Order of the Swan

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The Order of the Swan was a sodality whose goal was to further devotion to the Virgin Mary and to promote charity; originally membership was confined to princes, knights, and noble personages. Founded by Elector Frederick II of Brandenburg on Sept. 29, 1440, the order had its seat at Sankt Marien monastery on the Harlunger Berg, near Brandenburg, Germany. The brothers of the Order of the Swan vowed to say seven Our Fathers and seven Hail Marys dailyor to give seven pennies to the poor instead. Furthermore, they pledged to fast on the vigils of all feasts of the Virgin and to celebrate the feasts themselves with the greatest possible dignity. No adulterer, fornicator, traitor, robber, or drunkard could belong to the brotherhood. Members were obligated to make considerable contributions to the order, in return for which they gained all the spiritual benefits it earned. Membership in the order carried considerable prestige, not only in Germany, but elsewhere in Europe; it was originally restricted to 30 men (who had to furnish proofs of nobility) and seven women. The Elector Frederick II changed the statutes on Aug. 25, 1452, admitting commoners to the sodality. The badge of the order consisted of a gold or silver collar (called "The Society"), from which was suspended a medallion showing the Virgin and Child supported by a crescent bearing the motto of the order, Ave Mundi Domina. Hanging from this medallion was an image of a swan, the proper titular of the order. The Reformation spelled the end of the order. It was, however, revived by King Frederick William IV of Prussia on Dec. 24, 1843, as a free association of men and women of all social classes, whose purpose was social welfare.

Bibliography: r. m. b. von stillfriedrattonitz, Der Schwanenorden (Halle 1845). s. hÄnle, Urkunden und Nachweise zur Geschichte des SchwanenOrdens (Ansbach 1876). r. m. b. von stillfriedrattonitz and s. hÄnle, Das Buch vom Schwanenorden (Berlin 1881). c. meyer, SchwanenordensRitterkapelle (Ansbach 1909). e. a. prinz zur lippe, Orden und Auzeichnungen in Geschichte und Gegenwart (HeidelbergMunich 1958) 158.

[g. grosschmid]