4th Degree EmblemAbout the Fourth Degree4th Degree Emblem


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The Fourth Degree is the highest degree of the order. Members of this degree are addressed as "Sir Knight". The primary purpose of the Fourth Degree is to foster the spirit of patriotism and to encourage active Catholic citizenship. Fewer than 18% of Knights join the Fourth Degree, which is optional; of a total 1,703,307 Knights there were 292,289 Fourth Degree Knights. A Knight is eligible to join the Fourth Degree after six months from the date of his First Degree, providing he has completed the 2nd and 3rd degrees beforehand.

4th Degree EmblemThe primary purpose of the Fourth Degree is to foster the spirit of patriotism by promoting responsible citizenship and a love of and loyalty to the Knights' respective countries through active membership in local Fourth Degree groups (called "assemblies"). Certain members of the Fourth Degree serve as honor guards at civic and religious functions, an activity that has brought worldwide recognition to the Knights of Columbus.

On February 22, 1900, the first Fourth Degree exemplification or degree ceremony was held in New York City. The Fourth Degree imparts a lesson on the virtue of patriotism. The primary purpose of this degree is to foster the spirit of patriotism in members and the community at large and encourage active Catholic citizenship. Today there are some 300,000 Fourth Degree Knights out of the total 1.6 million member Knights of Columbus.

Local units, called assemblies, draw their members from Knights of Columbus councils. The qualifications for membership in the Fourth Degree are: membership in the Knights for at least one year and being a Third Degree Knight.

A Fourth Degree Knight may become part of the assembly's color corps. These members are recognized widely by their distinctive attire of tuxedo, feathered hat (chapeau), cape and sword. These members regularly take part in civic events such as parades and wreath-laying ceremonies, and at ecclesial functions at Catholic churches. The various colored capes and chapeau feathers denote different officer positions within the Fourth Degree.


The Color Corps of the Patriotic Degree

  When knighthood was in flower, knights carried the sword to defend their God, their Church, their country and their fellow man according to the code of chivalry. Today, Sir Knights wear regalia and carry the sword to honor Christ and His apostles, especially on religious and civic occasions specified in this manual. Hence, the primary purpose of the Fourth Degree is to encourage active Catholic citizenship and foster the spirit of patriotism in members and the community at large.

The Color Corps members exemplify all the principles of our Order:

  • Charity - by the gift of their time and energies necessary to practice, perfect and perform the ceremonials and sword drill;
  • Unity – by the united efforts of Sir Knights to practice and perfect a coordinated drill for the good of the Church and the Order;
  • Fraternity – by expressing an “Esprit de Corps,” sharing a common desire for drill excellence and camaraderie; and
  • Patriotism – by performing precision drill as a salute to God and to country and visually exhibiting a love for both.

The public appearance of Fourth Degree Knights as a Color Corps at religious and civic functions is an important activity of each assembly. Their colorful capes and chapeaux add dignity and the pride of Church and country to any event. By these public demonstrations their loyalties bring credit to themselves and to the Knights of Columbus.


The Memorial Chalice

  One of the time-honored traditions of the Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus is the Memorial Chalice and Chalice Ceremony. When a Fourth Degree member in good standing passes away, a chalice is donated in his memory to the religious order or organization of his choosing. The beautiful Chalice Ceremony is conducted as part of the deceased Sir Knight's wake or funeral vigil. A chalice, engraved with the Sir Knight's name, is presented to the family, used in the memorial Mass, and then delivered to the recipient by representatives of the assembly according to the Sir Knight's wishes.

The sacred vessels consist of a gold chalice and a gold paten. A Satin cloth with emblem and gold trim is used to display the chalice and paten during the Chalice Ceremony.

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4th Degree EmblemHistory of the Fourth Degree4th Degree Emblem

  The history of the creation of the Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus of is directly linked to the social and political climate in the United States at the turn of the last century. It is in that light that the connection between the Fourth Degree and its Color Corps, that has grown to be the most visible aspect of the Knights, must be seen.

The idea of adding new degrees to the Order's original three, (Charity, Unity, Fraternity) first came to light in 1886. Supreme Knight James T. Mullen appointed a committee to look into forming two new "commander" degrees. That same year the Connecticut Catholic, a local newspaper, carried an advertisement calling members of local Knights of Columbus councils to meet to form a "Uniformed Legion." The idea for this new unit arose from a growing nation wide sense of Nationalism, or what we would call today Patriotism. The unknown author in Connecticut was not alone in wanting a visible organization.

Little happened at this time because there was not enough wide spread interest in creating additional new degrees. The Order's leaders balked at the idea of a Uniformed Legion for the simple reason that the cost for the "Uniform" was well over $100.00. They feared the "Legion" would cause an economical class split between wealthy and poorer members of the Order.

Following the Spanish American War, it was decided that there should be one new Degree added based on the principle of Patriotism. In 1899, Edward L. Hearn was elected Supreme Knight and he immediately appointed a committee to establish and format the new Degree to be given the following year.

In order to qualify for this Degree each candidate had to be a Third Degree member of the Knights of Columbus in good standing for three years, and show evidence of distinctive service to the Order, church, and community. Finally the candidate had to have a letter from his priest stipulating that he had received communion within the past two weeks.

The first Exemplification of the new Degree was scheduled to be held in the Astor Hotel in New York City on February 22, 1900. However, there were so many candidates, the Exemplification had to be moved to a larger venue. Therefore the site was moved to the Lenox Lyceum. At this first Exemplification of the Fourth Degree 1,100 members of the Knights of Columbus, being in good standing "took their fourth." The second Exemplification, held in Boston on May 8, 1900 saw another 750 Third Degree knights join the ranks of Sir Knights.

In the early years of the Fourth Degree, members met as part of their councils, mostly after meetings. In 1910, during a reorganization of the Order's leadership, the first Assemblies were created. Additionally the position of Supreme Master was established to lead the Fourth Degree internationally. Vice Supreme Masters lead Provinces and Masters head Districts. This system has spread and flourished as Sir Knights not only serve their local Church through their service to local councils but also their joint efforts in these Assemblies.

The Honor Guard, first called for in 1886 was officially formed in 1902, for ceremonial purposes. Since that time, the uniforms of the Color Corps have varied, however all have shared the similar theme of mariners. Most noticeable in today's current uniform is the chapeau worn with ostrich feathers.

The first Fourth Degree exemplification held in Canada was in Montreal Quebec July 14, 1907

In the year 2000, the Fourth degree celebrated its 100th anniversary with approximately 252,000 member Sir Knights!!!

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  In 1900, Patriotism is added as the fourth principle of the Order. The 1st Exemplificationgleason1small of the Fourth Degree took place on February 2, 1900 at the Astor Hotel in New York, NY. 1,100 Third Degree members were exemplified. They had to have been members for 3 years.

The 2nd Exemplification of the Fourth Degree took place on May 8th in Boston, Massachusetts. 750 Third Degree members were exemplified.

Since that First Exemplification in 1900, there have been three major styles of swords with black grip. The first major type of sword had a Flying Eagle on the pommel (grip cap) and the Emblem of the Order on the Guard. This type of sword was made until at least the early 1930's . The sword blade was usually 28 inches in length with the overall length in the scabbard being 37 inches. You may click on any sword to see a larger more detailed picture.

kellysmallThe second major type of sword, dates back to mid to late 1930's and has the head of Christopher Columbus, the Order's patron, on the grip cap. The sword is worn hanging from the Service Baldric on the left hip and Columbus' head is facing forward. If you were looking at the front of the sword, Columbus' head is facing left.

The other change that was made is that the Triad Emblem of the Fourth Degree replaces the Emblem of the Order on the Guard. This type of sword appears to have been made through the late 1940's early 50's. These swords over the years seem to vary in length. The blades ranged between 26 and 27 1/2 inches with the sword grip and pommel adding another 6 inches. When in the scabbard they were between 35 and 37 inches in length. Most, if not all, of this type of sword were made by T.C. Gleason in Chicago Illinois.  Others were made by The Pettibone Bros.Mfg .Cincinnati,Ohio

kelly2smallThe third major type of sword is the one that is still in use today and began to be manufactured sometime in the 1940' or 50's. The most identifying characteristic of this type of sword is the that Columbus' head on the pommel (grip cap) is now facing forward when you look at the front of the sword or facing right when the sword is worn on the service baldric.

The English Company and Lynch & Kelly are the two primary manufacturers of swords in the United states today. Also, the guard, while still displaying the Triad Emblem of the Fourth Degree, has varied over the years. There has been more and less detail in the triad as well as varying from a raised emblem to flatter style.

Again over the last 40 years the blade, sword, and total length have varied as with the second type of sword. Finally, the blades have varied in style as well. Sometime the blades are plain and others contain etching on the blade. Usually, the etching says Knights of Columbus on one side.

There are two other types of swords that you may see. Both of them have a white grip. The first is the same metal color as the swords with the black grip. The white grip indicates that the sword belonged to a Faithful Navigator and can be worn by either a current Faithful Navigator or Past Faithful Navigator. Most of these swords are of the etched blade variety and have the words Knights of Columbus etched on one side and the name of the Faithful Navigator on the other side - i.e. John Smith, PFN.

The final type is a white grip sword, but plated in gold. This sword is worn by current and former Masters, Vice-Supreme Masters, Supreme Masters.

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Sword Archive





Unknown, most probably: 
T.C. Gleason Mfg. Co. 

Sword Notes:
This is the earliest type of sword carried, this is the so called "eagle head" sword. This particular example is in very good condition considering the age, it is interesting to note that this example does not seem to have ever been engraved,

Sword Specs:
Blade Length: 28.125 Inches
Blade Details Front: None
Blade Details Rear: None
Scabbard Length: 30 Inches
Total Length in Scabbard: 36.5 Inches
Maker Mark: None


Lynch and Kelly, 
Utica N.Y.

Sword Notes:
This may have been the second style. With Columbus's head facing "Sideways."

Sword Specs:
Blade Length: 28 Inches
Blade Details Front: Scroll Work w/ Knights of Columbus
Blade Details Rear: Scroll Work
Scabbard Length: 29.5 Inches
Total Length in Scabbard: 36.25 Inches
Maker Mark: (on Front) Lynch and Kelly, Utica NY


T.C. Gleason Mfg. Co. 

Sword Notes:
At some point the head was turned forward much like the swords in use today. This example was made in Germany.

Sword Specs:
Blade Length: 28 Inches
Blade Details Front: Scroll Work
Blade Details Rear: Scroll Work w/ Knights of Columbus
Scabbard Length: 29.75
Total Length in Scabbard: 37 Inches
Maker Mark: (on rear) T.C. Gleason Mfg. Co. Chicago Made in Germany


Lynch and Kelly, 
Utica N.Y.

Sword Notes:
Current Sword Carried by all Color Corps members.  This example is a Lynch and Kelly model.

Sword Specs:
Blade Length: 27.25 Inches
Blade Details Front: Scroll Work w/ Knights of Columbus
Blade Details Rear: Scroll Work
Scabbard Length: 29.50 Inches
Total Length in Scabbard: 36.25 Inches
Maker Mark: None


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4th Degree Emblem

The 4th Degree Triad
The dove, the cross and the globe.













4th Degree Color Guard

Your invited!   Join the Fourth Degree







The Fourth Degree Cape


The Honor Guard




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