for Enlarged Photo of Medallion
design called the Maltese Cross has actually been identified
with the Knights of Malta, originally
called the Order of Knights Hospitaller (white or silver
on black background), and the Knights Templar (Red on White),
also called the “Rosy Cross”.
The “Maltese Cross” is
a symbol adapted today by many fire departments in the
United States. The eight-point
Maltese Cross is an international symbol of the fire service's
willingness to make great sacrifices in order to protect
others from the ravages of fire.
This honored symbol originated with a group of eleventh
century knights who were serving in a Jerusalem hospital
during the 11th and 12th centuries. They became known as
the Order of Knights Hospitaller and later became the Knights
of St. John. A white or silver cross on a dark background
was adopted by these Knights, as they were also known for
their charity toward the poor in setting up hospitals.
were contemporaries of the Knights Templar in the Holy
Land. They assisted the Knights Templar against the
Saracens, and their relationship to fire derives from the
Saracens use of fire, a flammable liquid composed of naphtha,
sulfur and quicklime, called “Greek Fire“.
On castle walls and the prows of ships, bronze tubes were
employed that emitted jets of liquid fire, to much the
same effect as today's flame throwers. Many Knights of
St. John were called to perform heroic deeds by extinguishing
fires during these wars, and hence, the association of
their emblem of the Maltese Cross and those who bravely
The Knights Hospitaller (the Order of Knights of the Hospital
of St. John of Jerusalem or Knights of Malta or Knights
of Rhodes) is a tradition which began as a Benedictine
nursing Order founded in the 11th century based in the
Holy Land, but soon became a militant Christian Chivalric
Order under its own charter, and was charged with the care
and defense of pilgrims. Following the loss of Christian
territory in the Holy Land, the Order operated from Rhodes,
of which it was sovereign and later from Malta as a vassal.
The medieval Order can be said to have come to an end following
its ejection from Malta by Napoleon.
monastic hospitaller order was founded following the
First Crusade by Gerard, whose role as founder was confirmed
by a Papal bull of Pope Paschal II in 1113. Gerard acquired
territory and revenues for his order throughout the Kingdom
of Jerusalem and beyond. His successor, Raymond of Provence,
established the first significant Hospitaller infirmary
near to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
Initially the group just cared for those pilgrims who made
it to Jerusalem but the order soon extended into providing
an armed escort to pilgrims. The escort soon grew into
a substantial force.
Together with the Knights Templar, they became one of the
most powerful Christian groups in the area. The order came
to distinguish itself in battles with the Muslims, its
soldiers wearing a black surcoat with a white cross.
The rising power of Islam eventually pushed the Knights
out of their traditional holdings in Jerusalem. After the
fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Jerusalem itself in 1187),
the Knights were confined to the County of Tripoli and
when Acre was captured in 1291 the order sought refuge
in the Kingdom of Cyprus. They then organized a fleet,
and in 1309 they took the island of Rhodes as their new
base of operations. On Rhodes, now known as the Knights
of Rhodes they were forced to become a more militarized
force, fighting especially with the Barbary pirates. However
in 1522 an entirely new sort of force arrived when 400
ships under the command of Suleiman the Magnificent delivered
200,000 men to the island. Against this force the Knights
had about 7,000 men-at-arms, and the walls of the city.
The resulting siege lasted six months, at the end of which
the few remaining Knights were allowed to leave Rhodes
and retreated to the Kingdom of Sicily.
After seven years of moving from place to place in Europe,
the Knights were re-established on Malta in 1530 by the
order of Pope Clement VIII. Their annual fee for the island
was a single Maltese falcon. Here the once-again re-named
Knights of Malta continued their actions against piracy,
their fleet targeting the Barbary pirates.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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