The only surviving order of military chivalry
in the world today is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. The full
name of the order is the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of
St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta. Its responsibility was
to provide rest, provisions, and care for those who were injured in
battle, as well as pilgrim, the poor and the sick. The Order was
founded before Jerusalem was taken by the Crusaders in 1099. It was
originally connected with the Order of St. Benedict. It had both
military and charitable functions. It was expelled from the Holy Land
in 1291, and made its home in Cyprus temporarily.
In 1307 the Order landed
on the island of Rhodes after finding a temporary home on Cyprus.
Until 1522 the Muslim naval power was unable to prevail again the
Order. At that time Suleyman the Magnificent did take the island and
the Knights left with military honors.
After further years
of exile Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, provided the Order with a
permanent home on the island of Malta for the rent of a single falcon
per year. In 1798, after successfully withstanding many Turkish
attempts to dislodge them the Knights of Malta were defeated by
Napoleon and expelled from the island.
The Knights of Malta
finally established their headquarters in their palace in Rome, where
it is today. They continue their charitable work with lepers, and
providing medical service in emergency situations. The Order is not a
member of the Universal Postal Union and its stamps are only
recognized by countries that have bilateral agreements with it.
Catalog for the S.M.O.M. :