Declaration of Principles
THE Order of KNIGHTS OF MALTA is a body of men banded together, under most binding forms, to comfort one another in the practice of the Christian religion; to offer mutual assistance in time of need; to promote Protestant unity; to defend the Protestant faith against all foes whatsoever; to ever defend civil and religious liberty; to exercise the fullest toleration and charity toward all men; to practice benevolence, and to maintain a universal Protestant fraternity.
It is neither a national, political nor sectarian association.
It is the most ANCIENT KNIGHTLY in existence, and is the legitimate descendant of the illustrious, religious and military order of the Middle Ages; heir to its greatness, and fully endowed with all its ancient rites and ceremonies.
It is FRATERNAL, and its obligations bind to secrecy and mutual protection
It is MILITARY, but drilling and uniforming are optional.
It is a RELIGIOUS, and welcomes all Protestants, by whatever name known, who love our Lord Jesus Christ, to enlist under its banner.
It is BENEFICIAL, paying both sick and funeral benefits.
The History of the Crusaders and Knights of St. John of Jerusalem has been written by many learned and able historians of the past six hundred years, the number of such works being over one hundred, published in many languages. In compiling this condensed work we have had access to several of these histories published in the English language, and have confined ourselves principally to three, viz: "History of Knights of St. John of Jerusalem," by Sir Pierre Marie Louis de Boisgelin de Kerdu, a member of the Order who was on the Island of Malta at the time it was surrendered to the French, 1798; "History of the Knights Hospitalers of St. John of Jerusalem," afterward called Knights of Rhodes, and at present called Knights of Malta, by L'Abbe Vertot; also, '"Achievements of the Knights of Malta," by Alexander Southerland, Esq., and by the author in his preface dedicated to "His Imperial Majesty Nicholas, Emperor of Russia, under whose immediate predecessor the Knights of Malta found refuge when all the other monarchs of Christendom denied them an asylum." This history is that of a fraternity of Hospitalers which afterward became a military society, and at last a sovereign order, instituted from motives of charity. and prompted by a zeal for the defense of the Holy Land to take up arms against the infidels. These bits of history which have been collected are of peculiar interest to us who retain the name and endeavor to teach the principles of the Illustrious Knights of St. John, who dwelt in the Holy City of Jerusalem over eight and one-half centuries ago.
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Though the days of chivalry are gone, and the achievements of those valiant Knights are merely historical, the cause for which they fought-the Cross of Christ-is just as dear to us in this day as it was to them, and in the history of their achievements will be found much which should encourage every follower of the Cross. Of all the conquests gained by these infidels, none more sensibly affected the Christians than that of the holy City of Jerusalem. From the time of Constantine it had been the custom of the Greek and Latin Christians to make frequent pilgrimages to the Holy City, in the belief that their greatest sins would be remitted at the foot of the Saviour's tomb. Up to this time access to the city had been comparatively easy; but when the Holy Land fell into the hands of the infidels it was far more difficult. Though the infidels revered Christ as a prophet, they scrupled not to impose a tribute or tax upon all who knelt at the Holy Sepulchre. But all this oppression did not dampen their ardor and zeal, and for nearly three hundred years Christians from all parts of the West continued to journey to .Jerusalem. Each pilgrim carried a staff and a leather scrip or bag, and as they left their homes to set out on this long and toilsome journey their friends and kindred would bid them godspeed with benedictions and tears. On their return they carried with them to their homes, hundreds arid thousands of miles, the sacred palm leaf or branch from the palm tree of the garden of Abraham, as a trophy of their journey, and hung it over the altar in their parish churches at home. Early in the eleventh century infidel rulers who were masters of Palestine allowed some of the Greek and Latin Christians to settle in Jerusalem, and in order that they might not mingle with
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Mussulmans, assigned them quarters near the Holy Sepulchre. For a time these Christians gave food and shelter to the pilgrims; but often they could not provide for all, and as a consequence they suffered greatly, being footsore and weary from their long journeys. About the middle of the eleventh century, some of the Latin merchants of the city and natives of the kingdom of Naples undertook to provide accommodations for the pilgrims. Their business called them once a year to Egypt, and by means of some useful and costly presents they obtained audience with the infidel rulers and from them obtained permission to erect a church and house of entertainment. On their return the Governor assigned them a piece of ground, on which they erected a chapel and dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin under the name of Saint Mary of Latinos, and at the same time two hospitals or houses of reception for pilgrims of both sexes were erected and dedicated- one for males to St. John the Almoner, and one for females to St. Mary Magdalen, Several pious pilgrims then in the city gave up the plan of returning to their homes and agreed to occupy these hospitals and devote their time and services in caring for the sick and destitute pilgrims who were continually arriving in Jerusalem. The expense of maintaining this work was met by collections, principally from Italy, the native place of the merchants who founded the church and hospitals. All Latin pilgrims were sheltered and fed without distinction as to nation or condition. Some were plundered by robbers while on their way and their clothing taken from them. At the hospitals they were reclothed and cared for with tenderness and skill, if sick, and those who
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died were buried with Christian rites.
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every Christian warrior grasped his lance, and a chief to lead alone
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formally dedicate themselves at the altar as the servants of the
poor and of Christ. They accordingly abjured the world and assumed the regular
habit, which was a black robe having a white linen cross of eight points
fastened upon the left breast. Their action was soon after approved by Pope
Paschall II, as head of the Church. The Pope also exempted the hospital from
the payment of tithes or taxes and gave the Hospitalers the privilege of
electing their own Superior. The news of the great success achieved in reclaiming
Jerusalem from the control of the heathen had in the meanwhile spread throughout
all Europe, and many set out to travel to the Sepulchre of our Lord. In many
cases. they reached Jerusalem wayworn and sick, and the hospital of St. John
was constantly crowded with them. On their return they gave glowing descriptions
of their treatment, and so popular did the Hospitalers become throughout
Europe that many large bequests were made to help maintain the work. In order
to extend their sphere of usefulness and cement the interest taken in it
by the people of Europe, it was decided to build several hospitals in the
principal nations of the West. These were the first Commanderies of the Order,
[Vide Enc. Brit. et Chambers's Enc., Art. John (St.) of Jerusalem, Knight
of; or Art. Hospitalers. ]
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Master. This branch had a separate and individual organization from
that of England so long as Scotland was an independent kingdom.
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or otherwise dishonor himself in war should be publicly stripped
of the sacred sign and the robe of the Order.
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of Sueta, fought in 1158, it is said that six thousand infidels lay
dead on the field. The Grand Master was now old, having served at its head
for forty years, and he died in the hospital of the Order two years after
(1160), honored and revered not only by the brothers of the Order but by
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their large estates to the Knights of St. John, so that the Knights received large revenues therefrom. In the year 1228 Jerusalem was again taken and the banner of the cross floated over the city, and the Knights commenced to repair its walls. But their possession of the Holy City was of short duration. Another infidel army came down upon it and the city was captured, never more to be regained. The infidel victory was complete, and the Christian Knights fell one by one around their banner. The Grand Masters of both Orders were slain, and it is said that only thirty-three Templars and sixteen Hospitalers survived. This fatal battle was fought on the eve of St. Luke's Day, in 1244, and completed the destruction and downfall of the Holy City of Jerusalem. Had it not been for the European Commanderies the Order would, without doubt, have died at thia time, never more to rise again. We will now pass over a long interval, during which the Knights of St. John drifted from place to place. They would locate themselves at a certain town or city only to be driven away at the point of the sword, the infidels being determined to destroy them entirely. About the year 1290 the King of the Island of Cyprus offered the two Orders an asylum on his shores, and to that place they fled as their last hope of having a habitation where they would be undisturbed. The Knights had been engaged in war for one hundred and ninety-four years, and it was hoped that in this retreat at Cyprus they could have rest. But in this they were doomed to disappointment. The King of the island proved very unfriendly to them. He laid a tax upon them, and in many other ways made their sojourn there unpleasant. They looked about for some better place for settlement,
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and the island of Rhodes seemed to be a proper one. The Grand Master
went to France and laid his plans before the King. T he Pope also was in
France on a visit to the King at the same time, and they both approved of
the Grand Master's plans, advanced ninety thousand florins toward raising
an army, and aroused the peoPle in the work. Many gentlemen of rank and
distinction enrolled under the banner of St. John, among them the Grand Prior
of Germany. So many volunteers offered themselves that the fleet could not
take them all. The ship set sail in the spring of 1308, and the Pope gave
his blessing to the expedition. The fleet halted at Cyprus and took aboard
the Knights then on that island, together with the effects of the Order.
The expedition then set sail for Rhodes, where were landed the troops,
provisions, etc., with little opposition. The natives, though taken by surprise,
rallied together and attempted to drive the intruders away. A war, not of
days or weeks but years, followed, the Christian Knights resolutely maintaining
the footing they had gained, and four years elapsed ere the banner of the
Order was firmly planted on the island.
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and eighty thousand men.
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time, but the place was not suitable for a permanent residence.
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of his expedition to Egypt, June 12, 1798. He found in it 1,200 pieces
of cannon, 200,000 pounds of powder, 2 ships of the line, a frigate, 4 galleys,
and 40,000 muskets, besides an immense treasure collected by conscription;
and 4,500 Turkish prisoners, whom he set at liberty. Malta surrendered to
the British under Pigot, September 5, 1800. At the Peace of Amiens it was
stipulated that it should be restored to the Knights. The British, however,
retained possession, and war recommenced; but by the Treaty of Paris in 1814
the island was guaranteed to Great Britain. La Valetta, the capital, was
founded in 1557 by the Grand Master, La Valetta, and completed and occupied
by the Knights August 18, 1571. The Protestant College was founded in 1846.
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In the year 1870 the Order was first introduced into America, an
encampment being chartered in Toronto, Canada, from which it soon spread
to the United States, and in 1875 the Supreme Encampment of America began
its career under a grant issued by the Imperial body of Scotland; but a few
years later the charter or grant was revoked by the Imperial body, and the
members expelled, for violation of obligation, ceasing to be a Protestant
fraternity, destroying the degree work and ancient landmarks, defying the
authority of the Imperial body, changing the name and objects of the Order.
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From Eight Centuries
The Knights Hospitalers of St. John, afterward called Knights of Rhodes, and now known as Knights of Malta, were originally established in A. D. 1048, or earlier, in Jerusalem. Several authors agree in the statement that property was conveyed to the Order as early as A. D. 1025. The ancient records of the Order were seized by Napoleon, stored in one of his vessels, and shortly after burned with the vessel off the coast of Egypt. There is, therefore, no record in existence for verifying the date of earliest organization.
At first the Order w·as only charitable and religious, and its sole object was the maintenance and care of a Hospital in Jerusalem, where pilgrims to the Holy Sepulchre were received and cared for.
In A. D. 1118, Raymond du Puy was elected Grand Master, and because of the awful treatment of Christian pilgrims by Turks and infidels, he successfully petitioned the Patriarch of Jerusalem to constitute the Hospitalers a military as well as a charitable and religious order.
Instances of the religious fervor or the heroic achievements of the Knights of St. John are to be found on every page of the chronicles of the Crusades, and in every poem and romance that attempts to describe that marvelous era in the world's history.
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TRAVELS TO MALTA.
Driven from Jerusalem and from Syria, the Knights found an asylum on the Island of Cyprus, and afterward on the Island of Rhodes. Driven from Rhodes, the Order was given a deed of the Island of Malta by Charles V. of Germany, and remained in undisturbed possession until traitorously surrendered to Napoleon while on his way to Egypt.
Throughout its marvelous career to the time just referred to the Order was constantly in receipt of moneys and lands, and its Commanders were recognized with special honors by all the sovereigns of Europe. Its members were princes and nobles.
The Order has enjoyed an unbroken existence up to the present time,
and presents a successive line of Grand Masters. Henry VIII., who was disposed
to despoil the Knights of their property in England, relented and received
the Grand Master, L'Isle Adam, "with the attention inspired by the first
view of a prince whose conduct and valor had rendered him equally celebrated
both in Europe and Asia. He spoke of the defense of Rhodes as more glorious
than the conquest of an entire province, promised him every assistance in
his power toward its recovery, lodged him in his own palace, and at his departure
presented him with a basin and cup of gold enriched with precious stones."
Originally the Order was divided into eight languages. The English, or Sixth
Language, found refuge in Scotland and adopted the doctrines of the Reformation,
under the leadership of Sir James Sandilands. It was from this body, now
known as the Imperial Parent Grand Black Encampment of the Universe that
the Supreme Grand Commandery
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of the Ancient and Illustrious Order Knights of Malta on the Continent of America received its Grand Charter.
The Order was introduced into America in 1870, but was reorganized under the present Imperial Charter in 1889, since which time it has steadily grown in numbers and influence. Only Good men are desired; Bad men feel lonesome. The Order is Religious, Fraternal, Military and Beneficial.
The Supreme Grand Commandery is now the sole repository of the rites and ceremonies practiced during the Middle Ages, preserved in their entirety, but presented in more exquisite style by the aid of modern invention. The Degrees are of extraordinary beauty and sublimity, and have been extensively copied by modern fraternal orders. They are twelve in number.
The Supreme Grand Commandery of the Continent of America has its
headquarters at Broad and Arch Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U. S.
A., where the Supreme Recorder is directing the work of ~ organization, and
Commanderies are being stationed at the rate of more than two per month within
the jurisdiction, which includes the United States and Canada. The growth
is phenomenal yet the membership is carefully chosen. The entire body is
filled with loyalty and enthusiasm, and its officers are full of confidence
in the great future that is dawning upon the Knights of Malta in America.
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Knights of Malta, though it was an event of great importance in the
annals of fraternal orders, and was of immediate interest to the 26,000 members
of the Order in the jurisdiction of the Supreme Grand Commandery of America,
was not commented upon by the editors of the great dailies, nor was it considered
worthy of more than passing notice in the local columns of the newspapers
printed in the smaller cities and towns of Pennsylvania where the Order has
a firm footing.
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For the enlightenment of those who delight ii the antique, here follows a summary of the movement and progress of the Order during eight hundred and fifty years, arranged in seven periods.
First period, 70 years. From 1048 in Jerusalem, under the patronage of St. John the Almoner, conducted by associate pilgrims until 1090, when Gerard became rector of the Hospital. In 1099 he became Grand Master, which position he held until 1118, when he died, aged about 70 years.
Second period, 172 years. Continued in Jerusalem until 1187, in Margat until 1191, and in Acre, Palestine, until 1228, when they returned to Jerusalem, which they held for sixteen years, until in 1244 they were almost annihilated by the Mahommetans, and the remnant were obliged to lead a nomadic life for forty-six years. In the meantime a branch of the Order was established in Scotland by David I.
Third period, 18 years. At the King's request, in 1290 they located
on the Island of Cyprus, hoping to there find a permanent habitation after
having been engaged in warfare against the enemies of Christianity for 194
years. The King proved unfriendly, and in the spring of 1308 they sailed
ORDER KNIGHTS OF MALTA23
Fourth period, nearly 215 years. Occupied the Island of Rhodes, which they successfully defended against their hereditary foes, the Saracens, who constantly harassed them, until on January 1, 1623, they were obliged to evacuate the island.
Fifth period, 7 years. Having no home, they found temporary residence in Candia, Gallipoli, Messina, Civita Vecchia and Viterbo from 1523 to 1530.
Sixth period, 268 years. Permanently located on the Islands of Malta and Gozo from 1530 to 1798.
Seventh period, 100 years. Priories continued in England, Scotland,
Ireland, Germany, Italy, Russia, and North America, under the supervision
of Grand Masters, Supreme Commanders and Lieutenants of the Magistry from
1798 to 1898.
The Order was a sovereign institution for 481 of the 860 years above referred to. It still continues to be sovereign as a royal, princely, efficacious, paramount Order, and there is no reason why it
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should not hold this position in some parts of the world, if not in
all, for centuries yet to come.
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King David I, whose reign extended over a period of twenty-nine years (1124-53), founded St. John's Preceptory in Linlithgowshire, and its repute became so great that in 1463 the honor of ordination was conferred on Sir William Knolls by the Grand Master at Rhodes. During fifty years he governed, and in the battle of Flodden Field (September 9, 1613) fell with King James IV. Sir George Dundass, who was appointed his successor, was followed by Sir W. Lindsay. On the death of the latter the government of the Order devolved upon that great and good reformer, Sir James Sandilands, who was installed in 1538. History records that in early life he accepted the Reformed faith and was excommunicated by the Pope. Far from being dismayed by the curses of the Pope showered upon the head and brain and limbs and arma and all the organs of the body of their Grand Master, the Knights joined in his views.
The new religion gained ground so rapidly that on August 24, 1660, an act was adopted by Parliament declaring that no subject should acknowledge the authority oF the Pope, and the Crown assumed sole power to present and appoint preceptors and Grand Masters. Sir James Sandilands was continued in office, and frequently represented his sovereign in foreign states. When John Knox returned to Scotland from a missionary tour, he resided
26ANCIENT AND ILLUSTRIOUS
with Sir James, better known then as Lord St. John because he was chief in Scotland of the Order of Military Knights, and venerable for his gray hairs as well as for his valor, sagacity and morals. Sir James had long been a friend oP the Reformed faith, and had contributed greatly to its preservation in Scotland. In 1548 he had presented to the parsonage of Calder, John Spotteswood, afterward the Reformed superintendent of Lothian, who had imbibed the Protestant doctrines from Archbishop Cranmer in England, and who instilled them into the minds of his parishioners and of the nobility and gentry that frequented the house of his patron. Among them were Archibald, Lord Lorne, the Earl of Argyll, a most zealous reformer; John, Lord Erskine, who commanded the Fortress of Edinburgh Castle during the wars between the regent (Earl of Lennox) and the Protestants, and who afterward became Earl of Mar, and died regent of Scotland; James; Lord Stuart, also regent during the minority of James VI, and prior of St. Andrew's. The first Protestant sacrament of the Lord's Supper in Scotland after the Reformation was administered in Sir James Sandilands' house in 1658. The barons drew up a formal petition to the regent, which was presented by Sir James in Holyrood Palace, in the presence of a great number of the nobility and bishops. It contained five bequests :
1. Liberty to read the Scriptures.
ORDER KNIGHTS OF MALTA27
5. The the flagrant and insufferable abuses which prevailed in the
Church of Rome should be corrected and the violence of the clergy
Malta at.the present time
IN the foregoing pages the nobility of the great Order of Malta is fully set forth; its matchless unbroken record thrills us with admiration for the fortitude and suffering the Knights of old endured for their fellows; but in this busy, whirling age, the first question asked by one solicited to become a companion of the Order of Malta is, What benefit is it to me? Why should I join this organization? Very briefly, from a practical standpoint; let us answer; first; Because Malta is a Christian institution; it seeks; first of all, to impress upon men's minds the great lesson of pure, moral lives, and by its teachings creates a better; higher standard of citizenship. The power that will develop and promote this is not only a positive help to the individuals, but a blessing to the community. Why? Because purer morals beget cleaner conditions; less crime, less pauperism. Hence we maintain; from this point alone; that our Order is a decided asset to the community in which it is established.
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It is fraternal; and by fraternity we mean that the lessons taught
in Malta create that brotherhood of man, that closer comradeship, that broad,
far-reaching helpfulness that we need at times; that knowledge that here
is a brother to whom you may pour out your heart, upon whose breast you may
rest, upon whose confidence and valor you can safely trust; yes, that fraternity
that renders help when help is needed. Not charity. No! Malta will
not permit that word to be used in its work of succor to its companions,
whether the distress be that of misfortune, illness or death; whether it
be in guarding the widow and orphan. The help is a right which belongs to
every true Sir Knight of Malta. It is a beneficial Order, paying sick
and death benefits, but it is optional with the Subordinate Commandery.
ORDER KNIGHTS OF MALTA29
In none of its work does it in the slightest degree conflict with
that of any other Order. In our ranks are thousands of Masons, Odd Fellows,
Knights of Pythias and members of kindred orders. Its obligations are
broad and inspiring, and the most liberal-minded American can consistently
accept its teachings. If a Commandery of this great Order is not already
established in your community, it will be our purpose to institute one very
soon. Think these matters over very carefully, aid us to establish in your
midst an organization, having for its sole purpose morality, fraternal and
beneficial helpfulness, under any and all conditions, to those within
its ranks and those dependent upon them. Preliminary meetings will shortly
be held in some hall in your community, notice of which will be sent to you,
and the excellence of the Order, together with the information necessary
to institute Commanderies, will be fully explained by representatives of
the Supreme Grand Commandery.
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Chronological History of the
1048 Established at Jerusalem; a charitable and religious Order.
ORDER KNIGHTS OF MALTA31
1530 The Knights unfurled their banner on Malta's fortress.
For further information, please address any of the following:
FRANK GRAY, P. S. C., Supreme Recorder,
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Headquarters of the Grand Commandery of Pennsylvania.
Created 3rd May 2004
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