During my recent research on the Order of Malta, I came across the fascinating history of the Knights Hospitaller, a humanitarian order of religious warriors during the Crusades. The original purpose of the knights was to provide aid and medical care to Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Eventually, the knights were also charged with defending the devoted travelers.
I have always loved history but have not had a great interest in religion in general even though I was raised Catholic. Learning about the Hospitallers has sparked a dormant desire to be connected again in some shape or form to Catholicism. For now, it is only through a historical lens but we’ll see what the future holds.
Formally called the Order of the Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, the Knights Hospitaller, which dates back to 1048 and was officially recognized by Pope Paschal II in 1113, was a medieval and early modern Catholic military order that was headquartered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem until 1291.
With over 970 years of history, I had not known of the religious organization that lives on today in various forms. The Knights Hospitaller were contemporaries with the well-known, and some may say infamous, Knights Templar who ceased to exist in 1312.
After the fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1291, the Knights Hospitaller had no home until they settled on the island of Rhodes. They remained in Rhodes from 1310 until 1522, in Malta from 1530 until 1798, and in Saint Petersburg from 1799 until 1801. They roamed around until they at last settled permanently in Rome in 1834.
Today, several organizations claim continuity with the historic Knights Hospitaller and are considered recognized Orders of St. John. These associations include the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John, the Bailiwick of Brandenburg of the Chivalric Order of Saint John, the Order of Saint John in the Netherlands, and the Order of Saint John in Sweden.