Catholic Dictionary




Certain religious and secular confraternities that arose during the Middle Ages. Religious (regular) orders of knighthood were brotherhoods that combined the insignia of knighthood with the privileges of monks, and received this recognition from both Church and State. Of these the first were purely military such as the Knights Templars, Orders of Christ, Montesa, Aviz, Calatrava, and Alcántara. Second were military and hospitaler, as the Knights of Malta, Knights of Rhodes, the Teutonic Order, and the Order of St. James of Compostela. A third group was purely hospitaler, e.g., Orders of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, of the Holy Ghost, and Our Lady of Ransom. Among lesser regular orders, the Knights of Livonia were the most important. Secular orders were fraternities of lay knights patterned on the regular orders of knighthood. In Great Britain they are all now Protestant, including the Orders of Bath, Garter, and Thistle as well as St. Patrick, St. Michael, and St. George. In Austria and Spain there is the Order of the Golden Fleece, and in Piedmont the Order of the Annunziata. there are many modern religious or fraternal organizations whose titles denote knighthood, such as the Knights of Columbus, Knights of St. John, Knights of the Cross, Knights of Father Mathew, and Knights of the Blessed Sacrament. Pontifical knighthoods are honors conferred by the papal court on laymen who are of irreproachable character, who have promoted the welfare of society, the Church, and the Holy See. These decorations are bestowed by motu proprio and forwarded by the Secretary of State, or when petitioned by a bishop expedited through his chancery. The papal orders of knighthood are: 1. Supreme Order of Christ; 2. Order of Pius IX; 3. Order of St. gregory the Great; 4. Order of St. Sylvester; 5. Order of the Golden Militia or Spur; 6. Order of the Holy Sepulcher. The last may be conferred on clerics and women.