Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller
Under Royal Charter and Constitution Granted by His Late Majesty King Peter II of Yugoslavia
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ORDER OF ST. JOHN
The Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller is among the oldest Orders of Chivalry still in existence. It is directly descended from the Order founded in Jerusalem in the late 11th Century. Before the Crusades, a hostel was established in Jerusalem to provide respite for merchants and pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. During the First Crusade, this hostel was converted to a hospital, dedicated to St. John the Baptist. It served all who needed help regardless of race or religion.
1099 AD Crusaders stormed the gates of Jerusalem. Their leader, Godfrey de Bouillon, was so impressed by the hospital that he endowed it with one of his manors.
1104 AD Fighting continued and the hospital grew. Baldwin I confirmed the Brotherhood of the Hospitallers.
1113 AD Pope Pascal II and the King of Jerusalem recognized the statutes of the fraternity and approved its religious rule.
1126 AD By papal bull of Anastasius IV, the Order became recognized as an Order of Knights and was designated the “Ordo Militae S. Johannes Baptistae Hospitalis Hierosolymitani.”
1291 AD The Crusades ended and the last Christian defenders, including the Knights of St. John, were driven out of the Holy Land.
1309-1522 AD After a brief stay on the island of Cyprus, the Knights of St. John captured the island of Rhodes. They defended Rhodes from a great siege by the Turks in 1480, but were finally forced from the island in 1522.
1530 AD By treaty with Spain’s Emperor Charles V, the Knights acquired the island of Malta. Their only feudal service was the annual payment of a falcon to the Viceroy of Sicily. The first few years were devoted to fortifying the island and building great hospitals and schools.
1565 AD Turkish forces, consisting of 138 ships and 38,000 men, attacked Malta. The defenders were 700 Knights plus 8,000 servants, men-at-arms, and townspeople. After a four-month battle, the Knights prevailed. Barely 10,000 Turkish troops survived. The defenders suffered over ninety percent casualties.
1791 AD An unsettled Europe, caused by Napoleon and the French Revolution, coupled with the abolition of the great French priories and the Order’s loss of income, prompted the Knights to conclude a treaty with Paul I, Emperor of all the Russias, who subsequently became “Protector of the Order of St. John.”
1798 AD Napoleon attacked Malta and the Knights were forced to capitulate. Many Knights went to St. Petersburg, where Emperor Paul I protected the Order and was later elected its 70th Grand Master. Paul I increased the size of the moribund Polish Priory and renamed it the Russian Grand Priory. At the same time, he created a new and very large Priory for Russian nobles, who were admitted regardless of religion, and also created many hereditary knights and commanders.
1798-1917 AD The Order of St. John continued to flourish, centered in Russia and under the protection of Romanov Emperors from Paul 1 to Nicholas II.
1917 AD Czar Nicholas II is deposed. 1928 AD The sacred relics of the Order were transferred to the Royal House of Karageorgevic and to King Alexander of Yugoslavia who was a close relative of the Czar and was related to many of the Royal Houses of Europe.
1962 AD King Peter II of Yugoslavia was elected “Protector of the Order.” He renewed its royal charter and provided the Order’s modern Constitution. In 1964, he was elected Grand Master and died in 1970 in Denver.
1973 AD HRH Prince Andrej, youngest brother of King Peter, became Protector and later, in 1978, Grand Master of the Order.
1985 AD Prince Andrej reorganized the Grand Priory of the Americas and today the Order’s world headquarters is, again, located on the island of Malta.
THE ORDER OF ST. JOHN TODAY
The Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller brings together ladies and gentlemen who are already known for their love of humanity and who are, and will continue to be, contributors to the good of their communities. To become a member of the Order brings with it the highest honor and responsibility for carrying on its centuries-old history and traditions. In the 21st Century, this ancient and chivalric Order thrives on its collective mission – the care of the sick and poor of Christ. It has a democratically elected leadership, preserves and builds on the customs and traditions of its glorious past, and is driven by the vitality of its almost 1,200 worldwide members in three Grand Priories, 17 Priories and 22 Commanderies in 12 countries. The entire charitable organization operates through bona fide non-profit entities created under the laws of their respective countries. Each Commandery carries out humanitarian projects under its charitable trusts, while also promoting good works undertaken separately by the International Office and by its individual Members. The motto of the Order of St. John is Pro fide, Pro Utilitate Hominum (For Faith, For Service to Humanity) and it is upheld by all Members. The Order strives to serve the sick, poor, and the truly needy of the world to the best of its ability. Members work together to raise funds through events and projects, to support worthy charitable beneficiaries, and to recognize others and promote them as Aspirants to full membership as a knight or dame of the Order of St. John. Membership in the Order is strictly “by invitation only.” Members of the Order have already distinguished themselves in service to the sick and poor of Christ and are recommended for the accolade of knighthood by their peers. Regular solemn ceremonies of Investiture are held at which new Aspirants receive the accolade of knighthood and are admitted as Knights and Dames of Honour. Through continued service to others, Members are encouraged by their fellow knights and dames to maintain their own dedication by service within a Priory or Commandery in order to perpetuate the nearly 1,000 year-old work of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller.