The Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George is an Order of Knighthood whith origins dating back to Emperor Constantine who founded the Order following the miraculous appearance of the Cross at Saxa Rubra. For this reason the Constantinian Order has been considered one of the most ancient among the Orders of Knighthood. The main purpose of the Order is the propagation of the 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 24th 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 May 27, 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 King of Spain.
When Charles became King of Naples and Sicily, he established the headquarters of the Order and, in 1759 after his succession to the Spanish Throne, transferred his rights to his son Ferdinand IV who succeeded Francis 1(1830-1859) and Francis II (1836-1894), 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. On several occasions the Holy See has confirmed the continuance of the Order and of its Grand Master in the person of the Head of the Royal House of Bourbon Two Sicilies.
The current Grand Master is H.R.H. Prince Charles of Bourbon Two Sicilies, Duke of Castro, who succeeded his father Prince Ferdinand (1926-2008) who had succeeded his father Prince Ranieri (1883-1973). Prince Ranieri had inherited the title from his brother, Prince Ferdinand Pio (1869-1960) having the latter succeeded his father, Alfonso, Count of Caserta (1841-1934). Prince Alfonso was the brother of the last King of the Two Sicilies Francis II.
The Grand Chancery of the Order is in Naples. The executive Secretariat of the Order is located in Via Giosuè Carducci, 4 in Rome. The Grand Master is assisted in the government of the Order by the Royal Deputation.
This consists of the High Charges: Grand Prefect, Grand Prior, Grand Chancellor, Grand Treasurer together with a President, Secretary and Deputies. There is also a counselor for the Dynastic Orders and a Secretary General beside a Juridical Council and for genealogical heraldic matters, a Heraldic Commission.
Members of the Order (both Knights and Dames) are admitted in four categories: Justice, Special, Grace and Merit.
The Italian Republic has formally recognized the legitimacy of the Order and, since 1963, permits Italian citizens to wear the Order’s decorations (art. 7 of Law 178, 3rd March 1951). The Order is registered at the Record Office of the Court of Naples in the corporate register.
Italian citizens belonging to the Order may join the Italian Association of Constantinian Knights which was established as a non-profit organization by a Decree of the President of the Republic on 30th March 1973.
The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations Organization (ECOSOC) granted the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George Special Consultative Status on 1 August 2011, as a sign of appreciation of numerous charitable and humanitarian activities all over the world.
The Order has delegations in each Italian region, the United States and most European countries.