Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Type II, Grand Officer's Cross
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The Order was founded by President Luigi Einaudi, the second President of the Italian Republic. It is the highest Order of Knighthood awarded within the Italian Republic.
The President of the Republic is always the Head of the Order, and the Order itself awarded by a presidential decree.
This Order is conferred upon Italians who have provided meritorious labour and achievements to the Republic. Italians may be recognized for merit within charitable services, national arts and sciences, the economy, and for particularly long and extraordinary service within a military or civil role. It is also awarded to foreigners and Italians living overseas.
The Order replaced the Civil Order of Savoy, the Order of the Crown of Italy, the Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus, and the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation.
In 2001, the Order grades were redesigned by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. The new design was meant to evoke the Order of the Crown of Italy, and highlight the value of freedom, democracy, and Italian unity.
When the Order is awarded to female recipients, every grade below Grand Cross is worn on a bow ribbon. The Grand Cross is worn on a thinner sash when awarded to women, and the Grand Cross Breast Star is slightly smaller than its male counterpart.
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