Order of Christ

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A military order established March 14, 1319, by John XXII, at the request of King Diniz of Portugal. The order received all the Portuguese properties of the suppressed Order of the templars. Its chief seat was originally at Castro Marim, and later at thomar. The Order of Christ was bound to the observance of the customs of the Castilian Order of calatrava and was subject to the visitation of the Cistercian abbot of Alcobaça. The pope appointed the first master, requiring him and his successors to take an oath of loyalty to the Holy See. In the future the abbot of Alcobaça was to preside at the election of the master. The Cistercian general chapter of 1320 consented to these arrangements and the first chapter of the Order of Christ was held at Lisbon in 1321. Until the 15th century the order was governed by a succession of masters; afterward princes of the royal family administered it. The most famous of these, Henry the Navigator (d. 1460), reformed the order and secured for it spiritual jurisdiction in the Atlantic islands and African regions, which were explored and colonized through his efforts. In 1542 Paul III revoked the right of the abbot of Alcobaça to visit the order. Nine years later Julius III annexed the mastership to the crown in perpetuity.

Bibliography: Definiões e estatutos dos cavalleiros e freires da Ordem de Nosso Senhor Jesu Christo (Lisbon 1628, 1671, 1717,1746). j. vieira da silva guimarÃes, A Ordem de Christo (Lisbon 1901). a. jann, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiberg 195765) 2:1183.

[j. f. o'callaghan]