nominees was unlimited.

There are two classes of Gregorian Knights, a civilian and military.[39]
The difference is that the former wear the cross hanging from a green
crown of laurel, whereas the latter have the cross hanging from a
trophy. It is interesting to note that neither of the two documents
issued by Gregory XVI says a word about a special uniform for the
Knights of St. Gregory. The green uniform was later prescribed by Pope
Pius IX.


This order—as we saw previously—was instituted by Pope Gregory XVI in
1841 to replace the Order of the Golden Spur, but since the name of
“Militia Aurata” was perpetuated, the order was spoken of as a
combination of the two. In 1905 Pope St. Pius X “separated” the two
orders and made the Order of Saint Sylvester the lowest ranking of the
Pontifical Orders of Knighthood.

The order has three degrees, the second being subdivided into two
classes: Knights of the Grand Cross; Knight Commanders with and without
emblem; simple Knights. The emblem is an eight-pointed white cross with
a medal of St. Sylvester in the center, the reverse side of the medal
bearing the dates 1841-1905 in Roman figures to commemorate the order’s
founding by Gregory XVI and its renovation by St. Pius X. The emblem is
a silver star with the cross of the order superimposed. The colors of
the grand cordon, collar and ribbon on which the cross hangs, according
to the different degrees, are three bands of red and two of black. The
uniform of the order is black.

                         THE PAPAL DECORATIONS

The decorations bestowed by the Holy See at the present time are the
Cross “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” and the medal “Benemerenti.” These
decorations do not confer knighthood upon the recipient, but are medals
of honor (_distintivi di onore_) given to both men and women who merit
public token of gratitude from the Pope for their services. The
conferring takes place by means of a diploma issued from the
Secretariate of State.

                      _Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice_

Pope Leo XIII instituted this cross by the Apostolic Letter _Quod
singulari Dei concessu_ of July 17, 1888,[40] to commemorate the
fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Originally it
was intended to reward those persons who had distinguished themselves in
organizing the Vatican exposition in which were exhibited the gifts
which Leo had received from every part of the world on the occasion of
his golden jubilee. Later, the bestowal was extended to those who were
eminent in their devotion toward the Church and the Papacy. The cross
was initially issued in three degrees, gold, silver and bronze; Pope St.
Pius X in 1908 decreed that the cross should come only in gold. The four
arms of the cross are decorated with a comet and in between the arms are
found four lilies: these embellishments are meant to recall the coat of
arms of the Pecci family from which Leo derived. In the center of the
cross is placed a medal bearing the bust of the founding Pope with the
inscription “Leo XIII, P.M. Ann. X” (the tenth year of Leo’s
pontificate). The medal bears on the reverse side the tiara and the
papal keys with the inscription “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.” On the
reverse side of the arms of the cross are found these words “Prid. Cal.
Ian. 1888.” The cross hangs from a red, white, and yellow ribbon, to be
worn on the left chest.


This is the name of a series of medals issued by several Popes in order
to reward distinguished services at special occasions. Pius VIII was the
first to grant such a Benemerenti medal. The practice was continued by
Gregory XVI in 1831 when he had a medal coined to reward those of his
subjects who had shown themselves particularly faithful to the Pope
during that troublesome year. Pope Pius IX did the same in gratitude to
the soldiers who fought for him during the revolution of 1848 and 1849.
St. Pius X, too, issued in 1910 a Benemerenti medal which was preferably
granted for military services. A special medal is given to the Palatine
guards after some years of faithful service. Pius XI created a
Benemerenti medal to remunerate persons as well as groups who
distinguished themselves in the organization of the Holy Year 1925 and
of the missionary exhibition which was held in the Vatican in the same

Besides these special medals there is a Benemerenti medal of a more
general character. It comes in gold, silver and bronze and it bears the
effigy and the name of the reigning Pope, and on the reverse side a
crown of laurel and the letter “B” (“Benemerenti”). The medal hangs from
a yellow ribbon edged with white, to be worn on the left chest.

Hardly an institution in the world today has the equivalent of honors
parallel to that of the Roman Catholic Church. In an age when initiative
and ability tend to become lost in the overwhelming social changes that
are so universal, these honors stand out as another instance of the
timelessness of that Church. They salvage values and ideals from the
past. Chivalry is more than romance; it is one of the graces of human
dignity. Those who would spurn the past cannot build the future. These
honors are enshrined in a morality and code that is rooted in the love
and charity of Christ made visible through human compassion and effort.
They envision the kingdom of heaven as their perspective quite in the
way of the parable Our Lord so earnestly preached when He tenderly
uttered the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”



    [Illustration: Teutonic Order
    Black cross with white borders, black ribbon.]

    [Illustration: Order of the Holy Sepulchre
    Red cross of Godfrey de Bouillon, military trophy, black ribbon.]

    [Illustration: Order of Malta
    Grand Cross of Professed Bailiff: White cross, crown, military
    trophy and black ribbon with two gold designs, representing crown of

    [Illustration: Order of Calatrava
    Red Cross fleury.
    Order of Alcantara
    Green cross fleury.
    Order of Monteza
    Red Cross and black fleur-de-lis.]

    [Illustration: Order of Santiago
    Lily-hilted sword in red.]


    [Illustration: Order of the Golden Spur
    Gold cross with golden spur pendent from it, white medal, military
    trophy, red ribbon bordered with white.]

    [Illustration: Order of St. Gregory
    Civil division: red cross, blue medallion, golden crown, oak leaves,
    red ribbon with orange borders.]

    [Illustration: Order of St. Sylvester
    White cross on gold rays, medal of St. Sylvester, ribbon with five
    strands, three red, two black.]

    [Illustration: Order of Christ
    White Latin cross, imposed on red cross, crown, military trophy and
    golden chain.]

    [Illustration: Order of Pius
    Eight-pointed blue star, white medallion, rays of golden flames,
    blue ribbon bordered with red.]

                         PONTIFICAL DECORATIONS

    [Illustration: Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice
    Gold cross, fleur-de-lis, medal with image of Leo XIII, purple
    ribbon with white and yellow line on each border.]

    [Illustration: Benemerenti Medal
    Gold, silver or bronze medal with image of reigning Pontiff, yellow
    ribbon edged with white.]

    [Illustration: Lateran Cross
    Gold or silver cross, medallions of the Saviour, St. Peter, St.
    Paul, St. John the Baptist and St. John the Apostle, red ribbon with
    two blue stripes.]


[1]_The American Ecclesiastical Review_, XXXVII (1907), 497-503, carried
    an article by Joseph J. Murphy under the title, “Pontifical
    Decorations,” as they were reorganized by Pope Pius X. In the same
    volume (pp. 324-26) a correspondent criticized the Pope for being
    “exceedingly lavish in his bestowal” of knighthood and other such
    honors and he felt that the spirit of a republican community “is
    entirely against their bestowal.” Three years later (“Roman Curial
    Honors and American Republican Sentiment,” _AER_, XLII [1910],
    341-44), another (or the same?) correspondent expressed the
    conviction that the Papal appointments to “knights, marquises,
    monsignori and the like ... are entirely out of place in America and
    even contrary to the spirit of our people, if not also to the letter
    of the Constitution.” In both cases the editor’s equivocal comment
    left no doubt that he wished to run with the hares and hold with the
    hounds, and his statement that “such decorations as go with these
    titles are of much the same character as the secret society emblems
    and titles used in our numerous American fraternities” was, if not
    startling, at least amusing.

[2]Pio Paschini, “Ordini Equestri,” _Enciclopedia Cattolica_, IX, col.

[3]Cf. Wm. F. Stadelman, “The Royal Order of the Saint Esprit” (_AER_,
    LIV [1916], 641-61). There was an older Order of the Holy Ghost,
    established in Naples in 1352 by Louis of Taranto, but it hardly
    survived the death of its founder. Cf. Stadelman, “The Knights of
    the Holy Ghost of the Good Intention” (_AER_, LIV [1914], 652-69).

[4]F. Giraud, _Le Bienheureux Gérard_ (Aix, 1919); Carlo Guarmani, _Gli
    Italiani in Terra Santa, reminiscenze e ricerche storiche_ (Bologna,
    1872), pp. 28-29. E. J. King, _The Knights Hospitallers in the Holy
    Land_ (London: Methuen, 1939, p. 20), says that the theory that
    Gerard’s surname was Tonce or that he hailed from Tonco is based on
    “the error of some copyist of a Latin text, who seeing the words
    ‘Gerardus tunc’ mistook the adverb for a surname.”

[5]See C. Fedeli, _L’ordine di Malta e le scienze mediche_ (Pisa, 1913);
    Hans Karl von Zwehl, _Ueber die Caritas im Johanniter-Malteser Orden
    seit seiner Gründung_ (Essen: Fredebeul und Koenen, 1929); Edgar
    Erskine Hume, _Medieval Work of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John
    of Jerusalem_ (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1940).

[6]For a description of the provincial organization of the Hospitallers
    see Elizabeth Wheeler Schermerhorn, _On the Trail of the
    Eight-pointed Cross_ (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1940).

[7]A. Bosio, _Les vies des Saints de l’Ordre de St. Jean de Jéruzalem_
    (Paris: Baudoin, 1631); Mathieu de Goussancourt, _Martyrologe des
    Chevaliers de St. Jean, dits de Malte_, 2 vols. (Paris: F. Noel,

[8]E. Rossi, _Riassunto storico del S. M. Ordine San Giovanni in
    Gerusalemme, di Rodi e di Malta_ (Rome, 1926); C. Bottarelli-M.
    Monterisi, _Storia politica e militare del Sovrano Ordine di S.
    Giovanni di Gerusalemme_, 2 Vols. (Milan, 1940); Giacomo C. Bascapé,
    “Historic Summary of the Sovereign Military Order of St. John of
    Jerusalem and Malta,” in: _The Official General Roll of the Grand
    Magistery_ (Milan: Ciarrocca, 1949), pp. 17-61.

[9]For this period see Edwin J. King, _The Knights Hospitallers in the
    Holy Land_ (London: Methuen, 1930).

[10]Hans Prutz, “Die Anfänge der Hospitaler auf Rhodes,”
    _Sitzungsbericht der Königlichen Bayerischen Akademie der
    Wissenschaften_, Jg. 1908, Abh. 1.

[11]Giacomo C. Bascapé, _L’ordine Sovrano di Malta e gli Ordini Equestri
    della Chiesa nella storia e nel diritto_ (Milan, 1941).

[12]Michel de Pierredon, _Histoire politique de l’Ordre Souverain des
    Hospitaliers de Saint-Jean de Jéruzalem, dit de Malta, depuis la
    chute de Malte jusqu’à nos jours_ (Poitiers: Imprimérie du Poiton,

[13]E. Nasalli Rocca di Corneliano, “Lineamenti dell’organizzazione
    regionale e della funzione assistenziale dell’Ordine,” in: _Studi in
    onore di C. Calisse_ (Milan, 1939).

[14]For an excellent survey in five languages of the division, degrees,
    emblems and uniforms of the order see Rudolf Prokopowski, _Ordre
    Souverain et Militaire Jéroselymitain de Malte_ (Vatican City:
    Éditions “Ecclesia,” 1950).

[15]See for membership of the order: _The Official General Roll of the
    Grand Magistery_ (Milan: Ciarrocca, 1949).

[16]A. Visconti, “La sovranità dell’Ordine di Malta nel diritto
    italiano,” _Rivista di diritto privato_, VI (1936), 195-205.

[17]_AAS_, XXXV (1953), 765-67.

[18]_Codex juris canonici_, can. 4 and 5; can. 25-30; can. 63-79.

[19]One of the most extensive collections in the United States dealing
    with the Knights of Malta is to be found in the Library of The
    Catholic University of America. The collection was assembled by Mr.
    Foster Stearns who in 1955 entrusted it to The Catholic University.
    The Library has prepared a catalog classifying the 281 titles which
    include imprints from 1480 to the present day.

[20]For the history of the Teutonic Order, see Arbogast Reiterer, O.T.,
    _Das Deutsche Kreuz, Geschichte des Deutschen Ritterorders_ (Graz,

[21]E. Joachim, _Die Politik des letzten Hochmeisters in Preuszen,
    Albrecht van Brandenburg_, 3 Vols. (Publikationen aus dem K.
    Preuszichen Staatsarchive, 1892-1895).

[22]M. Guillamas, _De los Ordenes militares de Calatrava, Santiago,
    Alcantara y Montesa_ (Madrid, 1852).

[23]An interesting account on the vows and obligations of the Spanish
    Military Orders can be found in: Alonso Peñafiel y Araugo,
    _Obligaciones y excellentias de los tres ordenes militares Santiago,
    Calatrava y Alcantara_ (Madrid: Diego Dias de la Carrera,
    1643)—Microfilm in the Library of Congress.

[24]_AAS_, XXXV (1953), 625-56.

[25]Guido A. Quarti, _I Cavalieri del Santo Sepulcro di Gerusalemme_
    (Milano: Enrico Gualdoni, s.d.).

[26]Pierre Verduc, _La vie du bienheureux Théodore de Celles,
    restaurateur du très-ancien ordre canonial militaire et hospitalier
    de Ste-Croix_ (Périgneux, 1681), pp. 40-42; 79-101; Odoardo
    Fialetti, _Degli habiti delle religioni con le armi e breve
    descrizione loro_ (Venezia, 1626).

[27]_ASS_, XL (1907), 324-25.

[28]_Statuto dell Ordine Equestre del Santo Sepolcro de Gerusalemme_
    (Rome: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1950).

[29]Albert de Mauroy, _La croix de Jérusalem et son origine_ (Rome,

[30]_A.S.S._, XXXVII (1904-1905), 565-71.

[31]_Pii P.M. IX Acta_, I, 1, (Rome, 1854), 43-45.

[32]F. Guigue de Champvans de Farémont, _Histoire et législation des
    ordres de chevalerie, marques d’honneur et médailles du Saint-Siège_
    (Paris, 1932); M. Gorino, _Causa, titoli nobiliari e Ordini equestri
    pontifici_ (Turin, 1933); S. Felice y Quadremy, _Ordenes de
    Caballeria Pontificias_ (Mallorca, 1950).

[33]Cf. G. Mollat, _Les Papes d’Avignon_, 9th ed. (Paris, 1950), pp.

[34]According to a tradition among Free Masons, a number of French
    Templars went into hiding and formed a lodge of masonry.

[35]_Bullarium Romanum_, IV (Rome, 1644), 277-84.

[36]_Acta Gregorii PP., XVI_, III (Rome, 1903), 178-80.

[37]_Annuario Pontificio_ (1954), p. 998.

[38]_A.A.S._, XXXII (1940), 41.

[39]_Notificatio Cancellariae Ordinum Equestrium_ (_A.S.S._, XXXVII
    [1905]), 565.

[40]_Acta Leonis XIII_, VIII (1889), 259.

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Silently corrected a few typos.

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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