The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem is a Roman Catholic lay religious order that governed Rhodes from 1310-1522 A.D. The Order grew out of the Knights Hospitaller, an organization founded in Jerusalem in 1050 A.D. as an Amalfitan hospital to provide care for poor and sick pilgrims to the Holy Land . Its Latin motto is Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum which means "Defense of the faith and assistance to the poor." It is the world's oldest surviving order of chivalry.
After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, the Knights organized themselves into a Catholic military order under its own charter. Following the loss of Christian-held territories of the Holy Land to Muslims, the Order operated briefly from Cyprus and then conquered Rhodes where they governed for over 200 years.
Its membership included people from all over Europe , organized by the languages they spoke. The medieval city on Rhodes has eight gates, one for each of the languages spoken by members of the Order.
In 1522, Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent's Turkish forces of 100,000 men laid siege to Rhodes. The Knights successfully defended themselves for six months but were finally defeated. The Turks admired the courage of the Knights and allowed them to sail away to Malta.
|St Catherine's Gate (or Sea Gate)||Uniforms of the Knights on display in the Palace of the Grand Master in Rhodes||Bombard-Mortar of The Knights of Rhodes 1480-1500 A.D.|
The years during which Rhodes was occupied by the Order of the Knights of St. John are often considered one of the Rhodes ' most flourishing periods. They left imposing evidence of their time on the Island and gave it the particular color which the town still retains in its impregnable walls, its gates, churches, hospitals, inns and majestic palaces.
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta still exists today. It is one of the few Orders created in the Middle Ages that remains active today. It is also the only one that is at the same time religious and sovereign.
Headquartered in Rome since 1834, the Sovereign Order of Malta is a sovereign subject of international law, with its own constitution, passports, stamps and public institutions. In Rome it owns, with extraterritoriality status, the Magistral Palace in Via Condotti 68 and the Magistral Villa on the Aventine Hill.
Some flags of the Order:
|State Flag of the Order||The Flag of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta||Grand Master's-Flag|
The 79th Grand Master, Fra' Matthew Festing, was elected Head of the Order for life on March 11, 2008. The Order has diplomatic relations with 104 countries (many of which are non-Catholic) and missions to major European countries, as well as to European and international organizations. The members are involved in medical and humanitarian activities around the world. The original Hospitaller mission has become once again the main activity of the Order, growing ever stronger during the last century.