Order of Saint Stephen
The Order of Saint Stephen (Official: Sacro Militare Ordine di Santo Stefano Papa e Martire, "Holy Military Order of St. Stephen Pope and Martyr") is a Tuscan
Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

 dynastic-military order
Military order
A military order is a Christian society of knights that was founded for crusading, i.e. propagating or defending the faith , either in the Holy Land or against Islam or pagans in Europe...

 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. The order was permanently abolished in 1859 by the annexation of Tuscany to the Kingdom of Sardinia
Kingdom of Sardinia
The Kingdom of Sardinia consisted of the island of Sardinia first as a part of the Crown of Aragon and subsequently the Spanish Empire , and second as a part of the composite state of the House of Savoy . Its capital was originally Cagliari, in the south of the island, and later Turin, on the...

. The former Kingdom of Italy
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

 and the current Italian Republic also did not recognize the order.


The order was founded by Cosimo I de' Medici, first Grand Duke of Tuscany, with the approbation of Pope Pius IV
Pope Pius IV
Pope Pius IV , born Giovanni Angelo Medici, was Pope from 1559 to 1565. He is notable for presiding over the culmination of the Council of Trent.-Biography:...

 in 1561. The rule chosen was that of the Benedictine Order. The first grand master
Grand Master (order)
Grand Master is the typical title of the supreme head of various orders of knighthood, including various military orders, religious orders and civil orders such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Orange Order...

 was Cosimo himself and he was followed in that role by his successors as grand duke. The dedication to St. Stephen derives from the date of Cosimo's victorious Battle of Montemurlo (August 1, 1537).

The objective of the order was to fight the Ottoman Turks
Ottoman Turks
The Ottoman Turks were the Turkish-speaking population of the Ottoman Empire who formed the base of the state's military and ruling classes. Reliable information about the early history of Ottoman Turks is scarce, but they take their Turkish name, Osmanlı , from the house of Osman I The Ottoman...

 and the pirates that sailed Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 in the 16th century. The Turks and the pirates were making dangerous inroads on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea
Tyrrhenian Sea
The Tyrrhenian Sea is part of the Mediterranean Sea off the western coast of Italy.-Geography:The sea is bounded by Corsica and Sardinia , Tuscany, Lazio, Campania, Basilicata and Calabria and Sicily ....

 where Cosimo had recently inaugurated the new port of Livorno
Livorno , traditionally Leghorn , is a port city on the Tyrrhenian Sea on the western edge of Tuscany, Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Livorno, having a population of approximately 160,000 residents in 2009.- History :...

. Cosimo also needed a symbolic fight to unite the nobility of the different cities that combined to form his new grand duchy (including Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 and Siena
Siena is a city in Tuscany, Italy. It is the capital of the province of Siena.The historic centre of Siena has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. It is one of the nation's most visited tourist attractions, with over 163,000 international arrivals in 2008...

, and to demonstrate his support of the Roman Catholic Church. Finally, the creation of a Tuscan military order would also strengthen the prestige, both internal and international, of Cosimo's new state.

To join the Order a postulant
A postulant was originally one who makes a request or demand; hence, a candidate. The use of the term is now generally restricted to those asking for admission into a monastery or a convent, both before actual admission and for the length of time preceding their admission into the novitiate...

 had to be at least eighteen years of age, able to meet the financial obligations of membership, make the necessary noble proofs and not be descended from heretics. The initial seat of the order was on Elba
Elba is a Mediterranean island in Tuscany, Italy, from the coastal town of Piombino. The largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, Elba is also part of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago and the third largest island in Italy after Sicily and Sardinia...

 before moving to Pisa
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa...

. The Knights' Square
Knights' Square (Pisa)
The Knights’ Square is one of the most important landmarks in Pisa, Italy, and the second main square of the city. This square was the political centre in medieval Pisa. After the middle of 16th century the square become the headquarters of the Order of the Knights of St...

 in Pisa, on which their palace faces, is named after the Order. The Coat of Arms include a red cross with eight points, flanked by golden lilies.

In its early years, the Order took part successfully in the Spanish wars against the Ottomans, being present at the siege of Malta (1565)
Siege of Malta (1565)
The Siege of Malta took place in 1565 when the Ottoman Empire invaded the island, then held by the Knights Hospitaller .The Knights, together with between 4-5,000 Maltese men,...

, the Battle of Lepanto (1571)
Battle of Lepanto (1571)
The Battle of Lepanto took place on 7 October 1571 when a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of Catholic maritime states, decisively defeated the main fleet of the Ottoman Empire in five hours of fighting on the northern edge of the Gulf of Patras, off western Greece...

 and the capture in 1607 of Annaba in Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

 by the then admiral Jacopo Inghirami
Jacopo Inghirami
Jacopo Inghirami was admiral of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and marquis of Montevitozzo.-Career:Born to an influential family in Volterra in July 1565, Jacopo was orphaned as a teenager...

. After its aggressive capabilities had been recognized, the Order concentrated on the defence of the Mediterranean coasts against Turkish and African pirates. In particular, the Knights made some incursions into the Aegean Islands
Aegean Islands
The Aegean Islands are the group of islands in the Aegean Sea, with mainland Greece to the west and north and Turkey to the east; the island of Crete delimits the sea to the south, those of Rhodes, Karpathos and Kasos to the southeast...

 controlled by the Turks, and took part in the campaigns in Dalmatia
Dalmatia is a historical region on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It stretches from the island of Rab in the northwest to the Bay of Kotor in the southeast. The hinterland, the Dalmatian Zagora, ranges from fifty kilometers in width in the north to just a few kilometers in the south....

, Negroponte
Negroponte can refer to:*the Greek island of Euboea, called Negroponte in Italian**Chalkis, the island's capital, named Negroponte during the Middle Ages...

 and Corfu
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...


After 1640, military involvement was reduced. The Order concentrated on the coastal defence and on ordnance duties, but did not avoid the chance to send help to the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

, then engaged in a desperate war
Morean War
The Morean War is the better known name for the Sixth Ottoman–Venetian War. The war was fought between 1684–1699, as part of the wider conflict known as the "Great Turkish War", between the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire...

 against the Ottoman Empire. The order's last military action dates from 1719. Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Tuscany
Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor
Leopold II , born Peter Leopold Joseph Anton Joachim Pius Gotthard, was Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary and Bohemia from 1790 to 1792, Archduke of Austria and Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1765 to 1790. He was a son of Emperor Francis I and his wife, Empress Maria Theresa...

 promoted a reorganization of the order, turning it into an institute for education of the Tuscan nobility.

On 7 March 1791, six months after becoming Emperor
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

, Leopold abdicated the Grand Duchy to his younger son, Ferdinand III
Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany was Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1790 to 1801 and, after a period of disenfranchisement, again from 1814 to 1824. He was also the Prince-elector and Grand Duke of Salzburg and Grand Duke of Würzburg .-Biography:Ferdinand was born in Florence, Tuscany, into the...

, the founder of the present Grand Ducal House. Although Ferdinand was the first European sovereign to recognize the French Republic, he was forced to submit to the French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 authorities who occupied the Grand Duchy in 1799. He abdicated both the Grand Duchy and the Grand Magistery of Saint Stephen. The order survived during the short-lived Kingdom of Etruria
Kingdom of Etruria
The Kingdom of Etruria was a kingdom comprising the larger part of Tuscany which existed between 1801 and 1807. It took its name from Etruria, the old Roman name for the land of the Etruscans.It was created by the Treaty of Aranjuez, signed on 21 March 1801...


Following the restoration of Ferdinand III in 1814, the revival of the Order was proposed. By a decree dated 1815 the Ripristinazione dell'Ordine dei Cavalieri di S. Stefano was proclaimed. The Order was again dissolved in 1859, when Tuscany was annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia
Kingdom of Sardinia
The Kingdom of Sardinia consisted of the island of Sardinia first as a part of the Crown of Aragon and subsequently the Spanish Empire , and second as a part of the composite state of the House of Savoy . Its capital was originally Cagliari, in the south of the island, and later Turin, on the...



The former Tuscan ruling family maintained that the Order of Saint Stephen was a religious and dynastic institution not subject to dissolution by the Italian authorities. Today, the pretender to the former grand ducal throne
Archduke Sigismund, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Archduke Sigismund of Austria, Grand Duke of Tuscany is the titular Grand Duke of Tuscany and current head of the Tuscan branch of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine.-Biography:Sigismund was born in Lausanne the son of Archduke Leopold Franz and his first wife Princess...

 awards an Order of Saint Stephen which he claims to be a continuation of the order founded by Grand Duke Cosimo I. Approximately 80 individuals are currently associated with this order. All members must be Roman Catholic, although exceptions are made for Heads of State and members of royal families who are members of the other Christian denominations.

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