To many, The Knights of Malta are men shrouded in the mists of time and the mere mention of this ancient order conjures up images of a band of men wearing a swashbuckling uniform, living a life of chivalry, defending the Christian faith against Muslim attacks, attending balls and revelling at Carnival. Many theories abound as to the true nature of their activities and some claim that The Knights of Malta were linked to an Illuminati conspiracy; others claim that they were simply a federal association of a right-wing faction of the Catholic Church, similar in some ways to The Knights Templar.
To give the Knights of Malta their correct title, they should be called Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, and they were originally established in 1085. Membership consisted of a federation of monks responsible for looking after the sick and injured at the Hospital of St. John in Jerusalem. Later on, they evolved into a military order, defending crusader territory in the Holy Lands of the Middle East and safeguarding Medieval Pilgrims journeying along treacherous routes from Europe. Throughout history, these Knights were recruited exclusively from the noble families of France, Italy, Spain, England and Portugal, with the Order gaining vast wealth from these aristocratic sons of the most wealthy and powerful families that Europe had to offer at the time.
In 1522, the Knights were expelled from their home-base which at the time was the island of Rhodes. The Emperor, Charles V, gave them the choice of Tripoli or Malta and in 1530; they took up residence on Malta, staying for a further 268 years, transforming what they called a rock into a flourishing island-fortress with impenetrable defences, and the symbol on their flag became known as The Maltese Cross. The Order was ruled by a “Grand Master” who answered directly to the Pope. They built a new capital city, Valletta, which was named after Jean Parisot de la Valette, the Grand Master at the time. In Valletta, they built the “Sacra Infermeria”, a hospital that could accommodate 500 patients of different classes, and was essentially the world-leading, free-clinic of its day.
In 1798, the French took control of Malta and the Knights left Malta, scattering widely throughout Europe. Today, there are around 12,500 members of the Order of Malta worldwide. These modern-day Knights and Dames are devoted to the exercise of Christian virtue and charity, and committed to achieving Christian spiritual perfection and to using their energies caring for others. They are presided over by the Grand Master and Sovereign Council based in Rome. Several websites and wiki sites are dedicated to research and history of these ancient orders.