Tuesday, 3 October 2017
The origin of the Hospitallers was an 11th-century hospital founded in Jerusalem by Italian merchants from Amalfi to care for sick and poor pilgrims. After the Christian conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, 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. The order was formally named and recognized on February 15, 1113, in a papal bull issued by Pope Paschal II. Raymond de Puy, who succeeded Gerard in 1120, substituted the Augustinian rule for the Benedictine and began building the power of the organization. It acquired wealth and lands and combined the task of tending the sick with defending the Crusader kingdom. Along with the Templars, the Hospitallers became the most formidable military order in the Holy Land.
When the Muslims recaptured Jerusalem in 1187, the Hospitallers removed their headquarters first to Margat and then, in 1197, to Acre. When the Crusader principalities came to an end after the fall of Acre in 1291, the Hospitallers moved to Limassol in Cyprus. In 1309 they acquired Rhodes, which they came to rule as an independent state, with right of coinage and other attributes of sovereignty. Under the order’s rule, the master (grand master from c. 1430) was elected for life (subject to papal confirmation) and ruled a celibate brotherhood of knights, chaplains, and serving brothers. For more than two centuries these Knights of Rhodes were the scourge of Muslim shipping on the eastern Mediterranean and they constituted the last Christian outpost in the East.