Knights Hospitaller

Knights Hospitaller

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The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta , also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 lay
Laity
In religious organizations, the laity comprises all people who are not in the clergy. A person who is a member of a religious order who is not ordained legitimate clergy is considered as a member of the laity, even though they are members of a religious order .In the past in Christian cultures, the...

 religious order
Religious order
A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. The order is composed of initiates and, in some...

, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. It is the world's oldest surviving order of chivalry. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is headquartered in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, and is widely considered a sovereign
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 subject of international law
International law
Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

.

SMOM is the modern continuation of the original medieval order of Saint John of Jerusalem, known as the Knights Hospitaller
Knights Hospitaller
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta , also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. It is the world's...

, a group founded in Jerusalem about 1050 as an Amalfi
Amalfi
Amalfi is a town and comune in the province of Salerno, in the region of Campania, Italy, on the Gulf of Salerno, c. 35 km southeast of Naples. It lies at the mouth of a deep ravine, at the foot of Monte Cerreto , surrounded by dramatic cliffs and coastal scenery...

tan hospital to provide care for poor and sick pilgrims
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

 to the Holy Land
Holy Land
The Holy Land is a term which in Judaism refers to the Kingdom of Israel as defined in the Tanakh. For Jews, the Land's identifiction of being Holy is defined in Judaism by its differentiation from other lands by virtue of the practice of Judaism often possible only in the Land of Israel...

. After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade
First Crusade
The First Crusade was a military expedition by Western Christianity to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquest of the Levant, ultimately resulting in the recapture of Jerusalem...

, it became a military order
Military order
A military order is a Christian society of knights that was founded for crusading, i.e. propagating or defending the faith , either in the Holy Land or against Islam or pagans in Europe...

 under its own charter. Following the loss of Christian held territories of the Holy Land to Muslims
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, the Order operated from Rhodes
Rhodes
Rhodes is an island in Greece, located in the eastern Aegean Sea. It is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of both land area and population, with a population of 117,007, and also the island group's historical capital. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within...

 (1310–1523), and later from Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 (1530–1798), over which it was sovereign.

Although this state came to an end with the ejection of the Order from Malta
Bonaparte à Malte
Bonaparte à Malte is a 2008 book by Maltese writer Frans Sammut, with an introduction by Dr Paul Borg Olivier. The Maltese original, Bonaparti f'Malta, was published in 1997....

 by Napoleon, the Order as such survived. It retains its claims of sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 under international law and has been granted permanent observer status
United Nations General Assembly observers
In addition to the current 193 member states, the United Nations welcomes many international organizations, entities, and non-member states as observers. Observer status is granted by a United Nations General Assembly resolution...

 at the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

.

Today the order has about 13,000 members; 80,000 permanent volunteers; and 20,000 medical personnel including doctors, nurses, auxiliaries and paramedics in more than 120 countries. The goal is to assist the elderly, handicapped, refugeed, children, homeless, those with terminal illness and leprosy in five continents of the world, without distinction of race or religion. In several countries—including France, Germany and Ireland—the local associations of the Order are important providers of first aid training, first aid services and emergency medical services. Through its worldwide relief corps—Malteser International
Malteser International
Malteser International is the worldwide relief agency of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta for humanitarian aid. The organisation covers around 200 projects in about 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas...

—the Order is also engaged to aid victims of natural disasters, epidemics and armed conflicts.

Name and insignia


The Order has a large number of local priories and associations around the world but there also exist a number of organizations with similar-sounding names that are unrelated, including numerous fraudulent (self-styled) orders seeking to capitalize on the name.

In the ecclesiastical heraldry
Ecclesiastical heraldry
Ecclesiastical heraldry is the tradition of heraldry developed by Christian clergy. Initially used to mark documents, ecclesiastical heraldry evolved as a system for identifying people and dioceses. It is most formalized within the Catholic Church, where most bishops, including the Pope, have a...

 of the Roman Catholic Church, the Order of Malta is one of only two orders (along with the Order of the Holy Sepulchre
Order of the Holy Sepulchre
The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is a Roman Catholic order of knighthood under the protection of the pope. It traces its roots to Duke Godfrey of Bouillon, principal leader of the First Crusade...

) whose insignia may be displayed in a clerical coat of arms
Coat of arms
A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat or tabard used to cover and protect armour and to identify the wearer. Thus the term is often stated as "coat-armour", because it was anciently displayed on the front of a coat of cloth...

. (Laypersons have no such restriction.) The shield is surrounded with a silver rosary
Rosary
The rosary or "garland of roses" is a traditional Catholic devotion. The term denotes the prayer beads used to count the series of prayers that make up the rosary...

 for professed knights, or for others the ribbon of their rank. Members may also display the Maltese Cross
Maltese cross
The Maltese cross, also known as the Amalfi cross, is identified as the symbol of an order of Christian warriors known as the Knights Hospitaller or Knights of Malta and through them came to be identified with the Mediterranean island of Malta and is one of the National symbols of Malta...

 behind their shield instead of the ribbon.

International status of the Order



With its unique history and unusual present circumstances, the exact status of the Order in international law has been the subject of debate: it claims to be a traditional example of a sovereign entity other than a state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

. Its two headquarters in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 — the Palazzo Malta
Palazzo Malta
Palazzo Malta, which is sometimes referred to as Palazzo di Malta or Palazzo dell'Ordine di Malta, is the more important of the two headquarters of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , an order of chivalry...

 in Via dei Condotti 68, where the Grand Master resides and Government Bodies meet, and the Villa Malta
Villa Malta
Villa del Priorato di Malta, on the Aventine Hill is home to the Grand Priory in Rome of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, an order of chivalry, which remains a sovereign entity. It also hosts the embassy of the Order of Malta to Italy...

 on the Aventine, which hosts the Grand Priory of Rome — Fort Saint Angelo on the island of Malta, the Embassy of the Order to Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 and the Embassy of the Order to Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 have all been granted extraterritoriality
Extraterritoriality
Extraterritoriality is the state of being exempt from the jurisdiction of local law, usually as the result of diplomatic negotiations. Extraterritoriality can also be applied to physical places, such as military bases of foreign countries, or offices of the United Nations...

.

However, unlike the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

, which is sovereign over Vatican City
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

, SMOM has had no sovereign territory (other than Fort St Angelo in Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 and a few properties in Italy with extraterritoriality) since the loss of the island of Malta in 1798. The United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 does not classify it as a "non-member state" but as one of the "entities
United Nations General Assembly observers
In addition to the current 193 member states, the United Nations welcomes many international organizations, entities, and non-member states as observers. Observer status is granted by a United Nations General Assembly resolution...

 and intergovernmental organizations having received a standing invitation to participate as observers." For instance, while the International Telecommunication Union
International Telecommunication Union
The International Telecommunication Union is the specialized agency of the United Nations which is responsible for information and communication technologies...

 has granted radio identification prefixes to such quasi-sovereign jurisdictions as the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority, SMOM has never received one. For awards purposes, amateur radio operators consider SMOM to be a separate "entity", but stations transmitting from there use an entirely unofficial callsign, starting with the prefix "1A". Likewise, for internet identification, the SMOM has neither sought nor been granted a top-level domain
Top-level domain
A top-level domain is one of the domains at the highest level in the hierarchical Domain Name System of the Internet. The top-level domain names are installed in the root zone of the name space. For all domains in lower levels, it is the last part of the domain name, that is, the last label of a...

, while Vatican City uses its own domain (.va
.va
.va is the Internet country code top-level domain for the State of the Vatican City. It is administered by the Internet Office of the Holy See.There are 23 easily found names starting with "www" in the va zone, listed below...

).

There are differing opinions as to whether a claim to sovereign status has been recognized. Ian Brownlie
Ian Brownlie
Sir Ian Brownlie, CBE, QC, FBA was a British practising barrister, specialising in international law. After an education at Hertford College, Oxford, he was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn in 1958 and was a tenant at Blackstone Chambers from 1983 until his death on 3 January 2010.During his...

, Helmut Steinberger, and Wilhelm Wengler are among the experts who say that the claim has not been recognized. Even taking into account the Order's ambassador
Ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

ial status among many nations, a claim to sovereign status is sometimes rejected. The Order maintains diplomatic missions around the world and many of the states reciprocate by accrediting ambassadors to the Order.

Wengler—a German professor of international law—addresses this point in his book Völkerrecht, and rejects the notion that recognition of the Order by some states can make it a subject of international law. Conversely, professor Rebecca Wallace —writing more recently in her book International Law—explains that a sovereign entity does not have to be a country, and that SMOM is an example of this. This position appears to be supported by the number of nations extending diplomatic relations to the Order, which more than doubled from 49 to 100 in the 20-year period to 2008. In 1953, the Holy See proclaimed that the Order of Malta was only a "functional sovereignty"—due to the fact that it did not have all that pertained to true sovereignty, such as territory.

SMOM has formal diplomatic relations with 104 states and has official relations with another six countries and the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

. Additionally it has relations with the International Committee of the Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross
The International Committee of the Red Cross is a private humanitarian institution based in Geneva, Switzerland. States parties to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005, have given the ICRC a mandate to protect the victims of international and...

 and a number of international organizations, including observer status at the UN and some of the specialized agencies. Its international nature is useful in enabling it to pursue its humanitarian activities without being seen as an operative of any particular nation. Its claimed sovereignty is also expressed in the issuance of passports
Sovereign Military Order of Malta passport
The Sovereign Military Order of Malta passport is a travel document issued to followers of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta . The sovereign issues biometric passports which are fully ICAO9303 compliant....

, licence plates, stamps, and coins. That Rome is the capital of the Italian Republic, the Holy See is located there as enclave and the extraterritorial
Extraterritoriality
Extraterritoriality is the state of being exempt from the jurisdiction of local law, usually as the result of diplomatic negotiations. Extraterritoriality can also be applied to physical places, such as military bases of foreign countries, or offices of the United Nations...

 Order of Malta headquarters are located there as well, leads to a high density of diplomatic instances in the city.
The SMOM coins are appreciated more for their subject matter than for their use as currency; SMOM postage stamps, however, have been gaining acceptance among Universal Postal Union
Universal Postal Union
The Universal Postal Union is an international organization that coordinates postal policies among member nations, in addition to the worldwide postal system. The UPU contains four bodies consisting of the Congress, the Council of Administration , the Postal Operations Council and the...

 member nations.

The SMOM began issuing euro
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

-denominated postage stamps in 2005, although the scudo
Maltese scudo
The scudo is the official currency of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and was the currency of Malta during the rule of the Order over Malta, which ended in 1798. It is subdivided into 12 tari , each of 20 grani with 6 piccioli to the grano...

 remains the official currency of the SMOM. Also in 2005, the Italian post agreed with the SMOM to deliver internationally most classes of mail other than registered, insured, and special-delivery mail; additionally 56 countries recognize SMOM stamps for franking purposes, including those such as Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

 that lack diplomatic relations with the Order.

Overview of international bilateral relations


The Order has established diplomatic relations with 104 sovereign states (including the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

, Monaco
Monaco
Monaco , officially the Principality of Monaco , is a sovereign city state on the French Riviera. It is bordered on three sides by its neighbour, France, and its centre is about from Italy. Its area is with a population of 35,986 as of 2011 and is the most densely populated country in the...

 and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

) and exchanges ambassadors with the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

.

The Order has non-diplomatic official relations with 6 more states: France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Luxembourg , officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , is a landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It has two principal regions: the Oesling in the North as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland in the south...

 and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

.

At least 5 other states maintain no relations with and do not recognize the passports of the Order
Sovereign Military Order of Malta passport
The Sovereign Military Order of Malta passport is a travel document issued to followers of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta . The sovereign issues biometric passports which are fully ICAO9303 compliant....

: Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

, Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

.

Currently the Order has no established relations with:
  • Andorra
    Andorra
    Andorra , officially the Principality of Andorra , also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, , is a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of...

    , Denmark
    Denmark
    Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

    , United Kingdom
    United Kingdom
    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

    , Ireland
    Ireland
    Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

    , Norway
    Norway
    Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

    , Cyprus
    Cyprus
    Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

    , Estonia
    Estonia
    Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

    , Turkey
    Turkey
    Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

    , Azerbaijan
    Azerbaijan
    Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

  • Algeria
    Algeria
    Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

    , Tunisia
    Tunisia
    Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

    , Libya
    Libya
    Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

    , Syria
    Syria
    Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

    , Israel
    Israel
    The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

  • Iran
    Iran
    Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

    , Iraq
    Iraq
    Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

    , Kuwait
    Kuwait
    The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

    , Bahrain
    Bahrain
    ' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

    , Qatar
    Qatar
    Qatar , also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is a sovereign Arab state, located in the Middle East, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its...

    , United Arab Emirates
    United Arab Emirates
    The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

    , Oman
    Oman
    Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

    , Saudi Arabia
    Saudi Arabia
    The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

    , Yemen
    Yemen
    The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

  • Djibouti
    Djibouti
    Djibouti , officially the Republic of Djibouti , is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east...

    , Gambia, Ghana
    Ghana
    Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

    , Nigeria
    Nigeria
    Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

    , Uganda
    Uganda
    Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

    , Tanzania
    Tanzania
    The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

    , Rwanda
    Rwanda
    Rwanda or , officially the Republic of Rwanda , is a country in central and eastern Africa with a population of approximately 11.4 million . Rwanda is located a few degrees south of the Equator, and is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo...

    , Burundi
    Burundi
    Burundi , officially the Republic of Burundi , is a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Its capital is Bujumbura...

    , Malawi
    Malawi
    The Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. Its size...

    , Zambia
    Zambia
    Zambia , officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west....

    , Zimbabwe
    Zimbabwe
    Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...

    , Botswana
    Botswana
    Botswana, officially the Republic of Botswana , is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. The citizens are referred to as "Batswana" . Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966...

    , South Africa
    South Africa
    The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

    , Swaziland
    Swaziland
    Swaziland, officially the Kingdom of Swaziland , and sometimes called Ngwane or Swatini, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, bordered to the north, south and west by South Africa, and to the east by Mozambique...

    , Lesotho
    Lesotho
    Lesotho , officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country and enclave, surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. It is just over in size with a population of approximately 2,067,000. Its capital and largest city is Maseru. Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name...

  • Mongolia
    Mongolia
    Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

     (accepts its stamps), Uzbekistan
    Uzbekistan
    Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

    , Kyrgyzstan
    Kyrgyzstan
    Kyrgyzstan , officially the Kyrgyz Republic is one of the world's six independent Turkic states . Located in Central Asia, landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east...

  • China
    China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

    , Taiwan
    Republic of China
    The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

    , North Korea
    North Korea
    The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

    , South Korea
    South Korea
    The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

    , Japan
    Japan
    Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

    , Vietnam
    Vietnam
    Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

    , Laos
    Laos
    Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

    , Myanmar
    Myanmar
    Burma , officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar , is a country in Southeast Asia. Burma is bordered by China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, India on the northwest, the Bay of Bengal to the southwest, and the Andaman Sea on the south....

    , Indonesia
    Indonesia
    Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

    , Malaysia, Brunei
    Brunei
    Brunei , officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace , is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia...

    , India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    , Nepal
    Nepal
    Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

    , Bhutan
    Bhutan
    Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

    , Bangladesh
    Bangladesh
    Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

    , Pakistan
    Pakistan
    Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

    , Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

    , Maldives
    Maldives
    The Maldives , , officially Republic of Maldives , also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and...

  • Australia
    Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

    , New Zealand
    New Zealand
    New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

    , Papua New Guinea
    Papua New Guinea
    Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

    , Solomon Islands
    Solomon Islands
    Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. It covers a land mass of . The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal...

    , Nauru
    Nauru
    Nauru , officially the Republic of Nauru and formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country in Micronesia in the South Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, to the east. Nauru is the world's smallest republic, covering just...

    , Tuvalu
    Tuvalu
    Tuvalu , formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. It comprises four reef islands and five true atolls...

    , Palau
    Palau
    Palau , officially the Republic of Palau , is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, east of the Philippines and south of Tokyo. In 1978, after three decades as being part of the United Nations trusteeship, Palau chose independence instead of becoming part of the Federated States of Micronesia, a...

    , Fiji
    Fiji
    Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

    , Vanuatu
    Vanuatu
    Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

    , Tonga
    Tonga
    Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga , is a state and an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 176 islands scattered over of ocean in the South Pacific...

    , Samoa
    Samoa
    Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

  • United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

    , Mexico
    Mexico
    The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

    , Jamaica
    Jamaica
    Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

    , Barbados
    Barbados
    Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

    , Saint Kitts and Nevis
    Saint Kitts and Nevis
    The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis , located in the Leeward Islands, is a federal two-island nation in the West Indies. It is the smallest sovereign state in the Americas, in both area and population....

    , Dominica
    Dominica
    Dominica , officially the Commonwealth of Dominica, is an island nation in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea, south-southeast of Guadeloupe and northwest of Martinique. Its size is and the highest point in the country is Morne Diablotins, which has an elevation of . The Commonwealth...

    , Grenada
    Grenada
    Grenada is an island country and Commonwealth Realm consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea...

    , Trinidad and Tobago
    Trinidad and Tobago
    Trinidad and Tobago officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles...

  • any of the states with limited recognition listed here.

Governance of the Order



The proceedings of the Order are governed by its Constitutional Charter
Charter
A charter is the grant of authority or rights, stating that the granter formally recognizes the prerogative of the recipient to exercise the rights specified...

 and the Order's Code. It is divided internationally into six territorial Grand Priories, six Sub-Priories, and 47 national associations.

The supreme head of the Order is the Grand Master
Grand Master (order)
Grand Master is the typical title of the supreme head of various orders of knighthood, including various military orders, religious orders and civil orders such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Orange Order...

, who is elected for life by the Council Complete of State, holds the precedence of a cardinal
Cardinal (Catholicism)
A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official, usually an ordained bishop, and ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church. They are collectively known as the College of Cardinals, which as a body elects a new pope. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College and...

 of the Church since 1630, and received the rank of Reichsfürst (Prince of the Holy Roman Empire) in 1607. Fra' Matthew Festing was elected by the Council as 79th Grand Master on 11 March 2008, succeeding Fra' Andrew Bertie, who was Grand Master until his death on 7 February 2008. Electors in the Council include the members of the Sovereign Council, other office-holders and representatives of the members of the Order. The Grand Master is aided by the Sovereign Council (the government of the Order), which is elected by the Chapter General, the legislative body of the Order. The Chapter General meets every five years; at each meeting, all seats of the Sovereign Council are up for election. The Sovereign Council includes six members and four High Officers: the Grand Commander, the Grand Chancellor
Jean-Pierre Mazery
Jean-Pierre Mazery is the Grand Chancellor of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , a post he has held since 2005.-Career:...

, the http://www.orderofmalta.int/the-order-and-its-institutions/370/grand-hospitaller-albrecht-boeselager/?lang=en and the http://www.orderofmalta.int/the-order-and-its-institutions/529/receiver-of-the-common-treasure/?lang=en. The Grand Commander is the chief religious officer of the Order and serves as "Interim Lieutenant" during a vacancy in the office of Grand Master. The Grand Chancellor, whose office includes those of the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is the head of the executive branch; he is responsible for the Diplomatic Missions of the Order and relations with the national Associations. The Grand Hospitaller's responsibilities include the offices of Minister for Humanitarian Action and Minister for International Cooperation; he coordinates the Order's humanitarian and charitable activities. Finally, the Receiver of the Common Treasure is the Minister of Finance and Budget; he directs the administration of the finances and property of the Order.

Patrons of the Order of Malta since 1961


The patron, who is always a cardinal
Cardinal (Catholicism)
A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official, usually an ordained bishop, and ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church. They are collectively known as the College of Cardinals, which as a body elects a new pope. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College and...

, has the task of promoting the spiritual interests of the Order and its members, and its relations with the Holy See.
  • Paolo Cardinal Giobbe (8 August 1961 – 3 July 1969)
  • Giacomo Cardinal Violardo
    Giacomo Violardo
    Giacomo Violardo was an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments in the Roman Curia from 1965 to 1969, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1969.-Biography:Giacomo Violardo was born in Govone, and...

     (3 July 1969 – 17 March 1978)
  • Paul-Pierre Cardinal Philippe, O.P. (10 November 1978 – 9 April 1984)
  • Sebastiano Cardinal Baggio
    Sebastiano Cardinal Baggio
    Sebastiano Baggio was an Italian cardinal, the President of the Vatican City State in 1984 and the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops in 1978....

     (26 May 1984 – 21 March 1993)
  • Pio Cardinal Laghi
    Pio Cardinal Laghi
    Pio Laghi was an Italian Cardinal of the Catholic Church. His service was primarily in the diplomatic service of the Holy See and the Roman Curia. He served as Apostolic nuncio to several countries and as the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education...

     (8 May 1993 – 11 January 2009)
  • Paolo Cardinal Sardi
    Paolo Sardi
    Paolo Sardi STL is an Italian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the current patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta....

     (6 June 2009 – present)

Membership


Membership in the order is divided into several classes: knights of justice, or profess knights, who take religious vows
Religious vows
Religious vows are the public vows made by the members of religious communities pertaining to their conduct, practices and views.In the Buddhist tradition, in particular within the Mahayana and Vajrayana tradition, many different kinds of religious vows are taken by the lay community as well as by...

 of poverty, chastity, and obedience and form what amounts to a religious order (until the 1990s membership in this class was restricted to members of families with noble titles); knights of obedience
Knight of Obedience
Knight of Obedience is a rank in the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta. Unlike those professed chaplains and knights who take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience these Knights, and now Dames, make a promise of obedience...

(similarly restricted, these knights make a promise, rather than a vow, of obedience); knights of honour and devotion, knights of grace and devotion, and knights of magistral grace, all classes made up of members who take no vows and who had to show a decreasingly extensive history of nobility (knights of magistral grace need not prove any noble lineage and are the commonest class of knights in the United States). Within each class of knights are ranks ranging from bailiff grand cross (the highest) through knight grand cross, knight commander, knight officers, and knight — thus one could be a "knight commander of grace and devotion," or a "bailiff grand cross of justice." A final rank of donat is offered to some who join the order in the class of "justice" but who are not knights.

Prior to the 1990s, all officers of the Order had to be of noble birth (i.e., armiger
Armiger
In heraldry, an armiger is a person entitled to use a coat of arms. Such a person is said to be armigerous.-Etymology:The Latin word armiger literally means "armour-bearer". In high and late medieval England, the word referred to an esquire attendant upon a knight, but bearing his own unique...

ous for at least a hundred years), as they were all knights of justice or of obedience. However, Knights of Magistral Grace (i.e., those without noble proofs) now may make the Promise of Obedience and, at the discretion of the Grand Master and Sovereign Council, may enter the novitiate
Novitiate
Novitiate, alt. noviciate, is the period of training and preparation that a novice monastic or member of a religious order undergoes prior to taking vows in order to discern whether they are called to the religious life....

 to become professed Knights of Justice.

Worldwide, there are over 13,000 knights and dames, a small minority of whom are professed religious. Membership of the Order is by invitation only and solicitations are not entertained.

The Order's finances are audited by a Board of Auditors, which includes a President and four Councillors, all elected by the Chapter General. The Order's judicial powers are exercised by a group of Magistral Courts, whose judges are appointed by the Grand Master and Sovereign Council.

Ground Forces


The Order states that it was the hospitaller role that enabled the Order to survive the end of the crusading era; nonetheless, it retains its military title and function. As a sovereign body, it has the right to maintain a military force and does so at its Rome headquarters.

Commonly referred to as The Military Corps of the Order, its members have medical or paramedical military functions. Its present form was raised in 1877 and has enjoyed a continuous existence since that date. Armed and uniformed members of the Corps attend grand ceremonials of the Order and stand guard around the coffins of high officers of the Order before and during funeral rites. By agreement with the Italian Government in 1877, the Military Corps came into being under the official title of 'Auxiliary Military Corps of the Italian Army — Sovereign Military Order of Malta' to assist the Italian army's injured or sick (in peace or war). In 1908, the agreement was modified so that the Corps, whilst remaining the official military unit of the Order and under the command of the Order, also became a fully integral part of the Italian army. Fausto Solaro del Borgo, President of the Italian Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, stated in a speech given in London in November 2007:
I believe that it is a unique case in the world that a unit of the army of one country is supervised by a body of another sovereign country. Just think that whenever our staff (medical officers mainly) is engaged in a military mission abroad, there is the flag of the Order flying below the Italian flag.

Hospital trains


The Corps has become known in mainland Europe for its operation of hospital train
Hospital train
A hospital train is a railway train with carriages equipped for the provision of healthcare. Historically this has ranged from trains equipped to transport wounded soldiers, with basic nursing and first aid facilities on board, to fully equipped mobile medical centres, sometimes including operating...

s, a service which was carried out intensively during both World Wars. These hospital trains may have functions from the purely practical (providing shelter to refugees in carriages) to the relatively technical (with minor surgical procedures carried out on board).

Military aircraft


As part of the post-World War II peace treaty, 36 military aircraft of the Italian Air Force were transferred to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and flew under the Order's flag to allow the Military Corps to continue its medical function within the (then limited) Italian armed forces. One of these aircraft, still in Order colours, is preserved in the Italian Museum of Aeronautics, whilst the other 35 have been withdrawn from service. Today, the Order continues to operate aircraft through its Military Corps, and these carry the military roundel of the Order on their fuselage (a red circle with a white Maltese cross in the centre, its points reaching to, or almost to, the edge of the circle); however, these aircraft are usually loaned by or hired from the Italian Air Force.

History


The birth of the Order dates back to around 1048. Merchants from the ancient Marine Republic of Amalfi obtained from the Caliph of Egypt the authorisation to build a church, convent and hospital in Jerusalem, to care for pilgrims of any religious faith or race. The Order of St.John of Jerusalem – the monastic community that ran the hospital for the pilgrims in the Holy Land – became independent under the guidance of its founder, Blessed Gérard. With the Bull of 15 February 1113, Pope Paschal II approved the foundation of the Hospital and placed it under the aegis of the Holy See, granting it the right to freely elect its superiors without interference from other secular or religious authorities. By virtue of the Papal Bull, the Hospital became an Order exempt from the Church. All the Knights were religious, bound by the three monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

The constitution of the Kingdom of Jerusalem regarding the crusades obliged the Order to take on the military defence of the sick, the pilgrims and the territories that the crusaders had conquered from the Muslims. The Order thus added the task of defending the faith to that of its hospitaller mission.

As time went on, the Order adopted the white eight-pointed Cross that is still its symbol today.

Rhodes


When the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land fell in 1291, the Order settled first in Cyprus and then, in 1310, led by Grand Master Fra’ Foulques de Villaret, on the island of Rhodes
Rhodes
Rhodes is an island in Greece, located in the eastern Aegean Sea. It is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of both land area and population, with a population of 117,007, and also the island group's historical capital. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within...

. From then, the defense of the Christian world required the organization of a naval force. Thus the Order built a powerful fleet and sailed the Eastern Mediterranean, fighting many famous battles for the sake of Christendom – for example, the Crusades in Syria and Egypt.

From its beginning, the independence from other nations granted by Pontifical deed, and the universally recognised right to maintain and deploy armed forces, constitute the grounds for the international sovereignty of the Order. In the early 14th century the institutions of the Order and the knights who came to Rhodes from every corner of Europe were grouped according to the languages they spoke. There were initially seven groups of Langues (Tongues): Provence, Auvergne, France, Italy, Aragon (Navarre), England (with Scotland and Ireland) and Germany. In 1492 Castille and Portugal split off from the Langue of Aragon and constituted the eighth Langue. Each Langue included Priories or Grand Priories, Bailiwic
Bailiwick
A bailiwick is usually the area of jurisdiction of a bailiff, and may also apply to a territory in which the sheriff's functions were exercised by a privately appointed bailiff under a royal or imperial writ. The word is now more generally used in a metaphorical sense, to indicate a sphere of...

ks and Commanderies
Commandry (feudalism)
Commandry , or commandery , was the smallest division of the European landed estate or manor under the control of a commendator, or commander, of an order of knights...

.

The Order was governed by its Grand Master (the Prince of Rhodes) and Council, minted its own money and maintained diplomatic relations with other States. The senior positions of the Order were given to representatives of different Langues.

Malta


After six months of siege and fierce combat against the fleet and army of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent
Suleiman the Magnificent
Suleiman I was the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, from 1520 to his death in 1566. He is known in the West as Suleiman the Magnificent and in the East, as "The Lawgiver" , for his complete reconstruction of the Ottoman legal system...

, the Knights were forced to surrender in 1523 and left Rhodes with military honours. The Order remained without a territory of its own until 1530, when Grand Master Fra’ Philippe de Villiers de l’Isle Adam took possession of the island of Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

, granted to the Order by Emperor Charles V
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

 with the approval of Pope Clement VII.

The Reformation
Reformation
- Movements :* Protestant Reformation, an attempt by Martin Luther to reform the Roman Catholic Church that resulted in a schism, and grew into a wider movement...

 which split Western Europe into Protestant and Roman Catholic states affected the Knights as well. In several countries, including England and Scotland, the Order was disestablished. In others, including the Netherlands and the Germanies, entire bailiwicks or commanderies (administrative divisions of the Order) experienced religious conversions. The "Johanniter orders" are the continuations of these converted divisions in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 and other countries.

It was established that the Order should remain neutral in any war between Christian nations. In 1565 the Knights, led by Grand Master Fra’ Jean de la Vallette (after whom the capital of Malta, Valletta
Valletta
Valletta is the capital of Malta, colloquially known as Il-Belt in Maltese. It is located in the central-eastern portion of the island of Malta, and the historical city has a population of 6,098. The name "Valletta" is traditionally reserved for the historic walled citadel that serves as Malta's...

, was named), defended the island for more than three months during the Great Siege by the Turks. The fleet of the Order, then one of the most powerful in the Mediterranean, contributed to the ultimate destruction of the Ottoman naval power in the Battle of Lepanto
Battle of Lepanto
The Battle of Lepanto normally refers to the 1571 Holy League victory over the Ottoman fleet. There were also three earlier battles fought in the vicinity of Lepanto:*Battle of Naupactus in 429 BC, an Athenian victory during the Peleoponnesian War...

 in 1571.

In exile


Two hundred years later, in 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte occupied the island
Bonaparte à Malte
Bonaparte à Malte is a 2008 book by Maltese writer Frans Sammut, with an introduction by Dr Paul Borg Olivier. The Maltese original, Bonaparti f'Malta, was published in 1997....

 for its strategic value during his Egyptian campaign. Because of the Order’s Rule prohibiting them to raise weapons against other Christians, the knights were forced to leave Malta. Although the sovereign rights of the Order in the island of Malta had been reaffirmed by the Treaty of Amiens
Treaty of Amiens
The Treaty of Amiens temporarily ended hostilities between the French Republic and the United Kingdom during the French Revolutionary Wars. It was signed in the city of Amiens on 25 March 1802 , by Joseph Bonaparte and the Marquess Cornwallis as a "Definitive Treaty of Peace"...

 (1802), the Order was unable to return to Malta.

Rome


After having temporarily resided in Messina, Catania and Ferrara, in 1834 the Order settled definitively in Rome, where it owns, with extraterritoriality status, the Magistral Palace
Palazzo Malta
Palazzo Malta, which is sometimes referred to as Palazzo di Malta or Palazzo dell'Ordine di Malta, is the more important of the two headquarters of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , an order of chivalry...

 in Via Condotti 68 and the Magistral Villa
Villa Malta
Villa del Priorato di Malta, on the Aventine Hill is home to the Grand Priory in Rome of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, an order of chivalry, which remains a sovereign entity. It also hosts the embassy of the Order of Malta to Italy...

 on the Aventine Hill
Aventine Hill
The Aventine Hill is one of the seven hills on which ancient Rome was built. It belongs to Ripa, the twelfth rione, or ward, of Rome.-Location and boundaries:The Aventine hill is the southernmost of Rome's seven hills...

.

The original hospitaller mission became once again the main activity of the Order, growing ever stronger during the last century, most especially because of the contribution of the activities carried out by the Grand Priories and National Associations in so many countries around the world. Large-scale hospitaller and charitable activities were carried out during World Wars I and II under Grand Master Fra’ Ludovico Chigi Albani della Rovere
Ludovico Chigi Albani della Rovere
Fra' Ludovico Chigi Albani della Rovere was the 76th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta from 1931 to 1951....

 (1931–1951). Under the Grand Masters Fra’ Angelo de Mojana di Cologna
Angelo de Mojana di Cologna
Fra' Angelo de Mojana di Cologna was the 77th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta from 1962 to 1988...

 (1962–1988) and Fra’ Andrew Bertie (1988–2008), the projects expanded until they reached the furthermost regions of the planet.

Return to Malta


In recent years, due to an agreement made with the Maltese Government, the Order has returned to Malta. It once again has property in Malta, but its headquarters are still in Rome. This agreement grants the Order the exclusive use of Fort St Angelo
Fort St Angelo
Fort St Angelo is a large fortification in Birgu, Malta, right at the centre of Grand Harbour.-History:Medieval TimesThe date of its original construction is unknown. However, there are claims of prehistoric or classical buildings near the site, due to some large ashlar blocks and an Egyptian pink...

 in the town of Birgu, Malta. This agreement has a duration of 99 years.

See also



  • Knights Hospitaller
    Knights Hospitaller
    The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta , also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. It is the world's...

  • Knights Templar
    Knights Templar
    The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon , commonly known as the Knights Templar, the Order of the Temple or simply as Templars, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders...

  • List of Grand Masters of the Knights Hospitaller
  • List of the priors of St John of Jerusalem in England
  • Muristan
    Muristan
    The Muristan is a complex of streets and shops in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem...

  • Order of Malta Ambulance Corps
    Order of Malta Ambulance Corps
    The Order of Malta Ambulance Corps is the largest voluntary ambulance and first aid organisation of its kind in Ireland. The Order of Malta is engaged in teaching first aid, providing ambulance cover at large events, patient transport, community and nursing services...

  • Order of Saint John (Bailiwick of Brandenburg)
  • Order pro merito Melitensi
    Order pro merito Melitensi
    The Order of Merit pro Merito Melitensi of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a knightly order of merit established in 1920. It is awarded to men and women who have brought honour and prestige to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta or actively promoted Christian values or works of charity...

  • Postage stamps and postal history of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
    Postage stamps and postal history of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
    This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta, otherwise known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta or SMOM is a Roman Catholic order based in Rome,...

  • Siege of Rhodes (1480)
    Siege of Rhodes (1480)
    In 1480 the small Knights Hospitaller garrison of Rhodes withstood an attack of the Ottoman Empire.-Preparation:In 1470, the island of Tilos was evacuated to Rhodes because they were susceptible to attacks from the Ottoman Empire...

  • Siege of Malta (1565)
    Siege of Malta (1565)
    The Siege of Malta took place in 1565 when the Ottoman Empire invaded the island, then held by the Knights Hospitaller .The Knights, together with between 4-5,000 Maltese men,...

  • Jonathan Riley-Smith
    Jonathan Riley-Smith
    Jonathan Simon Christopher Riley-Smith, K.St.J., Ph.D. MA, Litt.D., FRHistS is an historian of the Crusades, and a former Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History...

  • Teutonic Knights
    Teutonic Knights
    The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

  • The Alliance of the Orders of St. John of Jerusalem
    The Alliance of the Orders of St. John of Jerusalem
    The Alliance of the Orders of St. John of Jerusalem is a federation of Protestant religious orders in Europe that claim shared inheritance of the tradition of the mediaeval military Knights Hospitaller ....



Fortifications
  • Bodrum castle
    Bodrum Castle
    Bodrum Castle , located in southwest Turkey in the city of Bodrum , was built by the Knights Hospitaller starting in 1402 as the Castle of St. Peter or Petronium.-History:...

  • Bubaqra
    Bubaqra
    Bubaqra is a small, rural area in Zurrieq, in the south-east of Malta. It is situated between the zones of Nigret and Hal-Far. Has a population of 2,000 people. Even though it is one of the oldest areas in this village, many new buildings are being constructed and this area is searched most by...

  • Kolossi Castle
    Kolossi Castle
    Kolossi Castle is a crusader stronghold a few kilometers outside the city of Limassol on the island of Cyprus. It held great strategic importance and contained production of sugar, one of Cyprus' main exports in the Middle Ages...

  • Krak des Chevaliers
    Krak des Chevaliers
    Krak des Chevaliers , also Crac des Chevaliers, is a Crusader castle in Syria and one of the most important preserved medieval castles in the world. The site was first inhabited in the 11th century by a settlement of Kurds; as a result it was known as Hisn al Akrad, meaning the "Castle of the...

  • Mailberg
    Mailberg
    Mailberg is a town in the district of Hollabrunn in Lower Austria, Austria. First mentioned in records in 1055 Castle Mailberg is owned and run by the Austrian Grand Priory of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta since 1146...

  • Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes
    Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes
    The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes is a palace in the town of Rhodes, on the island of Rhodes in Greece. In the point that today is the palace it was earlier a Byzantine citadel that functioned as headquarters and fortress. The palace was built in the 14th century by the...

  • Valletta
    Valletta
    Valletta is the capital of Malta, colloquially known as Il-Belt in Maltese. It is located in the central-eastern portion of the island of Malta, and the historical city has a population of 6,098. The name "Valletta" is traditionally reserved for the historic walled citadel that serves as Malta's...



External links