The Order of Malta
A brief historic presentation of the order of Malta and images from the Saint John of Malta Cathedral: from its foundation in 1530 to the current role of this institution.
A religious and military order founded in 1050 to assure the care of injured pilgrims, the Order, on a quest for territory to reinforce its authority, first set up in Cyprus in 1291 then in Rhodes in 1308. Hunted down by Muslims in 1522, the Order relied on the emperor Charles Quint who finally granted them Malta and Tripoli in 1530. This event began the "Maltese Falcon" ritual: every year on All Saint's day, a live falcon is offered to the viceroy of Sicily (the title that Charles Quint bore).
The mission of the knights in the Order of Malta was to fight against Muslims and heathens. Members of the European Christian nobility, the Knights took vows of allegiance, chastity and poverty. They wore the Maltese Cross, each one of its four branches representing the values of justice, prudence, moderation and courage. The community was divided according to its native language, each nationality inhabiting a pavilion. In Malta, the Order gradually exercised its authority over the whole of society by reorganising the legislation and by reinforcing the island's defence structures (forts...).
After several decades of peace, the Muslim and Turkish attacks began again in 1565. But the knights resisted their old enemies to later succumb to other weapons: in 1797, they were forced off the island by Napoleon. The order became ecumenical and sought out its origins, today it carries out humanitarian work throughout the world.