Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tombs of the Grand Masters of the Knights of Malta

Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes m


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes n


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes p


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes q


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes b


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes d


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes e


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes s


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes f


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes g


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes h


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes i


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes j


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes k


Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en   Rhodes l

Founded in the 11th century as a lay religious order of hospital workers who observed vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in Jerusalem, the Knights of Malta (variously known as: Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem; the Soverign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta; the Order of St John of Jerusalem and similar permutations) were contemporaries with the more military inclined Knights Templar, and provided care to Christian pilgrims.

A 12th century Papal Bull granted these Hospitaller Knights of St John independence, but they were required to provide armed escorts for pilgrims and adopt a more active military role in defending the faith against Muslim attacks. Later that century however, the forces of Saladin captured Jerusalem and the Knights fled, first to the north and then onto the island of Cyprus and eventually, at the beginning of the 14th century, they relocated to the island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea.

As part of their continuing duty to defend the faith, the Knights built a formidable naval fleet that cruised the Eastern Mediterranean for more than a century, supporting Crusades into Egypt and Syria and engaging in battles with Barbary pirates and later, Ottoman ships under Suleiman the Magnificent. By this time, the Knights Templar had been absorbed by the Knights of Rhodes and the multinational Order had virtual sovereign status, with their own mint and diplomatic connections to other States.

In 1523, after a continual onslaught by the Ottoman forces, the Order was ejected from Rhodes and in 1530, under a Spanish Crown/Papal edict, were granted the island of Malta as a perpetual fiefdom in exchange for an annual fee of a Maltese falcon (yes, that's where the Dashiell Hammet plot element comes from). Of particular note during their tenure on Malta (in addition to their role as a slave trading hub), the Order, comprising less than 10,000 men under Grand Master Jean de la Valette, managed to withstand a three month seige by 40,000 Ottoman Turks. When it came time to rebuild the damaged cities, the capital was renamed Valetta in honour of their victorious leader.

It should be noted that the tendrils of influence and operation of the Knights of Malta always exceeded their nominal homelands. They had varying holdings across Europe and members of the Order had significant roles in the Russian and pre-Revolutionary French navies as well as a presence in Caribbean affairs. The greatest blow to their organisation occurred in 1798 with the invasion and occupation by the forces of Napoleon who used Malta as a launching pad for an assault on Egypt. There followed an ejection of the Knights who were effectively dispersed and their headquarters was moved around Italy until in 1834, the current sovereign-state location was established in Palazzo Malta in Rome.

Today, the 12,000 (invite only) members and volunteers of the charitable religious Order engage in humanitarian and medical relief work in more than 100 countries. Only vestiges of the military tradition (without function) remain. The head of the Order is the 78° Prince and Grand Master Fra' Andrew Bertie, elected in 1988 for life by the Council Complete of State. He is the first British subject to have been made Grand Master of the Order.

The honorific watercolour/ink/inkwash album featured above was produced in 1781 by Le Bailli de Froullay and Fr. Ludovicus d'Almeyda with the Greek notations by a certain Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It is entitled: 'Mausolées des Grans Maîtres de l'Ordre de S. Jean de Jerusalem qui etoitent en Rhodes, tirés des dessins originaux qui existent dans la chancelerie de l'Ordre à Malthe' and is available in html or flash format from La Bibliothèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence.

3 comments :

Michael said...

Prince and Grand Master Fra' Andrew Bertie taught me French at school.
He had some sort of ancient Rolls Royce car, and he could fit about 14 of us boys along the running boards at the sides. He would then drive the lot of us into a shallow lake in the school woods called The Stinking Pool.
He also used to read to us from "Seven Years in Tibet" and teach us Tibetan in the quiet times after exams.
All the other teachers I've had looked a little colourless when compared with him.

Michael said...

I found the portrait of one of his predecessors here -
http://www.auburn.edu/forlang/russian/art/target.php?file=00190

"Portrait of Emperor Paul I (1754-1801) dressed as Grossmeister of the Malta Order"

A well populated gallery of Russian painting.

peacay said...

Thanks Michael. With that patch of knee showing, it looks like a portrait in night attire. Suitably odd/indulgent set-up.

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