Sovereign Military Order of Malta - History

History

The birth of the Order dates back to around 1048. Merchants from the ancient 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. The Order of St.John of Jerusalem – the monastic community that ran the hospital for the pilgrims in the Holy Land – became independent under the guidance of its founder, Blessed Gérard. With the Bull of 15 February 1113, Pope Paschal II approved the foundation of the Hospital and placed it under the aegis of the Holy See, granting it the right to freely elect its superiors without interference from other secular or religious authorities. By virtue of the Papal Bull, the Hospital became an Order exempt from the Church. All the Knights were religious, bound by the three monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

The constitution of the Kingdom of Jerusalem regarding the crusades obliged the Order to take on the military defence of the sick, the pilgrims and the territories that the crusaders had conquered from the Muslims. The Order thus added the task of defending the faith to that of its hospitaller mission.

As time went on, the Order adopted the white eight-pointed Cross that is still its symbol today. The eight points represent the eight "beatitudes" that Jesus referred in his Sermon on the Mount.

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