OVERVIEW OF THE SACRED MILITARY CONSTANTINIAN ORDER OF SAINT GEORGE
The Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George is an ancient and internationally recognised Order of Knighthood which, from its remotest origins, has resolved to work for the glorification of the Cross, the propagation of the Faith, and the defence of the Holy Roman Church for which manifold evidences of gratitude and benevolence have been expressed by successive Supreme Pontiffs of the Roman Catholic Church.
— The Grand Master of the Order is His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Bourbon Two Sicilies, Duke of Castro.
— The Cardinal Grand Prior of the Order is His Eminence Renato Raffaele, Cardinal Martino, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants of the Holy See.
— The Ecclesiastical Counsellor to the Royal House and Grand Prior Emeritus is His Eminence Albert, Cardinal Vanhoye.
— The Grand Prefect of the Order is His Excellency Ambassador Don Augusto Ruffo di Calabria.
— The Grand Inquisitor of the Order is His Excellency Don Fabrizio Colonna.
— The Grand Chancellor of the Order is Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of Bourbon Two Sicilies.
— The Grand Treasurer of the Order is His Excellency Notary Claudio Limontini.
— The President of the Royal Deputation is His Royal Highness Prince Don Casimiro of Bourbon Two Sicilies.
— The Deputy President of the Royal Deputation is His Imperial Highness Prince Napoléon.
— The Magistral Delegate for Inter Religious Relations of the Order is His Excellency Sir Anthony Bailey.
The Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George maintains a close historic and continued working relationship with the Apostolic See, the Italian Republic, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, sovereign Royal Houses and Governments across the world.
The Order is fully recognised by many governments across the world including first and foremost by the Italian State through successive decrees of the President and the Government of the Italian Republic where military officers may wear the ribbon of the Order on their uniforms.
In 2011 the Constantinian Order was granted Consultative Status of the Economic and Social Council at the United Nations in New York, Geneva and Vienna.
It is the primary duty of all knights and dames of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order to live as true, exemplary Christians, and to dedicate themselves to any activity or endeavour that fosters the growth of religious principles among mankind, co-‐operating in every manner with the practice of the Christian way of life.
The Sacred Military Constantinian Order, in keeping with the times, today emphasises major contributions to the two great social works, namely hospitaller assistance and the charitable relief of the poor. In recent years the Order has also played a significant role in inter-‐religious dialogue initiatives between Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Knights and dames of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George must be practicing Roman Catholics and in good standing with the Church.
They must also fulfill two basic principles as part of their membership of the world-‐wide confraternity:
1. Work for the glorification of the Christian Cross, the preaching of the Roman Catholic Faith and the defence of the Roman Catholic Church.
2. Promote the spiritual and physical welfare of the sick and disabled, the poor, the homeless and the illiterate; to aid and protect them and contribute to their material and moral support; to establish institutions of Christian charity to attend to their needs; to co-‐operate with other agencies or institutions which engage in like work; and, generally, to do any and all things and engage in any and all activities which in the judgment of the Grand Master and the Council of the Delegation maybe necessary or proper to accomplish the aforesaid purposes and objectives.
HISTORY OF THE SACRED MILITARY CONSTANTINIAN ORDER OF SAINT GEORGE
The Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George is one of the oldest internationally recognised Roman Catholic dynastic Orders of Knighthood in existence today. Over 60 Cardinals and Archbishops are members of the Order and offer spiritual direction to the Order’s knights and dames across the world.
The Order, whilst not a state decoration of the Italian Republic or the Holy See, is fully recognised by successive decrees of the Pope and the President of the Italian Republic and indeed by many other governments and dynasties across the world.
In 2011 the Constantinian Order was granted Consultative Status of the Economic and Social Council at the United Nations in New York, Geneva and Vienna.
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 victorious 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-‐ centuryEastern Roman (“Byzantine”) EmperorIsaac II Angelus Comnenus. In thefifteenth century, an aristocratic family of Balkan exiles claiming descent from Isaac’s dynasty fought alongside Skanderbeg’s army in Albania. Establishing their residence in 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’sclaim 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 various invaders; to the Popes it was part of the Counter Reformation.
The Constantinian Order’s Farnese Heritage
The Constantinian Order of Saint George as it exists today was ceded by the last Comnenus Prince in 1698 to Prince 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 former 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 Charles 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 Charles entered Parma as its sovereign ruler in 1732.
Two years later, Prince Charles 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, Charles 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 Charles’s image, such as his statue at Messina 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 Consolidation of the Constantinian Order under the Bourbon Dynasty
Two decades later, when Prince Charles succeeded his elder half-‐brother to the Spanish Throne, he ceded the Neapolitan and Sicilian Crowns to his son Ferdinand, who became Grand Master of the Constantinian Order. King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies (as his realm was called after 1816) reigned until 1825 and his successors to the Throne, King Francis I and King Ferdinand II also held the office of Grand Master of the Constantinian Order. Despite the loss of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the Papal States during the 1860’s the Order was still officially bestowed up until the abolition of the Italian Savoy Monarchy and the declaration of the Republic in 1946.
The Constantinian Order and Italian Republic
In 2013 the Constantinian Order celebrated the Golden Jubilee (50 years) of its formal recognition by the Italian Republic which was decreed in 1963. Italian citizens can seek official approval to wear the Order’s decorations, and the Republic’s military and diplomatic officers may wear its insignia on uniform.
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 as a Knight Grand Cross with Gold Star and Collar within the Special Category.
The warm and cordial relationship between the Italian Republic and the Order were further cemented in 1996 when HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Castro, 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 Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Lamberto Dini, conducted the investiture ceremony. During the formal exchange of honours, HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Castro, invested the Foreign Minister as a Knight Grand Cross with Gold Star within the Special Category.
In 2003 the Italian President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) of the Italian Republic, Silvio Berlusconi was invested into the Constantinian Order. In 2009 Franco Frattini, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy was also invested into the Order.
His Majesty King Umberto II of Italy, HRH The Duke of Savoy, HRH The Duke of Aosta and HRH The Duke of Parma were members of the Constantinian Order. Their direct descendants remain members of the Order to this day.
The Constantinian Order and the Apostolic and Holy See
The Order continues to have an excellent working and spiritual relationship with the Apostolic and Holy See, which has never ceased to recognise the canonical standing of the Constantinian Order. Currently over 60 cardinals and archbishops are members of the Constantinian Order and play a very active role in the spiritual development of the Order.
The current Grand Prior of the Constantinian Order is His Eminence Renato Raffaele, Cardinal Martino, who is President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants of the Holy See.
Cardinal Martino’s predecessors as Grand Prior have included in recent years His Eminence Albert, Cardinal Vanhoye, SJ, former President of the Biblical Institute, His Eminence Mario Francesco, CardinalPompedda, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic See and President of the Court of Cassation of the Vatican City State and His Eminence Vincent, Cardinal Fagiolo, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts of the Holy See.
From 2003 His Holiness Pope John Paul II was represented at the highest level within the Order through his appointment of Cardinal Pompedda as his personal Ecclesiastical Counsellor to the Order.
The Constantinian Order and the Sovereign Military 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 HMEH 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.
The Constantinian Order’s Grand Master, HRH Prince Charles, 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. In 2013 the Grand Master was further promoted by HMEH Frà Matthew Festing to a Grand Cross Special Class of the Order pro Merito Melitensi.
Until his death in 2008, the 78th Prince and Grand Master, HMEH Frà Andrew Bertie, was also a 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.
HRH Prince Ferdinand, Duke of Castro, the Constantinian Order’s 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. 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.
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.
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.
ORDER DELEGATIONS AND REPRESENTATIONS
The Constantinian Order maintains official delegations in many parts of the world. The Order is headquartered in Rome and Naples and maintains offices in every region of Italy. Internationally there are Order delegations and representations at the United Nations in New York, Geneva and Vienna, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States of America, France, Bulgaria, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Portugal, Gibraltar, Spain, Japan, Brazil, the Caribbean, Mexico, Argentina, Monaco, Hungary, Panama, Montenegro, Costa Rica, Malta, San Marino, The Netherlands, Belgium and Poland. In 2006, the Grand Master also created a worldwide Delegation for Inter-‐Religious Relations based within the Grand Magistry in Rome and with an international office in London.