Neither was it ever a state merit Order (except after 1815 in Parma, a new
foundation). It was considered a religious military Order and formally
constituted as such in the Bull Militantis Ecclesiae of 1718. It was never
worn by the Bourbon Grand Masters at the same time as their other Orders, and
the statutes of the Order of Saint George of the Reunion whose decorations
were modeled on it and which was founded as an Order of Military Merit in
1817, forbade the wearing of the Constantinian Order at the same time. I have
only found one painting (of Francis II) in which the Constantinian star was
worn at the same time as his state Orders - precisely because it was not a
state Order but a religious one.
Its prestige certainly reflected the claims to antiquity, but these traditions
became in essence commemorative. The Christianization of the Roman Empire was
an event which transformed western civilization and with the Turks on Europe's
eastern boundaries, the commemoration of this event was of great importance.
In 1716 the Order even founded regiment which embarked upon a military
campaign to try and drive the Turks out and re-establish the Christian Empire
in the East. The Order also founded a military College and its extensive
properties were used to fund good works. Indeed, the Parmesan properties of
the Order -appropriated by Marie-Louise in 1815 and used to finance her own
Constantinian Order which was indeed a merit Order - were added to the
endowment of Saint Maurice and Lazarus in 1860 but then in 1948 separated and
re-established as the
"S.M.O. Costantiniano di San Giorgio di Parma" as a foundation with the
President of the Italian Republic as President and these properties once again
fund a variety of good works.
Its continues to exist as a religious military Order even having a Cardinal
Protector appointed by the Holy See until 1924 when this post was suspended
"temporarily" because the Vatican was negotiating the Lateran treaty and the
position of the Grand Master, also claimant to the T-S throne, was an
GUY STAIR SAINTY
>GUY STAIR SAINTY
Re: Constantinian Order’s antiquity.
Without wishing to question the erudition of my esteemed confrčre Guy
Sainty , I should like to add my two cents worth on the origins of the
contested Constantinian Orders. Most of this material was obtained
and is translated from Prince Mihail Dimitri Sturdza’s monumental
study "Grandes Familles de Grčce, d’Albanie et de Constantinople".
Following the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453 a slew of
Christian refugees from Greece, Serbia, and Albania headed for Italy.
Constantine Arianiti, one of these refugees was fortunate to be
related, to George Castriota Skanderbeg and to the Despot of Serbia by
the marriage of his two sisters. He sought refuge in Venice and
Naples passing himself off as "the ex-prince of Thessaly and
Macedonia. Emperor Frederick III believed him and recommended him to
the Pope, and without doubt also to the Paleologues of Monferrat, who
were more sensitive than other Italian princes to the true or imagined
stories of the glories of Greece. Constantine Arianiti so fascinated
his interlocutors that he was granted some fiefs in Montferrat.
Thanks then to the Renaissance which was responsible for popularizing
Greek philosophers and fabulous genealogies, Arianiti had no trouble
at all getting his bogus title of Prince of Macedonia accepted and
took a major part in the creation in Italy of the legend woven around
the glorious feats of arms of his brother-in-law George Castriota
Skanderbeg. These feats of arms were genuine but Scanderbeg or rather
his memory had the great good luck to have a great public relations
man in Constantine Arianiti.
Arianiti had another sister, also married to an Albanian ruffian,
Andrea Angheli, or Angelo in Italy who came from Drivasto. One of his
sons was Bishop Paolo Angelo who died in 1469 in Italy.
One century later, in 1550 other Albanian trribesmen, his great grand
nephews obtained the recognition of the title of Duke of Drivasto and
of the Grand Magistery of an order of their invention , the
Constantinian Order of St.George. One of them published a
magnificent folio filled with genealogical tables which were as
pompous as they were inaccurate, by the means of which these new
pretenders to the throne of Byzantium tried to show their descent from
Emperor Isaac II Ange and through him to Vespasian, the gens Flavia
and the Caesars of ancient Rome! In 1591 Pope Gregory XIV recognized
Pietro Angelo Flavio as Duke of Drivasto and Prince of Cilicia, which
was to help him enormously to propagate his historical fables on the
Constantinian Order, whose origin he claimed went back to the IVth
century in Contantinople, at Italian courts. These exaggerations
which were characteristic of the epoch only begged to be believed and
they were. High ranking enthusiasts, the Duke of Mantua, Octavio
Farnese, Duke of Parma, later Charles of Gonzaga, Duke of Nevers
were greatly interested. Giovanni Andrea Flavio Angelo, whose titles
taken from Balkan geography seemed to multiply as far as the eye could
see, published more folios in Naples , then in Venice showing that he
was only separated from Adam by 86 generations and he included
Hercules among his ancestors!! In 1623 he sold the Grand Magistery of
the Constantinian Order to a wealthy Neapolitan nobleman, Don Marino
Caracciolo, Prince of Avellino. The new Grand Master published the
statutes of the order which supposedly had existed for centuries,
published more fabulous genealogies and obtained a confirmation of the
Order from Pope Urban VIII. This is how the Order born of dubious
history but now consecrated was to develop on a legal basis like the
other major Western orders of chivalry.
More than sixty years later in 1697 another Angelo offspring once
again sold the Grand Magistery of the Constantinian Order, to which he
added successorial rights to the Eastern Empire, to François Farnese
, Duke of Parma the future father-in-law of King Phillip V of Spain.
This second sale was the one which would last. Pope Innocent XII and
Emperor Leopold recognized the Order with all the necessary
solemnity in 1699. When the Marquis Scipio Maffei, a serious
historian several years later decided to publish a work showing that
the new chivalric order was founded on historical rubbish without
value, the Papacy placed the work on the index (1714) and had good
reason to do so: the Order was demonstrating its usefulness by the
recruitment of several thousand warriors destined to fight the Turk.
Nothing should be allowed to discourage them. (What has it
Finally in 1718 Pope Clement XI fulminated a Bull making the
Constantinian Order a religious and military one in all senses of the
words and the property of the family of the Dukes of Parma of the
House of Bourbon.
In spite of litigation between the Princes of Bourbon-Parma and the
royal house of Bourbon Sicily the Order, although divided, enjoys a
prestige which remains intact.
The reason for this posting is not to denigrate the origins of the
Constantinian Order but merely to show that what is today considered
as not only acceptable but respected may have had origins which were
much less so. Thus I would suggest that when passing judgment on an
order less emphasis be placed its historical glory which may be
debatable and more on its actual visible accomplishments which are
He is also convinced that documents in the Papal archives support
the idea that Emperor Isaac in 1190 founded some kind of "order"
which did not survive on which the 16th century Albanian Angeli
based their invention.
My statement (admittedly poorly worded) was that the orders created by
sovereigns that I cited where created in the 17th c.; and that the Constantinian
Order was bought by a sovereign in the same century.
As for its existence in the 15th c., I don't find it in your book. You mention
one of its earliest recorded members invested in 1570 (p. 23) and its first
recognition by the Pope in 1576 (p. 22; a bit late in the "course" of the 16th
>By the time it was
>acquired by the Farnese it had been around for a respectable 200 years -
>considerably longer than the Savoy Order of St Maurice and Lazarus or the
>Medici Order of Saint Stephen.
Not really, unless you can point me to the evidence in your book that it existed
(respectably or not) before 1570 (St Maurice dates from 1564 and St Stephen from
1561). And hey, SM & SL can claim to descend from the 11th c. SL, right?...
>Neither was it ever a state merit Order (except after 1815 in Parma, a new
>foundation). It was considered a religious military Order and formally
>constituted as such in the Bull Militantis Ecclesiae of 1718.
I use order of merit in contradistinction to orders of chivalry such as Malta or
the Teutonic Knights. I mean orders awarded by a sovereign to people of his
choosing, more for past than future behavior, and entailing few if any
obligations (besides chapters, masses and ceremonies). The military function of
the Constantinian Order was very short-lived, and over by 1719, if I understand
correctly. As for the religious character, the Order of Saint Lazarus under
French mastership was religious in nature, but in practice, in the days of
Dangeau, it was nothing more than a bauble; so religious status is not a
guarantee of much per se. I'll grant you that a religious order nowadays
implies much more of a personal commitment than, say, the Legion of Honor which
requires none, so I don't intend to equate the O of SG with garden-variety
orders of merit. And I'm just making guesses about the status of the SG under
the Farnese and the first Bourbons. It would be interesting to see the average
age of knights at reception in the 18th century, for example.
The point, again, is that the passage of time confers an enviable patina to
institutions, which is precisely why orders, when they are newly created, try to
acquire that patina, as was the case for the orders I cited. By now, of course,
the real patina is there, and no one attaches much importance to the
Constantinian claim, since the merits of the order are not dependent on it. So
no offense or disparagement is intended.
>As for its existence in the 15th c., I don't find it in your book. You mention
>one of its earliest recorded members invested in 1570 (p. 23) and its first
>recognition by the Pope in 1576 (p. 22; a bit late in the "course" of the 16th
There are surviving documents from the 1530s mentioning it as already existing
and dating the succession in the 1490s; the events of the 1490s may be
apocryphal but it was certainly founded by 1530.
>>By the time it was
>>acquired by the Farnese it had been around for a respectable 200 years -
>>considerably longer than the Savoy Order of St Maurice and Lazarus or the
>>Medici Order of Saint Stephen.
>Not really, unless you can point me to the evidence in your book that it existed
>(respectably or not) before 1570 (St Maurice dates from 1564 and St Stephen from
>1561). And hey, SM & SL can claim to descend from the 11th c. SL, right?..
Fair enough - but it certainly existed prior to those two Orders and its prestige,
as a putative Constantinian foundation, was greater - even if its wealth
was not and it needed the Farneses to endow it. In 1683 it was suggested
that the city of Ferrara should be given to the Order so it was much more
than just an award that was sold by the Angeli.
>>Neither was it ever a state merit Order (except after 1815 in Parma, a new
>>foundation). It was considered a religious military Order and formally
>>constituted as such in the Bull Militantis Ecclesiae of 1718.
Re: Francois' differentiation between Malta and the Constantinian Order describing the former as an "Order of Chivalry" is bizarre. Orders of
Chivalry includes a much broader spectrum, including the Golden Fleece,
the Garter, etc. Indeed, Malta and Constantinian come in the same
category, of "confraternal" Orders - i.e. Orders where the members are bound
by a religious rule, which are governed by a council of the members,
which have commanderies and endowments for the Knights and most
curcially where the majority of members are proposed by other members. This
includes Malta, all the St john Orders, Constantinian, St Stephen, the
four Spanish Military Orders, St george of Bavaria, St Maurice & Lazarus.
It is mistaken to suggest it any of these cases that members are usually
admitted on the will of the grandmaster, whether hereditary or elected.
Under the Bourbon Grand Masters of the Constantinian Order there was
always a Deputation and canddiates would first be proposed to the
Deputation and, if qualified, their names put to the GM. occasionally, then
as now, the GM could exercise his "motu proprio". In the SMOM members
are always proposed through their National Associations and the GM will
not even now make motu proprio admissions (except of Heads of Royal
Houses) unless the new candidate is acceptable to his/her local
The crucial test of time is continuity - the legitimate Order have all had
a continual existence since their legal foundation. This is the great problem
with St Lazarus which ceased to exist for many decades before its
refoundation in 1910.