The Knights Hospitaller
in the History of Western Civilisation:
HISTORY OF THE ORDER (General) ---
WRITINGS AND SYMBOLS OF THE ORDER ---
THE KNIGHTS AS PHYSICIANS ---
The Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem originated in the
Eleventh Century as a monastic brotherhood caring for the needs of Latin
pilgrims in the Holy Land. The Order's founder, Blessed Gérard, was
not an aristocrat, but after the first Crusade, which took place in his lifetime,
the Hospital staff began to include demobilised knights. Inevitably, as the
Crusader States found themselves in a condition of perpetual war, the brethren
of the Order were soon found serving as medics and then as combatants, becoming
(with their rivals the Knights Templar) the most discilplined Christian military
force in Outremer and the mediæval equivalent of a multinational
But their history did not end with the failure of the Crusades, as the Templars'
did. Their military, commercial, and humanitarian activities were relocated
first to the Ægean and then to Malta; the "last Crusaders" survived
anachronistically into the era of the French Revolution. Even after Napoleon
captured their island stronghold, representatives of the Sovereign Order
continued to negotiate with the Pope, the Russian Czar, and the monarchs
of Europe for a return to power. It never came, and none of the various
organizations claiming with various degrees of plausibility to be the Order's
heir can be said to much resemble the Order in its days of greatness. However,
at least some of these organizations, including the two largest, have rededicated
themselves to the charitable work originally intended for the Hospitallers
by their founder.
On this page may be found general historical links about the Order; for
information on specific eras please consult the pages devoted specifically
to the Crusader
era, the stay in the Greek isles,
the Maltese period,
the Napoleonic interlude,or
the modern era.
Archives of the
Order of St. John, from the Bibljoteka Nazzjonali, Valletta (Malta Study
Center, Hill Monastic Library)
Homepage of the Hill Monastic Library Malta
of the Knights of St. John of the Hospital, by Lynn Nelson
Tonque and his "Everlasting Brotherhood", by Gérard T. Lagleder
Includes primary sources. (Brotherhood of Bl. Gérard).
of St. John of Jerusalem: (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913 Edition)
A Brief History of
the Order of Malta: From the Polish Association of SMOM.
of the Order of Malta: From the SMOM Museum in Switzerland.
History of the Order of Malta
(Very impressive document, by Michael Mifsud.) (Gone?)
Sovereign Military Order of Saint-John (a.k.a. Malta) , by François
R. Velde (Includes a discussion of the Order's heraldry.)
The Knights of Saint John
in England, Scotland, and Ireland before the Reformation, by Guy Stair
Sainty (Venerable Order)
Knights Hospitallers in Poland, by Darius von Güttner Sporzynski:
A fairly long historical account.
Turks in History, by Benan Basoglu
Biographical comments on Emperor Paul I
Medical Bibliography, by Robert A. Laures: (University of Kansas)
St John's Wort: This herb
has long been prominent in folk medicine and, as its name suggests, was prized
by the Hospitallers. In some countries, including England, it was also used
to decorate houses on St. John's Day. Recently, the Knights' herb has
increasingly begun attracting the attention of modern medical researchers.
Here is a bibliography of refereed technical papers on the use of St. John's
wort to treat depression. (Texas Medical Center)
Dwejra Area, by Caroline Gatt: Gozo, one of the Maltese Islands,
is notable as the site of the General's Rock, on which grew the Fungus
Gaulitanus. This "fungus" is actually a strange flowering plant, Cynomorium
coccineum, which possesses no chlorophyll. It was considered one of the
treasures of the Order, and was thought to have remarkable curative properties.
Indeed, the nearby
of Dwejra is said to have been built partly to guard the Fungus Gaulitanus.
( Cynomorium, incidentally, is also used as an emergency survival
food by Middle Eastern nomads, and is mentioned as such in Job 30:4.) (San
Anton School, Malta)
The editor of this page welcomes further information. Please