Knights Hospitalers: On the Island of Rhodes

The order grew stronger on Rhodes. They had received some benefit from the dissolution of the Knights Templars, and the wealth of their grand priories all over Europe had greatly increased. To some extent, at least, the change was accompanied by a decline in moral standards. The Knights of Rhodes, as they came to be known, maintained their reputation as fighting men. In 1344 the knights, with the Genoese, retook Smyrna and held it for a short time. In 1365, in conjunction with the king of Cyprus, they captured Alexandria, which, however, they were unable to retain.

The island of Rhodes was an important strategic point, and the Turks on their advance after the capture of Constantinople determined to take it. A heroic episode in medieval military history was the successful defense of Rhodes by the grand master, Pierre (later Cardinal) d'Aubusson, against the forces sent by Sultan Muhammad II. But the knights could not summon the means to resist indefinitely, and in 1522 the grand master Philippe de L'Isle Adam was forced to capitulate. The knights wandered homeless until in 1530 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V conferred upon them the sovereignty of the island of Malta.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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