Monday, August 01, 2005

The Knights Hospitaller, Ancient and Modern

The Knights Hospitaller, Ancient and Modern - An unofficial guide to the chivalric Hospitaller Orders, especially the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, from the First Crusade to the present era.

Not as well known as the Knights Templar (or as controversial), they originated during the Crusades, helped to defend the Crusader states, and survived as an order-in-exile until the time of Napoleon.

From the site:

The Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem originated in the Eleventh Century as a monastic brotherhood caring for the needs of Latin pilgrims in the Holy Land. The Order's founder, Blessed Gérard, was not an aristocrat, but after the first Crusade, which took place in his lifetime, the Hospital staff began to include demobilised knights. Inevitably, as the Crusader States found themselves in a condition of perpetual war, the brethren of the Order were soon found serving as medics and then as combatants, becoming (with their rivals the Knights Templar) the most discilplined Christian military force in Outremer and the mediæval equivalent of a multinational corporation.

But their history did not end with the failure of the Crusades, as the Templars' did. Their military, commercial, and humanitarian activities were relocated first to the Ægean and then to Malta; the "last Crusaders" survived anachronistically into the era of the French Revolution. Even after Napoleon captured their island stronghold, representatives of the Sovereign Order continued to negotiate with the Pope, the Russian Czar, and the monarchs of Europe for a return to power. It never came, and none of the various organizations claiming with various degrees of plausibility to be the Order's heir can be said to much resemble the Order in its days of greatness. However, at least some of these organizations, including the two largest, have rededicated themselves to the charitable work originally intended for the Hospitallers by their founder.

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