Ecclesiastic Merit Cross, Part I, 1801-1880

Figure 1: Gold Ecclesiastic Merit Cross, Image from author’s archive.

Introduction:

The Ecclesiastic Merit Cross was issued from 1801 to the end of the empire in 1918.  They were issued to recognize distinguished wartime service by Military Field Chaplains which involved personal sacrifice and or bravery while ministering to the troops under fire or at the front. During the period in which these crosses were issued they went through a number of changes. This blog will discuss the first issue of the gold cross from 1801 to 1859 and the first issue of the silver cross from 1801 to 1880.

Decoration Numismatics:

Date Issued: 

Gold Ecclesiastic Cross = November 23, 1801-1859

Silver Ecclesiastic Cross = November 23, 1801 –1880 

Reason Issued:  To recognize distinguished wartime service by Military Field Chaplains which involved personal sacrifice and or bravery while ministering to the troops under fire or at the front.

Classes or Types:  Two

  •  Gold Ecclesiastic Cross
  • Silver Ecclesiastic Cross

Interesting Facts:

  • This is the first and oldest official Austrian decoration in the form of a cross
  • The crosses were created at the suggestion of the Apostolic Field Vicar, Count Von Hohenwerth
  • The crosses were first awarded for the wars with the French Republic in 1790
  • This cross was authorized to replace previously awarded Military Honor Medals that although not exactly appropriate had been issued to military ecclesiastics for meritorious services.
  • Those recipients of the  Military Honor Medal had to surrender them in order to receive the ecclesiastic cross
  • The gold crosses in order of precedence come after the Red Cross Decoration, First Class and before the Silver Ecclesiastic Crosses
  • The silver crosses in order of precedence came after the gold cross and before the Decoration for Archduke Albrecht
  • Upon the death of the recipient crosses were returned to the War Ministry (Oberstkammereramt)

Hallmarks: 

  • The Mark of Vinc Mayer and Sons
  • The Mark of  Friedrich Christian Rothe
  • The Vienna Essay Office Mark

Design:  A Latin cross with trefoils at the ends and a circular center medallion with a soldered flat-edged circular suspension eye on the top arm.

Figure 2: Silver Ecclesiastic Merit Cross, obverse, Image from author’s archive.

Obverse:  The arms of the cross have a deep grove (2 mm) inside the edge which follows the contour of the cross. A second finer and shallower line lies within the first. In the center of the cross is a 17-20 mm round, applied medallion with an edge in the same material as the cross. The medallion is enameled blue with an inscription in the same metal as the cross. The inscription reads PIIS / MERITIS (Pius Merit) in two lines.

Figure 3: Silver Ecclesiastic Merit Cross, reverse, Image from author’s archive.

Reverse:  The reverse of the cross including the center medallion is the same as the obverse.

Weight:

  • Gold Ecclesiastic Cross = 17 grams
  • Silver Ecclesiastic Cross = 20.5 grams

Size:  = 53-58 mm long and 44-50 mm wide with a 17-20 mm in diameter center medallion. The width of the arms is 8 mm while the width of the trefoils is 16 mm

Type of Material:  Gold, silver and enamel

Variations:  None Known

Designer: Unknown

Manufacturer:

  • Vinc Mayer and Sons
  • Freidrich Christian Rothe

Number Issued: 

  • Gold Cross = 11 from 1801 to 1847
  • Silver Cross = 55 from 1801 to 1911 (some portion of this number was issued from 1801 to 1880 but the exact number is unknown to the author)

Case:  Unknown

Figure 4: Ecclesiastic Merit Cross ribbon. Image from the author’s archive

Ribbon: A strait 40 mm wide white ribbon with three 8 mm red stripes which are 4 mm apart

Attachments:  None

Figure 5: Gold Ecclesiastic Merit Cross, miniature, Image from author’s archive.

Gold Ecclesiastic Merit Cross Recipients: 

Campaign in France, 1794 (Retroactive award)

  • Cesar Czeuker
  • Anton Sicherer

Campaign in France, 1797 (Retroactive award)

  • Karl von Knebelsberg
  • Johann Putscher
  • Michael Rapp

Campaign in France, 1799 (Retroactive award)

  • Josef Hotze
  • Johann Kovalik

Campaign in France, 1809

  • Maximilian Svob, Prince von Somerau

Battle of Aspern, 1809

  • Bernard Hroinatter

Battle of Kulm, 1813

  • Josef Nagy

Campaign in France, 1814

  • Karl Grohmann

 

Hope you enjoyed this blog. Until next time I hope you find joy in our shared interest

Rick

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