Constitution of the Order of St John of Jerusalem,
given by King Peter II of Yugoslavia on the 19th March 1964.
Source: Original Copy in French kept at the National Notary Archives in Valletta, Malta
§ I. DENOMINATION, TRADITION.
1) THE SOVEREIGN ORDER OF ST JOHN OF JERUSALEM, KNIGHTS HOSPITALLER, abridged
in all languages O.S.J. – equally called in order to avoid any possibility
of being mixed up with other Orders having the same origin:
ORDRE DES CHEVALIERS HOSPITALIERS;
ORDER OF THE HOSPITALLER KNIGHTS;
is one of the independent branches resulting from the division of the Order
of St John of Jerusalem, equally called along the centuries Order of Rhodes,
Order of Malta deriving from the Crusades after the loss of its territories
(Island of Rhodes, with its annexed islands, the Island of Malta with its
annexed islands, St Christopher, St Kitts and St Martin)
2) The O.S.J. bases its traditions since 1798 on:
– The two Russian Grand Priories (Orthodox and Catholic)
– The Grand Priory of Poland,
– The Commanderies of the Eastern and Oriental Christian Countries,
from which date until 1917, it was placed under the Hereditary Protection
of the Head of the Imperial House of the Romanoffs and since the Russian
revolution when the precious relics of the Order particularly the arm of
St John and according to the wish of the last Czar Nicholas II, were transferred
to the protection of the Royal House of Yugoslavia (Karageorgevitch).
3) The present Constitution replaces the Constitutions, Customs and Codes
of the past and is based on the Royal Charter,
given to the Order on the first of October, one thousand nine hundred and
sixty three in Paris, by its Protector, His Majesty King Peter II of Yugoslavia,
Hereditary Bailiff Grand Cross of Justice.
§ II PURPOSE, SEAT
1) The Order is a Christian knightly, ecumenical international community.
Faithful to the different precepts taught by our Lord Jesus Christ, the principal
objectives of the O.S.J. are charity and the defence of Christian Religion
against atheism. Also faithful to its tradition the Order defends the ideals
of the free world and the rights of men as stated in the Universal Declaration
of the United Nations. It aspires to contribute to the formation of a human
and spiritual elite strictly Christian. The Community is made up of people
distinguished by their origin, their education, their instruction, their
skill and their meritorious deeds. Keeping in mind the established and
indispensable hierarchy, the O.S.J. adopts the principle of social equality
of all its Knights.
2) The Sovereign Council of the O.S.J. selects the means to reach these aims.
It designates the seat of the Order and the seat of the Central Administration.
§ III JUDICIAL STATUTE, COAT OF ARMS.
1) The Order is Sovereign and subject to International Law with regard to
the States since the XII Century. The Judicial position has not changed “de
jure” but “de facto” since 1798. This is why the Order has endowed itself
temporarily with the judicial Statute of an international non-governmental
organisation (ONG-NGO) upheld by the Knights of the Order and their Organisations
throughout the world.
2) The coat-of-arms of the Order is a red escutcheon with an ordinary silver
cross laid on a silver Maltese cross (eight pointed cross) over which is
the closed crown of the Order. The whole placed on a black two-headed eagle.
3) The flag of the Order carries the Maltese white cross on a red background.
The colours of the Order are red and white. Its motto, faithful to tradition,
is: “Pro Fide, Pro Utilitate Hominum”.
Commemorative day is the 24th of June, feast of St John.
§ IV FINANCE.
1) The resources of the Order are made up of the fees of the Knights and
of the members as well as of subsidies, donations, legacies with or without
special allotment and of the income derived from its wealth and property.
2) The financial responsibility of the O.S.J. is limited to its own wealth.
3) The Sovereign Council appoints two professional auditors who must not
be Knights or Members of the Order.
4) The financial year coincides with the civil year.
§ V. THE HEREDITARY PROTECTOR.
1) The Head of the Royal House of Karageorgevitch is the Hereditary Protector
of the O.S.J. His role is fixed by the venerable traditions and customs of
2) Only the Protector has the privilege to appoint Hereditary Knights of
3) The Grand Conservator of the Order (see & 7/1-B) is the permanent
representative of the Protector within the Order and the chairman of the
Council of His Majesty the Protector.
4) The Protector’s Council (Intimate Council of the Crown) is made up of
the Grand Conservator, two other Bailiffs of the Order chosen by His Majesty,
a dignitary representing the Grand Priory of America and of three Commanders,
appointed by the Protector on suggestion of the Grand Prior of America and
the Commanders on that of the Petit Conseil.
§ VI THE GRAND PRIORY OF AMERICA.
1) The Grand Priory of America has made its own
constitution on May 17th 1912. It has been affiliated
to the Order since its foundation in 1908 in New York.
2) The Grand Priory is governed in an autonomous way but in concert with
the Grand Master and in harmony with the directives of His Majesty the Protector
3) The zone of jurisdiction of the Grand Priory of America has in its fold:
– The United States of America and Canada. – The States of Central America.
– The States of Southern America.
4) The Sovereign Council and the Petit Conseil are represented in the Grand
Priory by the Grand Chancellor, a dignitary residing in America and auxiliary
member of the Sovereign Council.
5) The membership of the Grand Priory a persons not having permanent abode
in the zone of jurisdiction of the latter or who are not citizens of a state
of that zone, is only be possible by an exceptional decision of the Petit
§ VII THE SOVEREIGN COUNCIL.
1) The Sovereign Council is the holder of the Sovereignty of the Order. It
is the legislative organism of the O.S.J. It is made up of:
A) the Grand Master, its President.
B) The five Conventual Bailiffs (by order of tradition): the Grand Commander
(Interior, Finance), the Grand Marshal (Herald, Ceremonies), the Grand
Hospitaller (social and charitable work), the Grand Conservator (delegate
of the Protector), the Grand Councillor (information and external affairs).
The most senior of the 5 Conventual Bailiffs is officially first Vice-President
of the Sovereign Council and first to replace the Grand Master. The Conventual
Bailiffs are chosen from among the 20 Bailiffs of the Order having a seat
in the Sovereign Council, by the Council itself which decides with a simple
majority; the Grand Conservator only is appointed by the Protector;
C) of the remaining Bailiffs (except those of the Grand Priory of America)
and functioning Priors who are not Bailiffs. The most senior of the Bailiffs
is officially second Vice-President of the Council and second to replace
the Grand Master; – all of whom are regular members of the Sovereign Council
D) of the Grand Prior of the Grand Priory of America and of the Grand Chancellor
(see & 6 – 4) – auxiliary members who only participate in voting and
deliberations concerning the Grand Priory of America.
2) The Council makes its own rules. Decisions are taken by simple majority
(except & 7 – 1A, & 10 – 1 and 5). In case of equality of votes,
the President decides. Council sittings are lawful if at least one-third
of the effective members are present and if at least two-thirds are represented.
3) The Council has the power to delegate a part of its powers to the Petit
4) The Council is convened either by the Grand Master or by the Petit Conseil,
or by a third of the Bailiffs.
§ VIII THE “PETIT CONSEIL”.
1) The Petit Conseil is the executive organ of the O.S.J. It is made up of
5 Conventual Bailiffs. Its role is that of Central Administration (Government)
of the Order and directs current affairs.
2) The Order is lawfully responsible towards third parties by the signatures
of two Conventual Bailiffs.
3) The Petit Conseil establishes its own rules.
4) The Petit Conseil has the power to appoint Lieutenants for each of its
5) The Petit Conseil is presided by one of its members in turn.
6) The affairs of the Grand Priory of America do not fall within the competence
of the Petit Conseil.
§ IX THE SUPREME COURT.
1) The Supreme Council appoints for a period of three years, three Judges
and two Auxiliary Judges, chosen from among the Knights of Justice or of
Grace of the Order and who form the Court. Judges and Auxiliary Judges are
re-eligible. The Judges and Auxiliary Judges must belong to no other Council
of the Order nor have other functions.
2) The Court establishes its own rules.
3) The following fall under the Jurisdiction of the Court:
a) the observance of the prescriptions of the present Constitution, of the
laws and regulations of the Order;
b) judgement of eventual differences between dignitaries of the Order, except
Bailiffs who will form, if need be their own court.
c) judicial questions or questions of honour which will be submitted to its
judgement by the Sovereign Council, the Protector, the Grand Master, the
Petit Conseil or the Grand Prior of America;
d) the verdict of the Final Court of Justice of the decisions taken by the
Courts of the Grand-Priories or Priories.
4) The Grand Master or his substitute is empowered with the right of grace
on the final Court.
§ X THE GRAND MASTER.
1) The Grand Master is elected for life by the Supreme Council with a majority
of two-thirds of the effective members and has the right of special prerogatives
as a result of historical and traditional facts. It especially behoves the
a) to appoint Bailiffs – with the approval and on the proposal of the Petit
Conseil (except appointments in the zone of jurisdiction of the Grand Priory
of America). The number of Bailiffs is strictly limited to twenty. – on proposal
and with the consent of the Council of the Grand Priory of America for the
zone of jurisdiction of this Grand Priory. Their number is strictly limited
b) to appoint Commanders on proposals of the competent Body and with the
approval of the Petit Conseil, respectively of the Grand Priory of America,
on its Council.
c) to appoint the members of the High Courts of the Grand Priories on the
proposal of the “Petit Conseil” respectively from the Council of the Grand
Priory of America.
d) to appoint the members of the Ecclesiastical Council of the Order with
the approval of the “Petit Conseil.”
e) to appoint Knights of Justice once a year on the 24th of June, on the
proposal of the Petit Conseil, respectively from the Council of the Grand
Priory of America.
f) to appoint Knights of Grace “motu proprio”.
2) The Grand Master has the right: a) to withhold for a period not exceeding
fifteen days a decision of the Petit Conseil having a character of a command
and to ask that it be immediately presented to the Sovereign Council, if
he does not approve it. b) to withhold a law or an order of the Sovereign
Council for eight days if this law or this order has been voted in spite
of his opposition and to submit it for a second and final deliberation.
3) The General Secretariat of the Grand Master is directed by the Secretary
General of the Grand Master who is a Bailiff or Commander and appointed by
the latter with the approval of the “Petit Conseil”.
4) The substitutes of the Grand Master hold office, the first Vice-President
and in the absence of whom the second Vice-President of the Sovereign Council
(see & 7 B, C).
5) According to circumstances the Grand Magistry can also be filled, by a
Lieut. Grand Master elected with full powers by the Sovereign Council with
a majority of two-thirds of the effective members but for a limited period,
or by a Council of Regents. The latter is formed automatically after the
death or renunciation, incapacity or indisposition from any cause of a Grand
Master. The two Vice-Presidents of the Sovereign Council and a third Bailiff,
appointed by the Protector, form the Council of Regents.
§ XI THE PROVINCES OF THE ORDER.
1) The Provinces of the Order not corresponding any longer to the “Langues”
of old, are the Priories created by decision of the “Petit Conseil” with
the approval of the Grand Master.
2) The Priories are directed by a Prior, chosen from among the Knights of
Justice and elected to the post by the Chapter of the Priory. He is confirmed
by the “Petit Conseil” and by the General Staff of the Priory made up of
the Vice-Chancellor, the Superintendent, the Hospitaller and the Herald equally
elected by the Chapter with the approval of the Prior.
3) The Prior and the members of his general staff remain in office as long
as they enjoy the trust of the majority of the Chapter.
4) The Chapter of the Priory is the General Assembly of the Body. It is made
up of all the Knights of the Order living in the zone of jurisdiction of
the Priory. The Chapter is presided by the Prior. Vice-President and substitute
of the Prior is the most senior Commander of the Body. The Chapter meets
at least once a year, take cognisance of the report on the activities of
the Priory and approves the accounts and the budget. It deliberates on all
problems of fundamental importance which are brought up either by the
administration of the Priory or by a service in charge. The Chapter appoints
the Court of Honour of the Priory and decides on the formation of subordinate
Commanderies. The Chapter has the right – even by eluding the protocol –
to put up recommendations or requests directly to the Petit Conseil or to
the Sovereign Council.
5) The Petit Conseil has the power to create Grand Priories and to subordinate
to them several Priories and to create independent Commanderies.
§ XII THE KNIGHTS
The Knights of the Order are divided into:
1) Knights of Justice: They must have belonged to the Order at least five
years and have gained very important merits towards the Community (see &
10, 1-a). They dispose of 10 votes, during voting. – Grades: Bailiff (- Grand
Cross of Justice) Commander, Knight.
2) Knights of Grace. They must have been in the Order for at least 3 years
and have acquired important merits (see & 10, 1-f). They dispose of 5
votes during voting -Grades: Commander and Knight.
3) Knights of Honour. They must belong to a distinguished family, as well
as to one of the Christian Confessions and have an excellent reputation.
They are presented to the competent Body by two Knight guarantors and admitted
the earliest possible after having participated as “aspirants” during a period
of two months working for the Order. They are appointed by the competent
Prior; the Grand Cross, or by the Petit Conseil. – Grades: Grand Cross, who
dispose of three votes during voting, and Knights who dispose of one vote
§ XIII THE CLERGY OF THE ORDER
1) Given the supraconfessional character of the Order members of the clergy
serve the O.S.J. in the framework of its body. Members of the clergy are
admitted into the Order as Knights of Justice, Grace and Honour, but cannot
form part of the Supreme Council, or of the Petit Conseil, nor be appointed
Bailiffs or Commanders. Members of the Clergy promoted to Knights of Justice
or Grace or Grand Cross of Honour are known as Prelates of the Order.
2) On the other hand the Grand Master has the power of forming an ecclesiastical
Council of the Order with the approval of the Petit Conseil (see & 10,
1 -d). Such a Council will be made up of representatives of the different
great Christian Confessions represented in the Knighthood of the Order. It
will draw its own regulations.
§ XIV DAMES OF THE ORDER.
The Dames of the Order are divided into:
1) Dames of Honour
Appointed by the competent Prior with the approval of his general staff;
2) Grand Dames
Appointed by the Petit Conseil on proposal of the competent Prior.
The Dames of the Order do not participate in reunion sessions and vote with
Knights. Their statute will be established by the competent Prior.
§ XV SQUIRES, DONATS, SERVING BROTHERS & SERVING SISTERS OF THE
1) Young people between the ages of 18 and 23 can be admitted in the Order
as Squires. They form part of the Chapter but cannot vote. They may be appointed
Knights of Honour after having attained the age of 23 without any other
2) All persons working for the Order as an official Or as a superior officer
in a mobile Unit may be admitted in the Order as a Donat by a competent Priory.
3) Serving Brothers of the Order are appointed by the competent Prior or
4) Serving Sisters of the Order may be appointed by the competent Prior or
Commander if the Body enjoys the services directed by Dames of the Order.
§ XVI FINAL POINT.
What is not mentioned in the text of this Constitution is settled by ruling
of the Sovereign Council.
Given in Paris on March 19th, 1964
signed PETER II R Royal seal
Each page of the original carries the initials of the King and the emblem
of the House of Yugoslavia embossed. The original is in French and is housed
at the Notorial Archives, Valletta in the name of the (Sovereign) Order
of St John .
NOTARIAL ACT No 271
I, Notary Pierre Stöckli, of Sainte-Croix, for the district of Grandson,
the undersigned certify that the nine pages of the photocopies attached are
a true copy of the original sheets which have been presented to me by Count
Herbert de Caboga, domiciled in Villars-Burquin, to whom they have been returned.
The undersigned Notary certifies as well that the nine pages are struck in
relief at the foot of each page with the Royal coat-of-arms but that the
seal does not show on the photocopies.
This act was issued as a certificate at Sainte-Croix on May 14 nine hundred
and seventy four.
.(Signed) P. Stöckli Not
King Peter II visit Malta and Yugoslav Navy in Malta