The Pontifical Order of Pope Saint Sylvester which ranks below that of the Pontifical Order of Saint Gregory the Great has a rather different history, starting ten years later in 1841, when Pope Gregory XVI founded it, with the intention of absorbing the Order of the Golden Spur. In 1905 Pope Pius X, as one of his reforms made it a distinct Order, with the special object of rewarding “the laity who are active in the apostolate, in particular in the exercise of their professional duties and masters of the different arts”. Its organisation is similar to that of Saint Gregory with four classes namely Knight or Dame, Knight or Dame Commander, Knight or Dame Commander with star and Knight or Dame Grand Cross.
This Order was separated from that of the Order of the Golden Militia in 1905 and was established with the same ranks as the Order of Saint Gregory. The Order of Saint Sylvester is neither monastic nor military, but a purely honorary one created by Pope Gregory XVI on the 31 October 1841. The idea of placing this title, borrowed from the Middle Ages, under the patronage of a Pope of the fourth century is explained by the existence of a fabulous anachronistic order Constantine the Great claiming the approval of his contemporary, Sylvester I, which enjoyed a usurped authority at Rome from the seventeenth century. To end this abuse, Gregory XVI created an authentic title of Knights of Saint Sylvester, to be confirmed in recognition of some service rendered to the Church, the order being limited to 150 commanders and 300 Roman knights besides foreigners of whom the number is unlimited. The members have no privileges beyond that of wearing a decoration which consists of a gold enamelled Maltese cross with the image of Saint Sylvester on one side and on the other, the inscription “1841 Gregorius XVI restituit”.