Order of Our Lady of Bethlehem, Grand Cross
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The Order of Our Lady of Bethlehem was established in 1459 by Pope Pius II as a military order for the defence of the island of Lemnos against the Turks. However, when the Knights were defeated in 1479, they moved to Naples, Italy and the Order was no longer a holistic military organization. This location became the central residence for the knights and the supreme master until the beginning of the 20th century.
In 1730, the Order was recognized in the Diploma of Francis II, which stated “The Military and Hospitaller Order of Our Lady of Bethlehem, issued on the 25th March 1730 in Naples by the Prince Filippo Augusto Amoroso d’Aragona [is] recognized further in force.” This began the resurgence of the Order, which was fuelled by the retrieval of auspices of Roman Curia, Cardinals, various representatives of the catholic church, and governmental individuals.
The history of the Order diverges in 1924, with the birth of the “ORBET” an antifascist opposition created by the Knights. “ORBET” from the name “Ordine Betlemme” was responsible for numerous heroic actions including saving hundreds of Jewish families throughout Italy. The center was sought out by national socialists until Mussolini was suspended in 1943. In 1944, ORBET was actively involved in the heroic defence of Naples. A special memorial medal ORBET was founded and awarded to hundreds of Italian Guerillas.
The obverse presents the half-face of the Prince Pietro Amoroso d’Aragona, and the reverse features the cross of the Order of Our Lady of Bethlehem and the inscription “For the praise of them, who saw the light in the darkness, to show the way of freedom and fair. 7th day of October 1943”.
While the Order of Malta and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem were officially recognized by the church, the Order of Our Lady of Bethlehem is slowly gaining traction. In 2002, the Knights of the order were given an audience with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican and received the Apostolic blessing.
Today, the order is considered a “non-national Order” in Italy, according the Italian Heraldic council. The Order is under the guidance of Prince Angelo Maria Amoroso d’Aragonoa, and their main mission is to provide charity to those who are ill and destressed.
To become a member of the Order, an individual must be introduced to the delegates during the annual capitual and they must prove they are noble and deserving. There are currently over 1000 members living in various countries, roughly 600 in Italy.
There are five classes: Grand Cross, Grand Officier, Commander, Officer and Knight. Each class has it’s own category. The first being “Guistizia ereditario” granted to nobly born knights (minimum four generations), who have inherited the title through the male line. The “Gratia” granted to knights who where born in noble or raised to a squireship. Finally, the “Benemerito”which associated with all knights distinguished by deserts that have noble lineage through a female member.
The obverse inscription reads: MILIT AC HOSPITORDO S M DE BETHLEHEM (Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Mary of Bethlehem) and the reverse: MONS. REG. ASTRA VIAM (The Stars Show the Way to Kings).
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