THE KNIGHTS OF MALTA - STORY OF A STATE WITHOUT A LAND
The Order of St. John was founded before the taking of Jerusalem in 1099 by the armies of the First Crusade. It began as a monastic community dedicated to St. John the Baptist, which administrated a hospice-infirmary for pilgrims to the Holy Land.
The Order of the Hospital of St. John acquired the additional character of an Order of Knighthood. The Knights were thus also Religious, bound by the three monastic vows of Obedience, Chastity and Poverty. It thus became a "persona mixta", a religious-military Order. While continuing on a vast scale its hospitaller activity, one of its two aims: "obsequium pauperum" (service of the poors), the Order pursued valiantly its other aim, the defense of Christendom: "tuitio fidei" (protection of the Faith).
In 1530 Emperor Charles V (in this capacity of King of Sicily) gave to the Order the islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino, as well as Tripoli in North Africa, in sovereign fief. On 26 October 1530 the Grand Master FrÓ Philippe de Villers de l'isle Adam took possession of Malta, with the approbation of Pope Clement VII. From then on the Order of St. John come to be called of Malta also.
In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte, engaged in a campaign against Egypt, occupied the island of Malta and drove out the Order. The Knights again found themselves without a home.
After temporary seats in Messina, Catania and Ferrara the Order finally established itself in 1834 in Rome, where it holds, extra-territorially, the Malta Palace in Via Condotti 68 and the Villa on the Aventine.
The sovereignty of the Order is expressed in the diarchy of the Prince and Grand Master who is its Supreme Head, and of the Councils: the Sovereign Council, the General Chapter, and the Council Complete of State.
Under the provisions of International Law, the Order maintains diplomatic relations, with the Holy See, on which, in its double nature, it depends as a religious Order, but is independent, as a Sovereign of Knighthood, and with 81 countries in the world.
From 1994, the Order has been admitted as Permanent Observer to the United Nations: in this capacity, it remains Permanent Delegation to the International organization in New York, Geneva, Paris, Rome and Vienna. In 1999 the Order has celebrate in Malta its 900 years from the foundation and come back to Malta officially.
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