The Supreme Order of Christ

Italian: Ordine Supremo del Cristo

Established 1319.

The Supreme Order of Christ is the highest order of knighthood awarded by the Pope. As part of the re-structuring of papal honours by Pope Pius X, the Order of Christ was made the senior-most Papal honour. Traditionally it was awarded to senior Catholic Heads of State, but may be awarded to anyone as a personal gift of the Holy Father. The usage of the Supreme Order of Christ was restricted under the pontificate of Pope Paul VI in his 1966 Bull Equestres Ordinis, to Catholic Heads of State to whom it might be given only to commemorate very special occasions at which the Pope himself was present. It is now rarely awarded. The last public award was made by Pope John Paul II in 1987 to Frà Angelo de Mojana, 77th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. With the death of King Baudouin of the Belgians in 1993 there are no living members of the Order of Christ who were awarded the order publicly. However, there may be members who were awarded the order privately. There are no official records. It also appears that a version of the order continues to be awarded by a church jursidiction distinct from the Vatican under the heading of Florentine-Roman.

Portuguese Controversy

The Portuguese Crown has also laid claim to the right to award the Order of Christ. However, the Papacy stated that the right of the Portuguese monarchs to award the Order had been granted by a Pope in the Bull Ad ea ex quibus issued in Avignonin 1319. While the Bull in itself does not explicitly grant to the Pope the right to issue the Order, successive popes since Pope John XXII have done so. For many years the Portuguese monarchy disputed the right of the Papacy to award the Order, and in one famous case arrested someone for wearing the Papal Order. The position of the Crown of Portugal was, that the only legitimate fons honorum was the Crown. However, this is disputed by the Papacy. (José Vicente de Bragança, The Military Order of Christ and the Papal Croce di Cristo.)





Copyright 1996-2012 Knighthood Information Center.