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Order of the Immaculate Conception of Vila Viçosa


Order of the Immaculate Conception of Vila Viçosa

Order of the Immaculate Conception of Vila Viçosa
Commander's Badge
Award of Portugal
Type Dynastic order
Royal house Braganza
Religious affiliation Roman Catholic
Ribbon Light blue with silver stripes[1]
Grand Master Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza
Established 6 February 1818
Ribbon Bar

The Order of the Immaculate Conception of Vila Viçosa (also known as The Order of Our Lady of Conception of Vila Vicosa)[2] is an dynastic order of knighthood of the House of Braganza, the former Portuguese Royal Family. The current Grand Master of the Order is Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza, the Head of the House of Braganza.[3]


The order was created by King John VI of Portugal in Rio de Janeiro on 6 February 1818,[4] the date of his acclamation, in recognition for the efficient protection of the Kingdom's Spiritual Sovereign (Portugal is known as the Land of Santa Maria since its foundation). The Blessed Virgin Mother under the invocation of the Immmaculate Conception (venerated in the Ducal Chapel of the Palace of Vila Viçosa) had earlier been acclaimed "Queen" and Patroness of the kingdom by King John IV on March 25, 1646[5] following a referendum of the Empire that lasted 6 years and asked subjects: 1. If they believed the Blessed Virgin Mary to have been conceived without sin, and 2. If they believed that the Blessed Virgin Mary was the physical reigning Queen of Portugal and not just symbolically the Patroness. The people answered affirmatively and since the Coronation that took place at Vila Viçosa, the Kings of Portugal never again wore a crown.[3]

This order distinguished those who proved their loyalty to the Portuguese Royal House in the war against the Bonapartist occupying forces. Later, in 1818, a royal decree stated that the Order would be given as a military award in four (4) classes of Grand Cross, Commander, Knight, and Servant. Knighthood was given to those who were servants to the king and devoted Catholics to the pope and the Holy Mother. The Order was originally limited to twelve Grand Crosses, forty Commanders and one hundred Knights, with the provision for the award of supernumerary Grand Crosses. Grand Crosses were usually given to higher nobles who had positions in the Royal Household.[4] Lower grades (Commander and below) were granted to lesser nobles who had provided personal service to the King.[6]

Unlike the earlier Religious-Military Orders, the Order of Christ, the Order of St. Benedict of Aviz, and the Order of St. James of the Sword, Vila Viçosa was more aligned to the Order of the Tower and Sword which had been re-established by King John VI.[7] Late into the 19th century, the constitutional sovereigns were inclined to treat the Order of Vila Viçosa as the paramount award given by the sovereign for services rendered to the Royal House.[6]

In 1910, a revolution installed a Republican government that took over all State Orders except the Order of the Immaculate Conception of Vila Viçosa;[1] as a result, King Manuel II of Portugal in exile and, after his death, the Dukes of Braganza continued to use the order's insignia and to bestow it as they considered the Order to belong to their dynasty rather than the state. Just after the Second World War, it was bestowed on Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar by Queen Amelia when she visited Portugal for the last time.

In December 1983, Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza, re-activated the Order of the Immaculate Conception of Vila Viçosa, and maintains it as an honorific order of the Portuguese Royal Family. He has since then distinguished many Portuguese personalities (including giving the Order's Medal of Merit to among them soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo[8] and Luís Figo).[9]

The Order is primarily bestowed upon Portuguese nobles, and only occasionally out of protocol on Heads of State and Royal Houses, but has also been bestowed (before 2005) on foreign and Portuguese recipients who received it solely as an honorary award for services rendered to the expansion of the Cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Message of Fátima, or the Roman Catholic Church, but who are not listed as active members of the Portuguese Order and therefore not invited to attend functions or events organized by the Order.

Honorary Members are also not expected to contribute with yearly dues or contributions, although they may wear the decorations at public events if they solicit and obtain permission beforehand to do so from the Secretariat of the Royal House.

Notable Knights


The order's insignia was designed by the French painter Jean-Baptiste Debret (1768–1848), who was in charge of creating in Rio de Janeiro an arts and crafts lyceum (Escola Real de Artes e Ofícios) under the auspices of King D. João VI and the Marquis of Marialva. The order's sash is light blue and white. The medallion is starshaped and crowned, and in it center has a monogram with the letters "AM". Surrounding the monogram there is an inscription saying "Padroeira do Reino".

The Order is unofficially acknowledged by the Portuguese government. It may be worn by Portuguese citizens, but not on Portuguese military uniforms.

See also


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