A pious confraternity, indulgenced by the pope, which arose in 1440 in the Electorate of Brandenburg, originally comprising, with the Elector Frederick at their head, thirty gentleman and seven ladies united to pay special honour to the Blessed Virgin. It spread rapidly, numbering in 1464 about 330 members, as well as branches established in the Margraviate of Anspach (1465) and in the possessions of the Teutonic Order in Prussia. But Protestantism, by suppressing devotion to Mary, abolished the confraternity's raison d'etre. In 1843 King Frederick William IV of Prussia, in his infatuation for the Middle Ages, thought of re-establishing this order, but this was never more than a project. The name is due to the fact that the members wore a medal of the Blessed Virgin to which was attached a swan, the symbolic meaning being variously interpreted.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online