Knights of Malta order celebrates 900 years
- The Knights Hospitallers fought the endless invasion of Muslims into Christian lands, and helped protect the freedom of Europe.
The Knights of Malta military order of the Catholic church - which dates back to the time of the Crusades - has celebrated its 900th birthday in Rome.
The order is one of the few created in the Middle Ages that is still active. It has now become a major international humanitarian organisation.
|The Maltese Falcon|
More than 1,000 knights and dames from more than 100 countries - all dressed in flowing black robes bearing their order's distinctive eight-pointed cross on their shoulders - walked in procession into St Peter's Basilica reports BBC News.
They attended a Mass led by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.
At the end of the ceremony, the knights were addressed by Pope Benedict XVI who congratulated them for their charitable work among the sick and the poor.
"Your esteemed and beneficent activity, carried out in a variety of fields and in different parts of the world... is not mere philanthropy, but an effective expression and a living testimony of evangelical love," the pontiff said.
The current Grand Master of the Order, Briton Matthew Festing, told the BBC: "It's interesting that a small band of Crusaders has expanded into this huge worldwide organisation.
"The reason we've survived is because we have changed from knights in armour to what we are now in the 21st Century. We are still doing what we did then, looking after the sick."
|The Knights Hospitallers|
|The Siege of Rhodes|
In June, 1522 a second Muslim invasion began. 400 ships under the command of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent delivered 100,000 men to the island. Against this force the Knights Hospitallers had about 7,000 men-at-arms and their fortifications. The siege lasted six months.
After a major assault at the end of November was repelled, but both sides were now exhausted—the Knights because they were reaching the end of their capacity to resist and no relief forces could be expected to arrive in time, the Turks because their troops were increasingly demoralized and depleted by combat fatalities and disease spreading through their camps. Suleiman offered the citizens peace, their lives and food if they surrendered; the alternative would be death or slavery if the Turks were compelled to take the city by force.
The Hospitallers were allowed to withdraw to Sicily.
Over 6,000 of the 7,000 Knights had been killed or wounded, but they had inflicted over 20,000 casualties on the Muslim Turks. It took some serious balls to stand against insane fanatic Muslims in hand to hand combat armed with not much more than a sword, mail and shield.