Order of St. Sylvester
The Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Sylvester Pope and Martyr , sometimes referred to as the Sylvestrine Order, or the Pontifical Order of Pope St Sylvester, is one of five Orders of Knighthood awarded directly by the Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 as Supreme Pontiff and head of the Catholic Church and as the Head of State
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 of Vatican City
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...



This Order was at one time united with the Order of the Golden Militia
Order of the Golden Militia
The Order of the Golden Spur , also known as the Order of the Golden Militia, is a papal order of chivalry conferred upon those who have rendered distinguished service in propagating the Catholic faith, or who have contributed to the glory of the Church, either by feat of arms, by writings, or by...

. Pope Pius X
Pope Pius X
Pope Saint Pius X , born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, was the 257th Pope of the Catholic Church, serving from 1903 to 1914. He was the first pope since Pope Pius V to be canonized. Pius X rejected modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, promoting traditional devotional practices and orthodox...

 in his motu proprio
Motu proprio
A motu proprio is a document issued by the Pope on his own initiative and personally signed by him....

of 7 February 1905, entitled Multum ad excitandos, divided the Sylvestrine Order into two Orders of Knighthood, one retaining the name of St. Sylvester and the other taking the ancient name of the Order, i.e. Order of the Golden Militia, or Order of the Golden Spur.

It is intended to honor Roman Catholic lay people who are actively involved in the life of the church, particularly as it is exemplified in the exercise of their professional duties and mastership of the different arts. It is also conferred on non-Catholics and in the UK current recipients include prominent Anglicans, Muslims and Jews.

Awards of the Order are generally made on the recommendation of Diocesan
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s, or of Apostolic Nuncios (nominations may be made by parish priests to their bishop for his consideration). Awards are also granted on recommendation of the Papal Secretary of State. Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

 extended membership in the Order to ladies as well as gentlemen. Awards of the highest rank of Knight or Dame Grand Cross are exceptional and currently there is only one holder of this rank in the UK and Ireland.

Before the 1905 Regulations of Pius X

Prior to the year 1841 it was known as the Militia of the Golden Spur or Golden Militia, and though it is not historically established who among the many supposed founders is the true one, yet it undoubtedly is the oldest and, at one time, was one of the most prized of the papal orders. Faculties granted to the Sforza family, to the College of Abbreviators and to bishops assistant at the throne to create Knights of the Golden Militia resulted in lavish bestowal and diminished prestige of the decoration.

Pope Gregory XVI
Pope Gregory XVI
Pope Gregory XVI , born Bartolomeo Alberto Cappellari, named Mauro as a member of the religious order of the Camaldolese, was Pope of the Catholic Church from 1831 to 1846...

 in his Papal Brief
Papal brief
The Papal Brief is a formal document emanating from the Pope, in a somewhat simpler and more modern form than a Papal Bull.-History:The introduction of briefs, which occurred at the beginning of the pontificate of Pope Eugenius IV , was clearly prompted for the same desire for greater simplicity...

 of 31 October 1841, entitled Quod hominum mentes retained the ancient name of the Order and placed it under the patronage
Patron saint
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person...

 of St. Sylvester (one of its alleged founders). He withdrew all faculties to whom and by whomsoever given, and forbade the use of the title or the decoration to all knights created by any means other than a Papal Brief. To restore the Order to its ancient glory and splendour, he limited the number of Commanders to 150 and knights to 300 (for the Papal States
Papal States
The Papal State, State of the Church, or Pontifical States were among the major historical states of Italy from roughly the 6th century until the Italian peninsula was unified in 1861 by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia .The Papal States comprised territories under...

 only), and appointed the Cardinal of Apostolic Briefs as Chancellor of the Order, with the duty of preserving the name, grade, number and date of admission of each knight.

Pope Gregory divided the Order into two classes:
  • Commander wore a large-sized decoration suspended at the neck, on a wide ribbon.
  • Knight wore a small-sized decoration on the left side of the breast, on a smaller ribbon.

The decoration or cross of the Order, according to Pope Gregory's Brief, was an eight-pointed gold cross with an image of St. Sylvester wearing the tiara
Papal Tiara
The Papal Tiara, also known incorrectly as the Triple Tiara, or in Latin as the Triregnum, in Italian as the Triregno and as the Trirègne in French, is the three-tiered jewelled papal crown, supposedly of Byzantine and Persian origin, that is a prominent symbol of the papacy...

 on its white enameled centre, and around this centre a blue enamelled circle bearing in letters of gold the inscription SANC. SYLVESTER P. M. On the reverse side, in golden characters, was stamped MDCCCXLI GREGORIUS XVI RESTITUIT. A small golden spur
A spur is a metal tool designed to be worn in pairs on the heels of riding boots for the purpose of directing a horse to move forward or laterally while riding. It is usually used to refine the riding aids and to back up the natural aids . The spur is used in every equestrian discipline...

 hung suspended from the two sides of the foot of the cross of the Order to mark the unity of the Sylvestrine Order with that of the Golden Militia.

The ribbon of the decoration was of silk composed of five strands, three of which were red, and two black. The golden chain
Livery collar
A livery collar or chain of office is a collar or heavy chain, usually of gold, worn as insignia of office or a mark of fealty or other association in Europe from the Middle Ages onwards....

worn around the neck by members of both classes had the decoration with its tiny golden spur suspended from it.

The official uniform was a red evening dress coat with two rows of gold buttons with green collar and facing. The gold embroideries of the coat were of a more ornate design for Grand Crosses and less so for Commanders and Knights. White trousers, with gold side bands, hat with white plumes and a sword with a silver hilt and also gilt spurs, completed this rarely used costume.

Since the 1905 Regulations of Pius X

The Order currently has three classes. In order of seniority they are:
  • Knight / Dame Grand Cross (GCSS / DCSS) - wears a large cross suspended from a broad ribbon (sash) over the right shoulder across the breast to the left hip, along with the breast star
  • Knight Commander wears a smaller cross suspended by the ribbon of the Order encircling the neck. Dame Commander wears the same cross suspended from a bow on the left breast. This class is divided into two categories:
    • Knight / Dame Commander with Star (KC*SS / DC*SS) - wears the star of the Order on the lower left breast
    • Knight / Dame Commander (KCSS / DCSS) - does not wear the star
  • Knight / Dame (KSS / DSS) - wears the smallest cross on a ribbon attached to the left breast of the tunic.


The current decoration or cross of the Order is a gold cross of white enamelled surface, in the centre of which is impressed the image of St. Sylvester, surrounded by a blue enamelled circle bearing the inscription in letters of gold SANC. SYLVESTER P. M. On the obverse, in the centre, are the Papal tiara
Papal Tiara
The Papal Tiara, also known incorrectly as the Triple Tiara, or in Latin as the Triregnum, in Italian as the Triregno and as the Trirègne in French, is the three-tiered jewelled papal crown, supposedly of Byzantine and Persian origin, that is a prominent symbol of the papacy...

 and crossed keys
Papal regalia and insignia
Papal regalia and insignia are the official items of attire and decoration proper to the Pope in his capacity as the head of the Roman Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State.- Regalia :...

 with the date of the Order's restoration under Gregory: MDCCCXXXXR, and that of the Pius X renovation, MDCCCCV, impressed in characters of gold upon a blue circle.

The ribbon of the decoration is black silk with three narrow red stripes.

The star or badge is the cross of the Order attached to a silver star.


The official uniform is a black coat ornamented with one row of gilt buttons, black velvet, gold-embroidered collar and cuffs, black gold-striped trousers, a bicornered cocked silk (bicorne
The bicorne or bicorn is an archaic form of hat widely adopted in the 1790s as an item of uniform by European and American military and naval officers...

) hat with a cockade of the papal colors to which is added a white plume when worn by a Knight Grand Cross, a black plume when worn by a Commander, and a sword. Knights Grand Cross wear a sash and a badge or star on the left side of the breast; Commanders wear a cross around the neck; and Knights wear a smaller cross on the left breast of the uniform. The uniform is considerably more embroidered for the higher ranks and white gloves are usually worn.

Knight Knight Commander Knight Commander with Star Knight Grand Cross


In ecclesiastical heraldry, laypersons awarded the rank Grand Cross display a blue enamelled circle bearing the inscription in letters of gold SANC. SYLVESTER P. M
around the shield in their coat of arms, while other ranks place an appropriate ribbon below the shield.


Papal knights and dames do not have any specific obligations by virtue of their having been given the personal honour of membership in an Order. It is customary, however, for them to be invited to participate in major events of their diocese, such as the consecration
Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word "consecration" literally means "to associate with the sacred". Persons, places, or things can be consecrated, and the term is used in various ways by different groups...

 of Bishops, the ordination
In general religious use, ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination itself varies by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is...

 of Priests, and the introduction of a new Bishop into his diocese. On such formal occasions they would wear the uniform of the Order.

Post nominal lettering

The Order has four classes in civil and military divisions. Each receiptant may illustrate their Papal knighthood with the following post nominal lettering which are listed in order of seniority:
  • Knight / Dame Grand Cross of the First Class (GCSS / DCSS)
  • Knight / Dame Commander with Star (KC*SS / DC*SS)
  • Knight / Dame Commander (KCSS / DCSS)
  • Knight / Dame (KSS / DSS)


Members of the order have no privileges, except the right of riding on a horse inside the Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. This right has not recently been exercised.

Noteworthy members

  • During the 1960s, Pope John XXIII
    Pope John XXIII
    -Papal election:Following the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, Roncalli was elected Pope, to his great surprise. He had even arrived in the Vatican with a return train ticket to Venice. Many had considered Giovanni Battista Montini, Archbishop of Milan, a possible candidate, but, although archbishop...

     created Oscar Schindler, German Industralist and Yad Vashem
    Yad Vashem
    Yad Vashem is Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, established in 1953 through the Yad Vashem Law passed by the Knesset, Israel's parliament....

     honouree as Knight Grand Cross of the Order.
  • In 1945, Pope Pius XII created Ken Harada
    Ken Harada (diplomat)
    was a chargé d'affaires to Vichy France and a diplomat to the Holy See from Japan. He was appointed as a special envoy to the Vatican, and served in this capacity from 1942 to 1945...

    , Japanese envoy to the Holy See, into the order.
  • In July 1944, Pope Pius XII
    Pope Pius XII
    The Venerable Pope Pius XII , born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli , reigned as Pope, head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of Vatican City State, from 2 March 1939 until his death in 1958....

     created Major General William Joseph Donovan
    William Joseph Donovan
    William Joseph Donovan was a United States soldier, lawyer and intelligence officer, best remembered as the wartime head of the Office of Strategic Services...

    , father of the CIA, Knight Grand Cross of the Order.
  • In 1994, Pope John Paul II
    Pope John Paul II
    Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

     created the first woman member, Dame Leonida Laki Vera the Philippines
    The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

    An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

     to the Holy See
    Holy See
    The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

  • George Borg Olivier, Prime Minister of Malta
    Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

    , Knight Grand Cross of the Order.
  • HIRH Archduke Otto von Habsburg
    Otto von Habsburg
    Otto von Habsburg , also known by his royal name as Archduke Otto of Austria, was the last Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary from 1916 until the dissolution of the empire in 1918, a realm which comprised modern-day Austria, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia,...

    , Crown Prince of Austria and Hungary and former MEP,
  • HSH Karl August, 10th Prince of Thurn and Taxis
    Karl August, 10th Prince of Thurn and Taxis
    Karl August Joseph Maria Maximilian Lamoral Antonius Ignatius Benediktus Valentin, Prince of Thurn and Taxis, full German name: Karl August Joseph Maria Maximilian Lamoral Antonius Ignatius Benediktus Valentin Fürst von Thurn und Taxis was the tenth Prince of...

    , German Prince, Knight Grand Cross of the Order.
  • Joseph Flores
    Joseph Flores (Guamanian politician)
    Joseph F. Flores was the sixth civilian appointed Governor of Guam, and was the first Chamorro to hold the office. He also founded the island's first locally owned newspaper, the Guam Daily News , which was the only local newspaper until 1966...

    , Governor of Guam
    Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government. Guam is listed as one of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United...

  • Bob Hope
    Bob Hope
    Bob Hope, KBE, KCSG, KSS was a British-born American comedian and actor who appeared in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in radio, television and movies. He was also noted for his work with the US Armed Forces and his numerous USO shows entertaining American military personnel...

    , KBE, entertainer.
  • Fernando Ruiz, Pilot
  • Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala Maharaja of Khapurthala.
  • Sir Burton Hall
    Burton P. C. Hall
    Sir Burton P. C. Hall, KSS, KHS is a Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, a position he was elected to in August, 2009. Hall served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of The Bahamas on 1 February 1991 and then as a Justice of Court of Appeal of The Bahamas from...

     Chief Justice of The Bahamas and Justice of the UN International Court at The Hague, Knight.
  • Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, Knight Commander

In Great Britain, members include:
  • Anthony J Bailey inter-faith campaigner, Knight Grand Cross.
  • General Sir Richard Lawson
    Richard Lawson (British Army officer)
    General Sir Richard George Lawson KCB, DSO, OBE, KCSS is a former British Army officer, who served as General Officer Commanding in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and later as Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces Northern Europe....

    , Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces Northern Europe, Knight Commander.
  • Professor David Khalili, art collector, Knight Commander.
  • Mahmoud Khayami
    Mahmoud Khayami
    Mahmoud Khayami, CBE, KSS, GCFO is an Iranian industrialist and philanthropist, of French nationality.-Life:Khayami had an active role in the company Iran National or IKCO) , automobile manufacturing and the introduction of the Paykan car to Iran in a...

     businessman and interfaith campaigner, Knight.

National Associations

There are National Associations of Papal Knights in France
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...

, Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, as well as Diocesan Associations such as those in Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 and Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...


External link

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