pontifical decorations


Honors conferred by the papal court on laymen who are of irreproachable character and who have promoted the welfare of society, the Church, and the Holy See. The titles, which the pope awards as temporal sovereign, embrace those of prince to baron inclusive. The ordinary title is that of count which is either personal or hereditary by right of primogeniture in the male line. The decorations are bestowed either by motu proprio and forwarded by the secretary of state, or upon petition, when they are expedited through the chancery. The proper method of procuring a decoration is by a petition from the bishop of the diocese of the person to be honored. The petition must contain a brief history of the applicant’s life, stressing his distinguished labors in science, literature, arts, controversial or other religious writings, or his generous and self-sacrificing gifts or endowments to society, the Church, or its head, which are deemed worthy of papal recognition and reward. The petition must be endorsed by the Ordinary of the appointee; the endorsement of another than the diocesan bishop will not suffice. The petition on being sent to an agent at Rome is presented to the cardinal chancellor of orders, who registers it and the bishop’s endorsement, and seeks information from other sources about the applicant’s character. The papal orders of knighthood according to their importance are:

  • (1) Supreme Order of Christ
  • (2) Order of Pius IX
  • (3) Order of Saint Gregory the Great
  • (4) Order of Saint Sylvester
  • (5) Order of The Golden Militia or Golden Spur
  • (6) Order of the Holy Sepulcher

Other decorations include the medals

  • Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice
  • Benemerenti
  • The Holy Land

Several offices at the papal court are accompanied by the title of count palatine, or Count of the Sacred Palace of the Lateran; bishops assistant at the throne are de jure Roman counts.

MLA Citation

  • “pontifical decorations”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 20 June 2013. Web. 25 September 2021. <>