Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George
The Ancient History and Legend of Saint George
The symbolic roots of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George are shrouded in ancient history and medieval legend. Saint George, a Christian born in Asia Minor around 270, became a military officer in the Imperial Army. In 303, he publicly tore down one of the Emperor Diocletian’s edicts against Christians, an act which led to his torture and eventual martyrdom. Over the centuries, many legends were told about Saint George. Early Orthodox iconography depicts him slaying a dragon, and in the Middle Ages he came to be known as the Patron of Knights. Saint George was venerated in the East from about 350.
In 312, some years after Saint George’s martyrdom, the Emperor Constantine “the Great,” on the eve of his vic torious battle at the Milvian Bridge in Rome, had a vision of the Cross and the words “In hoc signo vinces” (By this sign you shall conquer). He ordered a labarum (a square banner suspended from a horizontal bar attached to a vertical spear) constructed bearing the Greek monogram XP (for “Christos”). His armies defeated those of Maxentius and Christians were no longer persecuted in Rome. The Christianisation of Italy and the rest of Europe followed.
The Cross of Constantine
The Cross of the Constantinian Order of Saint George is a deep crimson Greek Cross Flory superimposed by the XP monogram in gold. At the end of each limb of the Cross is one of the letters I, H, S or V, representing the motto “In Hoc Signo Vinces.” The decoration is suspended from a sky blue ribbon of watered silk. The fifty soldiers entrusted to protect the Labarum constituted the “Labarum Guard” represented today by the fifty bailiff knights grand cross of justice of the Constantinian Order.
The legendary founder of the Constantinian Order of Saint George is the twelfth-century Eastern Roman (“Byzantine”) Emperor Isaac II Angelus Comnenus. In the fifteenth century, an aristocratic family of Balkan exiles claiming descent from Isaac’s dynasty fought alongside Skanderbeg’s army in Albania. Establishing their residence at Venice, they began to bestow an honour, which came to be identified as the “Constantinian Golden Militia.” In those days the brotherhood was an actual military force engaged in the wars against the Turks in the Balkans. In the sixteenth century, this Comnenus family’s claim to the Throne of Constantinople was recognised with several Papal Bulls, and their Golden Militia was likewise recognised.
Throughout its history, the Order has been closely linked to the Roman Catholic Church. To the Angelus grand masters, it was a point of reference in the wars against Muslim invaders; to the Popes it was part of the Counter Reformation.
The Constantinian Orders Farnese Heritage
The Constantinian Order of Saint George as it exists today has been identified as a dynastic institution since 1698, when the last Comnenus Pretender ceded it to Francesco Farnese, Duke of Parma, Piacenza and Castro. Pope Innocent XII confirmed this transfer with his Bull, Sincerae Fide, issued 24 October 1699. The main focus of the Constantinian Order was, and remains, the propagation of the Catholic Faith, although it supports charitable works as well, and today enjoys a special role in the preservation of the culture of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
The Farnese Statutes were the first formal Constitution of the Order, setting forth its purpose and mission. On the initiative of successive Grand Masters, the Statutes evolved over the centuries to reflect the changing times.
In 1731, the Order passed by dynastic right to Prince Carlo de Bourbon, son of King Philip V of Spain by his second wife, Elisabeth Farnese, who was the niece and heir of the last Farnese Grand Master, Prince Antonio. The young Carlo entered Parma as its sovereign ruler in 1732.
Two years later, Prince Carlo de Bourbon (“di Borbone” to Italians) became King of Naples. For the first time in centuries, the Neapolitans could boast that their monarch would reign in their city. For centuries, Naples had been ruled from afar, with local administration overseen by viceroys who, themselves, were often foreigners.
In 1735, Carlo was crowned King of Sicily at Palermo. His Grand Magistry of the Constantinian Order was recognised with a Papal Bull in 1738. A few examples of Carlo’s image, such as his statue at Messina [shown here], are still visible in Italy today. His greatest legacy was the development of Naples itself. The Royal Palace and the nearby Teatro San Carlo, which opened on the King’s name day in 1737, are lasting testaments to his memory.
The Order’s Consolidation under the Bourbon Two Sicilies Dynasty
Two decades later, when Prince Carlo succeeded his elder half-brother to the Spanish Throne, he ceded the Neapolitan and Sicilian Crowns to his son Ferdinando, who became Grand Master of the Constantinian Order. King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies (as his realm was called after 1816) reigned until 1825 and his successors to the Throne, King Francesco I and King Ferdinando II also held the office of Grand Master of the Constantinian Order. The Order was bestowed in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies until 1861, when the forces of King Francesco II, the son of King Ferdinando II and Queen Maria Cristina of Savoy, were defeated by invading troops at the Angevin fortress of Gaeta, on a cape midway between Naples and Rome.
The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was annexed (following that of Parma, Tuscany and Romagna) to the newly created Kingdom of Italy. As a result of the loss of the Kings realm, relations between his dynasty and that of the newly created Italian Royal Family were poor. King Francesco II lived in exile in Rome and following the annexation of the Papal States to Italy in 1870 to Trent, where he remained until his death in 1894. His consort, Queen Maria Sofia, younger sister of Empress Elisabeth (“Sissi”) of Austria-Hungary, lived for many years in Bavaria, which her family had once ruled, and later died in Paris in 1925.
The remains of the last King and Queen of the Two Sicilies are interred, with those of their daughter (who died in infancy), in 1984 in the Royal Chapel of the Basilica of Santa Chiara in Naples.
The Constantinian Order’s Relationship with the Savoy Dynasty of Italy
King Francesco II was succeeded as Head of the House of the Two Sicilies by his brother, Alfonso, Count of Caserta. Relations between the Royal Houses of Bourbon Two Sicilies and the Savoy dynasty of Italy remained poor. In 1924 the Italian Minister Boselli, Chancellor of the Order of St Maurice and St Lazarus of the reigning House of Savoy of Italy, launched an unprecedented attack against the Constantinian Order which Pope Pius IX had protected at the time of Italys unification. In the same year the delicate negotiations commenced concerning the compensation to be paid to the Papacy for the loss of the Papal States and the establishment of a sovereign state for the Holy See.
The Papal Secretary of State, Cardinal Gasparri, himself a Bailiff Knight Grand Cross of Justice of the Constantinian Order, had to negotiate with the King of Italys Minister, Benito Mussolini. Cardinal Gasparri, not wishing to jeopardize the delicate negotiations, yielded to the pressure of Mussolini and temporarily suspended the functions assigned to the Cardinal Protector of the Constantinian Order until the Orders legitimacy had been recognised by the Government of the Kingdom of Italy.
Despite this act, the Apostolic See maintained excellent working and spiritual relations with the Constantinian Order. The Order was still being bestowed by the head of dynasty and Grand Master, Alfonso, Count of Caserta until his death in 1934 and later by his successor and son, Prince Ferdinando Pio. The Order also remained internationally recognised as a dynastic order of knighthood pertaining to the Royal House of Bourbon Two Sicilies. Many prominent statesmen, cardinals, nobles and citizens were invested during the Savoy rule in Italy.
It was only after the abolition of the Italian monarchy in 1946 that the two former dynasties resolved their differences. Shortly before his death in 1960, Prince Ferdinando Pio, Duke of Castro and Head of the Royal House, was invested by Italys last monarch, King Umberto II, into the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation. Soon after in 1959, King Umberto was invested with the Collar of the Constantinian Order by its Grand Master, Prince Ferdinando Pio. An ancient family feud was finally put to rest.
Relations between the two dynasties have continued to grow and strengthen with Prince Ferdinandos successor, Prince Ranieri, Duke of Castro, who became Head of the dynasty and Grand Master in 1960. When Prince Ranieri died in 1973 he was succeeded by the current Head of the Royal House and Grand Master of the dynastic orders, HRH Prince Ferdinando Maria, Duke of Castro.
King Umberto II wishing to further build on the warm relations, which had now existed for many years between the two dynasties, honoured the current Duke of Castro with the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation in 1977. HRH The Duke of Castro returned the honour by awarding and investing King Umberto with the pre-eminent Order of St Januarius of the Royal House of Bourbon Two Sicilies.
On the death of King Umberto in 1983, the Duke of Castro continued the family relationship by honouring the new Head of the Royal House of Savoy, HRH Prince Victor Emanuele, Duke of Savoy with the Bailiff Grand Cross of Justice with the Collar decoration of the Constantinian Order. Two years later in 1985 HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Savoy, was invested as a Dame Grand Cross of Justice of the Constantinian Order.
As a further mark of the cordial relations between the two Royal Houses, HRH Prince Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, Prince of Piemonte and Venice, was invested as Bailiff Grand Cross of Justice in 2003. HRH Prince Carlo of Bourbon Two Sicilies, Duke of Castro, is a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Maurice and St Lazarus.
The Constantinian Order Today
As a prerogative recognised in international law, a dynastic order of knighthood is vested not in the national territory or the headship of a sovereign state, but in the person of the head of a royal dynasty, and various royal decrees issued between 1734 and 1861 make it clear that the Grand Magistry of the Constantinian Order is inseparable from the Headship of the Royal House of the Two Sicilies. For this reason, the Constantinian Order survived the fall of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
The Order continues to have an excellent working and spiritual relationship with the Apostolic See, recognition from many royal dynasties and governments, and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. (The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies traditionally enjoyed a close relationship with the Order of Malta, with which it maintained a treaty granting military protection to the island of Malta).
The Constantinian Order and the Italian Republic
Today, the Constantinian Order is fully recognised by the Italian Republic. Italian citizens can seek official approval to wear the Orders decorations, and the Republics military officers may wear its insignia on uniform. Many senior Italian state officials, ministers and diplomats have been awarded the decoration including among others the Ambassadors of the Italian Republic to numerous European and Middle Eastern states as well as to the Holy See. In 1973, by Decree of the President of the Republic, Giovanni Leone, the National Italian Association of the Knights of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George was elevated to a non-profit organisation. President Leone, who served as the Italian Head of State from 1971-1978, was also invested into the Constantinian Order as a Knight Grand Cross with Gold Star and Collar within the Special Category.
In 1986 His Excellency Professor Francesco Cossiga, President of the Italian Republic from 1985-1992 was decreed and invested by the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Castro, as a Knight Grand Cross with Gold Star and Collar within the Special Category; a position he held throughout his term as the Italian Head of State. Since leaving office Professor Cossiga ceased being a member.
The warm and cordial relationship between the Italian Republic and the Royal House of Bourbon Two Sicilies were further cemented in 1996 when His Royal Highness The Duke of Calabria, as Grand Prefect of the Constantinian Order, was invested by decree of His Excellency President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro (President 1992-1999) as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Italian Republic. The investiture ceremony was conducted by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Lamberto Dini. During the formal exchange of honours, His Royal Highness The Duke of Calabria, on behalf of his Father, the Grand Master, invested the Foreign Minister as a Knight Grand Cross with Gold Star within the Special Category
In March 2003 in a ceremony at Palazzo Chigi, the President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) of the Italian Republic, Silivio Berlusconi, was invested into the Constantinian Order as a Knight Grand Cross with Gold Star and Collar within the Special Category.
On 12 November 2010 the Grand Master, HRH Prince Carlo, The Duke of Castro, invested The Hon Franco Frattini, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy as a Knight Grand Cross of Merit of the Constantinian Order.
The Constantinian Order and the Apostolic See and the Roman Catholic Church
The Constantinian Order continues to have an excellent working and spiritual relationship with the Apostolic See, which has never ceased to recognise the canonical standing of the Constantinian Order and the Distinguished Royal Order of Saint Januarius. As an independent dynastic Order of Knighthood, the Constantinian Order should not to be confused with the Holy See’s own state Orders of Knighthood, or those religious orders which belong to, or are under the protection of the Holy See such as the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
The position of Grand Prior of the Constantinian Order is currently occupied by His Eminence Renato Raffaele, Cardinal Martino, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Cardinal Martino succeeded in 2010 His Eminence Albert, Cardinal Vanhoye, who continues as Ecclesiastical Counsellor to the Royal House. Cardinal Vanhoye succeeded as Grand Prior in 2008 His Eminence, Mario Francesco, Cardinal Pompedda, formerly Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic See and President of the Court of Cassation of the Vatican City State. In November 2003, Cardinal Pompedda was appointed by Pope John Paul II as Ecclesiastical Counsellor to the Constantinian Order; a position that continued under the pontificate of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI until the Cardinal’s death in 2008.
Currently over 25 cardinals are members of the Constantinian Order and who play a active role in the spiritual development of the Order. They are:
His Eminence Fiorenzo, Cardinal Angelini, Cardinal-Priest of S.Spirito in Sassia, His Eminence William Wakefield, Cardinal Baum, Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary and Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, His Eminence Giacomo, Cardinal Biffi, Archbishop Emeritus of Bologna, His Eminence Josip, Cardinal Bozanic, Cardinal-Priest of S.Girolamo die Croati, His Eminence Carlo, Cardinal Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna, His Eminence Desmond, Cardinal Connell, Archbishop Emeritus of Dublin, His Eminence Godfried, Cardinal Danneels, Archbishop Emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, His Eminence Edward Michael, Cardinal Egan, Archbishop Emeritus of New York, His Eminence Péter Cardinal Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and Primate of Hungary, His Eminence Roger, Cardinal Etchegaray, Vice Dean of the College of Cardinals, His Eminence Francis Eugene, Cardinal George, Cardinal-Priest of S.Bartolomeo all’Isola, His Eminence Salvatore, Cardinal De Giorgi, Archbishop Emeritus of Palermo, His Eminence William Henry, Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore, His Eminence Renato Rafaele, Cardinal Martino, President Emeritus of the Pontificial Council for Justice and Peace, His Eminence José, Cardinal Saraiva Martins, Bishop of Palestrina, His Eminence Theodore, Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritius of Washington, His Eminence Andrea Cordero, Cardinal Lanza di Montezemolo, Archpriest Emeritus of the Papal Basilica of St Paul outside-the-walls, His Eminence Edwin Frederick, Cardinal O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, His Eminence Cormac, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop Emeritius of Westminster, His Eminence Vinko, Cardinal Puljic, Archbishop of Vrhbosna (Sarajevo), His Eminence Angelo, Cardinal Scola, Patriarch of Venice, His Eminence Crescenzio, Cardinal Sepe, Archbishop of Naples, His Eminence Adrianus, Cardinal Johannes Simonis, Archbishop Emeritus of Utrecht, His Eminence James Francis, Cardinal Stafford, Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary, His Eminence Dionigi, Cardinal Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, His Eminence Agostino, Cardinal Vallini, Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Lateran University, His Eminence Albert, Cardinal Vanhoye, SJ, Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria della Mercede e Sant’Adriano a Villa Albani & Grand Prior Emeritus of the Constantinian Order.
The following members were also members of the Order until their recent demise:
His Eminence Mario Francesco, Cardinal Pompedda, His Eminence Giuseppe, Cardinal Caprio, His Eminence Silvio, Cardinal Oddi, His Eminence Pietro, Cardinal Palazzini, His Eminence Lucas, Cardinal Moriera Neves, His Eminence Maurice, Cardinal Otunga, His Eminence Vincenzo, Cardinal Fagiolo, His Eminence Francesco, Cardinal Colasuonno, His Eminence Édouard, Cardinal Gagnon, His Eminence Bernardin, Cardinal Gantin, His Eminence Michele, Cardinal Giordano, His Eminence Paul Augustin, Cardinal Mayer, His Eminence Dino, Cardinal Monduzzi, His Eminence Antonio María Barbieri, His Eminence Virgilio, Cardinal Noé, Cardinal Javierre Ortas, His Eminence Salvatore, Cardinal Pappalardo, His Eminence Luigi, Cardinal Poggi, His Eminence Alfons Maria, Cardinal Stickler and His Eminence Alfonso, Cardinal López Trujillo.
Among the many Diocesan and Titular Archbishops in the Constantinian Order are:
HE The Most Rev Mgr Ottorino Pietro Alberti, Archbishop Emeritus of Cagliari, HE The Most Rev Mgr Angelo Bagnasco, Cardinal-Priest of Gran Madre di Dio, HE The Most Rev Mgr Luigi Barbarito, GCVO,Titular Archbishop of Fiorentino and Apostolic Nuncio Emeritus to Great Britain, HE The Most Rev Mgr Bernard Barsi, Archbishop of Monaco, HE The Most Rev Mgr Gaetano Bonicelli, Archbishop Emeritus of Siena-Colle di Val d’Elsa-Montalcino, HE The Most Rev Mgr Antonio Cantisani, Archbishop Emeritus of Catanzaro and Squillace, HE The Most Rev Mgr Carmelo Cassati, Archbishop Emeritus of Trani-Barletta-Bisceglie, HE The Most Rev Mgr Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, Archpriest of the Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls Basilica, HE The Most Rev Mgr Francesco Cuccarese, Archbishop Emeritus of Pescara Penne, HE The Most Rev Mgr Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, HE The Most Rev Mgr Riccardo Fontana, Bishop of Arezzo Cortona Sansepolcro, HE The Most Rev Mgr William Lori, Archbishop of Bridgeport, HE The Most Rev Mgr Giuseppe Mani, Archbishop of Cagliari, HE The Most Rev Mgr Giovanni Marra, Apostolic Administrator of Orvieto Todi, HE The Most Rev Mgr Edoardo Menichelli, Archbishop of Ancona-Osimo, HE Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Apostolic Nuncio to the Court of St James’s, HE The Most Rev Mgr John Michael Miller, Archbishop of Vancouver, HE The Most Rev Mgr Giuseppe Molinari, Archbishop of L’Aquila, HE The Most Rev Mgr Vittorio Luigi Mondello, Archbishop of Reggio Calabria-Bova, His Grace The Most Rev Mgr Vincent Gerard Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, HE The Most Rev Mgr Giovanni Battista Pichierri, Archbishop of Trani, HE The Most Rev Mgr Bruno Schettino, Archbishop of Capua, His Grace The Most Rev George Stack, Archbishop of Cardiff, HE The Most Rev Mgr Francesco Pio Tamburrino, Archbishop of Foggia-Bovino and HE The Most Rev Mgr Alberto Tricarico, Official Emeritus of the Secretariat of State.
The following members were also members of the Order until their recent demise:
The Most Rev Mgr Maurice Couve de Murville, HE The Most Rev Mgr Alessandro Maria Gottardi, HE The Most Rev Mgr Gastone Mojaisky Perrelli, HE The Most Rev Mgr Gabriel Montalvo Higuera, HE The Most Rev Mgr Cataldo Naro, HE The Most Rev Mgr Marian Oles, HE The Most Rev Mgr Vito Roberti and HE The Most Rev Mgr Antonio Maria Travia.
The Constantinian Order and the Order of Malta
The Constantinian Order enjoys an excellent relationship with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and this dates back to the time when the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies historically enjoyed a close relationship with the island of Malta, with which it maintained a treaty granting military protection. Since 1878, every Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta has been a senior member of the Constantinian Order. The current and 79th Prince and Grand Master, His Most Eminent Highness Frà Matthew Festing has had a long association with the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George. Frà Festing served on the Council of the British and Irish Delegation of the Constantinian Order from 2002-2009 having been first invested as a Knight of Justice of the Constantinian Order of Saint George in 1991.
In 1994 the Grand Master of the Constantinian Order promoted Frà Matthew Festing to the grade of Knight Grand Cross of Justice. In 2010 the Grand Master further honoured him through his appointment as a Knight of Distinguished Royal Order of Saint Januarius and to Bailiff Grand Cross with Collar decoration of the Constantinian Order.
Until his death in 2008, the 78th Prince and Grand Master, HMEH Frà Andrew Bertie, was also longstanding knight having been invested by HRH The Duke of Castro into the Sacred Military Constantinian Order in 1985 as a Knight Grand Cross of Justice of the Order. Frà Bertie was later elevated to the rank of Bailiff Grand Cross with Collar in 1988 – the highest distinction within the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George and in 1993 was invested as a Knight of Royal Order of Saint Januarius – the most senior Order of the Royal House of Bourbon Two Sicilies.
HRH Prince Ferdinando, Duke of Castro, the Constantinian Orders Grand Master until his death in March 2008 was invested as a Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion of the Order of Malta in December 1968. In 1988, the late Duke of Castro, also received from Frà Andrew Bertie, Prince and Grand Master, the rare award of an Honorary Cross of Profession. HRH Princess Chantal, Duchess of Castro, was promoted within the Order of Malta to the rank of Dame Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion in 1996.
HRH The Duke of Castro, who first entered the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in May 1983, was promoted in February 2004 to the grade and dignity of Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion.
HRH The Duchess of Castro was invested as a Dame Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion in October 2001.
Many senior officers of the Order of Malta across the world are members of the Constantinian Order and some hold official positions within the Grand Magistry of the Constantinian Order.
The Constantinian Order’s Membership and grades
The Constantinian Order counts among its ranks much of the old aristocracy of the Two Sicilies, royals and nobles, cardinals, statesmen, industrialists, scientists, parliamentarians, clerics, diplomats, scholars, charity workers and volunteers from across the world. The Order has delegations in every region of Italy, as well as in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States of America, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Monaco, Hungary, Malta and Poland. In 2006, the Grand Master also created for the first time, a worldwide Delegation for Inter-Church and Inter-Faith relations based within the Grand Magistry in Rome.
Membership of the Constantinian Order is by invitation only and following approval by the Council of the Delegation in which the postulant is resident, is then submitted to the Grand Magistry in Rome for further consideration. Approved postulants are then submitted to the Grand Master for a final decision.
Much like the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Order is divided into four principal categories of Justice, Special, Grace and Merit. Within each category there are numerous grades from Knight of Office to Bailiff Knight Grand Cross with Collar. Bronze, Silver and Gold Benemerenti medals are also awarded for merit purposes although they do not constitute actual membership of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order.
Admission into the Justice category is restricted to those whose four grandparents can all prove 200 years of noble descent in the male line. In the Grace grade, with the exception of clerical members, 200 years of noble descent in the male line is required. Nobility in Great Britain is proved through the possession of a Coat of Arms on record at the College of Arms in London, the Court of the Lord Lyon in Scotland or the Office of the Chief Herald in Ireland. No proofs of nobility are required for admission into the category of Merit