A short description of the Order of St. John from Jerusalem
|The Knights of St. John were formed in the city of Jerusalem, where their first hospital was set up. After the
fall of Acre, which was the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land, the Order moved its headquarters
to Cyprus. In 1453, with Constantinople falling to the Turks, Rhodes became the last Christian outpost.
The reasons for the coming of the Order to Malta
In 1530, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V offered the Knights of St. John the island of Malta and the fortress of Tripoli. His main aim in doing this was that by having the Knights stationed in Malta, they would be able to defend his Empire in Western Europe from the threatening Turkish attacks coming from Eastern Europe by the Turkish Sultan Soleyman. In return, Charles V asked the Knights for a yearly rent of one "falcon" (an old type of coin).
Obviously, the Knights would have discussed the disadvantages and advantages of going to Malta, so that then they could vote. Here are some of the possible advantages and disadvantages of coming to Malta:-
1. Food had to be imported from Sicily.
2. Malta was almost completely undeveloped militarily.
3. The barren rock of Malta was very different from the fertile land of Rhodes.
4. The local population was too small to provide an adequate defending force.
5. Since Malta had no natural resources and industries, all weapons and building material had to be imported.
6. The barren rock of Malta was very different from the fertile land of Rhodes.
1. Since they were small, the Maltese islands could be easily protected.
2. Malta has magnificent natural harbours, which were ideal for their fleet that was so important for the Order. In fact, the Phoenicians had named our island "Maleth" (the name Malta comes from this Phoenician word), which in their native language means heaven: thus, a direct reference to Malta's magnificent natural harbours. One of these natural harbours is the magnificent Grand Harbour, which is found near Birgu (the town where the Knights settled at first) and near our capital city (Valletta), which the Knights were to construct after the Great Siege of 1565. Most probably, this harbour was the most thing that made Malta so attractive to the Knights when they decided to settle in Malta.
3. It was the only place they could adopt as their headquarters.
The settling of the Order of St. John in "Birgu"
On their arrival in Malta on the 26th October 1530, the Knights Hospitallers, under Grandmaster De l'Isle Adam, settled in "Birgu" (now called Vittoriosa) and the old fort of St. Angelo (it had also been used by the Phoenicians, the Romans and the Arabs) became their headquarters. The Grandmaster himself lived in fort St. Angelo, which was obviously strengthened. Late in 1532, work also started on an infirmary (hospital) and eventually, modest Auberges (the building where the Knights from the same Langue, that is, of the same nationality live) were built in "Birgu". The population of Malta was then of only 12,000 inhabitants and it was divided between the old capital city of "Mdina", the various villages around the Island and the seafaring town of "Birgu".