The Knights Hospitaller

The Modern Orders of Saint John:

Alliance Orders -- Eastern Orthodox Orders -- Other Orders

After the fall of Malta and the murder of the Czar, the Sovereign Order fell apart. One large fragment, usually considered the legitimate successor of the old Order, became very closely integrated with the Papacy; this is "SMOM", the powerful and wealthy organization which performs charitable works around the globe, is recognized as a sovereign state by many governments, and is sometimes depicted in the press as representing the conservative-aristocratic wing of Roman Catholicism.

Many knights took refuge in Protestant countries, especially Britain; eventually a fragment of the Order took hold in England under the direct patronage of the Crown. This is the "Venerable Order", headed by the Queen and including many of the British elite. It, too, runs some outstanding charitable projects, including the Commonwealth-wide St John Ambulance service. Other Protestant "Johanniter" groups, some of them dating back to the Reformation, exist elsewhere in Europe and are also active in charitable work. As a kind of chivalric ecumenism, SMOM, the Venerable Order, and some of the Johanniter-Orden have banded together to form the "Alliance", which presents itself to the world as the canonical continuation of the Order of St. John.

Many other fragments also existed, notably in the East. Most died out in the Nineteenth Century; some perhaps did not, or else were brought back to life. These groups may or may not meet the requirements for recognition by the Alliance -- requirements rooted in feudal and Catholic canon law -- but since most claim to be Eastern Orthodox, it is unclear why such requirements would bind them in any case. The real tragedy of these Orthodox Orders is that, for a variety of reasons, they have never conducted charitable works on a scale even remotely approaching that of the Alliance, and (in contrast to SMOM's closeness to the Papal Throne) all but one or two of these "Orthodox" Orders have ceased to have much connexion with Orthodoxy.

Finally, there are numerous organizations which have no historical link whatever but use the name of the Order arbitrarily. These include a variety of "title mills" which exist to create patents of nobility for anyone who can afford them, and other dubious groups, as well as more harmless ones which merely enjoy the romance of being "Knights of St. John".

One should also mention the York Rite Masons, who have a degree named for the Hospitallers. However, in the opinion of most historians (including Masonic ones) there is no authenticated historical link, nor does the Lodge represent itself as a chivalric organization. (The claims of the widely read book Born in Blood concerning the Templar origins of Masonry are also rejected by most historians and most official representatives of Masonry.) Therefore, I have omitted Masonic links from these pages. Apart from the Freemasons, the various ahistorical groups do not appear to conduct much in the way of charitable work, although there may well be exceptions.

Obviously, many groups use the name of the Order. People interested in assisting the charitable work of a Hospitaller organization (or interested in becoming a knight!) should carefully investigate the authenticity of any group with which they become involved. That a group's pages are included in this index does NOT imply that the group is "legitimate" or (more importantly) ethical.




So far as I know, these groups are separate from the Alliance, and are also separate from the Eastern Orthodox orders. This does not necessarily imply that they are "figments" rather than "fragments", although some of them almost certainly are.

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