A military order (Latin: Militaris ordinis) is a chivalric order with military elements. Western military orders were originally established as Catholic religious societies; the first orders originated during the medieval Crusades with the stated purpose of protecting Christians against violent persecution by Islamic conquests in the Holy Land, which later evolved into serving as a standing army that defended the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The Knights Templar, the largest and most influential of the military orders, was suppressed in the early fourteenth century; only a handful of orders were established and recognized afterwards. However, some persisted longer in their original functions, only later evolving into purely honorific and/or ceremonial chivalric orders with charitable aims in modern times, such as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Order of Saint John, the respective Catholic and Reformed successors of the Knights Hospitaller. Notably, the Catholic mainstem of the Teutonic Order became exclusively monastic except a limited associated confraternity of honorary Knights; the Protestant Bailiwick of Utrecht of the Teutonic Order continues as a chivalric order.
In response to the Islamic conquests of the former Byzantine Empire, numerous Catholic military orders were set up following the First Crusade. The founding of such orders suited the Catholic church's plan of channeling the devotion of the European nobility toward achieving the Church's temporal goals, and it also complemented the Peace and Truce of God. The foundation of the Knights Templar in 1118 provided the first in a series of tightly organized military forces for the purpose of opposing Islamic conquests in the Holy Land and in the Iberian Peninsula — see the Reconquista — as well as Islamic invaders and pagan tribes in Eastern Europe which were perceived as threats to the Church's supremacy.
The first secularized military order was the Order of Saint George, founded in 1326 by King Charles I of Hungary, through which he made all the Hungarian nobility swear loyalty to him. Shortly thereafter, the Order of the "Knights of the Band" was founded in 1332 by King Alfonso XI of Castile. Both orders existed only for about a century.
The original features of the military orders were the combination of religious and military ways of life. Some of them, like the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights of Saint Thomas, also had charitable purposes and cared for the sick and poor. However, they were not purely male institutions, as nuns could attach themselves as convents of the orders. One significant feature of the military orders was that clerical brothers could be subordinate to non-ordained brethren.
In 1818, the orientalist Joseph von Hammer compared the Catholic military orders, in particular the Knights Templar, to certain Islamic models such as the Muslim sect of Assassins. In 1820, José Antonio Conde suggested they were modeled on the ribat, a fortified religious institution which brought together a religious or hospital way of life with fighting the enemies of Islam. However popular such views may have become, others have criticized this view, suggesting there were no such ribats around Outremer until after the military orders had been founded.
The role and function of the military orders extended beyond their military exploits in the Holy Land, Prussia, and the Baltics. In fact, they had extensive holdings and staff throughout Western Europe. The majority were laymen. They provided a conduit for cultural and technical innovation, such as the introduction of fulling into England by the Knights Hospitaller, and the banking facilities of the Knights Templar.
These are military orders listed chronologically according to their dates of foundation and extinction, sometimes approximate due to scarce sources, and/or repeated suppressions by Papal or royal authorities. Presently active institutions are listed in consideration with their legitimacy according to the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry.
They are divided into international and national according to their adherence, mission, and enrollment, disregarding the extent of eventual gradual geographical distribution outside of their region of concern.
(Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Order of Saint John)
|Gerard Thom||Jerusalem, Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem||1113 by Pope Paschal II||Grand Master (1113-),
|Officially it still remains a Christian order, with a Catholic successor, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and a Protestant successor, the Order of Saint John, both of whom mutually recognise one another. |
Regional connections are also claimed by Freemason bodies.
|Order of the Holy Sepulchre||c.1099
|Godfrey of Bouillon||Jerusalem, Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem||1113 by Pope Paschal II
1122 by Pope Calistus II
|Kingdom of Jerusalem to 1291,
Custos of the Holy Land: 1230-1489,
|Awarded to prominent pilgrims. Reorganised as Sacred and Military Order of the Holy Sepulchre in 1496 by Pope Alexander VI. Reorganised by Pope Pius IX with the residential restoration of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1847. Known as the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem since 1931.|
(Supreme Order of Christ)
(Order Of Christ)
|c.1118||Bernard of Clairvaux,
Hugues de Payens
|Jerusalem, Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem||1129 by Pope Honorius II
until 1312 by Pope Clement V
|Pope: 1129-1312||1312||The Knights Templar order was reconstituted in Portugal after the Templars were abolished on 22 March 1312 by the papal bull,Vox in excelso, issued by Pope Clement V. King Dinis I of Portugal created the Order of Christ (Portugal) in 1317 for those knights who survived their trials throughout Europe and was officially founded in 1319, The property of the Templars was transferred to the Knights Hospitaller except in the Kingdoms of Castile, Aragon, and Portugal. In effect, causing the dissolution of the Templars by the rival order.
Thus when being recognized, the Pope allowing only the "Order Of Christ" a Portuguese order and its Papal branch Supreme Order of Christ can claim to have any descent from the Templars, which is now used for Honorary State merits in Portugal and preserved as such.
|Order of Saint Lazarus
(Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus)
|c.1118||Jerusalem, Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem||1255 by Pope Alexander IV
until 1489 by Pope Innocent VIII
|King Fulk of Jerusalem: 1142
Pope: circa 1255-1572
House of Savoy: 1572-
House of France: 1609-1830, 2004-
|Italian branch merged 1572 with the Order of Saint Maurice to form the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus under the Royal House of Savoy, still extant.
In 1609, King Henry IV of France linked it in France administratively to the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel to form the Royal Military and Hospitaller Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem united, which remained listed as of royal protection in the French Royal Almanac until 1830. Royal protection of the Royal house of France renewed 2004.
|Order of Saint James of Altopascio||1075
|Matilda of Tuscany||Altopascio, Tuscany, Holy Roman Empire||1239-1459,
but mentioned in a Papal bull 1198 of Pope Innocent III
|Properties of the hospice of "Altopassus" in Italy confirmed in 1244 by Emperor Frederick II||1459,
|Primarily provided safety and protection to Italian pilgrims to the Holy Land and Camino de Santiago. Merged with the Order of Saint Stephen in 1587 by Pope Sixtus V at request of Grand Duke of Tuscany. In France absorbed into the Order of Saint Lazarus in 1672.|
|Order of Aviz||1146
|Avis, Portugal||Received a grant in 1129 by Theresa, Countess of Portugal
House of Aviz: 1385-1580
|1789||Secularised 1789. Statutes revised repeatedly together with the other Portuguese orders of merit, during the First Republic (1910–1926), then in 1962, and again in 1986.|
|Order of Saint Michael of the Wing||1147
|King Afonso I of Portugal||Santarém, Portugal||First statutes approved in 1171 by Pope Alexander III||House of Braganza: 2001-||1732||Abandoned by 1732, restored by King Miguel I in 1828 during his brief rule before losing the Liberal Wars to his brother King Pedro IV, revived 1848/1986 |
|Order of Calatrava||1158||Raymond of Fitero||Calatrava la Vieja, Kingdom of Castile, Spain||1164 by Pope Alexander III||House of Bourbon||1838 by secularisation||King Charles III of Spain requested old orders to contribute to his new order in his name (1775), which led to dissolution. Confiscated by King Joseph (1808), re-established by Ferdinand VII at the Restoration (1814). Secularised in 1838.|
|Order of the Holy Ghost||1161||Guy de Montpellier||Provence, France||ca. 1161–June 16, 1216 by Pope Innocent III in Santo Spirito in Sassia, Rome||1692/
|Historically both religious and chivalric. In 1692 in France, King Louis XIV merged it with his own Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The remaining organisation was edicted in 1700 as purely religious order. Offshoots of the order in France survived into the 20th century.|
|Order of Aubrac||1162||Aubrac, France||18th century||Disappeared during the French Revolution in late in the 18th century.|
|Order of Santiago||1170||León or Uclés in Castile, Spain||By Papal bull 5 July 1175 by Pope Alexander III||House of Bourbon|
|Order of Alcántara||1177||Alcántara, Extremadura, Spain|
|Order of Mountjoy||1180||Holy Land||1221||Merged into the Order of Calatrava.|
|Teutonic Knights||1190||Acre, Israel||The main stem of the Teutonic Knights converted into a purely Catholic religious order since 1929.|
The Bailiwick of Utrecht of the Teutonic Order separated from the Roman Catholic mainstem during the time of the Reformation and continues as a Protestant chivalric order.
|Hospitallers of Saint Thomas of Canterbury at Acre||1191||1538|
|Order of Monfragüe||1196||1221||Merged into the Order of Calatrava.|
|Order of Sant Jordi d'Alfama||1201||15th century||Early 15th century, merged into the Order of Montesa.|
|Livonian Brothers of the Sword||1202||1236||Merged into the Teutonic Order as the Order of Livonia, disbanded 1561.|
|Order of Dobrzyń||1216||Dobrzyń Land, Poland||1240||Small number, maximum 35 knights. Battled by the Prussians, around 1235 most knights joined the Teutonic Order. In 1237 the rest of the brothers reinforced Drohiczyn by order of Konrad. Last mentioned when Drohiczyn was captured by Prince Daniel of Kiev in 1240.|
|Militia of the Faith of Jesus Christ||1221||1285||Note: Symbol that of the Dominican Order. Merged into the Third Order of Saint Dominic.|
|Military Order of Monreal||1231||King Alfonso the Battler||Monreal del Campo, Aragon||1143
|Order of the Faith and Peace||1231||1273|
|Knights of the Cross with the Red Star||1233||Agnes of Bohemia||Bohemia||1237 by Pope Gregory IX
Confirmed 1292 by ambassador of Pope Nicholas IV
|Mainly hospitals, in Bohemia still existing.|
|Militia of Jesus Christ||1233||Bartolomeo da Vicenza||Parma||22 December 1234 by Pope Gregory IX.||1250s||Disappeared mid-13th century.|
|Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary||1261||Loderingo degli Andalò, Catalano dei Malavolti, Ugolino Lambertini||Bologna||23 December 1261 by Pope Urban IV||1556|
|Order of Saint Mary of Spain||1270||1280||Merged into the Order of Santiago.|
|Order of Montesa||1317|
|Order of the Knights of Our Lord Jesus Christ
|Order of the Dragon||1408||Sigismund of Luxemburg||Hungary||1475s||Disappeared late 15th century.|
|Order of Saint Maurice||1434||Amedeo VIII of Savoy||Château de Ripaille, Thonon-les-Bains, Savoy||1572||Merged with the Order of Saint Lazarus in Italy in 1572 by Pope Gregory XIII into Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, considered the legitimate successor of both by the ICOC.|
|Order of the Tower and Sword||1459||King Afonso V of Portugal||Portugal||Revived 1808 by Prince Regent John, later John VI of Portugal. Since the end of the monarchy in 1910, all military orders abolished except the Order of the Tower and Sword, with President of Portugal ex officio its Grand Master.|
|Order of Our Lady of Bethlehem||1459||Pope Pius II||Lemnos, Byzantine Empire||18 January 1459 by Pope Pius II||1460||Founded in 1453 by Pope Pius II after the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire, to defend the island of Lemnos, soon recaptured by the Turks, thus rendered useless and suppressed almost as soon as founded.|
|Order of Saint George of Carinthia||1469||Emperor Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor||In 1469 by Pope Paul II||Abolished 26 July 1598
|Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George||1522-1545
|Angeli Comneni family||Addressed in 1550 by Pope Julius III
Cardinal protector in 1910 by Pope Pius X
|Decrees by King Philip III of Spain, Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor on 7 November 1630||Appears to have been established between 1520 and 1545, with certain statutes dated 1522 by the Angeli Comneni family. Its Grand Master Andrea Angelo Flavio Comneno was addressed first in 1550 by Papal bull Quod Aliasla by Pope Julius III.|
|Order of Saint Stephen Pope and Martyr||15 March 1561||Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany||Tuscany||1 October 1561 by Pope Pius IV||Founded as Benedictine order by Cosimo I de' Medici,. dedicated to the martyred Pope Stephen I and the victories at the Battle of Montemurlo in 1537 and the Battle of Marciano (Scannagallo) in 1554. Fought the Ottoman Turks and pirates in the Mediterranean Sea. Abolished in 1859 by the annexation of Tuscany to the Kingdom of Sardinia. Present, Catholic continuation claimed by Archduke Sigismund, Grand Duke of Tuscany.|
Chivalric and/or military orders that could qualify depending on definition.
A few of the institutions survived into honorific and/or charitable organizations, including the papal orders of knighthood.
While other contemporary Catholic societies may share some military organizational features and ideology, such as the Society of Jesus, they differ from the medieval military orders in the absence of military purposes or potential.
Modern orders may still be founded explicitly as a military order; the Military Order of Loyalty (Spanish: Orden Militar de la Constancia) was founded in 1946 by the Spanish protectorate in Morocco. Awarded to both Spanish and Moroccan military officers and soldiers, the single-class order was abolished in 1956.
It should be noted that there are only five legitimate and mutually recognized Orders of St. John that continue to carry on the historic work of the Knights Hospitaller. These are the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jersusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (The Order of Malta), Die Balley Brandenburg des Ritterlichen Ordens Sankt Johannis vom Spital zu Jerusalem, commonly known as the Johanniter Orden (Germany), Johanniter Orde in Nederland (Netherland), Johanniterorden I Sverige (Sweden), and the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (Order of St. John, sometimes referred to as the Most Venerable Order). In 1961 an allaince was formed between the Most Venerable Order, the Johanniter ORden, Johanniter Orde in Nederland, and Johanniterorden I Sverige; these four orders compromise the Alliance of the Orders of St. John.
Teutonic knights are still to be found only in another interesting survival, Ridderlijke Duitse Orde Balije van Utrecht (The Bailiwick of Utrecht of the Teutonic Order). Like the Hospitaller Bailiwick of Brandenburg, this commandery turned itself into a noble Protestant confraternity at the time of the Reformation.
St Michael's Wing in Portugal founded by the said King Alphonse 1165 or 1171 after his obtaining a notable Victory over Moors and Alberto King of Seville in which Battle MICHAEL the Arch Angel is said to appear on the right Side of Alphonse and fight against them. This Order is now out of use. (1732)
While the Duke of Braganza is the unquestioned heir and successor of Dom Miguel, the institution of the Royal Brotherhood of St Michael of the Wing is better seen as a modern memorial revival of the original institution than any kind of continuation of the Miguelist award.
The members followed the rule of St Benedict and the Popes granted them the same privileges as those enjoyed by the Knights Hospitallers
The Order was swept away by the French Revolution but was revived again in a modified form in 1817. The Italian Revolution once more swept it away beyond hope of revival on 16 November 1859 and its Church and property became the property of the State. Alas that modern Italy should not be a little more tender of the memories of her past glories.
A number of Christian militias in Iraq and Syria have been formed since the start of the Syrian Civil War and Iraq Civil War in the 2010s. The militias are composed of fighters from the various Syriac/Assyrian, Arab and Armenian Christian communities in Syria, and are also found amongst Assyrian communities in neighbouring northern Iraq; a number of foreign Christian fighters from the Western world have also joined these militias.Before the war, as much as 10% of the population in Syria was Syriac/Assyrian, Armenian or Arab Christian, and together they formed one of the largest Christian minorities in the middle east. In the early days of the civil war, some Christian communities were armed by the Syrian Government and Kurds to defend themselves against what were seen as threatening sectarian Sunni Islamic rebels.
The Syriac Military Council, a Syriac-Assyrian Christian militia allied with the Kurdish YPG, is the largest Christian militia in the Syrian civil war. By comparison with some of the other armed groups in Syria, Christian militias are usually not large and dependent on the Kurdish or Syrian government aid. Maronite Christians in Lebanon have also formed militias to fight against ISIS incursions from Syria, over the border, and the Assyrians in Iraq have formed well armed militias in the north to protect Assyrian communities, towns and villages in the Assyrian homeland and Nineveh plains.These formed defence units called Popular Committees. The popular committees do not exist as standalone units, and have now been combined into the Syrian National Defence force, under its formal structure. After the spread of the civil war, and the rise of the Islamist factions, many Christian civilians have fled, in particular in fear of ISIL, who have violently persecuted Christians in the areas that have come under their control. Some of those that have stayed had formed militias, largely to protect their own populations from ISIL and other hardline Sunni Islamist factions such as al-Qaeda's Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham, and Jund al-Aqsa. While initially forming to protect their own territory, some of the larger militias have gone on the offensive. Christian Militias in Syria either support the Government, or work side by side with the Kurdish forces in Rojava.
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