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Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem / Knights of Malta

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posted on Jul, 15 2004 @ 08:39 AM
Does anyone know anything about the Sovereign Military Order of Jerusalem? I have been reading about the Knights Templar and came across this website:

Any personal experiences with this group that anyone would care to share would be great.

[edit on 8/6/04 by The Axeman]

posted on Jul, 16 2004 @ 12:50 AM
i think they base their linage of the charter of Larminius(?SP) from what i have
read the considered validity of this charter ranges across the entire spectrum
from blatent fraud to unquestionable authenticity.

posted on Jul, 16 2004 @ 10:18 AM
Well I sent the SMOTJ an email requesting info on membership, and much to my surprise, I got a response less than 24 hours later... I found the response interesting... here is the bulk of the message:

Thank you for your interest in the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (SMOTJ). As indicated on our public web page, we are a charitable order of Christian men and women that seek to continue the traditions of the Order of the "Poor Knights of the Temple," which was established in the Holy Land in 1128 AD, through more modern spiritual, ethical and moral crusades that help those in need.

Membership in SMOTJ is by invitation only. It is granted only to those who have demonstrated through their accomplishments and their continued willingness to serve in a variety of endeavors that they have the highest ethical and moral principles and personal integrity.

Although there is no "typical" Templar, all Knights and Dames of the Order are Christian. Most are college graduates (many with advanced degrees). Many are accomplished leaders in their fields, have served in the Armed Forces, and are engaged in a wide variety of civic endeavors. Most also have a strong interest in the history of the Knights Templar, and all wish to actively contribute their personal efforts to make our society and the world at large a better place.

Given this information, if you are interested in being considered for membership, I encourage you to send me a letter of introduction, explaining fully your interest in SMOTJ. The letter should be accompanied by a comprehensive resume noting your full name, address, phone numbers and relevant qualifications. They should be sent to me at the E-mail address noted above, so that our leadership may evaluate them fully. If your interests and those of the Order's leadership match, we will forward your information to the Prior or Commander in closest proximity to your location, and that individual (or designee) will contact you directly to explore further your potential for membership.

We will protect the information you provide fully, and will not use it for any other purpose. The evaluation process will quite naturally take some time; I would ask that you please be patient in awaiting a response. As you can imagine, we receive numerous queries, and must exercise care and diligence in evaluating potential applicants.

Again, thank you for your interest.

[edit on 8/6/04 by The Axeman]

posted on Jul, 16 2004 @ 11:28 AM
their Rule also said they could not retreat unless the odds were greater than
3:1, and they could not be ransomed if captured.

posted on Jul, 16 2004 @ 11:58 AM
One of the things that gets me is the fact that it's invitation only. it is stated that most of the members have college degrees and alot of them are "leaders in their fields" and so on. I mean you actually have to send them a resume! I wonder what kinds of criteria they look at when considering applicants...

[edit on 8/6/04 by The Axeman]

posted on Jul, 26 2004 @ 03:14 PM
[edit on 7/30/04 by The Axeman]

posted on Jul, 26 2004 @ 03:47 PM
Sounds interesting. But my head tells me, it's best not to affiliate yourself with groups like these. I'm not saying their necessarily a bad group, but associating yourself with a group that likes to keep their activities a secret isn't always a good idea. They may try to keep secretive to gain some sort of appeal to the public and encourage more people to join, but it also give a sensation of untrustworthiness. You can never truly be sure of a "secretive" groups motives. Especially with a group that bears the name of the Knights Templar. Their other name is a bit on the odd side as well. "The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem", hmmm, I don't know. They could be a great group, but you just never know. If you get in, be sure to tell us about your experiences unless you become sworn to secrecy lol.

posted on Jul, 26 2004 @ 04:14 PM
I found another link that has a little more info:

[edit on 8/6/04 by The Axeman]

posted on Jul, 26 2004 @ 04:26 PM
Well to be honest, the only true way to obtain the information you seek would be you either having to join the order or find someone who is a member and willing to disclose information about the group with you. Personally I prefer to not associate myself with groups like these period. It's easy to become subject to "mob mentality", especially as your relationship with the other members of your group grows. It can often blind your judgement about things as it become harder to discern right from wrong when in the presence of the group. So be careful and take what you may hear from other members with a grain of salt.

Good luck! If you come across any more good information, be sure to post it here.

posted on Jul, 26 2004 @ 05:14 PM
I was looking for more info on the SMOTJ when I came across these guys, The Sovereign Military Order of Malta, or Knights of Malta. Here is the link to one of their sites:

More to follow...

[edit on 8/6/04 by The Axeman]

posted on Jul, 28 2004 @ 11:40 AM
Doing some more digging around I found these:

Their official website

A little bit of background:

from the Catholic encyclopedia

some of theese may be leaning a little toward the conspiracy theorist side,
but I will put them out there anyway, what the heck. The following link poses some interesting theories, but they lost me with the Masonic sun worship/ luciferian connection. That arguement puts up red flags for me.

a list of related links for your browsing pleasure

more history - I think it's safe to say we know where they came from, but what are they up to now? I have read in some of these links, and at other sites I have not linked to here that they were somehow involved with the famous P2 lodge in Italy, and that they had a hand in helping German war criminals escape in what I beleive was called the "Rat Run".

I am not finding very much good info on what these guys are up to nowadays, but what I have found so far has to do with humanitarian aid and things of that nature. The thing about the WW2 criminals kind of bothers me, though.

[edit on 8/6/04 by The Axeman]

posted on Jul, 29 2004 @ 03:15 PM
OK, if I understand this correctly, the Knights of Malta aren't just a fraternal order, they are actually a sovereign entity, free of any rule from any country! Do I understand correctly that the oath of loyalty to the Order that these men and women take and the laws and by-laws of this organization supercedes the laws of whatever country they reside in?

From what I understand, there are alot of influential people, not just Americans, but all over the world who are members of this order. Now, are these men (I will refer to Americans for clarity's sake) working with the best interests of our country at heart, or in the best interests of the Order of Malta? If I understand correctly, it's just like the old days: The only people these Knights and Dames are accountable to are their Grand Master and the Pope himself! So does that loyalty circumvent our great Constitution? Who regulates them? They do have a seat at the UN, I know this to be a fact. The idea that powerful people in my country could be under orders from the pope that supercedes our laws is a scary one, indeed.

I'm not saying this is a bad organization, but I certainly will be doing more research about them.

[edit on 8/6/04 by The Axeman]

posted on Jul, 29 2004 @ 05:21 PM
This group descends from the Order of St John (Hospitallers). The reason they have the title "sovereign military order" was because they became a military order when the Turks where trying to invade Malta then Europe a while back. This group really isnt harmful they run a lot a charity missions. To join requires I think about 3000 dollars than a 800 dollar a year due. Also you have to have a college degree to join. Somewhere on the internet I saw pictures of someone joining (I dont remember the link) and there was nothing unusual. They have an influence in America but they are not that big.

posted on Jul, 30 2004 @ 10:30 AM

originally posted by pbrez
This group descends from the Order of St John (Hospitallers). The reason they have the title "sovereign military order" was because they became a military order when the Turks where trying to invade Malta then Europe a while back. This group really isnt harmful they run a lot a charity missions. To join requires I think about 3000 dollars than a 800 dollar a year due. Also you have to have a college degree to join. Somewhere on the internet I saw pictures of someone joining (I dont remember the link) and there was nothing unusual. They have an influence in America but they are not that big.

Well, please do not take offence, but this is a Catholic order, and one of their stated goals is to defend the catholic Church. I know from reading your posts that you are a Catholic, and a Knight of Columbus, so forgive me for saying I can see why you would be so quick to dismiss this group as harmless.

If what I have read is true, they have close ties with the Nazi Party during WW2 and even helped smuggle war criminals out of Germany and helped them escape and disappear after the war. I think that is charity for the wrong people. I'm not saying it's true or not, but there is a theory out there that says they did just that.

I would be interested to hear how anyone could defend those actions, if they are indeed true, of course.

[edit on 8/6/04 by The Axeman]

posted on Aug, 6 2004 @ 03:33 PM

Originally posted by Adrahel
You can never truly be sure of a "secretive" groups motives.

Everyone has secrets. Every single individual spends the vast majority of his or her time doing things that are not under public oversight. If society at large demanded that you be videotaped while you spend time with your family, or while you sleep at night, you'd be justifiably outraged. When Freemasons try to claim the same secrecy as is naturally posessed by all citizens in a democracy, however, we are attacked, belittled, and slandered for it.

Do you know what happens at a Jewish funeral service? You probably do not, unless you are Jewish. Yet I seriously doubt you'd insist on barging in on someone's private grief just so that you could find out what happens, and if you implied that something improper was going on at the funeral service because you were not invited to attend, you wouldn't be a crusader for honesty, you'd just be a monster.

Do you know the nature of your Aunt and Uncle's sex life? It's very unlikely. That doesn't mean that you have any right whatsoever to demand answers from them, nor to assume they are doing anything untoward.

Do you know about the girl I will always love, and who I will never see again, or about my friend who died far too young? Well, you now know they exist, but I don't want to share any more about them. Does that give you the right to speculate that the girl I will always love is a Nazi, or that I killed my friend who died too young? No.

A state in which individuals and groups can not have personal secrets without fear of reprisal or slander is no longer a democracy.

posted on Aug, 6 2004 @ 03:36 PM
I'm really mad at myself for editing out my posts on this thread. Rash. Very rash behavior on my part that day. Apologies to all concerned.

[edit on 8/6/04 by The Axeman]

posted on Aug, 6 2004 @ 03:40 PM

Could you please edit in the title atleast and maybe a little about what this is about or I'm going to have to make something up or trash it which is a real shame for everyone else.


posted on Aug, 6 2004 @ 03:43 PM

Originally posted by John bull 1

Could you please edit in the title atleast and maybe a little about what this is about or I'm going to have to make something up or trash it which is a real shame for everyone else.


Yes I will fix it, just give me a little while...

I have to find the links and rewrite some posts...

OK there we go, all better... not exactly what I had posted before, but it's close. Same general ideas, anyway.

[edit on 8/6/04 by The Axeman]

posted on Aug, 6 2004 @ 03:50 PM
Thanks Axeman.

Sorting out goes along way in my book.

posted on Aug, 6 2004 @ 03:50 PM
Officially known as the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta.

International Headquarters in Rome
(also has links to official associations worldwide)


Two great Orders of crusading knight-monks grew in the Middle East out of the First Crusade and the capture of Jerusalem from the Moslems in 1099. One was the military Order of the Knights of the Temple or Knights Templar, named after their quarters near the temple of King Solomon. The other was the hospitaller-military Order of St. John of Jerusalem or Knights Hospitaller, which derive its name from the great hospital in Jerusalem and the seven other "Hospitals of Jerusalem" or pilgrim hostels strung out along the route followed by pilgrims to the Holy Land.

Both Orders became, through Papal recognition, religious Orders of the Church and their members took the solemn vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The Knights Templar performed purely military duties of protecting pilgrims and the Holy Places. Once the Latin Kingdom in Palestine ended in the late thirteenth century, the Templars retired to Europe, lost their military character and were dissolved by the Pope in the 1300's. Their possessions were passed on in part to the Knights Hospitaller, who had begun as monks serving in the Jerusalem hospital. Gradually they assumed a military character and continued, after the fall of the Latin Kingdom, to care for the sick and battle the Moslems from their now insular bases in Rhodes and then in Malta.

Originally an Order of mounted knights and hospitallers, the Order shifted to naval warfare when forced out of the Holy Land to the islands of Rhodes and Malta. For several centuries the Order operated in the Mediterranean as one of that sea's chief naval powers, holding the east-west sea lines against the Moslems. Expelled from Malta by Napoleon and deprived of their island by the British in 1815, the Order finally came to rest in Rome toward the middle of the nineteenth century, dedicating itself wholly to its traditional hospitaller activities. Once a prime motor for the defense of Christendom, the Order now helps to heal humanity throughout the world.


The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and Cyprus (1099-1291)
Rhodes (1310-1522)
Malta (1530-1798)
Exile and Rebirth (1798 to the present)

1. The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and Cyprus 1099-1291
The Holy Places of Jerusalem and area, once scenes of Christ's life and death, have always played a central role in the life of Christianity. In the many centuries since Christ's death, pilgrims have ventured over land and sea, risking illness, the elements, exploitation and often death to relive Christ's life on earth by visiting the Holy Places, thereby attaining for themselves great spiritual benefits. Until the seventh century, the Holy Places were under the administration of the Roman Emperors. Constantine the Great became a Christian, moved his capital to the east in 330 in Byzantium, and erected great churches on the Holy Sites. As the western Roman Empire gradually disintegrated under repeated attacks from barbarians, the Christian Emperor of the East stood out as the Christian world's supreme ruler.

But in the 600's, new invasions burst upon the Byzantine world as outlying people poured in from the east and the Arabian deserts. In 614, Jerusalem fell to Persian invaders, who permitted the destruction of many of the Christian foundations of the area. Then followed the Arabs, aroused by the new faith of Islam. They fell upon Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, occupied Jerusalem in 638, the rest of Roman Africa around 700, reaching Spain in 711. At first the Moslem rulers in Jerusalem tolerated Christian foundations and pilgrims, formally recognizing in 807 the new Emperor of the west, Charlemagne, as the Christian's protector. Charlemagne assisted in rebuilding some of the destroyed buildings including a hospital reputed to have been founded by Pope Gregory in 600, the great church of Maria Latina and a monastery housing Benedictines serving the hospital.

A second wave of systematic persecution of Christians took place at the end of the tenth century as the tolerant caliphs of Baghdad were replaced by the more fanatical caliphs of Egypt. However, this wave quickly subsided. The new caliphs soon concluded a treaty with the Eastern Roman Emperor, who assumed protection of the Holy Places and began to restore the damage done to over 3,000 Christian churches and foundations during the persecutions. Many rulers and wealthy persons from Europe contributed to rebuilding the Christian presence in Palestine. Among these was a group of wealthy merchants from the trading republic of Amalfi lying south of Naples. They purchased the ruins of Charlemagne's church and hospital close to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They paid for the reconstruction of the hospital, church and monastery, where the Benedictines lived and worked again. It appears that as a sign of gratefulness to their sponsors from Amalfi, the monks adopted the republic of Amalfi's badge, a white, eight-pointed cross on a black background.
Toward the end of the eleventh century, a third period of hardship opened for the Holy Sites when the Turkish Moslems conquered Jerusalem. The Holy Places were closed to pilgrims, and pilgrims arriving at Jerusalem were turned back at the city gates. This time however, Europe had both the strength and the will to take the offensive against Islam. By the year 1000, western Europe had begun to experience a remarkable vitality and activity, which was to result in the crusades. In 1095 Pope Urban II preached the First Crusade to win back the Holy Places and at the same time to encourage the Peace of God in Europe by diverting feuding nobles to fight the infidel. In early 1097, a great Christian army advanced from Constantinople through Asia Minor, capturing Antioch in 1098 and finally Jerusalem in 1099.

Meanwhile, throughout the siege of Jerusalem, the Benedictine hospital had continued to operate under its rector Brother Gerard. After the city fell, many wounded crusaders were cared for in his hospital, who later made generous donations to the hospital in thanks for this aid. The elected ruler of Jerusalem, Godfrey of Bouillon, also gave the hospital his moral and material support. Brother Gerard now decided to cut the brothers' links with the Benedictines and reorganize the brotherhood serving in the hospital under the name of "The Poor Brethern of the Hospital of St. John". The confraternity recognized the statutes and the brethern of the Hospital submitted its new statutes to Pope Pascal I. In 1113, the Pope recognized the statutes and the brethern of the Hospital became a religious Order of the Church. Seven years later, Gerard died and was succeeded by Raymond du Puy, one of the Order's great innovators and administrators. He was the first to take the title of Master of the Hospital. The title of Grand Master for the Order's head appears in the XIIIth century.

The young Kingdom of Jerusalem represented a fragile feudal structure built upon independent-minded barons and surrounded by enemies. The Kingdom needed knights and colonizers, but the Turks in the north obstructed the land routes, making the Kingdom dependent upon sea routes and Italian merchants. Because of increasing Moslem pressure, the brothers of the Hospital gradually associated to themselves knights, who took the same three vows as the monks but employed their arms to defend pilgrims and the Christian kingdom. All the members of the Order of St. John, or Hospitallers as they were called, wore the Hospitaller's black robe with the plain white, eight-pointed cross. A century later, the knights were given permission to wear a red surcoat with a plain white cross over their armour. The Knights Templar and Hospitaller were unquestionably the strongest and most cohesive fighting units in the Kingdom. Both Orders constructed forts and castles along the Kingdom's frontiers to protect pilgrims. Master du Puy also built the Order's vast Hospital in Jerusalem, which eventually measured 230 feet by 120 feet and contained about a thousand beds. It was Master du Puy as well who set up the Order's European structure to administer the properties granted to the Order there by admiring or grateful donors. One priory was set up in St. Gilles, in the south of France to look after western Europe, while another administered central and southern Europe from Messina. Both St. Gilles and Messina were chosen as they were embarkment points for the sea voyage to the Holy Land. After forty years of service as Master, Raymond de Puy died in 1160.

About that time, the kings of the Christian Kingdom began to fall out of favour with their barons, while in 1174 a new threat appeared in the form of a union of Moslems from Syria and Egypt led by a young Kurd of genius named Saladin. The internal state of the Kingdom was chaotic when Saladin proclaimed a Holy War against the Christians. Saladin's first success was the defeat of an army of Templars and Hospitallers in Galilee. He then captured Tiberias and at Hattin surrounded and destroyed the main Christian force. More than 1,500 knights and 20,000 footsoldiers were slain. Only two knights escaped the battle. Jerusalem was surrounded and its inhabitants preferred to ransom themselves to escape massacre. On October 2, 1187 Saladin occupied the city and transformed most of its churches into mosques. The few Christian strongholds left were cities along the Syrian seacoast such as Antioch, Tyre and Tripoli.

When the capital of the Christian Kingdom Jerusalem fell before the Moslem onslaught, the Hospital of St. John had to be transferred to Margat and then to Acre, captured by Richard the Lion Hearted and destined to be the new Christian capital for almost a century. Renamed St-Jean-d'Acre, the city was defended by both Templars and Hospitallers. However, in 1291 a Moslem army of 100,000 laid siege to the city and its garrison of 14,000, of which 240 were Knights Templar and 140 were Knights Hospitallers. When the city finally capitulated after six weeks, only six knights and the Master of the Hospital, John de Villiers, managed to avoid the ensuing massacre by escaping by sea.

2. Rhodes 1310-1522

With the fall of Acre, two centuries of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem ended forever. John de Villiers and his knights fled to the Christian Kingdom of Cyprus, where they established a new convent of the Order. As the Order grew through the arrival of new knights from Europe, the King of Cyprus began to encourage the knigths to look elsewhere for a permanent home. So, in 1310, the knights sailed three hundred miles to the west and captured the island of Rhodes just off the mainland of Asia Minor, establishing their new base there. At this point, the Order began to turn to naval warfare in defence of the faith. At Rhodes, the knights built a great fortified city able to withstand long sieges. In 1312, the Templar Order was suppressed by the Pope and many of its possessions went to the Knights Hospitaller of St. John at Rhodes.

For the next two centuries, the fertile island of Rhodes became the home of the Hospitallers, who built a large fleet of fighting galleys to keep the eastern Mediterranean free of Moslems and pirates. From the wealth transferred to it from the Templars, donations made by wealthy patrons, revenues from its European possessions and cargoes captured from the Turks, the Order prospered and built on Rhodes one of the strongest fortresses in existence. Around this center of military activity were other splendid buildings including the Grand Master's palace reflecting the Order's sovereign status. The knights were now divided into seven (and later eight) langues or tongues representing different cultural and geographical areas of origin in Europe. Each langue built its own auberge or college-type hostel to house its knights. Other fine buildings were constructed including churches and a few hospitals.

Meanwhile, pressure on the Byzantine Empire continued. The Ottoman Turks replaced the Saracens as the driving force of Islam, and it was these redoubtable fighters who captured Constantinople in 1453. The Order was now outflanked on land by the Turks, who held the mainland only a dozen miles away. At the same time as the Turks turned their attention to Rhodes, Europe began to lose interest in its insular outpost due to rising political, social - and later religious - divisions at home. War, civil war, class war, feudal rebellion and plain banditry afflicted a good deal of Europe in the fifteenth century. These included the Hundred Year War between France and England which ended in 1453, the Hussite Wars in Germany and Bohemia until 1436, Jack Cade's rebellion in England in 1450, the War of the Roses ending in 1485, peasant uprisings in France and social frictions in the Low Countries. The rise of a new secular, town-based Renaissance in cities and courts of southern Europe, turned men's eyes away from traditions of Christian chivalry. At the end of the fifteenth century, Italy became a battleground between France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, and Rome itself was sacked by Spanish and German mercenaries in 1527. Further, the fourteenth century witnessed a struggle between the papacy and the kings of France and other monarchs, which resulted in the "Babylonian Captivity" of the Church as the Pope moved to Avignon. Then followed the schism with a Pope in Rome and one in Avignon. This split was only healed in 1414 at the council of Constance, while the next thirty years saw a continuing tug for supremacy between the new Pope and councils. In 1438, the Gallican or French church declared its administrative independence from the Holy See in the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges. The counciliar movement finally came to an end in 1449 and a great jubilee was held in 1450 to celebrate the papal triumph. These unsettled political, social and religious conditions were further aggravated by the Black Death or bubonic plague, which swept over Europe in successive waves from east to west beginning in 1347. Finally the sixteenth century was to experience the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, which for over a century sparked interminable and bitter wars and civil wars, ending only at the termination of the Thirty Year War in 1648.

Because of the internal difficulties in Europe, the knights at Rhodes were left largely to their own resources when the Turks decided to attempt to reduce Rhodes in 1480. In that year, Mahomet the Great, conqueror of Constantinople, landed an awesome multi- national army of 70,000 on the island, invested the city and blockaded the island with his fleet. Eighty-nine days of pounding siege followed, in which the Turks tried through cannon fire and mining to breach the fortress' walls without success. Turkish attacks were regularly beaten back and a final counter-attack led by the Grand Master convinced the Turks to withdraw from the island defeated. Almost half a century later, the Turks decided once again to attack Rhodes. By this time they had crossed the Bosphorus in vast numbers and had conquered most of southeastern Europe. In 1522, Sultan Suliman the Magnificent sent a vast force of 200,000 to Rhodes, protected now only by a Christian garrison of 5,000. The great siege of Rhodes, directed by the great Sultan himself, lasted six months. Attempts to send reinforcements from Europe were hampered by Europe's internal divisions and by the elements. Five days before Christmas, the Grand Master surrendered the city on honorable terms in order to save the civilian population. Sultan Suliman allowed the knights to leave the island with their ships, arms and possessions, and even provided some Turkish ships for their transport. The city of Rhodes was not destroyed nor was the civilian population harmed.

3. Malta 1530-1798

For seven years the Order was homeless, while the Grand Master toured Europe seeking assistance for the recapture of Rhodes. Emperor Charles V offered the Grand Master the barren island of Malta instead, an offer which was at first refused. Finally, because an expedition for Rhodes proved impossible to organize, the offer of Malta was accepted with the condition that the knights would be responsible for the defence of Tripoli. In fact, Emperor Charles and his son Philip II of Spain did lead some expeditions into North Africa with help from the knights, but these adventures were badly organized and sporadic, with the result that Tripoli was finally lost to the Moslems. The knights still kept Malta, which they had received in sovereignty from the Emperor in return for an annual tribute of a falcon. Expecting an inevitable attack on the island by the Moslems, the knights began to fortify it in 1530. The task was incredibly arduous as the island was rocky, without adequate water supplies, unable to grow the necessary food, and soon to be isolated by the religious wars in Europe.

As a result of the Reformation, confiscation of the Order's possessions in Europe began to take place. The wealthy Grand Priory of England before the Reformation had numbered thirty-six commanderies administered for the benefit of the Order by knights commander. In 1540, the Grand Master refused Henry VIII's demand that the Order stop recognizing papal supremacy in England. As a result, the king dissolved the Order and confiscated all the Order's properties. Reinstated briefly under Mary Tudor, the Order was again stripped of its properties in 1560 under Elizabeth I. This was equivalent to the suppression of the Grand Priory of England. Most of the German and all the Dacian or Scandinavian priories and properties disappeared as well during the Reformation.

While the rulers were occupied in confiscating church and Order lands or crusading at home against religious opponents, the Order continued its fortification of Malta and naval engagements with Turks and pirates from the Barbary coast of North Africa. In 1564, the Order captured the largest galleon of the Turkish fleet. Sultan Suliman the Magnificent, who had driven the knights from Rhodes and was now seventy years old, decided to repeat his former success over the knights. At the beginning of the summer of 1564, Suliman landed with a force of 30,000 troops, outnumbering the defenders four to one. After an initial unsuccessful attack on the main fort, the Turks turned their attention to the small fort of St. Elmo on the tip of the peninsula guarding the harbour and its great chain across the mouth. Eventually, at the cost of 8,000 Turkish and 130 Order dead, the fortress was reduced by the attackers. The Turkish commander cut off the knights' heads, impaling them on spikes for the view of the other Order defenders across the bay, and nailed the bodies slashed with great crosses to boards floated across to the other side. Stung to the quick, the knights decapitated their Turkish captives and shot their heads from cannons into the Turkish camp. While the Turks continued their siege of the fortified city, requests for help to the rulers of Europe fell upon deaf ears. Still Grand Master Jean de la Valette urged his men to hold on. Finally, when the ability to fight on had almost come to an end, a relieving army arrived from Sicily and broke the sixteen-week siege. The Order had stopped the Turks from controlling the western Mediterranean.

The Order continued to maintain a large fleet of galleys to police the western sea against Turks and pirates. Three galleons of the Order took part in the last victory of the crusades, when naval forces under Don Juan of Austria destroyed the Turkish fleet at Lepanto in 1571. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, young knights wishing to enter the Order paid a "passage money" of about one thousand gold cus upon beginning their apprenticeship in the Order's navy, and then underwent three of four caravans or tough naval campaigns on board Order ships against the enemy. In some cases, wealthy knights equipped their own ships and maintained them from the share of the booty captured. Following the Great Siege of 1564, Grand Master de la Valette, decided to build a new fortified city on the peninsula behind Fort St. Elmo. The city was named after him, and built with contributions from rulers, the Order's possessions in Europe and captured Turkish wealth. Much of the actual construction was carried out by Turkish slaves. A magnificent conventual church was built and a splendid palace for the Grand Master. One of the main central points was the Sacred Infirmary built in 1575, the largest single room in Europe, measuring 450 feet in length. Grouped around these central buildings were the auberges of the various langues, two-storied buildings constructed with several central courtyards and operated very much in the same way as Oxford or Cambridge colleges. The knights were expected to attend common services and to eat several times a week together in the auberge's refectory. Each langue was expected to provide its knights one day a week to serve in the Order's infirmary.

With the decline of its traditional enemies after 1700, the rise of new centralized monarchies in Europe and the shift of trade patterns to the Atlantic, the great naval role of the Order began to decline. Gradually during the eighteenth century, especially during the time of Grand Master Pinto de Fonseca (1741-1773), political aspects of the Order began to assume greater importance to the detriment of the religious. Theoretically neutral in differences between Christian rulers, the Order found it more difficult to escape the frictions on the European continent. Forced to take sides by the wars which emanated from the French Revolution, the Order dropped its traditional policy of neutrality in order to align itself against the revolution. As a result, the rest of the Order's possessions left in Europe following the confiscations of the Reformation were lost. Most of the property owned by the three French langues were confiscated in 1792 and the rest shortly afterwards. The langue of Castile and Portugal was surpressed in the 1790's.

The French Revolution posed a serious threat to all traditional states including the Order of Malta. Menaced ideologically and politically by revolutionary France and undermined by serious financial problems resultant from revolutionary confiscations, the Order looked around for allies. At the same time, Czar Paul I of Russia for similar reasons dropped his traditional hostility to Roman Catholicism and even to Islam in order to find allies in the Order and in the Ottoman state against the revolution. Through the partition of Poland in 1797, the Catholic Grand Priory of the Order in Poland passed to Russia. As a result of this mutual new search for allies, in the same year Czar Paul of Russia and Grand Master de Rohan of the Order, signed a convention creating a Catholic Grand Priory of Russia out of the Polish Grand Priory. Czar Paul was granted the honorary title of Protector of the Order in return for his protection of the Catholic Grand Priory of Russia. Paul hoped through these agreements with the Order to counter the French thrust to the east and to penetrate the Mediterranean using the Order's strategically-placed island for his fleet.

The French countered Paul's plans boldly. On his way to Egypt in 1798, Napoleon forced the new Grand Master von Hompesch and the knights to surrender the island following a purely token resistance. The knights dispersed to their homelands or to Russia, where Czar Paul welcomed them. On their own, members of the Catholic Grand Priory of Russia together with some of the other refugee knights in Russia proclaimed Czar Paul Grand Master of the Order following von Hompesch's resignation under Austrian pressure. Once so proclaimed, Paul set up in Russia a second Grand Priory of Russia for his Greek Orthodox subjects, for which he recruited his nobles. In effect, two Grand Priories, one Catholic and the other Orthodox, existed in Russia between 1798 and 1810, after which date both became extinct.

Thus after 250 years of rule in sovereign Malta, the Order was forced in 1798 into exile. Most of its remaining European holdings quickly disappeared. In 1802, the Spanish Crown took over the Order lands within its realms, while its Italian, German and Bavarian possessions disappeared during the Napoleonic era.

4. Exile and Rebirth: 1798 to the present

Once again the Order was without a home. Between 1798 and 1801, there was even some confusion as to whom exactly was the Order's Grand Master. On the one hand, Czar Paul had been declared Grand Master by some knights within Russia. On the other hand, Grand Master von Hompesch's resignation had not been accepted by the Pope, and Paul was neither a Catholic nor a monk as the Order's constitution demanded for its Grand Master of the Order. In fact, he urged strongly that a new Grand Master be elected quickly according to the stipulations of the Order's constitution. As the political situation obviated the organizing of a general assembly of the Order, Czar Alexander suggested that the Pope choose a name from among those submitted to him by the remnants of the various priories. The Pope accepted the idea and as a result Bailiff Giovanni Batista Tommasi was elected in 1803. He was recognized by Czar Alexander as Grand Master of the Order, as well as by other rulers and priories of the Order. In 1810, Czar Alexander dissolved both Russian priories established by his father through forcing the Sacred Council of the Order in Russia to vote its own dissolution. At the same time, he handed over its authority to the new, legitimate Grand Master of the Order.

During the Napoleonic wars, the question of where the Order would re-establish itself remained open. In 1800, the British took the island of Malta from the French. In 1806, the Swedish King proposed to the Order that it take over the island of Gtland in the Baltic Sea, but the Pope and the King of Sicily thwarted this plan. Finally, the 1814 Treaty of Paris following Napoleon's defeat, recognized Malta as British, and the Congress of Vienna refused to reopen the question. As a result, Malta seemed permanently lost to the Order. The Austrian statesman Prince Metternich hoped that the Congress would at least give the Order some other Mediterranean island such as Elba, where it could be recognized again as a sovereign, neutral power entrusted with combatting the Barbary pirates. But this scheme too failed.

During this period, the Order moved from city to city in Italy before it found its present home in Rome. In 1834, the Pope permitted the Order to move into its old embassy to the Holy See on the via Condotti in Rome, granting it at the same time extra- territoriality. Its headquarters are still today in this building. The Pope also allowed the re-establishement of the priory of Rome in the Papal states. In 1839, with the permission of the Emperor of Austria and the King of the Two Sicilies, the priories of Lombardy-Venezia and Naples were re-opened. Through these priories new knights were recruited, while others were created elsewhere directly from Rome and attached to the Grand Magistry. Where no priories existed, it was later decided to create national associations. Thus in 1859, the first of these national associations, the Rhineland- Westphalian was formed, followed eight years later by the Silesian, the British in 1877 and the Spanish in 1891.

Following Grand Master Tommasi's death, the Order was ruled for seventy-four years by lieutenants. In 1879 the Pope restored the dignity of Grand Master with the rank of Cardinal of the Church. In that year he recognized Lieutenant of the Order, Fra John Ceschi a Santa Croce as Grand Master. The next year, the first secular state, Austria, recognized him as a sovereign prince, a title once granted by the Holy Roman Emperor. And so the ancient office and titles were again fully re-established. Several other countries followed Austria's lead in recognizing the Grand Master as a sovereign prince and the Order as an independent state. Russia had maintained diplomatic relations with the Order between 1803 and 1810, and relations thereafter remained cordial.

The Order's welfare work in hospitals was once again taken up on both national and international levels. In 1869, the Order participated in the third international conference of the International Red Cross. It also took part in the 1927 League of Nations conference called to establish an International Relief Union. Since 1945, many new national associations have been founded in Europe, North and South America and even Asia (the Philippines). By 1974, there were six Grand Priories, three Sub-Priories and forty-two national associations with over 8,000 members. It is aided by the work of tens of thousands of auxiliaries. The Order has been recognized as sovereign by about forty states and is an independent member of such international bodies as the Red Cross, the World Health Organization, the International Leprosy Association, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and recently, the United Nations.

(from "The Order of Malta: Past and Present", published by the Canadian Association of the Knights of the Order of Malta, Montral, 1978)

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