The Knights Hospitaller, or Knights of St. John were a military religious order founded in the Holy Land in the 11th Century. Initially they ran a series of hospitals, but eventually they began to escort and protect pilgrims. Upon the expulsion of all crusaders from the Holy Land, they eventually made their way to Cyprus, then Rhodes, which they lost to the Ottomans after a valiant resistance.
Almost extinct, but their maritime skills desperately needed by civil war torn Christian Europe to protect its vulnerable Mediterranean coast, they were given Malta as a base, which in 1565 was to become to the Ottomans what Stalingrad was to the Germans in WW2.
This video documents the obscure origins of the Knights of Malta as they had come to be known; their withdrawal from the levant following the failure of the crusades and their eventual triumph and unifying effect on Europe in the defence of Malta against the greatest armada and amphibian invasion in history till D-Day.
Their leader- John Parisot de Valette was a charismatic, brilliant commander who though flawed and all too human, studied his enemy in minute detail and understood both the gravity of the situation he faced as well as the heavy responsibility of duty he was burdened with. He was able to convince both soldiers and commoners alike to rally to his cause, to suffer the greatest bombardment any city had ever suffered (till WW2) and yet stand their ground and even take the initiative against an enemy that outnumbered them over 10:1.
Europe, torn asunder by the wars of the Reformation and highly vulnerable to the seemingly undefeatable Ottoman empire suddenly paused in their fratricidal carnage to stand in awe of De Valette and his knights of St John as they stood alone to hold back the tide of Muslim expansion. Born into wealth, he gave it up for the glory of joining the Hospitallers. As a young man he was a courageous and valiant soldier; middle aged he was a competent and shrewd administrator and commander – enslaved and tortured as a prisoner of war, yet using that as an opportunity to study his enemy’s language and tactics; till finally as an old man, he became a fearless hero who saved his order, and arguably, all of Europe from becoming over-run when other men his age were in their dotage.
Such a man is a worthy individual for us to take lessons from in an example of calmness under fire, planning and strategy and courage to face overwhelming odds with devotion to duty and resignation.