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Order of Saint Michael of the Wing


Order of Saint Michael of the Wing

This article is about the Portuguese order of knighthood. For the article about the French order of knighthood, see Order of Saint Michael.
Order of Saint Michael
of the Wing
Symbol of the Order
Award of former Royal House of Portugal
Type Dynastic order disputed [1]
Royal house Braganza
Religious affiliation Roman Catholic
Patron Saint Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira[2]
Grand Master Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza
Established 1171, abandoned by 1732[3]
revived 1848[4]/1986 [5]

The Order of Saint Michael of the Wing (Portuguese: Ordem de São Miguel da Ala) is a Portuguese order of knighthood with long history. Depending on the source consulted, the order existed only briefly in the 12th century,[6] lasted until it fell into disuse in 1732,[3] survived until 1910,[1] was revived as a new order at some point in the 19th century,[4] and again revived 1986.[7] Unlike many other Portuguese orders, it has not been nationalized as a decoration of the state by the post-1910 Portuguese Republic.[8] Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza, pretender to the Portuguese throne, is Grand Master of the revived [9] order and Judge of the associated Royal Brotherhood.[10]


The order was founded by King Afonso I[10] to honour a group of knights of the Order of Saint James of the Sword from the Kingdom of León who assisted him in retaking Santarém from the Moors on the Feast of Saint Michael, May 8, 1147.[11] Originally, the order was formed from members of the Military Order of Saint James. This is why it maintains on its coat of arms the red sword of this Order conjoined with two fleurs de lis representing the Cistercian Rule its members observed at the Royal Abbey of Alcobaça where the Order,[12] along with 6 other Military Orders was head-quartered until the re-establishment of all Orders as unarmed and non-military Orders of "Honorific Knighthood" in 1834. The Order's first statutes were approved by Pope Alexander III in 1171.

Modern revival

The order fell into disuse by 1732 at the latest.[3] In 1907, George Cyprian Alston,[13] writing in the Catholic Encyclopedia stated that the order died in the Middle Ages, soon after the death of its founder, Alphonse,[6] while others, such as John C.L. Gieseler (also known by the German form of his name Johann K.L. Gieseler), argued that it only ever existed on paper.[14] It was not, in any case, included among the royal orders that were nationalized by the Portuguese Republic after the Revolution of 1910.

It was restored[4] by King Miguel I in 1828[15] during his brief rule before losing the Liberal Wars to his brother King Pedro IV.[16] Later, in 1848, the order received new statutes whilst King Miguel was living in exile in the Rome.[4] These Statutes restructured it as a secret military order to combat Freemasonry and restore the Absolutist Monarchy in Portugal.[15] Some Portuguese scholars, such as Marcus de Noronha da Costa,[17] Gomes Abrunhosa Marques de Almeida,[4] and Manuel Ângelo,[4] reject the description of the 1848 institution as a revived order and regard it as a secret society aiming to restore Miguel's branch of the Braganza family to power in Portugal.[18] Its activity was suspended however a decade later after the Pope prohibited all secret organizations Roman Catholic or otherwise.

There are disputed claims that Miguel's revived order was awarded by his descendants until in 1986,[5] Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza and pretender to the Portuguese throne, informed the Holy See and the Portuguese Republic that he still considered himself to be the Grand Master of the Order,[7] and that although he did not have the power to validly alter the statutes a king had previously approved, he nonetheless still conferred it as an award. Duarte Pio's claims have been disputed in Portuguese courts which, in at least one case, held that Duarte Pio's order is an entirely new private entity, not a dynastic award of the House of Braganza.[1]

In 2001, the Duke promulgated new Statutes submitted to various bishops to govern a royal Catholic brotherhood to complement the Order as an active social group for Roman Catholic members,[10] and since that time, the order has been conferred on individuals through the brotherhood chosen exclusively by the House of Braganza.[9]


Membership in the order may be bestowed upon individuals of any citizenship, religion, or gender for recognized outstanding contributions to Portuguese royal charities[19] or for the spread of devotion to Saint Michael, traditionally venerated as Angel of Portugal and Angel of Peace.[20]

Members of the Order who are Roman Catholics are designated as "Professed Brothers", admitted through the Royal Brotherhood of Saint Michael of the Wing (SMA), a Roman Catholic Association of the faithful of which the Duke of Braganza is "Judge", created as an active Roman Catholic social compliment to the Order in 2001.[20] Postulants who are not awarded the Order for outstanding services may join the Royal Brotherhood if they are Roman Catholics in good standing (practising and not divorced or interdicted) and usually after three years as a Professed Brother, may be advanced into the Order. These grade advancements include:

  • Squire
  • Knight
  • Knight Commander
  • Knight Grand Officer
  • Grand Cross Knight
  • Grand Collar (Reserved exclusively for the Grand Master and the members of the grand council i.e. grand chancellor, chancellor and vice-chancellors)

See also


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