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The Origins of the Order

A short description of the Order of St.John from Jerusalem to Malta

From early times (since the death of Jesus Christ), Christian pilgrims from all over Europe flocked to visit the Holy Lands (the places where Jesus lived and visited). From 1050 AD, (apart from pilgrims) traders also started going to the Holy Lands, by crossing from Europe across Asia Minor and by sea across the Mediterranean Sea.

They travelled in various merchant ships of the Maritime republics of Venice and Amalfi. While trade Fra Derardcontinued to increase, the Benedictines set up a hostel to afford shelter to the pilgrims visiting the Holy Lands. These friars where in fact the ones who founded the Order of St. John. Later, these friars began to be known as the Knights Hospitallers. With the permission of the Caliph of Egypt, a hospital was established in Jerusalem. It was founded by the Knights Hospitallers. Their aim was to take care of the pilgrims in the Holy Lands, help the sick and the poor and protect the true Catholic faith from the attacks of Islam.

In 1048, Gerard became the first Rector (Grandmaster) of the Order of St. John. Due to the continuous threat of the Muslim invaders, the Order had to organise itself to defend the Holy Places and the pilgrims visiting these places. Thus, the second Rector of the Order, Raymond du Puy, re-organised the Order militarily-wise. Papal BullTherefore, through his efforts, the Order of St. John received a military character for the first time. In fact, in 1113 AD, Pope Pascal II issued a Papal Bull by which the Order of St. John began to be recognised as a religious order and he also became its protector.

In 1187, the Turkish leader Saladin, completely destroyed The Kingdom of Jerusalem. Thus, the Knights were forced to move to Margat; then to Acre and finally to Cyprus, where they had their headquarters between 1291 and 1310. In Cyprus, the Knights also built a large fleet in order to defend themselves from the Turks. Therefore, the Order also became a formidable maritime force. In 1310, the Order also conquered Rhodes, which became the seat of the Convent for the next 212 years (up till 1522).