Order of Christ

The suppression of the Templars in 1312 displaced a cadre of knights in Portugal that King Denis considered essential to the defense of his realm. Accordingly he set out to establish a new order, which he did in 1317; in 1323 he received dispensation from the pope awarding the former commanderies of the Templars to the new order.

Beginning in the fifteenth century, Prince Henry, ‘the Navigator,’ became grand master of the order, and the knights expanded their war against the infidel beyond the boundaries of Portugal into Africa; explorers such as Vasco de Gama were members of the order, and the knights were the spearhead establishing the kingdom’s colonies in Africa and India.

Originally established as a religious military order, the Order of Christ slowly secularized and in the sixteenth century the order was reformed, abandoning the vow of poverty and chastity but affirming the requirement of noble ancestry to two generations.

The Order of Christ continues as a lay order, with knights required to serve in Africa or on naval vessels for a period of years before they can be considered for a commandery.

Order of Christ

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