April 17, 2016
2468 MALTA - Knights of Malta
Considered the most important of all the Roman Catholic military orders, both for the extent of its area and for its duration, The Order of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem (Latin: Ordo Fratrum Hospitalis Sancti Ioannis Hierosolymitani), known as Hospitallers of Jerusalem until 1309, Knights of Rhodes from 1309 till 1522, and Knights of Malta since 1530, become in 1834 the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which is even today a sovereign subject of international law, headquartered in Palazzo Malta in Rome.
The birth of the Order dates back to around 1048, when merchants from the Marine Republic of Amalfi obtained from the Caliph of Egypt the authorisation to build a church, convent, and hospital in Jerusalem, to care for pilgrims of any religious faith or race. It became independent under the guidance of its founder, the Gerard Thom. Following the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, it became chartered as a military order to protect against Islamic persecution of Christians, recognised as sovereign in 1113 by Pope Paschal II.
When the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land fell after the Siege of Acre, the order settled first in Cyprus (1291-1310), then in Rhodes (1310-1523). In 1523, after six months of siege and fierce combat against the fleet and army of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the Knights were forced to surrender and left Rhodes with military honours. The Order remained without a territory of its own until 1530, when it took possession of the island of Malta (together with Gozo, as well as the city of Tripoli), granted by Emperor Charles V, with the approval of Pope Clement VII.
Malta was ruled by the Order as a vassal state of the Kingdom of Sicily from 1530 to 1798. The Ottoman Empire managed to capture Tripoli in 1551, but an attempt to take Malta in 1565 failed. Following the siege, the Knights decided to settle permanently in Malta, and constructed a new capital city, Valletta. For the next two centuries, Malta went through a Golden Age, characterized by a flourishing of the arts, architecture, and an overall improvement in Maltese society. In the mid-17th century, the Order was the de jure proprietor over some islands in the Caribbean, making it the smallest state to colonize the Americas.
The supreme head of the Order is the Grand Master, who is elected for life by the Council Complete of State, and received the rank of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1607. He is aided by the Sovereign Council, which includes six members and four High Officers: the Grand Commander, the Grand Chancellor, the Grand Hospitaller and the Receiver of the Common Treasure. The flags of the Order are red flags bearing white crosses. The state flag bears a Latin cross, and the flag of the Order's Works bears an eight-pointed Maltese cross.
The Order signs a treaty with the Maltese State in 1998 (ratified in 2001), which grants its the use with limited extraterritoriality of the upper portion of Fort St Angelo in the city of Birgu, so the Order returned to the island. The agreement has a duration of 99 years, but the document allows the Maltese Government to terminate it at any time after 50 years. In nowadays, the Order, with 13,500 Knights, Dames and auxiliary members, employs about 25,000 doctors, nurses, auxiliaries and paramedics assisted by 80,000 volunteers in more than 120 countries.
About the stamp
The stamp is part of the series Wild and Domestic Fauna of the Maltese Islands, about which I wrote here.
Knights Hospitaller - Wikipedia
Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem - New Advent
Sent from (Malta), on 26.09.2013