Home News A Concise History of the Pontifical Order of Saint Gregory the Great

A Concise History of the Pontifical Order of Saint Gregory the Great

The Papal Order of Saint Gregory the Great was established at a time when Europe was in unrest after the bourgeois revolution in France and the Napoleonic invasions. At that time, the Pope was still the temporal ruler in northeast and central Italy, and he was commander of an army. When armed revolutionaries set up a provisional government within the pope’s territory in 1830, troops has to be called in to defend the Holy See and restore order.

The Order of Saint Gregory the Great was originally founded by Pope Gregory XVI on 1 September 1831 to reward the troops who had restored the Pontiff’s political authority. This was an order or merit to be bestowed on people “of proven loyalty to the Holy See who, by reason of their nobility of birth and the renown of their deeds or the degree of their munificence, are deemed worthy to be honored by a public expression of esteem on the part of the Holy See”. 

The Order has four classes in civil and military divisions – Knight / Dame Grand Cross of the First Class (GCSG / DCSG), Knight / Dame Commander with Star (KC*SG / DC*SG), Knight / Dame Commander (KCSG / DCSG), and Knight / Dame (KSG / DSG).  It is one of the five Orders of Knighthood of the Holy See. 

In modern times, the order or honor is bestowed upon Catholic men and women (and sometimes in rare cases to non-Catholics) in recognition of their personal service to the Holy See and to the Catholic Church, through their unusual labors, their support of the Holy See, and their excellent examples set forth in their communities and their countries.

The first Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great from Thailand, Chainarong Monthienvichienchai (L) with Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok, 2006. (LiCAS News photo archive)

Awards of the Order are usually made on the recommendation of Diocesan Bishops or Nuncios for specific services. Unlike membership of the Military Orders (Malta, the Holy Sepulcher), membership of the Order of Saint Gregory does not impose any special obligations. It is thus the preferred award to acknowledge an individual’s particular meritorious service to the Church. 

Knights Grand Cross wear a sash and a badge or star on the left side of the breast; Commanders wear a cross around the neck; and Knights wear a smaller cross on the left breast of the uniform.

The highest rank, that of Grand Cross, is an exceptional award – only a few individuals across the globe have received this in the past decades – and those who receive it have usually already been a member of Saint Gregory in one of the lower ranks before being promoted, such as Prince Franz Anton von Thun und Hohenstein, Rodrigo Augusto da Silva, Riccardo Muti, Alice von Hildebrand, and Chainarong Monthienvichienchai.

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The motto of the Order of St. Gregory the Great is Pro Deo et Principe, or “For God and Ruler”. 

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