Military order
A military order is a Christian society of knights that was founded for crusading
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

, i.e. propagating or defending the faith
Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. In religion, faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition,...

 (originally Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, after the reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 sometimes Protestant
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

), either in the Holy Land
Holy Land
The Holy Land is a term which in Judaism refers to the Kingdom of Israel as defined in the Tanakh. For Jews, the Land's identifiction of being Holy is defined in Judaism by its differentiation from other lands by virtue of the practice of Judaism often possible only in the Land of Israel...

 or against Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

The Reconquista was a period of almost 800 years in the Middle Ages during which several Christian kingdoms succeeded in retaking the Muslim-controlled areas of the Iberian Peninsula broadly known as Al-Andalus...

) or pagans
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 (mainly Baltic region
Baltic region
The terms Baltic region, Baltic Rim countries, and Baltic Rim refer to slightly different combinations of countries in the general area surrounding the Baltic Sea.- Etymology :...

) in Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. Many orders became secularized
Secularization is the transformation of a society from close identification with religious values and institutions toward non-religious values and secular institutions...



Catholic military orders appeared following the First Crusade
First Crusade
The First Crusade was a military expedition by Western Christianity to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquest of the Levant, ultimately resulting in the recapture of Jerusalem...

 in response to the Islamic conquest of the former Byzantine Christian Holy Land. The foundation of the Templars
Knights Templar
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon , commonly known as the Knights Templar, the Order of the Temple or simply as Templars, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders...

 in 1118 provided the first in a series of tightly organized military forces which protected the Christian lands in Outremer
Outremer, French for "overseas", was a general name given to the Crusader states established after the First Crusade: the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the County of Tripoli and especially the Kingdom of Jerusalem...

, as well as fighting invading Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

 as well as Muslim invaders and pagan tribes in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...


The first secularized order was the Order of Saint George
Order of Saint George (Kingdom of Hungary)
The Order of Saint George was the first secular chivalric order in the world established by King Charles I of Hungary in 1326.The Order was awarded to only 50 knights, and the admission of a new member required the unanimous vote of the former members. New members had to swear fidelity to the...

 founded in 1326 by the King Charles I of Hungary
Charles I of Hungary
Charles I , also known as Charles Robert , was the first King of Hungary and Croatia of the House of Anjou. He was also descended from the old Hungarian Árpád dynasty. His claim to the throne of Hungary was contested by several pretenders...

, on which he made all the nobles of the Kingdom to swear loyalty to his persona. The next secular order which is known to appear was the Order of the "Knights of the Band
Knights of the Band
The Knights of the Band, or Equites Bindae, were a military order in Spain, instituted by Alfonso XI, King of Castile, c. 1330. It takes its name from the banda, band, sash or red ribbon which came across over the right shoulder and under the left arm of the knight.The order was awarded to certain...

", founded by the King Alfonso XI of Castile
Alfonso XI of Castile
Alfonso XI was the king of Castile, León and Galicia.He was the son of Ferdinand IV of Castile and his wife Constance of Portugal. Upon his father's death in 1312, several disputes ensued over who would hold regency, which were resolved in 1313...

 in 1332. Both orders existed only for about a century.

Purpose and function

The principal feature of the military order is the combination of military and religious
Consecrated life
The consecrated life in the Christian tradition, especially the Roman Catholic Church, but also the Anglican Church and to some extent other Christian denominations, is, as the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law states: "a stable form of living by which faithful, following Christ more closely under...

 ways of life. Some of them, like the Knights of St John and the Knights of Saint Thomas, also cared for the sick and poor. However, they were not purely male institutions, as nun
A nun is a woman who has taken vows committing her to live a spiritual life. She may be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live her life in prayer and contemplation in a monastery or convent...

s could attach themselves as convent
A convent is either a community of priests, religious brothers, religious sisters, or nuns, or the building used by the community, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Anglican Communion...

s of the orders. One significant feature of the military orders is that clerical
Catholic Church hierarchy
The term Hierarchy in the Catholic Church has a variety of related usages. Literally, "holy government", the term is employed in different instances. There is a Hierarchy of Truths, which refers to the levels of solemnity of the official teaching of the faith...

 brothers could be, and indeed often were, subordinate to non-ordained brethren.

In 1818 Joseph von Hammer compared the Catholic military orders, in particular the Templars, with certain Islamic models such as the Shiite sect of Assassins
The Assassins were an order of Nizari Ismailis, particularly those of Persia that existed from around 1092 to 1265...

. In 1820 José Antonio Conde
José Antonio Conde
José Antonio Conde y García was a Spanish Orientalist and historian. His Anacreon obtained him a post in the royal library in 1795. He also published several paraphrases of Greek classics. These were followed in 1799 by an edition of the Arabic text of Muhammad al-Idrisi's Description of Spain,...

 has suggested they were modeled on the ribat
A ribat is an Arabic term for a small fortification as built along a frontier during the first years of the Muslim conquest of North Africa to house military volunteers, called the murabitun...

, a fortified religious institution which brought together a religious way of life with fighting the enemies of Islam. However popular such views may have become, others have criticized this view suggesting there were no such ribats around Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 until after the military orders had been founded. Yet the innovation of
the role and function of the military orders has sometimes been obscured by the concentration on their military exploits in Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

, Prussia, and Livonia
Livonia is a historic region along the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It was once the land of the Finnic Livonians inhabiting the principal ancient Livonian County Metsepole with its center at Turaida...

. In fact they had extensive holdings and staff throughout Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

. The majority were laymen. They provided a conduit for cultural and technical innovation, for example the introduction of fulling
Fulling or tucking or walking is a step in woolen clothmaking which involves the cleansing of cloth to eliminate oils, dirt, and other impurities, and making it thicker. The worker who does the job is a fuller, tucker, or walker...

 into England by the Knights of St John, or the banking facilities of the Templars.

Because of the necessity to have a standing army
Standing army
A standing army is a professional permanent army. It is composed of full-time career soldiers and is not disbanded during times of peace. It differs from army reserves, who are activated only during wars or natural disasters...

, the military orders were created, being adopted as the fourth monastic
Monasticism is a religious way of life characterized by the practice of renouncing worldly pursuits to fully devote one's self to spiritual work...

Religious vows
Religious vows are the public vows made by the members of religious communities pertaining to their conduct, practices and views.In the Buddhist tradition, in particular within the Mahayana and Vajrayana tradition, many different kinds of religious vows are taken by the lay community as well as by...


List of military orders

This list is intended to be comprehensive. The orders are listed chronologically according to their dates of foundation (in parentheses), which are sometimes approximate, and may in significance vary from case to case, the foundation of an order, its ecclesiastical approval, and its militarisation occurring at times on different dates.
  • Knights Hospitaller
    Knights Hospitaller
    The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta , also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. It is the world's...

  • Order of Saint James of Altopascio
    Order of Saint James of Altopascio
    The Order of Saint James of Altopascio , also called the Knights of the Tau or Hospitallers of Saint James, was a military order, perhaps the earliest Christian institution to combine the protection and assistance of pilgrims, the staffing of hospitals, and a military wing...

     (ca. 1075)
  • Sovereign Military Order of Malta (1099)
  • Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (1113)
  • Knights Templar
    Knights Templar
    The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon , commonly known as the Knights Templar, the Order of the Temple or simply as Templars, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders...

     (ca. 1118)
  • Order of Saint Lazarus
    Order of Saint Lazarus
    This article concerns the order of knighthood named after Saint Lazarus. For other uses of the name Lazarus, see Lazarus .The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem is an order of chivalry which originated in a leper hospital founded by the Knights Hospitaller in 1098 by the...

     (ca. 1123)
  • Order of Aviz
    Order of Aviz
    The Military Order of Aviz , previously to 1910 Royal Military Order of Aviz , previously to 1789 Order of Saint Benedict of Aviz , previously Knights of St. Benedict of Aviz or Friars of Santa Maria of Évora, is a Portuguese Order of Chivalry...

  • Order of Saint Michael of the Wing
    Order of Saint Michael of the Wing
    The Pontifical, Royal and Distinguished Order of Saint Michael of the Wing is the oldest Portuguese order of knighthood. Unlike many other Portuguese orders, it has not been nationalized as a decoration of the state by the post-1910 Portuguese Republic, and as a result the Duke of Braganza remains...

  • Order of Calatrava
    Order of Calatrava
    The Order of Calatrava was the first military order founded in Castile, but the second to receive papal approval. The papal bull confirming the Order of Calatrava as a Militia was given by Pope Alexander III on September 26, 1164.-Origins and Foundation:...

  • Order of Aubrac
    Order of Aubrac
    The Order of Aubrac was a hospitaller and military order founded, with its headquarters at Aubrac in the Diocese of Rodez, in the mid-twelfth century. The Augustinian rule was approved for the order by the bishop in 1162. Its original purpose was to safeguard the local hospital for pilgrims on the...

  • Order of Santiago
    Order of Santiago
    The Order of Santiago was founded in the 12th century, and owes its name to the national patron of Galicia and Spain, Santiago , under whose banner the Christians of Galicia and Asturias began in the 9th century to combat and drive back the Muslims of the Iberian Peninsula.-History:Santiago de...

  • Order of Alcántara
    Order of Alcántara
    The Order of Alcántara , also called the Knights of St. Julian, was originally a military order of León, founded in 1166 and confirmed by Pope Alexander III in 1177.-Alcántara:...

  • Order of Mountjoy (c.1180)
  • Teutonic Knights
    Teutonic Knights
    The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

  • Hospitallers of Saint Thomas of Canterbury at Acre (1191)
  • Order of Monfragüe
    Order of Monfragüe
    The Order of Monfragüe was a Spanish military order founded at the castle of Monfragüe near Plasencia on the Tagus in 1196. The order was founded by the knights of the Order of Mountjoy who dissented from a merger with the Knights Templar...

  • Order of Sant Jordi d'Alfama
    Order of Sant Jordi d'Alfama
    Knights of St. George appear at different historical periods and in different countries as mutually independent bodies having nothing in common but the veneration of Saint George, the patron saint of knighthood.St...

  • Livonian Brothers of the Sword
    Livonian Brothers of the Sword
    The Livonian Brothers of the Sword were a military order founded by Bishop Albert of Riga in 1202. Pope Innocent III sanctioned the establishment in 1204. The membership of the order comprised German "warrior monks"...

  • Order of Dobrzyń
    Order of Dobrzyn
    The Order of Dobrzyń or Order of Dobrin , also known as the Brothers of Dobrzyń , was a military order created in the borderland of Masovia and Prussia during the 13th century Prussian Crusade to 'defend against Baltic Prussian raids'.In Latin the knights were known as the Fratres Milites Christi...

  • Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy
    Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy
    The Royal, Celestial and Military Order of Our Lady of Mercy and the Redemption of the Captives also known as Our Lady of Ransom is a Roman Catholic religious order established in 1218 by St...

  • Knights of the Cross with the Red Star (before 1219)
  • Militia of the Faith of Jesus Christ
    Militia of the Faith of Jesus Christ
    The Militia or Order of the Faith of Jesus Christ was an ephemeral military order founded in Languedoc in or shortly before 1221, It owed its origins probably to Folquet de Marselha, the Bishop of Toulouse; Simon IV de Montfort, leader of the Albigensian Crusade; and possibly to Dominic of...

  • Order of the Faith and Peace
    Order of the Faith and Peace
    The Order of the Faith and Peace or Order of the Sword was a military order in Gascony in the mid-13th century.The order was first mentioned by Pope Gregory IX in 1231 in a letter to magistro militiae ordinis sancti Jacobi ejusque fratribus tam presentibus quam futuris ad defensionem fidei et pacis...

  • Militia of Jesus Christ
    Militia of Jesus Christ
    The Militia of Jesus Christ was a military order in Lombardy during the High Middle Ages. It was founded at Parma by Bartholomew, Bishop of Vicenza, a Dominican, in 1233 and approved by Pope Gregory IX, who gave it a rule in 1234 and placed under the jurisdiction of the Dominicans...

  • Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1261)
  • Order of Santa María de España (1275)
  • Order of Montesa
    Order of Montesa
    The Order of Montesa is a Christian military order, territorially limited to the Kingdom of Aragon.-Templar background:The Templars had been received with enthusiasm in Aragon from their foundation in 1128...

  • Order of the Knights of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1318)
  • Order of the Dragon
    Order of the Dragon
    The Order of the Dragon was a monarchical chivalric order for selected nobility,founded in 1408 by Sigismund, King of Hungary and later Holy Roman Emperor The Order of the Dragon (Latin Societas Draconistrarum) was a monarchical chivalric order for selected nobility,founded in 1408 by Sigismund,...

  • Order of Saint Maurice
    Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus
    The Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus is an order of chivalry awarded by the House of Savoy, the heads of which were formerly Kings of Italy...

  • Order of Our Lady of Bethlehem
    Order of Our Lady of Bethlehem
    After the taking of Constantinople by the Turks , Pius II founded the Order of Our Lady of Bethlehem. The purpose of these knights was to defend the Island of Lemnos which Cardinal Louis, Patriarch of Aquileia, had recaptured from Mohammed II. The island was to be their headquarters from which they...

  • Order of Saint George of Carinthia (1469)
  • Order of Saint George of Parma (before 1522)
  • Order of Saint Stephen
    Order of Saint Stephen
    The Order of Saint Stephen is a Tuscan dynastic-military order founded in 1561. The order was created by Cosimo I de' Medici, first Grand Duke of Tuscany. The last member of the Medici dynasty to be a leader of the order was Gian Gastone de Medici in 1737...


Other uses

It is possible for a non-crusading order to be founded explicitly as a military order.
This is the case of the Orden Militar de la Constancia ('the Military Order of Loyalty'), founded on August 18, 1946, by the authorities in the Spanish protectorate within Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

. Awarded to both Spanish and Moroccan military officers and men, the single-class order was abolished in 1956.

It was in the military orders, where the perfect fusion of the religious and the military spirit was realized, that chivalry reached its apogee. It was at this apogee that the secular brotherhood was created.

The Dutch Military Order of William and the Austrian Military Order of Maria Theresa
Military Order of Maria Theresa
The Military Order of Maria Theresa was an Order of the Austro-Hungarian Empire founded on June 18, 1757, the day of the Battle of Kolin, by the Empress...

 are not military orders although they use that name. They are orders of merit, not societies of knights or warrior-monks like the original military orders.

Some self-styled orders
Self-styled orders
Pseudo-chivalric orders or self-styled orders are organizations which falsely claim to be chivalric orders. Most self-styled orders arose in or after the mid-eighteenth century and many have been created in the present day, though most are short-lived and endure no more than a few decades.A...

claim to be military orders.
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