|HISTORY CONTINUED- Knights of Malta to present
Knights of St. John (1530 - 1798) On 23 March
islands passed under the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, a
chivalrous religious order initiated in 1099 and officially founded in
Jerusalem in 1113.
According to the
chronicles, merchants from the ancient Marine Republic of Amalfi
obtained from the Caliph of Egypt the authorization to build a church,
convent and hospital in Jerusalem, to care for pilgrims of any religious
faith or race.
with a white cross. By the mid-12th century, the order was clearly divided into military brothers and those who worked with the sick. It was still a religious order and had useful privileges granted by the Papacy, for example, the order was exempt from all authority save that of the Pope, and it paid no tithes and was allowed its own religious buildings
The Order remained without a
territory of its own until 1530, when the Grand Master Fra' Philippe de
Villiers de l'Isle Adam took possession of the island of Malta, a gift
of the Emperor Charles V with the approval of Pope Clement VII. It was
established that the Order should remain neutral in any war between
The Knights of Malta at once resumed the manner of life they had already practiced for two centuries at Rhodes. With a fleet which did not number more than seven galleys they resisted the Barbary pirates who infested the western basin of the Mediterranean. They formed a valuable contingent during the great expeditions of Charles V against Tunis and Algiers. Arab forces were becoming increasingly aggressive and moving west. Christians captured in these raids were being sold for ransom or as slaves. Short of funds, the Knights and Maltese become corsairs - a kind of pirate - attacking towns in North Africa and Turkish shipping. The Knights of Malta gave chase to the Turkish galleys. These enterprises did not fail to draw upon them fresh attacks from the Ottomans.
Solyman II, regretting his generosity, gathered a second time all forces of his empire to dislodge the Christian corsairs from their retreat. In revenge, Suleyman the Magnificent raided Gozo and sold all 5000 inhabitants into slavery. In July of 1551, the Citadel was besieged by the Turks of Sinan Pasha. The medieval walls without flanks and terreplein to resist gunpowder bombardment were easy prey to besiegers and the fortifications soon succumbed. A tombstone in the local cathedral conveys some of the horror in its commemoration of the nobleman Bernardo Dupuo, who died fighting the Turkish priates, after killing his own wife and daughters to save them from slavery and concubinage, two fates worse than death. After the terror of 1551, recovery was slow and painful. Some Gozitan slaves were traced and ransomed, but life was shattered and families left permanently split asunder, their various members sold to different owners in far-off lands.
After having temporarily resided in Messina, Catania and Ferrara, in 1834 the Order settled in Rome, where it owned the Palace of Malta in Via Condotti 68 and the Villa on the Aventine, both of which have extraterritoriality status.
From then, the original hospitaller mission became the main activity of the Order, and grew stronger throughout the last century, especially because of the contribution of the activities carried out by the Grand priories and National Associations in the various countries of the world. French rule in Malta, was short-lived. By 1800 the Maltese, with the help of Nelson, drove the French garrison out of Malta and sought the protection of the British throne.
British (1800 - 1964) Malta and Gozo became formally a British Crown Colony in 1813 and the island was slowly transformed into a fortress colony.
Once again, the tide turned in Malta'a favour. But not before King George VI made a gesture unique in history. On the 15th April, 1942 he awarded the George Cross to the Maltese Nation, an honour still proudly borne by the Maltese on their flag.
The scroll accompanying the medal reads "To honour her brave people I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history
Both General Dwight D. Eisenhower and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were visitors to the island and FDR paid tribute to the Maltese people for their valorous service to the war effort by presenting a plaque on December 8th, 1943.
Malta became independent in 1964 and adopted a Republican Constitution in 1974.
Malta joined the European Union on May1, 2004. It is expected to adopt the Euro as its currency sometime in 2008. It's position on abortion finds Malta by itself as the most religiously conservative with the only total prohibition [malta+prohibition google search] Malta will no doubt serve the rest of the Western world well as it attempts to reconcile its deeply felt spiritual values with its history as a harbinger of the new ages.
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