Religio-Military Orders

Jonathan Riley-Smith

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Religio-Military Orders

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Christian society generated two types of religiomilitary order: military orders and Christian orders of chivalry. Some orders have survived, but they have not engaged in warfare since the end of the 18th century, although there was a new and very short-lived foundation in 1890. Military orders are orders of the Roman Catholic Church, the brothers (and occasionally sisters) of which are professed religious. Some of them had the right and duty to bear arms. Since priests are forbidden by canon law to use force, these orders were unusual in that they were run by their lay brothers the knights. Many flourished in the central Middle Ages, ranging from international corporations—the Temple, the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (the Sovereign Military Order of Malta), and the Order of St. Mary of the Germans (the Teutonic Order)—through smaller bodies like St. Lazarus, to the Iberian orders of Calatrava, Aviz, Santiago, Alcántara, Christ, and Montesa; the German Brothers of the Sword and Knights of Dobrzyn; and the tiny English Order of St. Thomas. The Iberian military orders were secularized in the late 15th and 16th centuries. They were no longer legitimated by the church, but were subject to the sovereignty of princes and their constitutional or dynastic successors. But in some of them the transformation was only partial, because elements from their religious past were retained. Although warfare was no longer their first priority, their knights continued to serve in North Africa or in Mediterranean galley fleets or in the Portuguese Empire, and their membership continued to entail public, as opposed to private, obligations that related to the defense of Christendom or the faith. These Iberian hybrids influenced a number of new creations that mirrored their nature. They included the Tuscan Order of St. Stephen (1562), which ran an effective navy for nearly two centuries, the Savoyard Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus (1572), the French Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Lazarus (1609), the Parmese Constantinian Order of St. George (1697), the Papal Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (1847), and five Protestant orders, claiming to have inherited in one case the traditions of the Teutonic Order and in four others those of the Hospital of St. John: the Bailiwick of Utrecht (1815) and Order of St. John (1946) in The Netherlands, the Bailiwick of Brandenburg (1852) in Germany, the Most Venerable Order of St. John (1888) in the British Commonwealth, and the Order of St. John (1920) in Sweden.

Article.  9685 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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