- Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation Insignia of a Knight of the Most Holy Annunciation Awarded by
Sovereign Head of the House of Savoy
Type House Order Eligibility Civilian and military divisions Awarded for Outstanding service or achievement Status Awarded by the House of Savoy Sovereign and Grand Master HRH Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples Grades (w/ post-nominals) Knight Statistics Established 1362 Precedence Next (higher) None (highest) Next (lower) Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus Ribbon bar of the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
The Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation (Ordine Supremo della Santissima Annunziata) is an order of chivalry, or knighthood, originating in mediæval Italy. It eventually was the pinnacle of the honours system in the Kingdom of Italy, which ceased to be a national order when the kingdom became a republic in 1946. Today, the order continues as a dynastic order under the jurisdiction of the Head of the House of Savoy, Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples, who is the order's hereditary Sovereign and Grand Master.
History and statutes
The origins of the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation begins in 1362, when Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy (1343-1383) instituted the order's earliest designation, under the title of Order of the Collar. Even at this time, the order was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is celebrated as "Our Lady of the Annunciation." Thus, the order is a dynastic religious (or Catholic) order of chivalry.
Under its first formulation, the order had fifteen knights. The number was symbolic of the number of daily masses celebrated with the order. In 1409, Amadeus VIII, Duke of Savoy, gave the order its first known statutes, and in 1434, he extended the order to five more knights.
Amadeus VIII's statutes were subsequently amended and reformed by Charles III, Duke of Savoy in 1518, by Emanuele Filiberto, Duke of Savoy in 1570, and thereafter by succeeding Sovereigns. The most recent took place on 11 June 1985 by HRH Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples and hereditary Grand Master of the order. It was in 1518, that many of the present designations were instituted. Most importantly, the order's name was changed to its current name, The Most Holy Order of the Annunciation. The badge of the order was also changed, with the representation of the Blessed Virgin Mary being added.
The order, throughout its early history and following the reforms of Charles III, was awarded for supreme recognition of distinguished services. The order constituted a kind of religious and military fraternity between the Sovereign Head of the Order and his companions; it was reserved exclusively to distinguished men-at-arms who, apart from exemplary service, had to be of illustrious birth, particularly of catholic and noble birth.
Eventually, it was deemed appropriate to recognize also those who had rendered distinguished service to the Kingdom of Italy (and now the House of Savoy) in the exercise of high civil offices, not requiring, when a such achievements could be demonstrated, nobility of birth as well.
Today, the order holds the following other regulations:
- The number of knights of the Supreme Order of the most Holy Annunciation shall be, as in the past, twenty.
- The right to appoint knights and officers of the Order appertains exclusively to the Sovereign Head. Nevertheless, when there are vacancies, the Sovereign Head meets with the Chapter of knights to hear their advice on the proposal of candidates whom he alone may select.
- The knights shall be chosen from distinguished individuals in recognition of their eminent services in high military positions, as well as from those who have distinguished themselves in senior positions in the civil service, and from those who, as private citizens have brought distinction upon Italy as exemplary benefactors of the Nation or of Mankind, or have rendered particularly noteworthy services to the Royal House of Savoy.
- Knights must have already been awarded the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus.
- Knights must be Catholic. In rare occasions, a non-Catholic may be awarded the order. However, they may only be honorary members of the order.
In 1925, a law was passed on the day before Christmas which made the Head of Government the Secretary of the Order, and stipulated that he would preside over the Knights of the Order at public functions and ceremonies.
Classes and insignia
The order has only one class, i.e. Knight. The full Italian title is Cavaliere dell'Ordine Supremo della Santissima Annunziata.
Although the order has only one class, it has two sets of insignia, the Piccola Collana and the Grande Collana. The two hold similar designs, though the Grande Collana has some different features than the Piccola Collana and is worn only on the most special of occasions.
The primary and oldest insignia of the order is its collar. It consists of a solid gold medallion of the collar, which portrays the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Archangel Gabriel. The medallion is surrounded by three intertwined Savoyan knots, decorated with small crosses fleury, and in the upper center, between two of the Savoyan knots, a cluster of rays with a dove, representing the Holy Spirit, is depicted also in gold.
The badge is suspended from a gold chain made up of fifteen ornate gold sections, each of which is linked by Savoyan knot. Each has the letters F.E.R.T. interwoven. The meaning of these letters have been of some controversy, to which a number of interpretations have been offered. The first states that the letters stand for Fortitudo Eius Rhodum Tulit (meaning "By his bravery he conquered Rhodes"), referring to the victory at Rhodes by Count Amadeus V in 1310.
Some have also suggested that the letters are actually the third person singular of the present indicative tense of the Latin verb ferre, which would indicate that the order is supported by the bond of faith sworn to the Virgin Mary. It has been noted that the letters FERT are already found on the tombs of members of the House of Savoy long before 1310 and suggested that they represent a local medieval variant of the Latin third person singular past tense meaning "he bore" (i.e., "Christ bore our sins/sufferings"). The letters may also stand for Foedere et Religione Tenemur (meaning "We are held by Pact and Religion"), a motto associated with Victor Amadeus I (1718-1730). It may also stand for Fortitudo Eius Republicam Tenet (meaning "His strength defends the State").
The star of the order, which was first used in 1680 by specifications of the Royal Lady Maria Giovana Battista, Duchess Regent of Savoy, is of gold and also has a representation of the Annunciation in a medallion in the center which is set within a gold cross of four pommels. This is surrounded by a cluster of gold rays. Between the arms of the cross of four pommels are the letters F.E.R.T.
The Grande Collana differs from the Piccola Collana in that the collar consists of fourteen ornate sections, each of which is made up of the letters F.E.R.T. in gold, intertwined with a white and red enameled Savoyan knot. The sections are interlinked with fourteen roses, alternately enameled red and white. The roses represent the mysteries in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The knots surrounding the medallion of the collar is enameled white, red, and blue.
The insignia of the order has the following regulations:
- The large collar (Grande Collana) is worn on the first day of the year, on the feast of the Most Holy Annunciation, and on all of the principal national holidays and at important royal functions.
- The small collar (Piccola Collana) is worn on every other occasion which necessitates the display of order insignia.
- Knights also wear, on the left breast, a star badge bearing the image of Holy Mary of the Annunciation.
When the order is not worn, Knights may wear a gold miniature of the badge (medallion of the collar) of the order suspended from a red ribbon. They may also wear either a ribbon-bar (upon a uniform) or a rosette (upon a suite), both of which are red and have a miniature cross of four pommels engraved with the Annunciation.
The Grand Magisterium is the governing body of the dynastic orders of the Royal House of Savoy. It consists of the Sovereign and Grand Master of the Order, the Grand Chancellor of the Order, the Council of the Order, Members, and the Giunta of the Order. The following are some of those that make up the Grand Magisterium of the order.
- Sovereign and Grand Master: HRH Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples (Head of the Royal House of Savoy)
- Cardinal protector: H.Em. Rev. Msgr. Giovanni Cheli (Cardinal)
- Grand Chancellor: HE Johannes Theo Niederhauser
- Grand Treasurer of the Council: HE Robert Matossian
- Grand Prior of the Council: HE Msgr. Francesco Saverio Salerno (Bishop of Caere, Secretary Emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura)
- Dynastic Orders of Knighthood
- Ordine supremo della Santissima Annunziata - official website of the dynastic orders of the Royal House of Savoy (Italian)
- Order of the Most Holy Annunciation (Chivalric Orders site)
Italian orders of knighthood MonarchySupreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation (1362) · Military and Religious Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (1572) · Order of the Crown of Italy (1868–1983) · Military Order of Savoy (1815–1946) · Civil Order of Savoy (1831) · Chivalrous Order of Agricultural, Industrial and Commercial Merit (1901–1923) · Colonial Order of the Star of Italy (1914–1943) · Civil and Military Order of the Roman Eagle (1942–1944) · Order of Merit of Savoy (1988) Republic
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