Papal Knighthood & Nobility Brevets

Brevets (certificates) for Papal honors come in various forms, depending on the pathway of the nomination. Often they are signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State or another official so authorized. As with any cumbersome government bureaucracy that grows over time, issue of various types of documents have become decentralized. Officials do not always sign the documents. Seals likewise vary. Seals and signatures are added by those authorized to do so. The types and size of seals vary subtly according to the authority of the office and the issuing official/clerk. Seals may be preprinted, stamped, or impressed in paper, wax, or metal. Silver or gold metal seals are generally reserved for the most significant documents reflecting an important act or appointment or commendation. Colors of ribbons or strings affixed to seals, if any, may be unique to a particular official. Coordination, preparation, and costs of documents are routinely managed between office staffs via priests, lay clerks and nuns who determine how names, titles, art, illumination or other special embellishments, if any, appear. Accordingly a variance in the type and quality of documents may occur reflecting past and present policies that affect public perceptions. For example, inclusion of titles on documents reflecting personal, professional military, Royal or noble status are now less common than in past administrations. Historically, final documents on parchment are further authenticated by hand written pencil notations on the back reflecting administrative information, such as a processing date, name of a clerk or priest, and/or numbers assigned to or by a particular Cardinal or Bishop.

The official State level actions remain uniquely separate from the routine actions of bureaucrats. Documents this originate among several different Vatican offices — each with their own authority to issue a variety of papers, watermarks, and seals. Categories of written documents range from State, Official, Authorized Unofficial, and Unofficial. Official Vatican state documents are few, produced formally according to the legal, historical and representational dignity of the act. They are usually listed in the Acta and Papal Diary. The vast array of other documents are produced are considered Authorized Unofficial. Such documents include Papal Blessings, proclamations, etc. except in rare cases, Papal appointments of Vatican nobility and Knighthoods. Appointments such as Gentlemen of His Holiness, Baron, Count, Prince etc. are increasingly rare and honorific due to the decline in status affected by Paul VI and subsequent Popes, in addition to the earlier conquest of the Papal States by the Savoyist Kingdom of Italy.

Since papal honors are merely honorific since the reign of Paul VI, the brevets do not constitute "state acts" of the Vatican, and the awards are not always recorded. Cardinals and Bishops making nominations are entrusted to retain their own records for individuals they sponsor for any Pontifical honor. No official, complete list of papal knights exists. Below are some examples of papal brevets.


Brevet of a Knight of St. Gregory the Great issued through diplomatic channels
in the reign of Pope Pius XII in 1952

Brevet of a Knight of St. Gregory the Great issued via motu proprio in 2008 during the
reign of Pope Benedict XVI.

Brevet of a Knight of St. Gregory the Great issued via diplomatic channels in 2015
during the reign of Pope Francis.

Brevet of a Papal Prince issued to a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire
during the reign of Benedict XVI via motu proprio, also sealed
with a lead bulla. Embellished and illuminated documents are
sometimes done for hereditary princes, major donors, and other VIPs.

Papal Blessing from Pope Francis to a hereditary Papal Prince, 2012.
An embossed seal was used.















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