Historical Reprints Mysteries Knights of Malta (1523-1798)

Knights of Malta (1523-1798)

Knights of Malta (1523-1798)
Catalog # SKU1100
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name R. Cohen


Knights of Malta

R. Cohen

On January 1, 1523, a fleet of fifty vessels put out from the harbour at Rhodes for an unknown destination in the West. On board were the shattered remnants of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, accompanied by 4,000 Rhodians, who preferred the Knights and destitution to security under the rule of the Sultan Solyman.

This author reveals some of the ancient history of this secretive brotherhood.


The framers of the Order's Statutes had taken the precaution of limiting the authority of the Grand Master by a minute enumeration of all his rights. But, as the Order developed into a purely military body, even officially his powers became greater. No subject for discussion could be introduced at the Councils except by himself; he had a double vote, and, in case of an equal division, a casting vote also; he had the right of nomination to many administrative posts besides all those of his own household, and in each priory there was a commandery in his own gift whose revenues went to himself. But even such wide powers were less than the reality.

While the Order was at Rhodes, and during the first half-century at Malta, it was obviously necessary that the Grand Master should possess the powers of a commander-in-chief. As a purely military body, surrounded by powerful foes, the Order was in the position of an army encamped in enemy territory. Further, the absolute possession of Rhodes, and later of Malta, tended to give the Grand Masters the rank of independent Sovereigns, and the outside world regarded them as territorial potentates rather than as heads of an Order of aristocratic Knights.

But when the Order's existence was no longer threatened the Grand Master's position was assailed from many sides. No one, while reading the history of the Knights, can fail to be impressed by the numerous disturbances among them during the last 200 years of the Order. Drawn from the highest ranks of the nobility, young, rich, and with very little to occupy their time (except when on their "caravans"), the Knights were perpetually quarrelling among themselves or defying the constituted authorities of the Order.

Charles V. had insisted on keeping in his own hands the nomination of the bishopric of Malta, and the custom grew up that the Bishop of Malta and the Prior of St. John--the two most important ecclesiastics in the Order--should be chosen from the chaplains who were natives of the island. This was intended as a compensation for an injury which had been inflicted on the Maltese. To prevent the Grand Mastership falling into the hands of a native, the Maltese members of the Order were unable to vote at the election. The Bishop was often engaged in quarrels with the Grand Master, and the disputes were generally carried to the Pope, who, as the Head of Christendom, was regarded as having supremacy over all Religious Orders. But the Pope himself often encroached upon the rights of the Order, not only by sending nuncios to Malta with large and undefined powers, but by arrogating to himself the patronage of the langue of Italy when he wished to bestow gifts upon his relatives and friends. This led to bitter resentment among the Italian Knights, who saw all the lucrative posts of their langue given away to strangers.

The introduction of the Inquisition in 1574 and the Jesuits in 1592, brought additional disputes about the chief authority in the island, and these different ecclesiastical personages had no hesitation in interfering in matters which should have been entirely beyond their province. Many a Grand Master of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had his time occupied in efforts to assert his authority.

Softcover, 5 x 8, 75+ pages


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