The Knights remained for nearly a century in Jerusalem until 1187, continuously performing acts of charity as well as demonstrating military bravery.  They changed headquarters many times, eventually setting on the island of Cyprus in 1292 under the patronage of the Guy of Lusignan. They remained in Cyprus until 1310, the year in which they transferred to the island of Rhodes. It was here that the Order achieved its most illustrious cultural and political period, evidence of which may be seen in the architecture of the island, which owes its beauty to the Knights.

The Sultan and leader of the Turks Suleiman the Magnificent expelled the Knights from Rhodes on 18 December 1522. They took refuge successively in Candia, in Sicily and then in Rome. They finally settled in Viterbo whilst maintaining their feared fleet in the port of Nice.

In 1530 Emperor Charles V, at the intercession of Pope Clement VII (who was Grand Prior of the Order in Capua) issued letters dated 24 March, granting the Knights the islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino and the fief of Tripoli as recompense for their defence against the Turks. The islands were thus placed under the jurisdiction of the 42nd Grand Master de l’Isle-Adam, in exchange for an annual gift of a falcon to the King of Sicily.

The sovereignty of the Order would be recognized by all of the Courts of Europe, including the Pontifical Throne (v. Papal Bull of 25 April 1530) with whom they enjoyed full diplomatic relations in the presence of Ambassadors.

Because of this, the Order would come to be called the Knights of Malta, which is their most common name to this day, and a name which has frequently been usurped by other organizations whose origins are anything but related to the period when the islands of Malta were under the dominion of the Knights. The power and the glory of the Order in the two centuries following was so great that they received the most diverse and prestigious honours of those times.

The “conquest” of the islands of Malta by Napoleon ended with the full and unconditional surrender of Grand Master von Hompesch on the 12 June 1798.  This led to the dispersion of the Knights, with more than ninety percent of them taking refuge in Russia. In January 1797 His Imperial Majesty Czar Paul I and Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc signed a document which was ratified on 26 August 1797 in Malta and 29 November 1797 in St. Petersburg.  As such, the Order was recognized “in perpetuo” as sovereign within the Russian Empire (with whom they had established both diplomatic relations and a Priory of Russia at St. Petersburg under the protection of the czar).

The Knights of the Grand Priory of Russia and those of other Priories and Grand Priories met in St. Petersburg on the 26 August. By means of a vote, they declared the deposition of the Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch and instead invited all of the Priories to declare their allegiance to His Imperial Majesty Czar Paul I as Protector of the Order.


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Order Of The Knights Of Saint John Of Jerusalem - OSJ

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