The Order of the Knights of Malta of Saint John of Jerusalem, can trace its beginnings to 1040 AD At that time, Knights in the Order of Saint John were recruited to protect the busy commerce flourishing between the Italian city of Amalfi and the Holy Land. In its earliest years, the new Order, largely composed of Frenchmen, fought against the Caliphs of Baghdad and Egypt who attempted to rob merchants doing business in the Holy Lands.
To counter the influence of Baghdad and Egypt, the Caliph of Jerusalem, in 1048, established a treaty with the Knights. He gave them a site close to the Holy Sepulchre, in his city, where they erected a chapel, known as Santa Maria ad Latinos and two hospitals for sick and weary pilgrims.
Though French, the Knights traced their descent from the ancient city of Alexandria in the Holy Lands. It was at this ancient and flourishing city that thousands had been converted to the New Faith by the disciples of Christ. After coming under the influence of the Byzantine Empire, the city had become Maronite - of the Eastern rite. Yet, it held to its Christian beginnings even under the Arabs.
Long having an association with the Holy Lands, it was not unusual that the Knights should seek a meaningful relationship with their origins. It was thus that in 1080, a powerful Knight known as Brother Gerard (of French origin) established a relationship with the Caliph of Jerusalem to build a special hospice for pilgrims and a cloister for his knights and soldiers.
In 1099, following the fall of Jerusalem to the knights of the First Crusade, Brother Gerard returned to the city. With the permission of its new overlords, he established the Knights Hospitallers. The hospice was run by Benedictine monks and nuns from Amalfi, Italy.
In 1113, Gerard abandoned the Benedictine rule for that of Saint Augustine. The Hospitallers were created as an independent religious order by Papal Bull. Under the command of Raymond du Puy, a successor to Brother Gerard, the Order expanded until it protected all the main ports of embarkation. They also establish hospitals for the sick and infirm.
The Order, which traditionally attracted the flower of French chivalry, had the honor of supporting the French king - and later Saint Louis IX, during the 7th Crusade. In 1249, King Louis IX, with an army of 40,000 knights and troops, in conjunction with the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, captured the key fortress city of Damietta, a major port in northern Egypt.
Because of its association with Saint John, the Order, from its beginning, has celebrated June 24th with a feast in honor of Saint John's Day. In modern times, its bylaws call for the official Language of the Order to be in Latin or French.
From its inception, the Order has enjoyed 900 years of continuity. It can trace an unbroken link, by blood and heredity, to its beginnings in the Holy Land. The Knights of Malta derive their present-day title form the island of Malta which they heroically defended in 1565 against Turkish attacks.
Without the steadfast courage and bravery of this Hospitaller Order, all Europe would have been engulfed in the Turkish Empire. Modern history, as we know it, would have been altered beyond comprehensive belief. Though military, the Order still recalls its commitment to the poor and the sick. Its 900-year-old tradition of service to the less fortunate still continues in every priory where it flourishes.
Although the Order is now autonomous, it receives the blessings of His Holiness, John Paul II, along with several other prominent churchmen of the Eastern Orthodox Rite.
The Oath of A Knight
(Also Known As A Knight's Prayer)
Almighty God, Eternal Father, Lord of Lords, have mercy upon me, a humble knight in Thy Divine Service.
O Lord, I pray for Thy indulgence and blessings. Forget not Thine servant in his trials, nor his Order of Knighthood. I pray, that Thy Will be done in all things, both great and small.
Let me always be worthy of Thee, let me not forget Thee in good times or bad. Armor me with the armor of Thy Righteousness, give me the sword of Truth that I shall confound Thine enemies and be unto Thee a true knight.
O Lord, in my hour of need, be with me. Let me never forget my sacred and holy vows unto Thee, that I should not be prey unto demons and devils nor the dark things of this world.
Let me always be a beacon unto those in distress, never allow me to forget my obligation unto the homeless nor the poor: let me serve Thee and Thine Eternal Throne all the days of my life. Let me always remember the obligations that I have taken upon me. Lord, if it is Thine Will, let me serve Thee forever!
If ever, oh Lord, I turn from Thee in this Order, let my name forever be cursed, may my spurs be broken and my body given unto demons to dwell with them forever in that Lake of Fire which Thou hast prepared for the ungodly.
Power beyond Power, Pillar of Strength, Refuge of the Homeless, let me serve Thee for all the days of my life! Amen.
The above words were part of an oral history of the Crusades compiled in 1200 A.D. and were spoken by a Knight Hospitaller moments before a battle against Moslem forces.
In the name of Saint John the Baptist, we are now and will always be with God in Peace. Chevaliers, may it please God that your fame and success increase and continue to do so. May God also protect you and your family and may they always be in good health.
Archbishop Lorenzo Michel de Valitch
Supreme Commander & Protector General
A Brief History of the Maltese Cross,
as used by the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
By Reverend Michael Foster.
The Maltese Cross, which today forms the badge of all the various Orders of St. John,
had evolved from a much simpler form.
The Cross on the original Great Seal of the Convent of St. John in Jerusalem
is the True Cross (known as a Patriarchal Cross), which adds an upper
crossbar (inscription-plate). The arms of the cross are slightly fluted.
The Patriarchal Cross may have been the initial form of Cross used by the Order.
The depiction of devotion to the True Cross, is also one found on coins of
the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and may only have been an image to depict that
the Order was "of Jerusalem".
If the Patriarchal Cross was the first form of cross, then it soon gave way
to an equally early form of cross used by the Order, that of the Cross
Formée (a Greek Cross with fluted arms). This cross can be seen on the wall
of the stairs leading to the chapel within the Krak des Chevaliers which
was the Syrian Castle of the Hospitallers from 1144 to 1271.
By the 14th century there is a regular portrayal of an eight pointed cross,
such as the Cross Moline or Cross Ancrée, contributing to the evolutionary design.
Following the conquest of Rhodes by the Order, the Order was toenjoy a 300
year period of settled existence. In this period a definite form of the eight pointed
cross emerged. This was represented by a Cross Formée Branchée/Fichée,
(the Rhodian Cross). The arms of the Rhodian Crosshad almost, but not quite,
achieved the straight lined sharp arrowhead appearance, noted from the mid
16th century onwards.
The first evidence of the modern Maltese Cross appears on a 2 Tari and a 4
Tari Copper coins of the Grand Master Jean de la Vallette-Parisot(1557-1568).
The 2 Tari Copper coin is dated 1567. This provides a date for the introduction
of the Maltese Cross into the Order.
For an updated detailed scholarly discussion of the cross, may I please invite you
to review the following web page / link maintained by Reverend Michael Foster.
To be defined at a later time!