Sovereign Military Order of Malta

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     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.


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