Order of Saint Catherine
- This article is about the Imperial Russian chivalric order; for information about the religious order, see Saint Catherine's Monastery
Instituted on November 24, 1714 by Peter the Great on the occasion of his marriage to Catherine I of Russia. For the majority of the time of Imperial Russia, it was the only award for ladies** (the Order of Saint Olga existed briefly from 1916–1917, but ceased with the fall of the Romanov dynasty).
The statutes of the Order were first published in 1713, and the order was under the patronage of St. Catherine of Alexandria, the patron saint of the Empress. On the 24th of November 1714, on the Empress' name day, Peter the Great personally bestowed the insignia of the Order upon the Empress Catherine, creating her Grand Mistress of the Order. However, no further members were inducted until 1726. Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna was the last Grand Mistress of the Order of St. Catherine. She died in 1928.
The award was bestowed in two classes:
- Dame Grand Cross (entitled to both the Badge and the Star)
- Dame Lesser Cross (entitled to the Badge)
- A Riband (sash) of scarlet moiré with silver edges embroidered with the inscription: "ZA LYUBOV' I OTECHESTVO" ("ЗА ЛЮБОВЬ И ОТЕЧЕСТВО" – "For the Love and the Fatherland").
- The Badge (or Jewel) of the Order consisted of a cross with a large medallion set in the center of it. On the medallion was depicted the order's patron saint, Catherine of Alexandria, holding a large white cross, the symbol of her martyrdom. In the four quadrants formed by the cross are written the initials, "D.S.F.R." (Domine Salvum Fac Regem, God Save the Tsar). The Badge was attached to the Riband. On the obverse is an image of eagles destroying a nest of snakes at the foot of a ruined tower, at the top of which is a nest of eaglets. Above is the motto Aequant Munia Comparis ("By her works she is to her husband compared").
- The Star (or Plaque) consisted of a medallion set on a silver, eight-pointed star with rays, encrusted with diamonds. On the red medallion in the center is depicted the wheel of St. Catherine (symbol of her martyrdom) surmounted by a cross. Encircling the medallion is the motto of the order (the same as on the Riband).
Every Russian Grand Duchess was conferred the Grand Cross of the Order at her christening (or marriage into the Romanov family), and Princesses of the Imperial Blood were invested upon attaining their majority at 18.
In addition to the royal members, a fixed number (106) of other members were permitted by the statutes:
- 12 Dames Grand Cross
- 94 Dames Small Cross
The twelve Dames Grand Cross were typically female members of foreign Ruling Houses. Queen Alexandra of Great Britain was made a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Catherine by Alexander II, Princess Alice of Greece (Prince Philip's mother) was also a member of the Order.
The Dames Small Cross were all women of the highest nobility, who were part of the suite of the Empress and had engaged in important philanthropic or charitable works outside of their duties at Court.
The Order of Saint Catherine's annual function (compare Garter service in England) was held on November 24 (December 7 on the Gregorian Calendar), the feast day of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. The Order met for a celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Then, wearing the robes and the insignia of the Order, the women of the Imperial Family, followed by the 106 Dames Grand and Small Cross would go in procession from the Imperial Chapel to a banqueting hall specially prepared for the occasion. The Hall of Saint Catherine in the Great Kremlin Palace in Moscow was used for these Occasions. The coloring and decoration of the Hall incorporate those of the Order. The Hall also served as the throne room for the Empress Consort. To this day, in the Russian Federation uses this room to receive foreign dignitaries.
Other Orders of St. Catherine
- On 3 May 2012, President Dmitry Medvedev issued a decree establishing an Order of St. Catherine. This award is to honour Russians and foreigners for outstanding contributions toward peacekeeping, charity, humanitarian efforts, and the preservation of cultural heritage.
- An Order of Saint Catherine was founded by Humbert II, Dauphin du Viennois ca. 1335
- The Knights of Saint Catherine of Mount Sinai, an honorific insignia bestowed upon knights who made a pilgrimage to the Saint Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai from the 11th to the 15th centuries.
- A History of the Order of St. Catherine by Nicholas B.A Nicholson
- The Imperial Order of St. Catherine the Great Martyr by Michael Y. Medvedev
- The Medals of St. Catherine
- Order of Saint Catherine (for ladies)