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Title: The Ecclesiastical Orders of Knighthood

Author: James Van der Veldt

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The Ecclesiastical Orders of Knighthood

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.



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


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 2 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 3 to put all the ecclesiastical orders of knighthood under the heading of papal decorations.

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 Lateran.

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 4 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, 5 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 6 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 opposite.

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 7 type of knighthood, but they gave the knights a chance to show their mettle.

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 authorities.

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 8 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 9 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 significance.

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 10 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 11 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. 12 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 13 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 15 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 16 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. 17 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 18 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, 20 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 missions.[13]

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 22 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 classes.

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 Religionis.[15]

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 23 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 work.

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, 24 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, 25 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, 26 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 27 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


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 29 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 Lourdes.

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 30 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 death.

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 32 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 orders.



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 34 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 35 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 36 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 37 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 38 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 39 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 Bouillon.[29]


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 42 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]


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 43 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 44 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 merchants.

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 45 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 47 the presiding dignitary invests him with the collar of the order.


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 it.

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 48 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 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 50 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.


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 51 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, 52 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 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 53 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 year.

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 54 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.”




Teutonic Order
Black cross with white borders, black ribbon.

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

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

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

Order of Santiago
Lily-hilted sword in red.



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

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

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


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

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



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.

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

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. 252.
[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, 1643).
[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, 1926).
[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, 1922).
[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, 1914).
[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. 562-65.
[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

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