An account of the Order of St. John by Sir Bernard Burke.

extracted from the following publication;

Each page as exists in the original concerning the Order is reproduced below complete with the page headings. The page number follows or preceeds the page title. To view the illustration click on the symbol.


This famous Institution, the predecessor of the Teutonic Order, occupies in history a far more important page. Its origin falls in the time when Jerusalem was still in the hands of the Mahometans A.D. 1048. A number of merchants from Amalfi, by consent and gift of the Khalifs, founded, not far from the Holy Tomb, a Benedictine cloister, consecrated to the Holy Virgin, with a chapel in honour of St. John the Baptist, and a hospital for the reception of pilgrims, which they confided to


the management of the monks. In 1099 Godfrey of Bouillon having conquered Jerusalem, gave to the hospital a constitution, endowed it with considerable lands and capital, and released the monks from the duties of its management, which now devolved upon several of the Knights of his army, who soon formed themselves into a spiritual order, that was confirmed, in 1113, by Pope Paschal II.
The members, who made the vows of obedience, chastity and poverty, divided themselves into three classes.
l. Knights, warring against the infidels, and protecting the pilgrims.
2. Priests, managing the spiritual affairs of the Order.
3. Brother servants entrusted with the care and nursing of the sick in times of peace, who served as inferior warriors in times of war. Subsequently, a fourth class was created for subordinate menial duties and labours-that of Donatists.
The original costume of the Order was a black coat, a cloak with a pointed hood, adorned on the left side towards the heart with a small white cross, (that of the Donatists with only half a cross), as also with a golden cross in the middle of the breast. In war, the Knights wore splendid armour, and a red over-garment adorned with a silver cross.
The Knights of St. John, in conjunction with the Templars and other Knights, (with whom they lived, however, in continual conflicts) succeeded for a long time in keeping in their hands the tottering throne of Jerusalem, for which cause they fought with such admirable zeal, that many places in the Holy Land have now become monuments of their valour-more especially Jerusalem (1152), Ascalon (1153), Balbais (1118), Hittin (1187), &c. ; nor did they retire-as the other Knights and secular Princes did-from the campaign even after Soliman had, in 1187, conquered Jerusalem. They greatly harassed the Turks, first from Margat, then from Acca (Ptolemais), in which last place


they maintained themselves for nearly a whole century. After the loss, however, of Ptolemais, the last refuge of the Christians in the Holy Land, Villiers, the Grand Master, saved himself with the remnant of the Knights in the island of Cyprus, where king Lusignan consigned to them the half demolished town of Limisso.
There they built a fleet, and soon became one of the first maritime powers in the Mediterrnnean. In 1308, their power was increased by its union witb tbe Order of St. Samson of Jerusalem. The Grand Master, Villaret, now resolved to remove his residence to Rhodes, which the Saracens had taken from the Greek Empeior Andronicus. Tbe Pope approved of the plan, promised support, and vested in him the right of appointing the future Archbishop of Rhodes. Tbe knights succeeded in conquering (16th August, 1309) the island, whence they called themselves the 'Knights of Rhodes.' The Council of Vienna conceded to them (1311) the greatest part of the possessions of the dissolved Order of the Templars, at which period their power may be said to have reached its zenith.
In a glorious battle (1321) Gerard du Pius, tbe Vicar General of the Order, destroyed the great Moslem fleet, and in conjunction with the Venetians and the King of Cyprus, the Knights conquered (1341) Smyrna; which Timur, however, wrested from them after an obstinate resistance. The same Vicar General freed the King of Armenia from the Turks (1347), destroyed the fleet of the Egyptian pirates in the harbour of Alexandria, and conquered that town (1366). He likewise destroyed, near the island Longo, the fleet of Sultan Al Nager al Daher (1440), and repulsed successfully four years afterwards a second attack of the Sultan upon Rhodes. Even Muhamed II. when he besieged (1480) Rhodes with one hundred thousand men, and one hundred and sixty ships, was compelled to raise the siege, after having suffered heavy losses ; and when after


his death, the fraternal disputes about the crown and empire compelled the younger Prince Zizim (1482) to take refuge at Rhodes, placing himself under the protection of the Grand Master, the latter demanded and received 35,000 ducats from the victorious Bajazeth for the annual support of his young brother, besides 10,000 ducats as indemnity for the expenses of the last war.
In 1485, the Order received a further accession of wealth and power, by the Pope's grant of the possessions of the abrogated Order of the "Sacred Tomb" and "St. Lazarus." In 1501, the Grand Master d'Aubusson was appointed Generalissimo of the troops of the combined Princes against the Mahometan pirates ; and a few years afterwards, the Grand Master, Emmerick of Amboise, fought and won the great naval battle against the Egyptians, near the Port Lajazzo in Caramania.
Internal dissensions, however, added to the arbitrary dispositions of the Popes, greatly tended to weaken the power of the Order in latter times. Soliman II. attacked Rhodes in I522, with a fleet of four hundced sails, and an army of one hundred and forty thousand men. That place was defended only by six hundred Knights, and four thousand five hundred soldiers of the Order. The Sultan would probably have raised the siege of a place which was so obstinately defended by the brave Knights, who repeatedly inflicted heavy losses upon his troops, had it not been betrayed by the Chancellor of the Order, Andreas of Amaral, who, out of revenge for not having been elected Grand Master, pointed out to the enemy a weak point in the fortificatioos, by which the Turks entered, as the head of the traitor was falling by the hand of the executioner. The brave Knights, even at that critical moment, obtained terms of capitulation and free retreat. They left their residence, now a complete ruin,


which they had gloriously maintained for nearly two hundred and twenty years, in fifty vessels which brought them, and four thousand inhabitants of the place to Candia. Thence they repaired to Venice, Rome, Viterbo, Nizza, Villafranca, and Syracuse ; until 1530, when the Emperor Charles V, enfeoffed them with the island of Malta, together with Tripolis, and the islands of Gozzo and Comino, under the condition that they should wage an incessant war against the pirates and infidels.
In this their new residence, they served for a long time for Europe, as a strong bulwark against tbe Turks ; they were courted by the monarchs of Protestant Europe, despite the slur cast upon their religious principles, ever since the introduction of the Reformation in England, Germany, and the Northern States of Europe, and notwithstanding the loss of Tripolis (1552) which was wrested from them by Dragut, the Saracen General. During the whole of the l7th century, it was, indeed, by their assistance alone that the European powers, each and all, were enabled to make head against the powerful Turks, and finally succeeded in expelling them from Candia, Prevesa, St. Maura, Koron, Navarin, Modon, and Chio.
Nor are there wanting brilliant pages in their history as late even as the middle of the eighteenth century, though the Order had then greatly suffered by the moral degeneration of its members. The events, however, of 1761, by which Malta and the Order were only saved from total destruction by the intercession of France, sufficiently testified to the utter decline and fall of that gigantic institution, while the Turks, themselves, thenceforth began to look at the Knights of Malta no longer as dangerous enemies, but as mere troublesome, factious, and Quarrelsome neighbours, whom they were obliged to spare and leave unmolested simply because they were protected by the great powers of Europe.


The French Revolution deprived the Order of all their privileges and possessions in France, (l9th September, 1792) while in 1798, Malta fell into the hands of Napoleon by the cowardly capitulation of Baron Hompesch, their Grand Master. Though the Emperor Paul of Russia declated himself in the same year Grand Master, and though Malta was conqured by England in 1801, it was never returned to the Order which: was deprived, at the same time, of its possessions in Germany, by the Princes of the Rhenish Confederation.
Having thus lost all political importance, the Order was no longer headed by a Grand Master, but by a deputy Grand Master, who residal from 1805 to 1814 at Catanea and afterwards at Ferrara. In more recent times, some of its possessions in Lombardy, Parma, Modena, Lucca and Naples were restored. The Order still exists in those states, as also in Bohemia, Russia, and Spain, though under a modified constitution, and in separate bodies. Since 1831, the Deputy Grand Master has resided at Rome.
The members are divided into professed Knights, i. e. Knights who have really sworn to the constitution and made the vows prescribed by the statutes, and honorary Knights who are merely allowed to wear the dress and insignia without strictly belonging to the Order. The favour is granted to Catholic noblemen of honourable reputation, and of noble descent by both parents. The first class only exists in countries where the Order is still in possession of some landed property.
The costume of the Knights of the first class, consists of frock-coat of scarlet cloth, with white lining, facings, collar, hat and plume. That of the second class is a similar coat, but with black velset lining, facings and collar, and a black hat and plume. Both classes have white hat flaps, epaulettes with thick golden tassels, buttons, spurs, and hat string


equally of gold, pantaloons of white casimir with golden trimmings. The decoration (Plate 7. Tab. IV. Nos. 23 and 24  ) is a white octagonal cross suspended by a black ribbon ; but the embellishments attached to it, are different in the different countries where the Order exists under royal authority. (See Spain and Prussia).


After the fall of Napoleon, Pope Pius VII. heving restored this Order, and the deputy Grand Master having established his head-quarters at Rome in 1531, a considerable portion of its previous possessions at Parma, Lucca, Tuscany, Piedmont, and in the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom, was restored to the Order in 1839, as we have already mentioned under the head of Austria; and we will here only allude to the Bull of Pope Pius IX. of the 28th July, 1854, in which he in so far altered the statutes, by introducing a sort of noviceship in the Order for the space of ten years, during which time the candidate may alter his mind and resign the Order, which binds him to vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. The candidate makes, in the first instance, only a simple vow of poverty and obedience, but not of perpetual chastity, which is reserved for the solemn procession, after the lapse of ten years' probation.


This simple vow is as follows : " I N. N. vow to God Almighty, to his immaculate mother, and to John the Baptist, poverty, mercy, and obedience, towards all superiors of the Order, in the sense as given by his Holiness Pope Pius IX., in his Bull beginning `Militarem Ordinem equitum.'"
A description of the insignia of the Order will be found on, Plate 56, Tab. II. Nos. 7, 8 and 9 .


The general outlines of the history of that Order, and the sketches of its insignia are given under AUSTRIA, and we may add here its history and position as regards Germany in particular.
The Grand Prior of Germany, availing himself of a schism in the Order, in 1319, asserted the independence of his sixty-seven Commanderies, and declared himself their independent Prince. His successors were, in 1546, nominated German Princes of the Empire, with seat and vote in the Council of the Diet, and made sovereigns of their Principality, Heitersheim, with the towns, Ginglingen, Bremgarten, Griesheim and Schlart, under the immediate protection of


Austria. For the losses they had subsequently austained on the left bank of the Rhine, they were amply compensated at Diet of 1803. But the peace of Pressburg deptived them of all their possessions in favour of the German Princes, by which the Grand Priorate of the Order ceased to exist in Gemany, and it was Austria alone that suffered its existence in Bohemia, with a few Commanderies in Austria, Moravia Silesia.
The Grand Bailiwick or Commandry of Brandenburg had already, in 1319, separated from the Order, and elected a Grand Master of its own, but submitted, in 1382, to the principle of having the election of Grand Master each time sanctioned and confirmed by the Grand Prior of Germany: In this state it remained until the Reformation : that great movement joined by the greatest portion of the Knights of St: John, while the Elector of Brandenburg declared himself as the " Summus Patronus et Protector Ordinis." The Knights; however, though they had, in the peace of Westphalia, effected, their release from the Order of Malta, by a ransom of 2,500 gold florins, did not entirely separate from that fraternity, but re-united themselves, on the contrary under their Bailiff, Prince Ferdinand, brother of Frederick lI., once more with Malta, and even paid, of their own good-will the responsions to the Order, without being prevented from the act by Frsderick who had himself proposed, in 1775, a plan for an union with the Order of Malta, provided the latter would accept the principle of tolerance then adopted by all the German Knights and content itself with the general form of an oath which bound the Knights to union and mutual defence. His plan was, however, rejected.
The chief place of the Commander of Brandenburg was Sonnenburg. The Commander having sworn allegiance to the Elector (afterwards King), enjoyed the rank of first Prelate of


the State, with a revenue of 40,000 thalers. The Knights were to be both Germans and Protestants, and count eight noble aneestors of both parents. On the 30th October, 1810, a royal edict abolished the Commandry of Brandenburg, and inoorporated all the estates of the Order with the crown dominions. By Way of compensation, Frederick William III. founded, on the 23rd May, 1812, a new Order of St. John, having, in Common with its powerful predecessor, only the name and a part of the insignia. This new Order now bears the name of


The King is Sovereign Protector, and sole dispenser of the Order.
Prince Ferdinand was appointed by the Kiog, first Grand Master, aod after him, Prince Henry (brother to the King).
All the Knights belonging to the old, were invested with the insignia of the new Order, though new nominations also took place.
The badge of the Order is a gold octagonal white enamelled cross, but without a crown over it. The four angles are filled with the Prussian Black Eagles, surmounted by gold crowns, and the whole is worn round the neck suspended by a black ribbon, and accompanied by a white star fastened to the left side of the coat (Plate 66. Tab. II. Nos. 13 and 12 ).
The costume of the Knights consists of a red coat with golden epaulettes, and with white collar, facings, and lining, as also of a white waistcoat and trousers. The collar and facings are trimmed with golden lace. The buttons are yellow, and


have the cross of the Order stamped on them. The nomination fee was fixed at six Frederics d'or.
On the l5th October, 1852, King Frederick William IV. gave it a new oonstitution. The Commandry of Brandenburg was thereby re-established, without, however, restoring to it the estates of which it was deprived in 1810. The new members have now to pay an annual contribntion of, at least, 12 thalers, besides the entrance fee, whicb is fixed at 100 thalets. The sums, thus received, are to be employed for the support of the sick, and the establishment of an hospital of the Order, at its former castle at Sonnenburg, as soon as they are sufficient to cover the required outlay.


The general outlines of the history of this Order wilI be found under AUSTRIA.
The two Russian Grand Priorates still preserve the appearance of the old Constitution and form, under the protection and patronage of the Emperor, who is head of the Chapter. Its connection with the Chapter at Rome is of a very loose character.
The Grand Priorate of Poland, established in 1776, was for a long time connected with the English and Bavarian branches, and was composed of twenty Commanderies, which


brought to the Grand Master an annual revenue of 15,000 thalers, while under Paul I. the revenues were even increased to 300,000 florins. At present, it is united with the Russian Priorates, and the whole is now divided into two Grand Priorates, for the Knights of the Greek and those of the Roman Catholic confession. The former now counts ninety-eight Commanders, while prevously it had three hundred and ninety-three Commanders, and thirty-two Knights of the Grand Cross.
There are also Grand and small crosses for female members.

296   SPAIN.

Since 1530, when the Emperor Charles V. (vide " Austria") ceded to thc Knights of St. John of JerusaJem the islands of Malta and Gozzo, together with Tripolis, the 'Order of St. John' has continued under the suzerainty of Spain, the Knights having engaged themselves, by oath, on taking possession of those islands, among othcr things, never to abuse their authority there to the prejudice of Spain, to consider the King of Spain as the patron of the Malta diocese, to restore the island to Spain in the event of the Knights re-conquering Rhodes, or settling at some other place ; and, finally, to despatch annually, by two Knights, a tribute of one falcon to the Viceroy of Naples, as a token of acknowledgment of Spanish suzerainty. Subsequently, when Sicily ceased to be a Spanish province , that tribute, was regularly discharged and sent direct to the King of Spain.
After the Peace of Amiens, in 1802, the Portuguese and Spanish languages (Aragon and Castile) separated from the Order, and formed a college of their own, under the supreme authority of their respective monarchs, who, in consequence exercised essential influence in all matters connected with nominations, benefices, &c., the Grand Mastership being thus, in effect, though not by right, vested in the Crown.
A description of the insignia of the Order will be found under PAPAL STATES, Plate 56, Tab. II. Nos. 7, 8 and 9 .

SPAIN.   297

The spiritual elements and acclesiastical possessions of the Order are nearly annihilated in Spain and Portugal by the political events of the present century.

Created 23rd January 1998
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