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Phaleristics or Ordenskunde (from Latin phalerae "breast ornament ") denotes a historical auxiliary science that generally records, collects and documents the orders as well as the decorations and state awards with their accessories (e.g. award certificates, statutes) in historical, sociological and art-historical dimensions .

Origin of the word phaleristics

Awards were already known in antiquity and had exclusively the character of a military reward. These awards represented real wages for certain merits. They differed considerably from the later medieval and modern orders, which above all represented a sign of belonging to a certain organization, although they were also rewards for outstanding deeds.

The term tà phálara , which describes a small round or crescent-shaped shield, is already used in ancient Greece . It originally hung on the horse's chest, but in the figurative sense of the word it represents the oldest form of decoration that was visibly worn on the warrior's chest. The Romans later adopted these medallions. The word phalera was then already representative of the concept of a real award .

Award certificate of the Red Eagle Order, 1851


In the 20th century in particular, phaleristics established itself as a distinction and correspondence, especially from heraldry and especially from numismatics .

The modern orders are a development of the 18th and 19th centuries; the ecclesiastical and secular knightly orders of the Middle Ages can be seen as predecessors . Examples of this are the Order of the Golden Fleece or the most respected European order, the so-called Order of the Garter (1348). In the 17th and 18th centuries, orders were intended as a sign of a special bond with the sovereign of absolutism and less as a reward for civilian or military merits. This view changed with the establishment of multi-level awards such as B. of the Prussian Order of the Crown . In the course of the 19th century, the order system experienced a rapid boom, numerous orders were graded and differentiated by adding oak leaves , swords and the like. A good example of this is the Order of the Red Eagle .

Blücherstern (replica)

During the Weimar Republic , the entire religious system was abolished. During the time of National Socialism (1933 to 1945) the number and range of awards reached a wedding.

The GDR also awarded numerous awards, often single-stage (see list of state and non-state awards of the GDR ).

Today the Federal Republic of Germany awards the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany ( Federal Cross of Merit ), the Order of Merit of the German federal states and a few others.

The German Society for Religious Studies has existed since 1974 .

Phaleristics is established as a historical subdiscipline. It usually examines the orders and decorations "detached from their bearers" and therefore has little connection with other historical research. In recent times there have been attempts to re-establish this connection by contextualizing analyzes of the material and symbolic meanings of orders, for example with respect to military honor . In this way, phaleristics is linked to the history of mentality and examined in connection with the history of norms , models, hierarchies and social status .


See also


  • Eckart Henning , Dietrich Herfurth: medals and decorations. Handbook of Phaleristics. Böhlau, Cologne 2010, ISBN 978-3-412-20617-8 (contains bibliography of over 500 titles).
  • Maximilian Gritzner : Handbook of the knight and merit orders of all civilized states of the world within the XIX. Century . Leipzig 1893; Reprint: Reprint-Verlag, Holzminden 2000, ISBN 3-8262-0705-X .
  • Václav Měřička : Orders and Awards (translated by Hans Gaertner, edited by Fritz Kunter, photos by Josef Fiala). Artia, Prague 1966.
  • Václav Měřička: Faleristics. A book about religious orders. Translated by Robert Fenzl, photos by Jindřich Marco. Artia, Prague 1976.
  • Walter A. Schwarz : I will award you ...: The military awards of the Republic of Austria and its predecessors . Federal Ministry for National Defense, Vienna 2004, ISBN 3-902455-01-2 .
  • Walter A. Schwarz: Ephemeral Shine ...: Old Austria's Order, catalog for the exhibition of the Austrian State Archives and the Society for Ordenskunde - House, Court and State Archives May 5 to October 7, 2005 . Fassbaender, Vienna 2005, ISBN 3-900538-84-0 .
  • Jörg Nimmergut : Bibliography on German Phaleristics. Overview of the entire literature on German orders and decorations up to December 31, 2007. Battenberg, Regenstauf 2010, ISBN 978-3-86646-060-7 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Order  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Medals  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ralph Winkle: The thanks of the fatherland. A symbolic history of the Iron Cross 1914 to 1936 . Klartext-Verlag, Essen 2007, ISBN 978-3-89861-610-2 , p. 18.