The Portuguese Military Orders
Overview Order of Christ Order of Avis Order of St. James of the Sword Order of the Tower & of the Sword
Welcome to the Portuguese Military Orders' Page
The ancient Portuguese Military Orders are amongst the oldest in existence since their origin dates back to the XII th. - XIV th. centuries. These Orders were founded during the severe conditions of the Reconquest of Iberian Peninsula from the Moorish invaders, the Crusades of the West. The Order of Christ was created in 1319 by King Dennis I in substitution of the extinct Order of the Knights Templars. The Order of Aviz, originally known as the Evora Militiae was founded circa 1170 and later joined the Rule of the Castilian Order of Calatrava. The Order of St. James of the Sword founded in the Kingdom of León became active in Portugal by 1172, where it formed a grand-commandery, till it became autonomous by 1288. These Orders played an important role in the defence of the Christian faith and in battling the Moorish invaders. With time the structure and purposes of these Orders changed as is depicted on the pages dedicated to the various specific orders. An overview has been prepared to serve as an introduction.
This page will deal, in a condensed manner, with the history and evolution of the ancient Portuguese Military Orders - Christ, Aviz and St. James of the Sword, which have their roots in the distant past of the XII th. - XIV th. centuries during the severe conditions of the Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moorish invaders - the Crusades of the West.
Although, formally, not a military religious order like the above orders, but rather more like an Order of Chivalry, the Order of the Tower and of the Sword - re-established in the beginning of the XIXth century - will also be dealt with in this page, because it still exists and is awarded as the highest Portuguese decoration.
Outside the scope of this essay, remain the other Portuguese orders of merit still extant, which were created either in the late XIXth century or in the XXth century, which will be dealt with later on: the Order of the Infant D. Henrique (Prince Henry, the Navigator, as he is known to English-speaking readers); the Order of Liberty (created after the 1974 revolution which overthrew the non-democratic regime); the Order of Civil Merit; the Order of Public Instruction; and the Order of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Merit. These, however, were from their creation mere orders of merit without any chivalrious connotations.
© (1997/1999) by José Vicente de Bragança (English text revised by J. Stewart A. LeForte, Esq., to whom the author warmly thanks) Last updated: 5 August 1999
Index of Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers