The Hospitaliers (Knights Hospitaliers), refers to the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, and their full title is The Sovereign Military Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta. They're also known as the "Knights of Saint John and the Knights of Jerusalem".
The Hospitaliers were called the Knights of the White Cross, with their symbol of a white cross on a black field.
With an increasing number of Christian pilgrims to the holy city of Jerusalem at the beginning of the 11th century, following the First Crusade, the Muslim rulers gave permission for a Latin-rites church to be built, with a hospital for the pilgrims. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem, Gerard de Martignes, the head of the hospital, created the order of "The Friars of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem", which was recognized by Pope Paschal II in 1113.
The order's original purpose was to aid the pilgrims, but protecting the church and hospital became quickly obvious, and they swore to protect Jerusalem. Raymond du Puy, Gerard's succesor, organized the order into more military configuration, where the members were divided into three different classes:
Knights of Justice: the armed arm of the order, had to be of noble birth and to already be knights.
Chaplins: provided the spiritual support.
Serving Brothers: did what they were told. different classes:
A fourth category were the
Donats: honorary members who got in the good graces of the order by contributing their money and their lands.
The first leader of the order, Gerard, was called rector, and later leaders were called grand masters.
The brothers were sworn to poverty, chastity and obedience. But, just as happened to the Templars, the Hospitalers amassed a great wealth of objects and estates. They eventually formed preceptories all over Europe to manage the estates.
In the Holy Land, the Knights Hospitalers participated in the capture of Ascalon in 1154. In 1187, when Jerusalem was lost to the Muslims, the Hospitalers moved to Margat, where they purchased the castle and the seaside town of Valenia. Two years later they moved their headquartes to the port city of Akko (or Acre), where they built an extensive defensive complex.
A century later, in 1291, Akko fell to the Muslims and the Hospitalers were driven from the Holy Land, establishing themselves in Cyprus. From their base in Cyprus, the Knights Hospitalers continued their oritingal role by protecting the convoys for the pilgrims.
In 1308-1310, grand master Foulques de Villaret carried out the plans of his his brother William de Villaret, the preceding grand master, with a special crusade that conquered Rhodes from the Saracens.
While here, the Hospitalers were known as the Knights of Rhodes. During this period, they increased their reputation as fighters. In 1344, the Knights of Rhodes assisted the Genoese in capturing Smyrna. In 1365, they aided the king of Cyprus in capturing Alexandria. Grand master Pierre d'Aubusson successfully defended Rhodes from determined attacks by the forces of Sultan Muhammad II. The attacks continued, though, and in 1522, Rhodes was lost when grand master Philippe de L'Isle Adam capitulated.
In 1312, the wealth of the Hospitalers was increased when they were given much of the property of the Knights Templars, an order that was disbanded primarily because of its amassed wealth and power.
The Knights Hospitalers wandered homeless until 1530, when they were given the island of Malta by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. While based here, the Hospitalers were called the Knights of Malta. They built extensive fortifications on the island to defend against the Turks. One of their more famous exploits was the successful defense in the battle of 1565. In 1571, their success at the battle of Lepanto efectively stopped the Turks in the Mediterranean and ended a period of conflict. The Hospitalers continued their charitable work, and their hospital on Malta was the equal of any in Europe at that time.
In England, the Protestant Reformation lead to Henry VIII supressing the English branch of the Hospitalers. The order went through some reorganization, and admission as a knight became mainly a test of nobility of birth.
In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte captured Malta during his Egyptian campaign. The Hospitalers had a defensive force of 332 knights and 16,600 militiamen, and they were faced with a French armada of 400 ships with more than 50,000 land troops, sailors, marines. The knights were given the option of defecting with a lifetime pension or departing Malta.
Thrown out of Malta, the Hospitalers chose Czar Paul of Russia as their grand master, and many of the knights moved to St. Petersburg. With the Pope's agreement, the Roman Catholic order of the Hospitalers were now ruled by an Orthodox emperor.
In 1802, following the death of Czar Paul, the Pope named Tommasi as grand master, the last official head of the Hospitalers. The order moved to Catania, but after 1805 they continued there with no leader. The headless Hospitalers moved on to Ferrara, then to Rome.
The old order effectively died at this time, and the new order had no real connection with the previous. In 1827, some French Hospitalers reestablished the grand priory in their attempt to revive the order. In 1879, the pope restored the office of grand master, and the order expanded as a charitable organization devoted to the care of the sick and the wounded. In 1926, an association of this new order was founded in the United States.
Here are some of the places in Provence and France where the Hospitalers were established:
Bargemon - Chateau de Favas.
Biot - they inherited semi-control here from the Templars; shared with the Counts of Grasse.
Cairanne - they ruled here.
Comps-sur-Artuby - they ruled here.
Elancourt - the Hospitalers took over the commanderie of the Templars; between Maurepas and Trapes
Joucas - they ruled here.
Lardiers - they ruled here.
Lorgues - influence here, where the earlier Templars had a Commanderie.
Marseille - Fort Saint-Jean, at the entrance of the old port, was a Hospitalers Commanderie.
Manosque - the Hotel de Ville has a bust of the Hospitalers' founder, Gerard.
Martigues - they ruled here.
Orres - they ruled here.
Richerenches - the Hospitalers inherited the Templars first Commanderie here.
Seillans - they ruled here.
The writing here is by Beyond, but the historical information has been obtained from a variety of sources, including printed encyclopedic dictionaries, brochures and documents from various Offices de Tourisme, and some websites, including:
"The Columbia Encyclopedia", from www.bartleby.com, which contains a good bibliography.