Papal Decorations

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The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice 

Latin: For Church and Pope

Awarded for: Rewarding those who in a general way deserve well of the pope on account of services done for the Church and its head.

 It is currently conferred for distinguished service to the church by lay people and clergy.

The medal was established by Leo XIII on July 17, 1888, to commemorate his golden sacerdotal jubilee and was originally bestowed on those men and women who had aided and promoted the jubilee, and by other means assisted in making the jubilee and the Vatican Exposition successful.

In 1898 it became a permanent papal distinction. Pius X reduced the classes to a single one in 1908.

The current version is only awarded in gold. The obverse depicts the Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul. On the left arm of the cross is the inscription Pro Ecclesia(For Church), on the right arm of the cross is Et Pontifice (And Pope). At the point of the top arm of the cross is the coat of arms of the reigning Pope. At the points of the other arms are small Greek crosses. Below the depiction of the Saints is the Latin name of the Pope. The reverse depicts a Greek cross.

Benemerenti Medal

Awarded for: Long and exceptional service to the Catholic Church

The Benemerenti Medal is an honour awarded by the Pope to members of the clergy and laity for service to the Catholic Church. Originally established as an award to soldiers in the Papal Army, the medal was later extended to the clergy and the laity for service to the church.

The current version of the Benemerenti medal was designed by Pope Paul VI. The medal is a gold Greek Cross depicting Christ with his hand raised in blessing. On the left arm of the cross is the tiara and crossed keys symbol of the papacy. On the right arm is the coat of arms of the current Pope. The medal is suspended from a yellow and white ribbon, the colours of the Papacy.

Jerusalem Pilgrim's Cross 

(Latin: Signum Sacri Itineris Hierosolymitani)

Eligibility: Practicing Roman Catholics

The  is an honour awarded in the name of the Pope as a recognition of merit to pilgrims to the Holy Land.

The medal is a Jerusalem cross in gold, silver or bronze. The centre of the front is a small depiction of Pope Leo XIII with the surrounding Latin inscription LEO XIII CREAVIT ANNO MCM (Leo XIII created [this medal] in 1900). In the crossbars, there are four biblical scenes showing the early life and the ministry of Jesus with the inscription CHRISTI AMOR CRUCIFIXI TRAXIT NOS (Christ's love attracted us)

In the center of the reverse, there is the image of the risen Christ. The crossbars show four scenes of the Passion with the inscription SIGNUM SACRI ITINERIS HIEROSOL [YMITANI] (Sign of the holy voyage of Jerusalem)

Decorations that have been Discontinued


Papal Lateran Cross 

Status: Obsolete

Established: February 18, 1903

Last awarded: 1977

The Papal Lateran Cross  is a medal for recognition of merit bestowed by the Holy See.

The Lateran Cross was commissioned by Pope Leo XIII, and instituted on February 18, 1903. The distinction was created as a recognition of merit, and is named in honor of the Basilica of St. John in Lateran in Rome. Initially, it was awarded for donations regarding the restoration of the Lateran Basilica.

The distribution of the award was continued after the completion of the restoration process. Paul VI ended the awarding of the Lateran Cross in 1977.

The decoration consists of a Greek cross displaying the image of St. John the Evangelist on the right, St. John the Baptist on the left, St. Peter at top, and St. Paul at the bottom. Christ the Redeemer is displayed at the center of the cross. The reverse side of the cross is engraved with the names, in Latin, of each saint depicted (JoanesBatisPetrusPaulus), as well as the symbol of Christ (P and X inside a circle).

A button located above the cross is inscribed with the phrase: Sacrosancta lateranensis ecclesia - omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput (The sacred and holy church of the Lateran - the mother and the head of all of the churches of the city and the world).

The medal has been crafted in a number of designs: with or without an adjoining circle, as well as a solid medal with a cross in relief. The accompanying ribbon is red with blue stripes along the sides.

Lauretan Cross

Three degree medal (Gold, Silver, and Bronze)

Awarded for: Merit in relation to the Basilica della Santa Casa

Status: Obsolete

The Lauretan Cross was supposed to continue the legacy of the short-lived Order of the Knights of Loreto.  Its task was to fight the highwaymen who harassed the surrounding area of the sanctuary and the pilgrims in the Romagna. The order was founded in 1586 by Leo X and already dissolved as a chivalric order and limited only to the members of the cathedral chapter of the Holy House of Loreto in 1588.

To commemorate the third centenary of the conversion, the Leo XIII allowed the Bishop of Loreto to honor suitable persons on 26 November 1888. The decoration was awarded for donations for the Basilica della Santa Casa or merit in relation to the sanctuary. Furthermore, indulgences were granted for obtaining the decoration.

The Lauretan Cross was in abeyance in 1983 but might have been abolished earlier under Paul VI.

The decoration consists of a eight-pointed cross and a medallion with the image of the Lady of Loreto in the middle which is similar to the medal of the Order of the Knights of Loreto. A golden ribbon winds between the four arms of the cross. Members of the cathedral chapter of Loreto wore the cross suspended on a cord.

The three classes of the Lauretan Cross (with their ribbons) are:

  • 1st class: golden cross with blue enamelled cross arms and white enameled medallion; blue ribbon with two white stripes on the border which have a thin yellow line in the middle; worn around the neck

  • 2nd class: golden cross with blue enamelled cross arms and white enamelled medallion; the ribbon is red, with delicate lines of white and yellow on each border; worn on the left side of the breast

  • 3rd class: cross entirely made of gilded bronze; the ribbon is red, with delicate lines of white and yellow on each border; worn on the left side of the breast


Fidei et Virtuti

Eligibility: French and Papal troops

Awarded for: Participation in the campaign against Garibaldi's volunteers in 1867

Status: Obsolete

The Cross Fidei et Virtuti, also referred to as Cross of Mentana, was a decoration for military merit bestowed by the Holy See during the Italian unification.

The cross was instituted by Pope Pius IX on 14 November 1867 after the victory of French-Papal troops in the Battle of Mentana. It was not limited to the Battle of Mentana and given to all participants of the campaign against Garibaldi's volunteers.

On 3 March 1868, the Imperial French government authorized the wearing of the medal with French uniforms.

The silver cross consists of a cross pattée with concave ends to the arms. A medallion in the centre of the cross bears the Papal arms and the inscription FIDEI ET VIRTUTI (transl. faith and virtue). The arms are inscribed with PP, PIUS, IX, 1867 respectively. 

The cross is suspended from a white ribbon with two light blue stripes in the middle. Medal bars were attached to the ribbon to indicate the different battles that each individual cross was awarded for.

Pro Petri Sede


Eligibility: Papal troops

Awarded for: Participation in the campaign 1859/60

Status: Obsolete

The Medal Pro Petri Sede, also referred to as Castelfidardo Medal, was a decoration for military merit bestowed by the Holy See in the Second Italian War of Independence during the Italian unification.

The medal was instituted by Pope Pius IX on 12 November 1860 after the defeat of the Papal troops in the Battle of Castelfidardo. It was not limited to the Battle of Castelfidardo and given to the participants of the campaign.

The decoration consists of a medal with an inverted cross - the Cross of Saint Peter - in the centre. The inscription is VICTORIA, QUAE VICIT MUNDUM, FIDES NOSTRA. On the obverse side of the medal the inscription is PRO PETRI SEDE, PIO IX P. M. A. XV (transl. For the See of Peter).

The medal is suspended from a red ribbon with two narrow white stripes edged in yellow. Medal bars were attached to the ribbon to indicate the different battles that each individual medal was awarded for.

It was issued in four classes:

  • Enameled gold: For officers in command.

  • Gold: For special acts of valor by commissioned officers.

  • Silver: For commissioned officers.

  • White metal: For non-commissioned officers and enlisted ranks.