Military Order of Christ, Type I, Knight
Image courtesy of Morton & Eden Ltd.
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The Military Order of Christ (Ordem de Cristo) has a long and convoluted history closely related to Portugal and the Catholic Church. Its origins lie on the dissolution of the Templar Order by Pope Clement V in 1312, therefore the Portuguese crown was encouraged to create a new order -the Order of Our Lord Jesus Christ- to protect the properties and domains of the Knight's Templar in Portugal; the Order is considered direct heir of the Templars in Portugal.
The Order of Our Lord Jesus Christ was established by King Denis in 1319 as a religious Order under the Cistercian rule to serve the Portuguese crown and expel the Moors from the peninsula. It participated actively of the crusades, the inquisition and the first overseas travels. In fact, it was part of the Christopher Columbus's fleet that arrived in America in 1492.
In 1420, Prince Henry the Navigator assumed the Order's administration, linking it with a new overseas history that located it around the world following the discoveries in Africa, Indies and America.
It continued to flourish as a religious Order until the late 18th century. In 1516, the Order's Master Ship was granted to the Portuguese Crown perpetually.
The Order was secularized by Queen Mary I in 1789. At the time of its secularization, the Order was composed of three grades: Grand Cross, Commander, and Knight.
In 1807, King João I of Portugal and his court arrived to Brazil right after the Napoleonic invasion of Portugal. As Grand Master, King João I created knights among the new Brazilian royal society and the Portuguese living in Rio de Janeiro. Since then, it was created a new branch of the Order of Christ in Brazil, the latter had its own statutes and grades, in spite of the insignia was very similar to the Portuguese one. The Order of Christ was awarded in Portugal as well as in Brazil during the 19th century.
The Order was disbanded in 1910 following the establishment of the First Portuguese Republic, but it was re-established in 1918. The Grand Officer and Officer were added during the First Portuguese Republic.
The Order is currently conferred upon Portuguese civilians and military personnel, as well as foreigners, in recognition of exceptional service rendered to the Republic, or in the government, parliament, diplomatic corps, or civil service. The President of the Republic is the Grand Master of the Order.
Since 1917, It has consisted of five grades: Grand Cross, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer, and Knight.
In Medal Book, the Military Order of Christ is classified into two types according to design changes outlined in official statutes. Type I decorations were awarded from 1789-1910, and Type II decorations have been awarded since 1918.
The Type I Knight is an enamelled cross that was uniface until the 20th century. Type I Knights could be worn on the breast or around the neck.
From approximately 1820 to 1910, it was possible for military personnel to wear "special" insignia. It has never been confirmed that these decorations were officially sanctioned, and consequently, they are treated here as versions.
Type I decorations are highly variable and may differ in design, manufacturer, size, or composition.
This version came into use in the last half of the 19th century. It is not an example of the special military insignia.
The example pictured here has an unknown hallmark on the ring.
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