“The Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George is an Equestrian Order that was intended to glorify the Cross, propagate the Faith and defend the Holy Roman Church, to which it is strictly linked due to special merits acquired in the East by fighting against the infidels and due to the many proofs of gratitude and benevolence received by the Supreme Pontiffs. It is therefore not only the principal duty of the Knights to live as perfect Christians, but also to join in all the manifestations which contribute to increasing the religious principles in humankind and cooperate by all their means to restore practices of Christian life. The Order – in order to consolidate even better its centuries-old institution and meet present needs that along the centuries have modified the society – intends to give its greatest contribution of actions and activities also in Hospitaller Assistance and Charitable Activities.”
These words (Chapter I), under the heading “Purposes of the Order”, are the initial words of the Statutes of the Constantinian Order; they clearly describe the exact meaning of the existence of the Order: serve the Catholic Church and our neighbours in distress. After all, the indissoluble link between the Catholic Church and the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George are rooted in the victory of Emperor Constantine over Maxentius in 312 A.D. at Saxa Rubra after he had a vision of the Holy Cross bearing the inscription “In hoc Signo vinces”, after which he granted freedom of cult to Christians all across the Roman Empire – this is shown to be one of the many proofs of esteems and the many material concessions that the Holy See, often the very Pontiffs themselves, generously granted to the Constantinian Order along the centuries.
Callistus III was the first Pontiff who approved and confirmed the Constantinian Order in 1453, when the Princes Comnenus and Cavalieri who had left Constantinople after the fall of the Roman Empire in the hands of Turks, took refuge in Italy. Since then, many Roman Pontiffs confirmed the Constantinian Order and granted benefits and protection to it: Innocent VIII, Pius II, Sixtus IV, Leo X, Paul III, Julius III, Paul IV (who by his Bull “Cum a Nobis petitur” confirmed all ancient privileges to the Grand Masters of the Order and also reiterated the protection granted to them by his predecessors), Pius IV (who by his “Motuproprio” of 13 November 1565 declared the Knights of the Constantinian Order entitled to benefit from ecclesiastic privileges), Gregory XIII (on 10 October 1576 the Congregation of the Council acknowledged that the Knights of the Order were a real religion, entitled to receive ecclesiastic and secular privileges), Sixtus V, Clement VIII, Gregory XV, Urban VIII, Alexander VII, Clement X, Innocent XI, Innocent XII, who, by his papal Brief “Sincer Fidei” of 24 October 1699 authorised the transfer of the Grand Magistry of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George from the “solus superstes” of the Comnenus family, Prince John Andrew Angel Flavius, to the Duke Francis I Farnese. Clement XI, who had been Cardinal protector of the Order, by his Bull of 12 July 1706, approved the Farnese Statutes of the Constantinian Order and acknowledged all privileges granted until then by his predecessors and added new ones, and by his Bull “Militantis Ecclesi” of 27 May 1718, congratulated the Constantinian Knights for leading 2000 infantrymen to Dalmatia against the Turks, put the Order under the protection of the Holy See, granted abbatial benefices to its Grand Prior and the prelacy insigna to its clergy and several other prerogatives.
Other privileges were granted by Benedictus XIII and Innocent XIII. Then, by a Bull of 12 May 1738, Clement XII confirmed the dignity of Grand Master of the Constantinian Order to Charles of Bourbon, King of Naples and Sicily. Since then, the Magistry of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George has belonged to the Head of the Royal Family of Bourbon Two Sicilies.
Other privileges were then granted by Clement XIII (who ruled that any possible conflict arising between the Constantinian Magistry and the Ecclesiastic Authority would have to be settled only before the Apostolic Chamber), Pius VI (who granted the Order some benefits of the abolished Order of Saint Anthony), Pius VII, Pius VIII, Gregory XVI (who granted King Ferdinand II the possibility of building, as votive offering, the Basilica of Saint Francis of Paola in Naples), the Blessed Pius IX, St. Pius X (who by a “Placet” of 22 March 1911 approved the construction of the Abbey Church of Saint Mary at Cappella – said “delle Crocelle” – in Naples as seat of the Order; he also granted further privileges in other occasions), Benedictus XV (who returned to the Order the Abbey Church of S. Antonio Abate in Naples; on 9 July 1919 he also approved the changes made to the Statutes of the Order by its Grand Master Prince Alfonso Maria of Bourbon Two Sicilies, Count of Caserta).
Pius XII, John XXIII and Paul VI met in private audience of the Grand Master HRH Prince Ranieri Maria of Bourbon Two Sicilies, Duke of Castro. His Holiness Pope John Paul II received in Saint Peter’s all the Authorities, Knights and Dames on 7 October 2000, on the occasion of the Jubilee of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George, and imparted them the Apostolic Blessing. On 1 November 2003, All Saints’ Day, His Holiness Pope John Paul II deigned to appoint His Reverend Eminence Cardinal Mario Francesco Pompedda as Ecclesiastic Counsellor of the Royal Deputation of the Constantinian Order for the canonical period of five years.
The decision of the Holy Father was communicated to HRH Prince Ferdinand of Bourbon Two Sicilies, Duke of Castro and Grand Master and to His Eminence the Cardinal Grand Prior by a letter of His Eminence the Cardinal Secretary of State, bearing the Protocol number 542.191.
The Order has always carried out its fervent service to the Church and charity activities towards the needy. For further information on this matter, we refer to the pages of this site dedicated to current activities.