Military Order of Saint Stephen, Type II, Grand Cross Breast Star, in Gold
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The Order was originally founded by Cosimo I de'Medici, First Grand Duke of Tuscany, in commemoration of his victory over the French in August 1554. It was officially confirmed by Pope Pius IV in 1561.
The purpose of the Order was to protect the Catholic Church by fighting the Ottoman Turks and Mediterranean pirates.
Membership eligibility was restricted to individuals capable of tracing their noble lineage back 4 generations on both sides of their family. They must also be practitioners of the Catholic faith, and be a minimum of 18 years old.
This Order was amended by Grand Duke Ferdinand III on December 22, 1817, wherein he added grades to the Order.
The Order was suppressed in 1859 when Tuscany was annexed into the Kingdom of Sardinia.
It is also known as the Holy Military Order of St. Stephen, Pope and Martyr.
There is a great deal of variation in the design, composition, and size of the Order awards, and some examples may feature brilliants.
The Type II Order features several new grades and award variations.
The new Order grades include Grand Cross, Commander (II Class Prior, III Class Bailiff), and Knight. Each grade is accompanied by a Breast Star with the same design but decreasing size.
The crosses may feature a surmounting crown suspension or a crown suspension surmounted by a trophy of arms.
The Breast Star of the Order is shaped like a Maltese cross with Fleur de Lys between the cross arms.
The Grand Cross Breast Star is also known as the I Class Breast Star.
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