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16
ST JOHN OF JERUSALEM


nephew and successor,[1] was destined to be eventful for the order. On the 5th of June 1305 Bertrand de Got became pope as Clement V. The new pope consulted the grand master of the Templars and Hospitallers as to the organization of a new crusade, and at the same time raised the question of the fusion of the military orders, a plan which had already been suggested by St Louis, discussed at the council of Lyons in 1274, and approved by the pope's patron Philip IV. of France. The proposal broke down on the opposition of Jacques de Molay, grand master of the Temple; but the desired result was obtained by other and more questionable means. In October 1307 Philip IV. caused all the Templars in France, including the grand master, to be arrested on charges of heresy and gross immorality; Pope Clement V., a creature of the French king, reluctantly endorsed this action, and at his instance the other sovereigns of Europe followed the example of Philip. The famous long-drawn-out trial of the Templars followed, ending at the council of Vienne in 1314, when Pope Clement decreed the dissolution of the order of the Temple and at the same time assigned the bulk of its property to the Hospital.[2] (See Templars, Knights)

Meanwhile an event had occurred which marks an epoch in the history of the order of the Hospital. In 1306 Foulques de Villaret, anxious to find a centre where the order would be untrammelled by obligations to another power as in Cyprus, came to an agreement with a Genoese pirate named Vignolo de Vignoli for a concerted attack on Rhodes and other islands belonging to the Greek emperor. The exact date of their completed conquest of the island is uncertain;[3] nor is it clear that the grand master took a personal part in it. By command of the pope he had left Cyprus for Europe at the end of 1306 or the beginning of 1307, and he did not return to the East till late in 1309. He returned, however, not to Cyprus but to Rhodes, and it is with 1310, therefore, when its headquarters were established in the latter island, that the second period of the history of the order of the Hospital opens.[4]

The Knights in Rhodes.—The history of the order for the next fifty years is very obscure. Certain changes, however, took place which profoundly modified its character. The most important of these was its definitive division into “langues.” The beginnings of this had been made long before; but the system was only legalized by the general chapter at Montpellier in 1330. Hitherto the order had been a cosmopolitan society, in which the French element had tended to predominate; henceforth it became a federation of national societies united only for purposes of commerce and war. To the headship of each “langue” was attached one of the great dignitaries of the order, which thus came to represent, not the order as a whole but the interests of a section.[5] The motive of this change was probably, as Prutz suggests,[6] fear of the designs of Philip IV. of France and his successors to which point had been given by the fate of the Templars, and the consequent desire to destroy the preponderance of the French element.[7]

The character and aims of the order were also profoundly affected by their newly acquired sovereignty—for the shadowy over lordship of the Eastern emperor was soon forgotten—and above all by its seat. The Teutonic order had established its sovereignty in Prussia, in wide and ill-defined spheres beyond the north-eastern marches of Germany. The Hospitallers ruled an island too narrow to monopolize their energies, but occupying a position of vast commercial and strategic importance. Close to the Anatolian mainland, commanding the outlet of the Archipelago, and lying in the direct trade route between Europe and the East, Rhodes had become the chief distributing point in the lively commerce which, in spite of papal thunders, Christian traders maintained with the Mahommedan states; and in the new capital of the order representatives to every language and religion of the Levant jostled, haggled and quarrelled.[8] The Hospitallers were thus divided between their duty as sovereign, which was to watch over'the interests of their subjects, and their duty as Christian warriors, which was to combat the Infidel. In view of the fact that the crusading spirit was everywhere declining, it is not surprising that their policy was henceforth directed less by religious than by political and commercial considerations. Not that they altogether neglected their duty as protectors of the Cross. Their galleys policed the narrow seas; their consuls in Egypt and Jerusalem watched over the interests of pilgrims; their hospitals were still maintained for the service of the sick and the destitute. But, side by side with this, secularization proceeded apace. In 1341 Pope Clement VI. wrote to the grand master denouncing the luxury of the order and the misuse of its funds; in 1355 Innocent VI. sent the celebrated Juan Fernandez de Heredia, castellan of Amposta and grand commander of Aragon, as his legate to Rhodes, armed with a bull which threatened the order with dissolution if it did not reform itself and effect a settlement in Turkey. In 1348, indeed, the Hospitallers, in alliance with Venice and Cyprus, had captured Smyrna; but the chief outcome of this had been commercial treaties with their allies. Such treaties were, in fact, a matter of life and death; for the island was not self-supporting, and even towards the Infidel the attitude of the knights was necessarily influenced by the fact that their supplies of provisions were mainly drawn from the Mussulman mainland. By the 15th century their crusading spirit had grown so weak that they even attempted to negotiate a commercial treaty with the Ottoman sultan; the project broke down on the refusal of the knights to accept the sultan's suzerainty.

The earlier history of the Hospitallers bristles with obscure questions on which modern scholarship (notably the labours of Delaville Le Roulx) has thrown new light. From 1355 onward, however, the case is different; the essential facts have been established by writers who were able to draw on a mass of well-ordered materials.

Their history during the two centuries of the occupation of Rhodes, so far as its general interest for Europe is concerned, is that of a long series of naval attacks and counter-attacks; its chief outcome, for which the European states owed a debt of gratitude but ill acknowledged, the postponement for some two centuries of the appearance of the Ottomans as a first-rate naval power in the Mediterranean. The seaward advance of Osman the Turk was arrested by their victories; in 1358 they successfully defended Smyrna; in 1365 under their grand master Raymond Béranger (d. 1374), and in alliance with the king of Cyprus, they captured and burned Alexandria. The Ottoman peril, however, grew ever more imminent, and in 1395, under their grand master Philibert de Naillac, the Hospitallers


  1. M. Le Roulx dates his election between the 23rd of November 1304 and the 3rd of November 1305 (Hosp. p. 268).
  2. The Templars' property in the Spanish peninsula and Majorca was specially excepted, being subsequently assigned to the sovereigns, who transferred some of it to the native military orders. Nor did the Hospitallers receive by any means all of the rest. Philip IV. charged against the Hospital an enormous bill for expenses incurred in the trial of the Templars, including, as one item, those for torturing the knights. In France at least the Hospitallers complained that they were actually out of pocket. See Finke, Papisttum und Untergang des Tempelherrenordens, i. ad fin. None the less, the great accession of territorial property necessitated the subdivision of the great regional jurisdictions, notably that of the priory of St Gilles, into new grand priories.
  3. The question is discussed in detail by M. Le Roulx, Hospitaliers, pp. 278 sqq. He himself dates the surrender of the castle of Rhodes in 1308. Cf. Hans Prutz, “Anfänge der Hospitaliter auf Rhodos” in Sitzungsber. der K. Bay. Akad. d. Wissenschaften (1908), i. Abhandlung.
  4. Foulques de Vil1aret's head seems to have been turned by his success. His early vigour and statesmanlike qualities gave place to luxury, debauchery and a tyrannical temper. He was ultimately deposed, and died at the castle of Teyran in Languedoc in 1327.
  5. The great dignitaries were distributed as follows: Grand commander of Provence, the grand preceptor; Auvergne, the grand marshal; France, the grand hospitaller; Italy, the grand admiral; Aragon, the grand conservator or draper; England, the turcopolier; Germany, the grand bailiff; Castile, the grand chancellor.
  6. “Die Anfänge der Hospitaliter auf Rhodos.”
  7. Philip IV. strenuously opposed the change for this reason. Prutz, Die geistlichen Ritterorden, p 358 sqq. Compare the division of the general councils of Basel and Constance into “nations.”
  8. See the regulations made, soon after the capture of the island, in the Capitula Rodi, a fragment of a code, published by Ewald in Neues Archiv iv. pp. 265–269