The Order of the Hospital
of Saint John of Jerusalem.

Encyclopaedia Britannica 14th Edition 1966, pages 904-906.

Reproduced with permission from the Encyclopaedia Britannica © 1998-2000 Inc. All rights reserved

SAINT JOHN OF JERUSALEM, ORDER OF THE HOSPITAL OF, a religious and military order of hospitallers founded at Jerusalem in the Middle Ages, which continues its humanitarian tasks in most parts of the modern world under several slightly different names and jurisdictions. It was known as the Order of the Knights of Rhodes while it ruled that island (1309-1521) and as the Sovereign and Military Order of the Knights of Malta during its tenure of Malta (1530-1798). From 1834 it has been called the Sovereign and Military Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem, with headquarters in Rome. The English grand priory, suppressed by Henry VIII, was revived in 1831 and received a royal charter in 1888 as a British order of chivalry. The German branch of the order, which became Protestant at the Reformation, kept its old name of Johanniterorden. and there are associations and independent orders in other northern European countries and in the United States.

In Palestine.— The origin of the Hospitallers was an 11th-century hospital in Jerusalem, dost to the church of St. John the Baptist, founded by Italian merchants from Amalfi to care for sick pilgrims. After the crusaders' conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, the hospital's superior, a monk named Gerard, intensified his work in Jerusalem and founded hostels in Provençal and Italian cities on the route to the Holy Land. On Feb. 15, 1113, the hospital was taken under papal protection, a status confirmed by later popes. Raymond de Puy, who succeeded Gerard in 1120, substituted the Augustinian rule for the Benedictine and took the title of master of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. Under Raymond the hospital was soon involved in responsibilities entirely transcending its original eleemosynary character. Grateful crusader knights healed of their wounds in the hospital bestowed on it portions of their estates, while others remained in the Holy Land as members of the hospital, which thus developed into a wealthy and powerful body, dedicated to combining the task of tending the sick and poor with waging war on Islam in the Levant.

The Hospitallers and the Templars (q-v.), another military order of contemporary foundation, became, although often acting in opposition to one another, the most formidable instruments of war of the Latin kingdom. Ultimately the two orders weakened the secular monarchies by usurping, through their greater resources, the place of the sovereigns' direct feudal lieges, while their spiritual independence of the bishops tendered them obnoxious to the secular clergy. But the Hospitallers never ceased to be honoured for their hospital, where the sick were tenderly cared for no matter what their religion or country of origin.

Until the defeat of the crusaders at Hattin in 1187, the Hospitallers, based on the two great castles of Margat (Marqat), and Krak des Chevaliers (Qalat al Hosn), played a vigorous part in holding the Muslims at bay. When the latter recaptured Jerusalem in 1187, the Hospitallers removed their headquarters first to Margat and then in 1197 to Acre, where they established their hospital. During the Third Crusade, which failed to recapture Jerusalem, they supported Richard I of England in his victory at Arsuf. In later Crusades they held Krak until 1271 and Margat until 1285.

Cyprus and Rhodes.— When the crusader principalities came to an end after the fall of Acre in 1291, the Hospitallers moved to Limassol in Cyprus. At a chapter-general held in their commandery at Kolossi nearby, they decided to continue their work for the pilgrims and the sick and to remain close to the Holy Land in the hope of its reconquest. A hospital was built and the grand master Guillaume de Villaret carried out internal reforms through a new body of statutes. In 1309 the Hospitallers acquired Rhodes where almost at once they began to build a hospital, which was later enlarged and improved. They ruled the island as an independent state, with the right of coinage and other attributes of sovereignty, and for more than two centuries they were the scourge of Muslim shipping on the eastern Mediterranean (see RHODES).

By the l5th century the Turks had succeeded the Arabs and Kurds as the protagonists of militant Islam. The sultan Mohammed the Conqueror decided that this Christian spearhead must be broken, but his siege was repelled by the knights under the grand master Pierre d'Aubusson in 1480. Suleiman the Magnificent renewed the siege in 1522 when the knights' spectacular resistance was hamstrung by lack of support from other Christian powers. After six months the grand master Philip Villiers de I'lse Adam capitulated. to save the civil population from massacre and on Jan. 1, 1523, the knights sailed out of Rhodes with as many of the citizens as chose to follow them.

Organisation.— Under the order's rule the master (grand master from 1489) was elected for Life and ruled a celibate brotherhood of knights, chaplains, and serving brothers. His election was subject to papal confirmation. Only the knights had a voice in the government of the order, through its legislative body, the chapter general, convoked by the grand master. Always an international body, the order of St. John while at Rhodes evolved in characteristic form by grouping the knights into Langues ("tongues"). Originally seven ( Provence, Auvergne, France, Italy, Spain, England, and Germany, they became eight when the Spanish langue split into those of Castile-Portugal and Aragon.(In 1782 during the order's last days in Malta, the two Langues ; England and Germany were unexpectedly brought together through the creation of an Anglo-Bavarian Langue by the grand master Emmanuel de Rohan and the elector of Bavaria, with the consent in 1783 of King George III of England.) To each Langue was entrusted, in Rhodes as later in Malta, the defense of one sector of the fortifications.

In Rhodes, as in Malta. each Langue had its headquarters in its own auberge ("inn" or hostel) where its members messed and lodged. The head of the Langue, known as the "pillar," presided over his auberge and was ex officio a bailiff of the order, a member of the chapter-general, and one of the great officers of the convent.

There grew up in Rhodes and was maintained in Malta the practice of permanently allocating the various great offices to the pillar of a particular langue. The pillar of France was the grand Hospitaller, the senior dignitary after the grand master; the pillar of Castile was the grand chancellor, the pillar of Italy the grand admiral, and the pillar of Provence the grand commander with charge of the treasury. The pillar of England held the important command of the coastal defenses and bore the title of Turcopolier derived from the native mounted bowmen knows as Turcopoles whom the order recruited in Palestine during the Crusades. The chaplains were subordinate to the prior of St. John.

The considerable estates of the order belonged to the Langues of the country in which they were situated and were graded, according to size and importance, into commanderies, priories and bailiwicks, under commanders, priors, and bailiffs, respectively. National or territorial groups of priories and other units were termed grand priories, and the grand priors were members of the chapter general. Each unit contributed at least one-third of its revenues to the upkeep of the armed forces, hospital, and other activities of the order at its centre. The badge of the order is the white eight-pointed cross of Amalfi.

In Malta. -After their expulsion from Rhodes, the knights were without a base for seven years, while their grand master De I'Isle Adam made the rounds of the courts of western Europe in a vain quest of aid toward its reconquest. In 1530 the emperor Charles V gave them the Maltese archipelago in return for the annual presentation of a falcon to his viceroy of Sicily and the obligation of securing Tripoli in Libya against the Muslims. Their failure to hold Tripoli in 1551 led to Suleiman the Magnificent's attempt to dislodge them from Malta in 1565. The superb leadership of the grand master Jean Parisot de I.a Valette, the sustained heroism of the members of the order, and the endurance of the Maltese population prevented one of the most famous sieges of history from ending in disaster. (see MALTA: History). What was left of the Turkish Navy as a striking force was permanently crippled. In 1571 at the Battle of Lepanto by the combined fleets of Philip II, the Knights of St. John, Venice, Genoa, Savoy, and the pope.

After the victory, the knights proceeded with the building of their new capital, which they named after La Valetta; the hero of the siege (see VALETTA), and with their work on the defenses of both sides .of the grand harbour. The hospital, with its ward 602 ft. in length, attracted many patients from outside Malta.

These were well cared for, with no more than one to a bed, their food was well planned, and the mentally sick were treated humanely. Surgical and medical cases were kept separate, infectious diseases were isolated, and ophthalmology was a speciality. In 1674 the d master founded a school of anatomy and medicine for the order's physicians. Anatomy was studied with the bodies of deceased knights and patients, at a time when dissection elsewhere tended to be forbidden.

As the 17th century advanced, the Turkish menace receded. For a brief period the order possessed the nucleus of a colonial dominion in the New World: the West Indian Islands of St. Martin. St. Croix and St- Bartholomew, and part of St. Christopher (St. Kitts), bought from King Louis XIV of France in 1653 but relinquished by the order, as an unnecessary encumbrance, to the French West India Company at a handsome profit in 1665. By the 18th century the order as a territorial sovereign state committed to wage war on Islam had become an anachronism, but its Hospital continued to be in the forefront of medical care. After the outbreak of the French Revolution the rich properties of the French Langues were confiscated in 1792, and in 1798 Malta was occupied by Napoleon on his way to Egypt, the grand master Ferdinand von Hompesch offering no resistance. The order's return to Malta was provided for in the Treaty of Amiens (1802 ) but eliminated by the Treaty of Paris (1814), which assigned Malta to Great Britain.

In Russia.— On the final partition of Poland in 17 97, the grand priory of Poland, which had formed a part of the Anglo-Bavarian langue, became known as the grand priory of Russia and was taken under the protection, of the emperor Paul I, who, though Orthodox, became grand master of the order (1798), in the face of strong papal disapproval. Paul's successor, Alexander I, declined to be grand master, but the Orthodox grand priory in Russia existed until the Revolution (1917).

The Sovereign Military Order from 1801.— G. B. Tommasi, who became grand master in 1803, died in 1805, disappointed in his bope to lead the knights back to Malta from his temporary headquarters in Sicily, at Messina. Thenceforth the Sovereign and Military Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem, permanently established in Rome in 1834, confined its activities to its original humanitarian tasks. From 1805 it was ruled by lieutenants until Pope Leo XIII revived the grand mastership in 1879. Toward the end of the life of the grand master (1931-51) Ludovico Chigi della Rovere Albani differences with the Holy See delayed until 1962 the election of a successor. A new constitutional charter was drawn up in 1957.

Although the order no longer exercises territorial rule it issues passports and its sovereign status is recognized by the Holy See and those other Roman Catholic states to which it accredits ministers plenipotentiary or delegates with diplomatic status. Of its original regional units there survive five grand priories: of Rome, Lombardy-Venice, Naples-Sicily, Austria, and Bohemia-Moravia (the last only in name). Elsewhere the members are grouped under national associations, as for instance that in the United States.

Membership is confined to Roman Catholics and is divided into three categories, each with subdivisions. The first consists of "professed" knights of justice and chaplains who can prove the nobility of their four grandparents for two centuries and have taken either "simple" or "solemn" religious vows including that of celibacy; the second, of knights and Donats (men of knightly but not sufficiently noble birth) of honour and devotion, who must prove the same nobility but are not "professed"; the third, of seven grades differing in nobility and other qualifications. While the order remains essentially an aristocratic body, the requisite "quarters" for the third category vary with grade and country (particularly in the New World) ; in the case of knights of magistral grace appointed "by merit" they may be dispensed with altogether. Women are admitted to the second and third categories.

The Most Venerable Order.— With the sequestration of the English grand priory's properties by Henry VIII in 1540 the English Langue virtually became dormant for three centuries except for a brief revival by Mary I (whose letters patent restoring it were not revoked) and the appointment by the grand masters of titular non-resident grand priors of England, the last of whom held his nominal! office from 1806 until 1815. In 1831 the grand priory was resuscitated on a basis mainly Anglican on the initiative of a group of knights of the French Langues known as the "Capitular Commission." The Sovereign Military Order in Rome first accepted this step, then repudiated it in 1858. In 1963, however, the Sovereign-Military Order and the Most Venerable Order signed a formal declaration defining their mutual relationship.

By royal charter of 1888 the revived grand priory of England was converted by Queen Victoria into a British order of chivalry, bearing the prefix 'most venerable. ' The reigning monarch is its sovereign head, and the grand priors appointed since 1888 have been members of the British royal house. A later royal charter of 1926 authorized the creation of priories and commanderies in the Commonwealth overseas. For day-to-day purposes the grand prior acts through his deputy, the lord prior of St. John. All Christians are eligible, and women are admitted to all grades of the order except the last (bailiffs and dames grand cross; knights and dames of justice or of grace; commanders; officers; serving brothers and sisters; esquires) but not to membership of the chapter, which under the sovereign head and the grand prior is the governing body. The executive officers are the heads of the order's departments. Appointments to and promotions in the order are made by the sovereign head on the recommendation of the chapter-general as approved by the grand prior. This direct access to the throne is a relic of the independent status of the original order.

The "establishments" of the order are the priories, of Scotland, Wales, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. There are commanderies in Western Australia, Northern Ireland, and Central! Africa, and St. John organizations in most of the colonies and dependencies. An American Society of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem was set up in the United States in 1960.

The order performs its humanitarian work through its three "foundations": the St. John Ophthalmic Hospital! in Jerusalem (founded 1881), among whose essential functions is research on trachoma; the St. John Ambulance Association (founded 1878), the teaching body of the order, which compiles first-aid manuals, conducts courses of instruction, and issues first-aid certificates; the St. John Ambulance Brigade (founded 1888), whose unpaid members of both sexes give voluntary service throughout the Commonwealth at public gatherings and which works in conjunction with the British Red Cross Society. The St. John Cadet Divisions, composed of younger persons, have become a leading British youth organization.

The order's headquarters (including its library and museum) are at St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell, London, on the site of the original! English grand priory. The venerable order has a small share in the ancient commandery of Kolossi in Cyprus. It accredits liaison officers to the Sovereign Military Order in Rome, the German Johanniterorden and its Swiss Association, and the orders of St. John in the Netherlands and Sweden.

In Northern Europe. — The core of the ancient Langue of Germany was the bailiwick of Brandenburg. At the Reformation the bailiwick became Lutheran without, however, severing all relations with the grand master in Malta. Well endowed, it was active in philanthropic work until the Napoleonic Wars, when its property was confiscated by Prussia. In 1852 it was re-established with its old name, Johanniterorden by Frederick William IV of Prussia, who entrusted to it the task of maintaining existing hospitals and creating new ones in Prussia, with funds to be found by the knights themselves. Its head, called the Herrenmeister, is elected by the chapter and has generally been a member of the Prussian royal house. membership is confined to Protestants and to noblemen, although the rule regarding nobility was slightly relaxed after World War II. After World War I the Johanniterorden lost the greater part of its funds through successive inflations and deflations, and then suffered further from the active hostility of the Hitler regime. After World War II it lost its headquarters and most of its hospitals, which lay in East Germany and Poland. Its headquarters were transferred to Rolandseck Rhineland, and it has rebuilt its hospital work in the German Federal Republic.

Three national associations (Genossenschaften) have remained under the jurisdiction of the Herrenmeister: those of Hungary, Sweden, and Finland. The Swedish and Dutch commanderies separated themselves from the Johanniteerorden in 1920 and 1945, respectively, to become independent orders. In 1958 a series of conferences between the British, German, Dutch, and Swedish orders and the three associations on matters of common interest was inaugurated in the castle of Bubikon, near Zürich, an important Swiss commandery of the order in the Middle Ages.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.— Chief source is the archives in the Royal Malta Library, Valletta. Other collections of manuscripts are in the Vatican Library ; the Palazzo Malta, Rome: and the library of the order at Clerkenwell, London. Chief published sources are ed. by J. Delaville le Roulx, Cartulaire général des Hospitaliers de Saint-Jean de Jérusalem, 1100-1310, 4 vol. (1894-1906) ; see also his Les Hospitaliers en terre sainte et à Chypre, 1100-1310 (1904) ; E. J. King, The Rule, Statutes and Customs of the Hospitallers, 1099-1310 (1934), The Knights Hospitallers in the Holy Land (1931), The Knights of St. John in the British Empire (1934) ; E. W. Schermcrhorn, Malta of the Knights (l929) ; S. Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. I-3 ( 1951-53 ) ; E. E. Hume, "A Proposed Alliance Between the Order of Malta and the United States, 1794," William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine, 2nd series, vol. 16, pp. 222-233 (1936), Medical Work of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem (1940). (H. L.)

(H.L.) refers to Sir Harry Luke (1884-1969), Bailiff Grand Cross of the Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem, London. Sir Harry Luke was also a Grand Officer of Merit of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Rome.

Created 15th May 2001

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