Jerusalem: The City of Peace
The Order of Malta, also known as Order of Saint John, was founded not on the Mediterranean island itself but in the ancient city of Jerusalem in 1048 according to the Biblical Timeline with World History. For thousands of years, Jerusalem was the holiest of cities for the Jews. In the centuries that followed it became a beacon for Christianity and an important pilgrimage site for Christians. When Islam rose in the seventh century, the holy city of Jerusalem became one of the most important sites for the faith. The city soon found itself under Muslim hands after the Umayyads’ aggressive takeover in AD 638.
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Although it was completely dominated by the Muslims from the early eighth century onwards, the rulers of the city allowed the Christian and Jewish inhabitants to remain and worship freely (provided, of course, that they abide by the conditions set before them). They also allowed the relatively safe passage of European pilgrims who flocked to the holy city during the Medieval Period. However, the overland route from Europe to Western Asia became more challenging with the arrival and domination of the Seljuk Turks. If the threat of the Seljuk Turks warriors was not enough, there was always good old banditry to deter would-be pilgrims from coming into Jerusalem. A sea route was developed as an alternative since the overland journeys posed great threats to regular travellers and Jerusalem-bound pilgrims.
The Order of Saint John of Jerusalem
In the middle of the eleventh century, a number of Italian merchants from the Duchy of Amalfi requested for the Fatimid ruler to grant them a piece of land where their fellow Italian pilgrims could rest while they were in Jerusalem. The Fatimid ruler gave them a site near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Amalfi merchants wasted no time in building a church on the piece of land they owned. It was followed by a monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary, a women’s house, and finally, a xenodochium (hospice) built in 1048 to cater specifically to the sick inhabitants and the destitute pilgrims.
The hospice was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist (hence, the name Order of Saint John). The founders later built separate hospices for men and women. Stories, such as the claim that when he was alive, Jesus visited the site to cure the sick or that the hospice was around when the apostles were alive, were connected to the hospice and lent a sheen of history to it. Nevertheless, the hospice continued to serve pilgrims and sick inhabitants of Jerusalem well into the twelfth century after the first of the Crusaders captured Jerusalem. It was later renamed the Order of Malta when the Knights Hospitaller were driven out of Jerusalem and Rhodes in the thirteenth century.
Picture By Pietro Anderloni – →This file has been extracted from another file: Bust portrait of a knight of Malta.jpg, Public Domain, Link
“History – Order of Malta.” Order of Malta. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2016.
Nicholson, Helen J. The Knights Hospitaller. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2001.
Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Knights Hospitaller in the Levant, C.1070-1309. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
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