Order of Malta

Order of Malta

Order of Malta
Order of Malta

The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, known as Rhodes and Malta, today has about eleven thousand lay members united in forty-one national associations. Based in Rome at the Palazzo di Malta, which enjoys the privilege of extraterritoriality, it has the status of a sovereign state and maintains relations with sixty-seven countries. It is headed by a Grand Master elected for life, assisted by a Sovereign Council of ten members elected every five years by the General Chapters. Nearly a thousand years after the founding of the Amalfi Hospital in Jerusalem, the Order of Malta maintains the traditions of assistance and charity that, added to its military role and the magnificent patronage that embellished the island became the stronghold of the Christian Mediterranean,

The origin of the Order of Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem, which became from 1530 the order of Malta, dates back to the middle of the eleventh century. Amalfi merchants active in the Holy Land then obtain from the Fatimid caliph of Egypt the concession of a land corresponding to the location of the house of Zacharie, father of John the Baptist, to build the church of St. Mary Latin, two monasteries (one reserved for men, the other for women), an inn and a hospice soon placed under the protection of St. John the Baptist. Benefiting from collections made in the West, consisting of monks wearing a black dress hit by the white eight-pointed cross, the brotherhood in charge of the hospital, directed at the end of the eleventh century by Gerard de Martigues, is dedicated to the care provided to patients. The services rendered to the Christians in the summer of 1099, during the siege of the Holy City, earned him the favors of Godefroi de Bouillon and Baudoin, the first Frankish king of Jerusalem, who made the hospital benefit from numerous donations. In 1113, Pope Paschal II approved the statutes of the brotherhood which, under the direct protection of the Holy See, became, on July 13, 1120, by the will of Pope Calixtus II, a true religious order “free of Church”, to know independent of the secular clergy established in the East.

A double vocation, hospitable and military

Many other hospices are created in the Holy Land, and many time travelers have reported the quality of care there, but the nature of the order is changing rapidly. Once the liberation of Jerusalem was achieved, the military weakness of the Holy Land appeared chronic, and it was in these circumstances that the Chevalier Champenois Hugues de Payns created, in 1118, the company of the “poor knights of Christ”, recognized in 1128 by Pope Honorius III as the order of the Knights Templar, the first of the military religious orders born from the adventure of the Crusades. He quickly provides a model for Hospitallers, when Dauphinois Raymond du Puy succeeds Gerard de Martigues, who died in 1120. Comprising nineteen chapters, the new rule promulgated in 1135 and approved by Pope Eugene III in 1153 does not call into question the duty of assistance to the sick and pilgrims of the Hospitallers of Saint John, but it also makes them fully warrior monks engaged in the defense of the Holy Land and, from 1137, King Fulk of Jerusalem entrusts to them the defense of the fortress of Bath Gibelin, near Ascalon. In 1142, Raymond of Tripoli gives them the territories lost by the Christians whom they will manage to reconquer. It was then that the Hospitallers settled at Crac des Chevaliers, which they defended against numerous assaults until 1271. During the second half of the 13th century, the Knights of the Hospital were in all the battles. In 1153 they took a decisive part in the Christian victory of Ascalon; in 1187, their superior, Roger Des Moulins, was killed during the disastrous battle of Hattin, which shortly preceded the recovery of Jerusalem by Saladin. This fighting vocation will not be denied until May 1291, when the Grand Master Jean de Villiers is badly wounded while defending Acre, the last crossed place of the Holy Land. Of the eight hundred knights engaged in this ultimate battle against the troops of the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt, only seven Hospitallers and ten Templars survive. when the Grand Master Jean de Villiers is seriously wounded while defending Acre, the last cross place of the Holy Land. Of the eight hundred knights engaged in this ultimate battle against the troops of the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt, only seven Hospitallers and ten Templars survive. when the Grand Master Jean de Villiers is seriously wounded while defending Acre, the last cross place of the Holy Land. Of the eight hundred knights engaged in this ultimate battle against the troops of the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt, only seven Hospitallers and ten Templars survive.

From Acre to Rhodes

If the knights of the Temple – whose Grand Master, Guillaume de Beaujeu, died on the ramparts of the city – return to the West to know soon after the tragic destiny that we know, the Hospitallers retreat first on Cyprus where King Henry II of Lusignan gives them the city of Limassol; but they prefer, with the help of the Genoese Vignolo da Vignoli, to seize in 1307 Rhodes whose privileged position in the south-west of Asia Minor did not escape them. They understood that the “terrestrial” reconquest of the Holy Land was for the moment out of reach and that it was imperative to give priority to naval domination over the Eastern Mediterranean, a necessary condition for the success of future Crusades. The Grand Master Foulques de Villaret thus installs the knights in the island where they will live for more than two centuries. The dissolution of the order of the Temple which intervenes in 1312 directly benefits the Hospitallers, insofar as Pope Clement V transmits them the goods of the rival order, which contributes to the growth of their resources in considerable proportions. Rhodes then became a sovereign and powerful territorial principality drawing a good part of its wealth from the revenues that the number and extent of its western properties give it. Faithful to its original vocation, the Order built a first hospital in Rhodes from 1311, then a second from 1437 to 1478. These establishments then appear as true models. The medical knowledge implemented is inspired by Arab and Jewish traditions, and the “comfort” provided to the sick – single beds, hygiene, severity of quarantines, concern for dietetics, use of silver dishes for better asepsis … – is exceptional for the time. Faithful to their “hospitality” wish, which is added to the traditional ones of poverty, obedience and chastity, the knights take off their emblems twice a day to come and take care of “their lords the sick”, and the Grand Masters themselves must submit to this service at least once a week, which will cost the lives of Roger des Pins, victim of the plague in 1363. Hospitals similar to that of Rhodes are established in Corinth and Negrepont Venetian possession in Euboea. time. Faithful to their “hospitality” wish, which is added to the traditional ones of poverty, obedience and chastity, the knights take off their emblems twice a day to come and take care of “their lords the sick”, and the Grand Masters themselves must submit to this service at least once a week, which will cost the lives of Roger des Pins, victim of the plague in 1363. Hospitals similar to that of Rhodes are established in Corinth and Negrepont Venetian possession in Euboea. time. Faithful to their “hospitality” wish, which is added to the traditional ones of poverty, obedience and chastity, the knights take off their emblems twice a day to come and take care of “their lords the sick”, and the Grand Masters themselves must submit to this service at least once a week, which will cost the lives of Roger des Pins, victim of the plague in 1363. Hospitals similar to that of Rhodes are established in Corinth and Negrepont Venetian possession in Euboea.

Sovereign power beating money, the Order continues to assume its warlike vocation fighting both the Mamelukes of Egypt and the Turks who became masters of Asia Minor. The knights seized Smyrna in 1344, helped the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia three years later, and took part in the Lusignan raid on Cyprus against Alexandria in 1363. In the entire eastern Mediterranean, the “galleys of religion” led at the expense of the Muslim ships a fruitful war of race which contributes to the rapid enrichment of the Order, which is not without worrying the popes of Avignon John XXII and Clement VI, which questions the Grand Master Hélion de Villeneuve about “Good use of possessions”.

The war against the Mamelukes and the Ottomans

Christianity still lives in expectation of a revival of the crusade, of which the Hospitallers are more than ever the vanguard facing the Muslim East; however, the destruction in Nicopolis in 1396 of the Christian army that came to the aid of King Sigismund of Hungary ruined all hopes of reconquering the Holy Places, at a time when the West appeared dangerously weakened from 1378 to 1417, by the Great Schism opposing the pontiffs of Avignon to those of Rome. The victory won by Tamerlane over Bajazet I in Angora in 1402 gave Europe a few years’ respite, necessary for the Ottoman Empire to rebuild its forces, but it was the Mamelukes who faced the Hospitallers. The Egyptian troops besieged Rhodes without success in 1426, 1440 and 1444, and finally agree to conclude a truce in 1450. Three years later, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror managed to seize Constantinople; however, the winner of the Byzantine Empire can not break the resistance of Rhodes during the terrible siege of 1480 that sees the Grand Master Pierre d’Aubusson and his knights head victoriously over one hundred thousand assailants – feat immortalized by the famous manuscript illuminated by Guillaume de Cahoussin. Under the command of Emery d’Amboise, the knights resume the war of race but must count, under the reign of Bajazet II, with the alliance concluded against them by the Turks and the Egyptians. Everything changes under Selim I, who undertakes the conquest of the East and leads victorious campaigns against the Mamelukes and Persia. The Egypt and the entire Arab Middle East are thus conquered by the Ottoman ruler whose successor, Soliman the Magnificent, can now turn all his efforts against Europe. Rhodes is therefore too dangerous a threat for Ottoman communications in the eastern Mediterranean, and the new sultan decides to seize the island, defended by the Grand Master Philip de Villiers of Isle-Adam.

The fall of Rhodes

In June 1522, four hundred ships and two hundred thousand men were assigned to this campaign, while the Order, to defend the island, only six hundred knights, reinforced with four thousand five hundred other combatants. However, they break all assaults and Soliman – who has already lost eighty thousand men – is preparing to lift the siege when the betrayal of Andre d’Amaral, Chancellor of the Order and prior of the language of Castile – the knights were divided into eight “languages” each corresponding to a geographical and linguistic space – which informs the Turks of the state of exhaustion of the garrison, encourages it to continue the siege begun since four months. The Christian resistance is then exhausted, and the Grand Master is forced to negotiate with the emissaries of Soliman. He abandons the place after blowing up the churches to prevent them from being desecrated and after having obtained the “honors of the war” and the permission to take with him four thousand inhabitants refusing to undergo the Ottoman yoke. On the 1st of January, 1523, the vanquished embarked on thirty vessels, and the knights of Saint John saw the shores of Rhodes leave forever. When, twelve years after this heroic defense, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam surrender his soul to God, Soliman will have the following declaration read in all the mosques: “Believers, learn from an unfaithful person how one fulfills one’s duties until one is admired and honored by his enemies … ” to take with him four thousand inhabitants refusing to undergo the Ottoman yoke. On the 1st of January, 1523, the vanquished embarked on thirty vessels, and the knights of Saint John saw the shores of Rhodes leave forever. When, twelve years after this heroic defense, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam surrender his soul to God, Soliman will have the following declaration read in all the mosques: “Believers, learn from an unfaithful person how one fulfills one’s duties until one is admired and honored by his enemies … ” to take with him four thousand inhabitants refusing to undergo the Ottoman yoke. On the 1st of January, 1523, the vanquished embarked on thirty vessels, and the knights of Saint John saw the shores of Rhodes leave forever. When, twelve years after this heroic defense, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam surrender his soul to God, Soliman will have the following declaration read in all the mosques: “Believers, learn from an unfaithful person how one fulfills one’s duties until one is admired and honored by his enemies … ”

Leaving Rhodes in January 1523, the Knights of the Hospital stopped in Messina, Crete, Italy and Nice. Villiers de l’Isle-Adam plans to install them in the islands of Hyeres, but it is in Viterbo and Civita Vecchia that Pope Clement VII, former Prior of the Order in Capua, establishes them until the Treaty of Castel Franco, concluded in March 1530 between the Grand Master and the Emperor Charles V, gives the Order the Maltese archipelago, populated by thirty thousand inhabitants and attached to Sicily since its conquest by the Aragonese in 1282. In return, the knights must hand over a falcon to the emperor each year. In the autumn of 1530, they land on the island and settle in Borgo where

The installation in Malta and the seat of 1565

In 1535, the Order took part in the conquest of Tunis, but suffered heavy losses in 1541 during the unfortunate expedition against Algiers and lost Tripoli de Barbarie in 1551. The archipelago was very quickly threatened by the Ottoman galleys and the assaults of the Ottomans. Barbary corsairs. Elected Grand Master in 1557, Jean Parisot de la Valette must methodically prepare his defense because the taking of Djerba, which occurred in 1560, certainly announces a large-scale assault. The ramparts are strengthened, water and food supplies are accumulated, knights flock from the various priories and commanderies of Europe to come face the Turk, and nine thousand men of fighting age are mobilized in the local population to face in peril. It was in May 1565 that Mustapha Pasha brought thirty thousand men to work transported by one hundred and sixty galleys, with the intention of carrying away what is then one of the outposts of Christendom, indispensable to the defense of the Italian and Spanish coasts. The heroic resistance of Fort Saint-Elme, which only falls on June 23, allows to gain the necessary time and “to use” the attackers who had to make very heavy losses. Nothing can break the will of the defenders of the forts of St. Angelo and St. Michael and when, on August 7, the Turks manage to enter the Borgo, they are finally rejected. Finally, the arrival of the “great help” sent by the Viceroy of Sicily Don Garcia de Toledo decides, in early September, the fate of the battle. The appearance of one of the outposts of Christendom, indispensable to the defense of the Italian and Spanish coasts. The heroic resistance of Fort Saint-Elme, which only falls on June 23, allows to gain the necessary time and “to use” the attackers who had to make very heavy losses. Nothing can break the will of the defenders of the forts of St. Angelo and St. Michael and when, on August 7, the Turks manage to enter the Borgo, they are finally rejected. Finally, the arrival of the “great help” sent by the Viceroy of Sicily Don Garcia de Toledo decides, in early September, the fate of the battle. The appearance of one of the outposts of Christendom, indispensable to the defense of the Italian and Spanish coasts. The heroic resistance of Fort Saint-Elme, which only falls on June 23, allows to gain the necessary time and “to use” the attackers who had to make very heavy losses. Nothing can break the will of the defenders of the forts of St. Angelo and St. Michael and when, on August 7, the Turks manage to enter the Borgo, they are finally rejected. Finally, the arrival of the “great help” sent by the Viceroy of Sicily Don Garcia de Toledo decides, in early September, the fate of the battle. The appearance of saves the necessary time and “to use” the attackers who had to make very heavy losses. Nothing can break the will of the defenders of the forts of St. Angelo and St. Michael and when, on August 7, the Turks manage to enter the Borgo, they are finally rejected. Finally, the arrival of the “great help” sent by the Viceroy of Sicily Don Garcia de Toledo decides, in early September, the fate of the battle. The appearance of saves the necessary time and “to use” the attackers who had to make very heavy losses. Nothing can break the will of the defenders of the forts of St. Angelo and St. Michael and when, on August 7, the Turks manage to enter the Borgo, they are finally rejected. Finally, the arrival of the “great help” sent by the Viceroy of Sicily Don Garcia de Toledo decides, in early September, the fate of the battle. The appearance of arrival of the “great help” dispatched by the Viceroy of Sicily Don Garcia de Toledo decides, in early September, the fate of the battle. The appearance of arrival of the “great help” dispatched by the Viceroy of Sicily Don Garcia de Toledo decides, in early September, the fate of the battle. The appearance oftercios de Don Alvaro de Bazan discourages Turkish leaders who must give up, after a four-month siege very deadly for their troops. Celebrated throughout Europe, this victory against the Turk – this “Verdun of the sixteenth century”, to use the beautiful expression of Jacques Godechot – is a milestone in the war for the Mediterranean. It will be confirmed six years later, in October 1571, when the fleets of Spain, Venice, the Holy See and most of the Italian principalities placed under the command of Don Juan of Austria will inflict on Lepanto another galleys of the “Great Lord”. The Order will commit four galleys in the battle and sixty of its knights will be killed in this major clash.

Malta, naval school of the West

Meanwhile, in Malta, Valletta has renamed the Borgo Citta Vittoriosa and created a new town that will take its name. It is the Italian architect Francesco Laparelli who, between 1566 and 1571, is responsible for the realization by mobilizing for this purpose eighty thousand workers. Once built this impregnable fortress, Malta will be out of reach of the Ottoman assaults and will continue for two centuries an effective fight against Barbary piracy. Until the second half of the eighteenth, it is on the galleys of Malta, during the four “caravans” – the naval campaigns – that must accomplish the knights that form the masters of the war on sea, such d’Estrées , Tourville, Suffren or Grasse. Barbary ships have then everything to fear from “galleys of religion”, to the the time when Jacques François de Chambray (1687-1756), nicknamed the “Rouge de Malte”, one of the best sailors of his time, multiplies, during his twenty-four campaigns, taken and destroyed. A formidable military instrument, the Order remains faithful to its hospital vocation. A first hospital was built in Malta between 1530 and 1532 and a second, the “Sacred Infirmary”, from 1575 to 1663. The capacity of reception of the patients increased steadily, from three hundred beds in the seventeenth century to five hundred fifty in 1789. Three doctors, three surgeons, a pharmacist are assigned to it, and the knights always carry out regularly their mission of assistance to the patients. Malta thus has, in the eighteenth century, the largest and most modern hospital in Europe. Under the Great Master Pinto of Fonseca, it is a university of medicine that succeeds the schools of anatomy, surgery and pharmacy previously established and endowed, since 1687, with a specialized library that admires contemporaries. The slackening of morals, the progress of irreligion, the vogue of Orientalism and the “turqueries” which gives a fresh glance at the Ottoman enemy of yesterday, contribute to the decadence of the Order in the second half of Eighteenth century. Knights, the youngest sons of families of the highest European nobility, now devote themselves more to pleasures than to assisting the sick or naval campaigns. a specialized library that admires contemporaries. The slackening of morals, the progress of irreligion, the vogue of Orientalism and the “turqueries” which gives a fresh glance at the Ottoman enemy of yesterday, contribute to the decadence of the Order in the second half of Eighteenth century. Knights, the youngest sons of families of the highest European nobility, now devote themselves more to pleasures than to assisting the sick or naval campaigns. a specialized library that admires contemporaries. The slackening of morals, the progress of irreligion, the vogue of Orientalism and the “turqueries” which gives a fresh glance at the Ottoman enemy of yesterday, contribute to the decadence of the Order in the second half of Eighteenth century. Knights, the youngest sons of families of the highest European nobility, now devote themselves more to pleasures than to assisting the sick or naval campaigns.

The decline and revival of the Order

While the kingdom of France provided nearly two-thirds of the knights, the French Revolution is a terrible blow to the Order of more than seven centuries. The National Assembly of 1789 refuses to consider it as a sovereign state possessed in France where there were then 358 of its 671 commanderies. The abolition of the privileges, the suppression of the orders of chivalry and the sale of their property in September 1792 reduce in a catastrophic proportions the incomes of the order of Malta, at the moment when the Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc refuses to recognize the new republican regime. His successor Ferdinand de Hompesch, German elected in 1797, tries to interest the fate of the Order the Tsar Paul I of Russia but also England, became the dominant power in the Mediterranean, while the young General Bonaparte explains to the Directory “the major interest” that the island of Malta presents for France. The expedition of Egypt is the occasion of a French landing which opens on June 12, 1798 on the surrender signed by Hompesch, soon a refugee in Trieste while the knights – some of whom joined the army of Egypt – are regrouped for several months in Antibes before recovering their full freedom. From 1800, the English replaced the French in Malta and, if the treaty of Amiens concluded in 1802 provides for the retrocession of the island to the knights, the governor appointed by His Gracious Majesty does not want to hear anything about it. England will be confirmed the possession of the island during the treaty of Paris of 1814 and on the occasion of the congresses of Vienna and Verona in 1815 and 1822. Weakened by the disputes arising from the pretensions without tomorrow of Tsar Paul I, the Order, deprived of territory, is directed henceforth by a “lieutenant of the magisterium” to whom Pope Leo XII concedes a convent and a church of Ferrara. However, he returned to Rome in 1834, in the palace of Via dei Condotti, and was reborn during the nineteenth century, within the framework of national associations, until the restoration of the Great Masters in 1879. is now headed by a “lieutenant of the magisterium” to whom Pope Leo XII concedes a convent and a church of Ferrara. However, he returned to Rome in 1834, in the palace of Via dei Condotti, and was reborn during the nineteenth century, within the framework of national associations, until the restoration of the Great Masters in 1879. is now headed by a “lieutenant of the magisterium” to whom Pope Leo XII concedes a convent and a church of Ferrara. However, he returned to Rome in 1834, in the palace of Via dei Condotti, and was reborn during the nineteenth century, within the framework of national associations, until the restoration of the Great Masters in 1879.

He is now devoting himself once again to his hospital duties and intervenes during the battles of the Italian unit or during the Franco-German war of 1870. He multiplies the hospitals and organizes health trains during the First World War, notably behind the Verdun front, before founding the Institute of Missionary Medicine in 1934. After a period of tension linked to the Vatican’s attempts to exercise more direct control over the Vatican, the Order adopted a new charter, approved in 1961 by Pope John XXIII.

 

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