Article by António M Trigueiros, Honorary Fellow of the Portuguese Academy of History, author and editor of such books as “The Journey of the Insignia. For Valour and Loyalty – 1808-2018”, “Portuguese Coins in the Age of Discovery”, and his latest book: “Our Lady of Conception of Portugal and Brazil”.

Historical background on the three Portuguese Military Orders of Christ, of Avis and of Sant´Iago

The three Portuguese military Orders of Chivalry that flourished during medieval and modern times underwent a fundamental change when Queen Mary I (1777-1790) converted them into secular Orders of Merit on June 10, 1789 and introduced a very limited number of Grand Crosses as the highest class to the existing two classes of Knights and Commanders. The new statutes of the three Orders of 1789 specified that the insignia of the Grand Crosses and Commanders were to be surmounted by a Holy Heart-of-Jesus decoration, as a sign of the great veneration of the Queen. This special addition to the ancient insignia would became a distinctive feature of the three Portuguese military Orders since 1789 up to the beginning of the Republican regime on October 5, 1910.

 

Star of the Order of Christ. Detail
Star of the Riband of the Two Orders. Detail
The Heart-of-Jesus decoration consisted of a flamed, normally bleeding heart in gold, enamelled red, with a green or black crown of thorns and surmounted by a small blue or black Latin cross. It was placed at the top of the breast stars and also on the Commanders´ neck insignia suspension, placed on a white, 8-pointed star which in turn was placed on a small gold splendour of 16 rays.
 

The Order of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Ordem Militar de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo) or just Order of Christ, was instituted in 1319 by King Denis (1279-1325) as the successor in Portugal of the Order of the Knights Templar. The progress made by the Order of Christ was so important and their possessions in Portugal, Madeira, on the Azores Islands, in Africa and Brazil became so considerable in the course of the celebrated Portuguese maritime discoveries, that in 1551 the Grand Mastership of the Order of Christ was forever united with the Crown of Portugal. The new statutes of the three Orders of 1789 specified that the Order of Christ became a Merit Order intended to honour the highest political, military and civilian posts and positions that had meritorious services to the Crown.

 

  • Cross of the Order of Christ: a distinctive Latin cross, patty, enamelled red, with arms bent outwards and with a white Latin cross in the centre (also known as the Cross of Portugal).
  • Sash or ribbon: plain red.  
The Order of St. Benedict of Avis (Ordem Militar de São Bento de Avis) or just Order of Avis, was founded in 1162 by Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, as an Ecclesiastic Order of Chivalry following the rules of St. Benedict and subjected to the Order of Cistercians. In 1201 the Order obtained the extensive possessions which the Spanish Order of Calatrava had owned in Portugal and which now came under the jurisdiction of the Knights of Avis. In 1385 the Master of the Order became King of Portugal, John I, and since then the Grand Mastership of the Order of Avis remained with the Crown of Portugal. The new statutes of the three Orders of 1789 specified that the Order of Avis was to be awarded to military personnel, to acknowledge not only military, but also political, diplomatic and other civil services made by military personnel. New statutes were published in 1894 making the Order of Avis restricted exclusively to deserving officers of the Army and the Navy.

 

  • Cross of the Order of Avis: a Latin cross fleury, enamelled green, with lily-shaped ornaments at the end of the four arms.
  • Sash or ribbon: plain green.
  • The Order of St. James of the Sword (A Ordem Militar de Sant’Iago da Espada) or just Order of Sant´Iago, was founded in Spain in 1170 in the name of St. Jacob of Compostella. In 1290 the Order’s Knights in Portugal separated themselves from the Grand Master in Castille and chose a Grand Master of their own. The Portuguese line of the Order was affirmed in 1320 by Pope John XXII and confirmed by Pope Nickolas V as an Independent Ecclesiastic Order of Knighthood. In 1551 King Joao III united the Grand Masterships of the Order of Christ and of the Order of Sant’Iago with the Crown of Portugal. Since then the Sovereigns and Heads of State of Portugal are Grand Masters of all three Military Orders of Christ, Avis, and Sant’Iago. The new statutes of the three Orders of 1789 specified that the Order of Sant´Iago was to be awarded to magistrates, for meritorious services in public administration, or to second-line military personnel. In 1862 new statutes changed the Order into an Order of Merit for science, literature and art.
  • Ancient cross of the Order of Sant´Iago: a cross fleury, enamelled red, with the lower arm in the form of a sword, the upper arm ending with a short stylised lily and full lily shaped ornaments on the ends of the two side arms.
  • Modern cross of the Order of Sant´Iago: from the statutes of October 31, 1862 the name of the Order was changed to include a reference to scientific, literary and artistic merit. The new badges and stars show the lettering: “Scientias, Letras e Artes” (during King Carlos I [1889-1908]: Ciencias, Letras e Artes) linking the lower arm to the two side arms.
  • Sash or ribbon: plain violet (until 1796 the colour of the ribbon was red like that of the Order of Christ)
The Riband of the Three Orders of Christ, Avis and Sant´Iago (A Banda das Três Ordens Militares) or just BTO, is a special decoration instituted by Queen Mary in 1789, to be worn by the Head of State of Portugal in his capacity of Grand Master of all three Military Orders of Christ, Avis, and Sant’Iago (as well as all other Honorific Orders of Portugal). During the Royal period it was also worn by the Crown Prince in his capacity as Grand Commander of the three Military Orders. In January 1796 during the regency of Prince John (future king John VI), this special set of insignia was conferred upon the king of Spain Charles III and his son Ferdinand. Since then, the Riband of the Three Orders was conferred on foreign Heads of State until 1910, and during the Republic from 1918 until 1962. Since that year only the President of the Portuguese Republic, as Head of the State and Grand Master of all Military and Honorific Orders, wears the decoration during his term of office.

  • Badge: An oval showing within three smaller ovals the crosses of the three Orders [the cross of Christ above, of Avis left, and of Sant’Iago right, each of the crosses having normally a small Heart-of-Jesus decoration];
  • Sash: three equal stripes of green, red, and violet (before 1796 red, green, and red)

Number of bestowals, 1789-1910: 68 (of which, 31 from 1862-1910)

The Riband of the Two Orders of Christ and Avis (A Banda das Duas Ordens Militares) or just BDO, was a special decoration instituted by Queen Mary in 1789, to be worn by the princes of the Royal House of Portugal. During the Royal period it was also conferred on foreign Crown Princes from 1823- 1910. During the Republic it was awarded to foreign Heads of State and Crown Princes from 1931 – 1962. In 1962 it was abolished.

  • Badge: Like the badge of the BTO but with only two crosses, the cross of Christ left and of Avis right.
  • Sash: two equal stripes of red and green

Number of bestowals, 1789-1910: 51 (of which, 45 from 1834-1910)

The Riband of the Two Orders of Christ and Sant´Iago (A Banda das Duas Ordens Militares de Cristo e Santiago). For a short period during the reign of King John VI, the cross of Sant´Iago exchanged place with the cross of Avis in its position in the BTO insignia, originating in 1825 a new type of insignia, the Riband of the Two Orders of Christ and Sant´Iago.

Only two of this very special type of insignia were bestowed, one in March 17, 1825 to Maximilian Maria, Royal Prince of Saxony; the other to Prince Michael of Portugal, future king Michael I (1823-1829-1834).

  • Badge: Like the badge of the BDO but with the cross of Christ left and the ancient cross of Sant´Iago right
  • Sash: two equal stripes of red and violet

Number of bestowals, 1825-1829: 2

Description and identification of a Portuguese BDO set at the Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood

The Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood has in its collection a set of a Portuguese BDO (Riband of the Two Orders), acquired at auction in 2018. The insignia set consists of an original case, with the initials of King Dom Carlos I of Portugal on the lid – crowned DCI – the brand of the insignia maker, Frederico Gaspar da Costa, of Lisbon, on the inside lining, enclosing the breast star of the Grand Cross of the Two Military Orders of Christ and of Aviz (w. 61.70 g; size 76×67 mm; maker round mark on the reverse) and the filigree medal pendant from the silk band of the same Grand Cross of the two Military Orders of Portugal (w. 60.90 g; size 88×42 mm)

In the National Archives of Portugal in Lisbon, there are the register books of all the Grand Crosses of the national Orders attributed during the Royal period from 1789 up to 1910. King Charles I was murdered by anarchists in February, 1908. The last three BDO´s awarded in his name are:

–  1901, June 12 – Prince Frederic William of Germany

–  1903, November 3 – Prince Yoshihito, crown prince of Japan

–  1904, November 24 – Prince Nikolai I Petrovich of Montenegro

On the other hand, the manufacturer of the insignia Frederico G da Costa succeeded his father in that position in 1902 and began to mark the insignia made by him since 1903.

The combination of these two documentary references makes it possible to restrict the ownership of the BDO set of the Tallinn Museum to two names:

– 1903, November 3 – Prince Yoshihito, crown prince of Japan

– 1904, November 24 – Prince Nikolai I Petrovich of Montenegro

However, the set given to Prince Yoshihito of Japan (1879 – emperor of Japan 1912 – 1926) remains in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, so it was possible to make an affirmative attribution to Prince Nikolai I Petrovich of Montenegro as the original owner of the set on display at the Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood..