OVERVIEW OF THE PONTIFICAL ORDERS
OF KNIGHTHOOD OF THE HOLY SEE
The Papal Equestrian Orders as represented in Great Britain today are not, as many believe, the direct descendants of medieval Orders of Chivalry, but are, in their present form, of comparatively recent origin. The basis of Pontifical awards is honorific and ranks equally with other similar awards made by Sovereign Princes around the world who are Heads of State.
The majority of recipients are Roman Catholic although within Great Britain there are knights and dames who are of the Protestant, Muslim, Sikh and Jewish faiths. Currently, the Pontifical Orders of Knighthood of the Holy See are as follows:
The Supreme Order of Christ
The Pontifical Order of the Golden Spur
The Pontifical Order of Pius IX
The Pontifical Order of Saint Gregory the Great
The Pontifical Order of Pope Saint Sylvester
Admission to the Supreme Order of Christ, the Pontifical Order of the Golden Spur and the Collar of the Pontifical Order of Pius IX are reserved solely for reigning Sovereigns and Heads of State. They are very rarely bestowed and only then during significant state and official visits made to the Vatican City by foreign dignitaries or during a state, official or pastoral visit made by the Supreme Pontiff to foreign country.