Friday, May. 06, 2011

The Knights Hospitaller

The Knights Hospitaller got their name from the monastic order's early origins in Jerusalem, where they tended to sick and wounded Christian pilgrims at the peak of the Crusades. They were monks who packed a punch, and the black and silver cross on the knights' shields has come to represent in the minds of most the iconic image of a metal-clad Crusader. For years, the Knights Hospitaller led the line in battles over minikingdoms and towering fortresses in the Holy Land. The order's greatest hour, though, was not near Jerusalem but in the middle of the Mediterranean, on the island of Malta, which for a number of centuries the Knights Hospitaller — also known as the Knights of Malta — ran virtually as their own state. In 1565, an Ottoman army attempted to invade and seize the isle, but the dogged Knights repulsed the attack after five months of brutal fighting. The victory punctured the aura of invincibility that many in Europe had ascribed to the mighty Ottomans and forever sealed the Knights Hospitallers' legend.