Order of Pope Pius IX

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Order of Pope Pius IX
Italian: Ordine di Papa Pio IX
Knight's cross of the Order of Pius IX
Awarded by  Holy See
TypePapal order of knighthood
(Virtue and Merit)[1]
StatusCurrently constituted
SovereignPope Francis
GradesKnight with the Collar
Knight/Dame Grand Cross
Knight/Dame Grand Officer
Knight/Dame Commander
Next (higher)Order of the Golden Spur
Next (lower)Order of St. Gregory the Great

Ribbon bar of the order

The Order of Pope Pius IX (Italian: Ordine di Pio IX), also referred as the Pian Order (Italian: Ordine Piano, pronounced [piˈaːno]), is a papal order of knighthood originally founded by Pope Pius IV in 1560. Currently, it is the highest honor conferred by the Holy See (being the Order of Christ and the Order of the Golden Spur currently dormant).The awarding of the order fell into disuse and was re-instituted by Pope Pius IX as a continuation on 17 June 1847.[1]

The highest rank awarded by the Pope is the Collar of the Order, usually to Catholic heads of state on the occasion of official visits to the Holy See. The Grand Cross is the highest Papal award given to lay men and women, ordinarily given to resident Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See after two years in post and rarely to exceptional Catholics in the wider world for particular services, mainly in the international field and for outstanding deeds for Church and society.

The rank of Knight is almost never awarded, and when it happens, it is given in recognition of high-profile services rendered to the Holy See or directly to the person of the Pontiff, by Catholic faithful of distinguished status, almost always belonging to ancient European noble families.

The other two ranks (Commander and Commander with Star) are granted sparingly to lay Catholics, usually in diplomatic roles, for extraordinary merit or deeds for the Church and society. The order is awarded to Catholics and, on occasion and only for diplomatic reasons, to non-Catholics and non-Christians as well.

History of the Order[edit]

Pope Pius IV, founded the first Pian Order in 1560.

The Order was founded on 17 June 1847, by Pope Pius IX with the decree Romanis Pontificibus, placing it as the continuation of the ancient order established by Pope Pius IV with the bull Pii patris amplissimi on March 1559.[2] These noble knights formed the lay court of the Roman Pontiff, being defined participants, since they "participated" in the life of the Pontiff, offering him an escort and often residing in the Apostolic Palace; they often shared the table with the Pontiff and accompanied him during his daily tasks.

The subsequent decree Cum Hominum Mentes of 17 June 1849, confirmed the ancient privilege of personal nobility through membership in the Pian Order, thus creating it the only ennobler of the Holy Apostolic See. With another decree dated 11 November 1856, the Roman Pontiff himself divided the Order into three classes: Knight Grand Cross, Commander, and Knight.

Pope Pius X reformed the Pontifical orders with the decree Multum ad excitandos of 7 February 1905,[3] the new class of Commander with star (correspondent to the class of Grand Officer) was created.

The Pian Order was then reformed again by Pope Pius XII, with a Bull dated 11 November 1939, which suppressed the privilege of nobility.[4] From the historical point of view, the Knighthood of the Grand Cross of the Pian Order has held the role that was of the Militia Aurata before the reform of Gregory XVI, namely that of title of rank and ennobling of the Holy See from the sixteenth century to 1841.

Order of Classes[edit]

1893 artistic sketch of the medal

The Order comprises five classes:

  • Knight with the Collar: who wear a gold chain around their shoulders which is decorated with the papal tiara and two doves, and on the breast a large star. It is the highest active papal decoration, and is reserved for heads of state.
  • Knight / Dame Grand Cross (GCPO): who wear a wide dark blue silk ribbon (sash) bordered with red which extends saltire-wise from the left shoulder to the right side where the insignia of the order is suspended by a rosette, and on the breast a large diamond-studded star. It is commonly awarded to the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.
  • Knight / Dame Commander with Star (KC*PO / DC*PO): who in addition to the badge wear a star of smaller design than that of Knights of the Grand Cross[2][5] on the breast.
  • Knight / Dame Commander (KCPO / DCPO): who wear the decoration at the neck.
  • Knight / Dame (KPO / DPO): who wear the star on the left breast.
Pope Pius IX, re-instituted the Pian Order under his Papal name and pontificate in 1847.
Knight/Dame Commander
Knight/Dame Commander with Star
Knight/Dame Grand Cross
Knight with the Collar

Insignia and uniform[edit]

The decoration is a regular octagram made of blue enamel, the spaces between the rays filled with gold flames. On the white medallion in the center the name of the founder surrounded by the words Virtuti et Merito ("Virtue and Merit") is engraved. The reverse side is the same save for the substitution of Anno 1847 for Pius IX. The rarely worn official uniform consists of an elaborately embroidered dark blue evening coat with golden epaulettes, white trousers, and a white-plumed bicorne.

Knights with the Collar wear a gold decorated chain around the neck, and a star on the left side of the breast; Knights Grand Cross wear a sash and a 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:

Notable members[edit]

Royal houses and nobility[edit]

The Pian medal belonging to the 21st President of Brazil Juscelino Kubitschek, unrestored and on display on his memorial

Heads of State and Politicians[edit]

Larry Wang, Ambassador of the Republic of China to the Holy See, wearing sash and star of the Order of Pius IX

Diplomats to the Holy See[edit]

Other notable members[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Rock, P.M.J. (1913). "Pontifical Decorations" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ a b Henneresse, Dominique (2019). Ordres et Décorations du Saint-Siège (in French). Città del Vaticano: LEV Libreria Editrice Vaticana (Vatican Publishing House). pp. 89–90, 104–105. ISBN 978-88-266-0241-7.
  3. ^ "Acta Sanctae Sedis: ephemerides romanae a SS.mo D. N. Pio PP. X" (PDF). Vatican.va. p. 565. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
  4. ^ Direzione dell'Annuario Pontificio presso la Segreteria di Stato Vaticana (1968). Annuario Pontificio (in Italian). Città del Vaticano: LEV - Libreria Editrice Vaticana. p. 1103.
  5. ^ Michele D'Andrea, Fabio Cassani Pironti (2005). Vestire gli onori (in Italian). Roma: In.edit. pp. 106–109. ISBN 88-89452-00-5.
  6. ^ "King of Burundi Praised by Pope in Vatican Visit". The New York Times. 17 December 1962. p. 2.
  7. ^ "President Anastasiades receives the highest honour of the Holy See". ΚΥΠΕ. Retrieved 2022-11-04.
  8. ^ "Cronología de Marco Fidel Suárez | Centro de Historia de Bello". Archived from the original on 2021-09-29. Retrieved 2021-09-29.

External links[edit]