St. George, Orders of
ST. GEORGE, ORDERS OF
In the Middle Ages St. george was the patron of all knights, chiefly of those created by pope, emperor, or king (milites aurati ). The Knights of St. George formed organizations at times modeled on crusading military orders; others were companies or collar orders; later, orders of merit were named for St. George. The following groups may be distinguished. (1) The Constantinian Order of St. George is traditionally the oldest. That it derived from a company of exiled guard officers from Constantinople, evolving from the Labarum Guard of constantine the great, is legendary. It dates back, however, to Isaac II Angelus (1191), survived the fall of the Byzantine Empire, and in 1699 came under the hereditary grand master of the house of Farnese. Charles of Naples, the heir of the last Farnese princess, transferred the seat of the order to his capital in 1734. Under the grand mastership of the house of Bourbon in Sicily, the order was engaged in pious and charitable activities. Its members were to be Catholics, with precedence given to noblemen. The Cross of Merit can be conferred on other Christians. Its badge is the cipher XP on a red cross flory. A branch of the order existed in Parma from 1816 to 1907. (2) In 1316 james ii of aragon reorganized the templars of his realm into the new Order of St. George, later known as the knights of montesa. The order relinquished celibacy in 1572; in 1578 its administration was united to the crown of Spain by the Pope. (3) In 1326 Charles I of Hungary founded a short-lived Order of St. George. (4) edward iii of England (1348) founded the Order of the Garter in honor of St. George. (5) In the County of Burgundy the Company of St. George survived among the nobility from 1366 to the French Revolution.(6) In Germany the Frankish Company of St. George (1375) was integrated (1422) with the Swabian Company of the Shield of St. George, founded in 1392. In 1488 it became the law enforcement union of Swabian nobility, surviving until 1805. (7) In 1468 Frederick III founded the Order of St. George at Millstatt (Carinthia) to oppose the Turkish invasions. It decayed during the Reformation and was abolished in 1598. (8) In 1534 paul iii founded the short-lived Order of St. George at Ravenna, also to fight the Turks. For the next generations, however, the Reformation prevented the growth of such organizations.
Other orders honoring St. George were founded in the 18th and 19th centuries: one by the Emperor Charles VII (1729) was suppressed by Hitler, but exists today as a pious charitable corporation of Catholic noblemen; the Order of the Four Emperors, by the Count of Limburg (1768); one established by Catherine II of Russia (1769); another by Ferdinand I of the Sicilies (1819); one by Ernest August of Hanover (1839); and the Order of SS. George and Constantine, by George II of Greece (1937).
Bibliography: e. von destouches, Geschichte des königlich bayerischen Haus-Ritter-Ordens vom Heiligen Georg (Bamberg 1890). g. bascapÉ, II sacro militare ordine costantiniano di s. Giorgio (Milan 1940), older literature. r. hindringer, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 4:692–693. b. heydenreich, Ritterorden und Rittergesellschaften (Würzburg 1960).