Officially called the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George, the Constantinian Order is an order of knighthood whose origins traditionally date back to Emperor Constantine. According to a legend, he founded the Order following the miraculous appearance of the Cross at Saxa Rubra. Although no evidence exists that meets modern standards, the Constantinian Order is widely considered one of the most ancient among the orders of knighthood. The main purpose of the Constantinian Order is the propagation of the Christian faith and the glorification of the Holy Cross.
The earliest acknowledged document relating to the Order is the Statute of the Byzantine Emperor Isaac IV Angelo Flavio Comneno that dates back to 1190. The Grand Mastership descended from father to son in the Comneno family until the last of his line who, having remained without heirs and yet wishing to continue the tradition of the Order, ceded his rights to Francesco Farnese, Duke of Parma. This transfer was confirmed by Pope Innocent XII who issued the Bull “Sincerae Fidae” on 24 October 1697.
Later, Pope Clement XI, who had been Cardinal Protector of the Order, placed it under the protection of the Holy See in the Bull “Militantis Ecclesiae” on 27 May 1718, granting abbatial privileges to the Grand Prior. Antonio Farnese, last Duke of Parma transferred the Grand Magistry of the Order to Charles of Bourbon, the son of his niece Elisabetta Farnese and Philip V of Spain. When Charles became King of Naples and Sicily, he established there the seat of the Order and later, transferred his rights to his son Ferdinand IV after his succession to the Spanish Throne. Ferdinand was succeeded by Francis I (1825-1830), Ferdinand II (1830-1859), and Francis II (1859-1894), the last King of the united Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The unification of Italy deprived the Constantinian Order of its territorial possessions but the Royal House maintains the Grand Magistry since the Order is a dynastic institution.
There currently exist three separate (generally accepted) branches (also: claimants) of the Order, following a schisma regarding the succession to the succession as head of the House (1960), a subsequent reconciliation (2014) and a new schisma (2016).
HRH Prince Charles of Bourbon Two Sicilies, Duke of Castro (1963). In 2008, Prince Charles succeeded his father’s claim as head of the House of the Two Sicilies. In this capacity, he is known by the title Duke of Castro. This claim is disputed by the Spanish branch of the House of the Two Sicilies. As claimant to the Headship of the House, he also claims to be Grandmaster of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George as well as the Royal Order of Francis I.
HRH Prince Pedro of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Duke of Calabria (1968). Claimant since the death on 5 October 2015 of his father, HRH Carlos de Borbón-Dos Sicilias y de Borbón-Parma, Infante of Spain, who was, at his death, the last infante of Spain during the reigns of his cousins King Juan Carlos I and King Felipe VI.
HRH Prince Carlos Hugo, Duke of Parma and Piacenza (1930-2010). In 1979 Carlos Hugo abandoned his claims and became a naturalised Spanish citizen. The following year he left the political arena. In 2002 he donated the archives of the House of Parma to Spain’s national archives; in my an opinion enormously important gesture. On 28 September 2003 the Duke of Parma suddenly reasserted his claim, with declarations of new titles for his children. He is succeeded by his son Prince Carlos, Duke of Parma (1970). The Parmesan Constantinian Order was a new foundation, instituted by Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma in 1817.
In my opinion, none of the current branches and family members have unchallengeable rights to the headship of the House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. Therefore, the Headship of the House remains a political choice or matter of opinion that cannot be determined decisively from a legal perspective. This issue can be illustrated by a an example of two less popular claimants.
In an article on the internet, mr. Sanchez Ramirez de Arellano, discusses the legitimacy of the fons honorum and the genealogy of mr. De Vigo Paleologo, who claims to be the Sovereign Imperial Prince and heir to the Byzantine Throne with the qualification of Royal and Imperial Highness. His conclusion is:
Finally we can not say that Mr. de Vigo is not what he claims to be as well as nobody can say the opposite, because one thing is the recognition or the ability to recognise of a right, another thing is the existence of the right itself. But I believe I have demonstrated that, until now, there is no convincing proofs of the existence of the jus honorarium in his person, and he does not have the implied recognition by other sovereigns that I consider indispensable and the only one really valid.
These remarks are interesting. They suggest that legitimacy of claims regarding the fons honorum can be measured by the acceptance of other Sovereign Houses (of whom the legitimacy is generally accepted). I like this viewpoint, because it offers some guidance to measure the legitimacy of claims like those of mr. De Vigo. As I understand, no general accepted royal dynasty has recognised his claim. Who ever chooses to recognise the historical correctness of the claims of mr. De Vigo is allowed to do so, based on the freedom of opinion and expressing this opinion we have in the Western World. This freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the UDHR states that “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice“. The same is true for opponents of other more exotic dynastic claimants, as illustrated by the court decision of the Tribunale di Vicenza on 5 August 2004, in a famous dispute between the well-known nobility expert mr. Guy Stair-Sainty and business man mr. Rosario Poidimani. Another example of an opinion opposing a recent claimant of the Constantinian Order is given below.
In a Facebook post, the well-known royalty expert, mr. Rafe Heydel Mankoo criticises the claim of “S.A.I. e R. P.pe Dott. Luigi Maria Picco di Montenero e Pola Lavarello Lascaris Comneno Paleologo Obrenović di Costantinopoli – Serbia Sovrano Gran Maestro“, to the headship of the Constantinian Order:
This (..) Grand Master (…) Ignoring his blatant usurpation of the insignia of the true Constantinian Order, as well as the riband of the respected Luxembourg Order of Merit, his completely made up surname contains all of the familiar ancient *and extinct* dynastic names we come to associate with self-styled Walter Mittys: Lascaris Comneno Paleologo. For some reason (…) the chivalric underworld have a particular fascination with these three names.
The main problem I have with mr. Picco is the modification of his surname on his webpage on the internet. The public is easily confused by the use of the long and distinguished sounding surname that does not officially (that is registered by a state, in e.g. a passport) appear in public records. It is a peculiar combination of names and hereditary backgrounds that is hard to explain. The court decisions on mr Picco’s website do not relate to him (I cannot find his name in the decisions in the decisions of 1945, 1950 and 1964). They establish a judicial truth regarding the use of titles by mr. Marziano Lavarello (born Rome, 17 March 1921 – died Rome, 17 October 1992). Mr. Lavarello belonged to a wealthy family of Genoese shipowners. Later in life he unfortunately lived in reduced circumstances in a small apartment in the Via Sicilia, Rome, where he tried to maintain his imperial splendour. He had no offspring. The private acts dated 13, 25 and 29 October 1992 (the latter two were signed by mr. Lavarello appearantly after his death on 17 October 1992) transferring the titles of mr. Lavarello to mr. Luigi Mario Picco, do not convince me, since I do not see any family relationship between them and I question the authenticity of these documents. In my view, a family relationship is required to historically continue the legacy.
Traditionally, the transfer to a third party of the capacity to issue titles and awards of nobility and knighthood by private act cannot have the intended legal and historical consequences, without a ratification from a relevant authority, e.g. a court decision or governmental organisation. In the past, the last member of the Comneno family ceded his rights to regarding the Constantinian Order to Francesco Farnese, Duke of Parma, which transfer was confirmed by Pope Innocent XII who issued the Bull “Sincerae Fidae” on 24 October 1697. Such a confirmation can hardly be expected regarding the mentioned private acts. The arbitral sentence of 2012 is not enough in this respect. It is legally artificial to create some kind of unrealistic dispute between a claimant and an impressively sounding institute (without serious substance), subsequently have an arbiter (this is not a judge but a private person, often a jurist) draw up an arbitral judgment and finally have a court certifying this judgment as being in accordance with the formalities (but without making any material comments). Such a certification has no material bearing and is this legal route is common practice in some circles. The opposite is true. When claimants make use of such legal detours, it shows the illegitimacy of their claim due to a lack of valid alternatives. On the other hand, everybody is free to believe and form an opinion about mr. Picco’s claim and anyone can (from a legal perspective “claim” the headship of this illustrious and ancient Order. Personally, I do not support mr. Picco’s claim and I accept the legitimacy of the three mentioned claimants who have a family relationship with the original Order.
1) Imperial dispute
In 1952 there was a famous legal dual between two “Emperors”; the famous Neapolitan comic actor known as Totò, who had thought that he was entitled to the former throne of Byzantium, and Marziano Lavarello, who objected to the (in his eyes) usurper’s claims. The decision of one Italian court, recognises Marziano’s titles and his ability to ennoble others (10-09-1948, n. 5143 bis, n. 23828/48 R. G., della VII sezione della pretura di Roma): “Con Sentenza della VII sezione n° 23828/48 R.G. 5143-bis Pretura di Roma 10 settembre 1948 si parla dell’Ordine Costantiniano istituito da Costantino nel 312 e si riconosce a Sua Altezza Imperiale il principe Don Marziano II Lascaris Comneno Flavio Angelo Lavarello Ventimiglia di Turgoville il potere di tutti gli atti di sovranità che competono alla Corona Lascarense quale indiscussa ed indubitabile Sovranità ancor se spodestata, ma che conserva a tutti gli effetti le prerogative di Casa Regnante. Si deliba che spetta il trattamento di Maestà e che tra le proprie facoltà vi è quella di concedere Ttitoli Nobiliari e Gradi Cavallereschi […].”
2) Arbitral treaties
Italy is a party to the following treaties regarding the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards:
1927 Geneva Convention on The Execution of Foreign Arbitral Awards;
1961 European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration; and
1965 Washington Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States.
3) Nonsense recognition
The Calabria-branch of the Constantinian Order (listed above as 2), states that it is recognized by the Kingdom of The Netherlands. This statement is false.
The two letters that should support the recognition are written by the Dutch Ministry of Defense to mr. K. They state that (letter 1) the request by mr. K. (who is not in the military or civil service) for wearing the insignia of the Constantinian Order on the uniform has been received and (letter 2) that there are no objections to the conferring of the Constantinian Order to mr. K. To derive any recognition from these letters is pure nonsense. They prove exactly the opposite. The permission to wear the insignia on the uniform was denied and mr. K. then called with the ministry to obtain a letter that there is no objection to granting him the award. There never is such an objection since Dutch citizens are always allowed to accept foreign decorations, even if they can be categorized as total fake ones. The Dutch Ministry of Defense does not care and is not competent to judge about such issues. The ministry is only competent regarding permissions to wear decorations on Dutch uniforms. The Constantinian Order is not listed in the Handbook of the Minister of Defense that lists the decorations that are allowed to be worn on a Dutch uniform. It is therefore forbidden to wear the Constantinian Order on a Dutch uniform. The Order has been mislead by mr. K. and I advise the Order to remove the “recognition” as soon as possible from their website.
Remembering the past is an important theme in both the Old (e.g. Hebrews 13:2-3) and New Testament (e.g. John 14:26). I am working on a research project that will have a historical focus. In particular, I would like to focus on the history of a specific Christian knightly order from a practical theological (therefore empirical) perspective and examine to what extent its Christian traditions have survived the course of time. These religiously-based Catholic societies, originally established during the medieval crusades and mostly made up of confraternities of knights, were formed to protect the Christians against foreign aggression and persecution, especially against the Islamic conquests and Baltic Paganism in Easter Europe. The original features of these societies consisted of a combination of religious and military actions. Some of the Christian knightly order, in particular the Knights Hospitaller, also cared for the sick and poor.
Since 2007, I am working on a study that focuses on the legitimacy of modern Christian knightly orders. Such orders were originally characterized as orders, confraternities or societies of knights, often founded during or in inspiration of the original Roman Catholic military orders of the medieval crusades (circa 1099-1291). They were inspired by medieval notions of chivalry, being an ethos in which martial, aristocratic and Christian elements were fused together (Stair Sainty 2006; Keen: 2005). In modern days similar (mimic) orders have been established by monarchs (or their descendants) and governments with the purpose of bestowing honors on deserving individuals. Examples of ancient knightly orders that survived in modern times are the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George and the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus.
The legitimacy of Christian knightly orders is discussed heavily on the internet and in literature (Stair Sainty’s book of about 2000 pages focusses on the issue). The current study is inspired by a PhD thesis of Hoegen Dijkhof (2006), addressing the legitimacy of a number of knightly orders from a historical and legal perspective. In my study I will address the issue of legitimacy from a Christian perspective. A major and often overlooked problem is the definition of both the terms legitimateand knightly order. This aspect of the problem has been raised by Velde (1996).
Activities of modern knightly orders
Modern knightly orders have abandoned their original military mission and focus on spiritual and charity activities. Normally knightly orders demand of its members that the are living their lives as Christians and remain mindful of their obligations to undertake hospitaller assistance, as well as charitable and other good works. The Spanish Constantinian Order for example stresses that it is important for members to lead a life as “perfect” Christians:
Members of the Order are expected to live their lives as perfect Christians and contribute to the increase of religious principles both by action and example. They must be faithful to the traditional teachings of the Church and regularly participate in the solemn celebration of the Liturgy according to the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms and, when appropriate, the particular local forms (notably the Ambrosian, Latin-Byzantine or Mozarabic Rites).
The hospitaller mission is also considered of great importance. The biggest and most effective knightly order (the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta or SMOM) has developed numerous projects in 120 countries of the world. The order organizes medical, social and humanitarian projects. The SMOM has 13,500 members, 80,000 permanent volunteers and qualified staff of 25,000 professionals, mostly medical personnel and paramedics (SMOM website, 2016). The SMOM’s relief organisation in South Africa, the Brotherhood of the Blessed Gerard, focusses on AIDS patients (mostly children) and runs a hospice in KwaZulu-Natal.
The historical foundations of the knightly orders and their current activities show that the Christian inspiration is one of the most important aspects and characteristic of Christian knightly orders. This inspiration is manifested by the hospitaller activities that Christian knightly orders promote. It is unthinkable that a modern Christian knightly order lacks Christ-inspired hospitaller activities.
The case study in my research will focus on the Military and Hospitaller Orderof Saint Lazarusof Jerusalem, also known as Order of Saint Lazarus. The legitimacy of this Order has been heavily disputed by Stair Sainty (2006). Stair Sainty states:
The Order of Saint Lazarus, although it is to be complimented for its considerable charitable efforts (notably in Germany), need not pretend to an historical continuity to which its claims, at the very least, are unsubstantiated. Were it to assume the character of a private association, founded in 1910, to emulate the traditions of the ancient crusader Order, it could deflect much of the hostility it has attracted from those bodies which can be more properly characterized as Orders of Knighthood, founded by Papal Bull or Sovereign act or charter. Without such authority behind it, it is difficult to find any justification for this body’s claim to be considered an Order of Chivalry. Private individuals do not have the authority to form Orders, at least none that will be generally recognized.
It therefore serves as an interesting case study for the legitimacy of a knightly order from a Christian perspective.
What is the background of the Order of Saint Lazarus and how did its history develop?
Which kind of goals are selected by the most well-known Christian knightly orders to help and support people who are in distress and which goals are specified amd implemented by the Order of Saint Lazarus?
Can the goals of the Order of Saint Lazarus and their implementations be considered effective?
To what extent is the Order of Saint Lazarus’ smart-strategy and its implementation of this strategy, Bible-based and therefore legitimate from a Christian perspective?
Adams, J.E. (1986). A Theology of Christian Counseling, More Than Redemption, Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Anderson, R.S. (2003). Spiritual Caregiving as Secular Sacrament, A Practical Theology for Professional Caregivers, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Baljon, J.M.S. (1900). Commentaar op het Evangelie van Mattheus. Groningen: J.B. Wolters
Bruggen, J. van (1993), Lucas. Het evangelie als voorgeschiedenis. Kampen: Uitgeverij Kok.
Bruggen, J. van (2004), Matteüs, Het evangelie voor Israël, Kampen: Kok.
A King of Arms is a principal herald. Originally, a herald is an officer in medieval Europe charged with carrying messages to and from the commanders of opposing armies. In the late 14th century the authority of the heralds was expanded. When the crown ceased to grant arms directly, its powers were delegated to the heralds as commissioners, with authority to issue letters patent. In modern times, a herald is a professional authority on armorial history and genealogy. Heralds in Europe generally record arms and pedigrees, grant arms, take part in high ceremonial, and settle matters of precedence.
The Kingdom of Sicily did not have actual heralds (to grant coats of arms) in recent times, but rather a Commission for Titles of Nobility based in Naples until 1861.
This Royal Commission was established by royal decree of 23 March 1833. By law of 26 April 1848 the responsibility for the Royal Commission was attributed to the ministry of the presidency of the Royal Council. By royal prescript issued by the Minister and royal secretary of state of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers of 29 July 1853 it was determined that the Royal Commission was competent to determine, so as to remove all doubt, who among the nearest relatives was eligible to aspire to the succession to a noble title. Therefore, the Royal Commission concerned itself with administration of certain nobiliary institutions and recognition of titles of nobility, with little regulation of armorial heraldry (coats of arms). See also J. Debrett, A Collection Of State Papers: Relative To The War Against France Now Carrying On By Great-britain And The Several Other European Powers, London 1794.
Fernando Muñoz Altea is the current King of Arms of the Royal House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. He is a Spanish/Mexican historian, specialised in the study of the aristocratic Spanish colonial families of the Americas. Muñoz Altea is born in Madrid (Spain) on 22 November 1925.
Muñoz Altea was introduced to the study of heraldry, genealogy and nobility by Don José de Rújula y Ochotorena, Marqués de Ciadoncha, King of Arms of Spain’s king Alfonso XIII, Dean of the Corps of Chronicler King of Arms (Cuerpo de Cronista Rey de Armas), and by Don Julio de Atienza y Navajas, Barón de Cobos de Belchite, author of the well-known work “Nobiliario Español”. Both became his mentors and friends. On 10 November 1962 Muñoz Altea was appointed King of Arms of the Royal House of the Two Sicilies by HRH Prince Ranieri, Duke of Castro, Head of the Royal House. The Kingdom of Sicily did not have actual heralds (to grant coats of arms and issue certificates of nobility) in recent times, but rather a Commission for Titles of Nobility based in Naples until 1861. This commission concerned itself with the administration of certain nobiliary institutions, recognition of titles of nobility and heraldry. The appointment of the King of Arms continues this tradition. Certifications of arms and certificates of nobility issued by Muñoz Altea’s office in the name of the Royal House are, in effect, documents of a dynastic nature.
The King of Arms of the Royal House of the Two Sicilies is the supreme officer of honour and counsel to the sovereign in all matters of armorial, genealogical, and nobility. He represents the Royal family in these matters. He does not have a governmental position but has the status of Private Officer of Arms.
Muñoz Altea is the author of several books, among them, the biographies of the 64 Viceroys of Mexico, The House of Los Pinos History (the Presidencial Residence of Mexico), the biographies of the Signers of the Independence Act, Los Virreyes de la Nueva España.
Muñoz Altea is also the author of Perfiles genealógico-biográficos and Blasones y Apellidos, first and second edition. first published his work which included approximately 250 last names. The books sold out in 10 days. The goal of its republication in 2016 is to preserve the original work and subsequent extensive investigation. The remastered three boxed set includes more than 750 names, genealogy, origin, code of arms, heraldry of Spanish, English, Italian and French settlers in Spain and Latin America. Muñoz Altea has also ordered and cataloged several historic archives of many municipalities in Spain. He is recognized as an important historian and one of the main genealogist in both Spain and Latin America.
1951 Degree in History Hermanos Maristas de Madrid
Appointed Chronicler King of Arms of the Royal House of Borbon Two Sicilies since 1962