|Military Order of Christ|
Ordem Militar de Cristo
Emblem of the Order
|Religious affiliation||Roman Catholic|
|Eligibility||Portuguese and foreign military personnel|
|Awarded for||Outstanding military merit|
|Grand Master||President of the Portuguese Republic|
|Next (higher)||Order of the Tower and Sword|
|Next (lower)||Order of Aviz|
Decorations of the Order
The Military Order of Christ (Ordem Militar de Cristo), previously the Order of the Knights of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Ordem dos Cavaleiros de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo), is the former Knights Templar order as it was reconstituted in Portugal after the Templars were abolished on 22 March 1312 by the papal bull, Vox in excelso, issued by Pope Clement V. The Order of Christ was founded in 1319, with the protection of the Portuguese king, Denis I, who refused to pursue and persecute the former knights as had occurred in most of the other sovereign states under the political influence of the Catholic Church.
Heavily swayed by Philip IV of France, Pope Clement had the Knights Templar annihilated throughout France and most of Europe on charges of heresy, but Denis revived the Templars of Tomar as the Order of Christ, largely for their aid during the Reconquista and in the reconstruction of Portugal after the wars. Denis negotiated with Clement's successor, John XXII, for recognition of the new order and its right to inherit the Templar assets and property.
The order's origins lie in the Knights Templar, founded circa 1118. The Templars were persecuted by the king of France and eventually disbanded by the pope in 1312. King Dinis I of Portugal created the Order of Christ in 1317 for those knights who survived their mass slaughter throughout Europe. In Portugal, the Order of Christ accumulated great riches and power during the Age of Discoveries.
In 1789, Queen Maria I of Portugal secularized the order. In 1910, with the end of the Portuguese monarchy, the order was extinguished. However, in 1917, the order was revived, with its Grand Master to be the President of Portugal. The Military Order of Christ, together with the Military Orders of Aviz and of St. James of the Sword, formed the group of the "Ancient Military Orders", governed by a chancellor and a council of eight members, and appointed by the President of the Republic to assist him as Grand Master in all the order's administrative matters. The Order can be conferred for outstanding services to the Republic on military officers, and, despite its name, on civilians (including foreigners as well as Portuguese citizens) and on members of: Parliament or other branches of government, the diplomatic corps, the Courts of Justice, the Civil Service, and other public authorities.
The Order of Christ, as awarded by the Portuguese government today, comes in five classes: