When we think of knights, we usually think of valiant men who fought in full armor, jousted on horseback, and checked to see if your temperature and blood pressure were too high. Wait, what was that last one? Ah yes, that’s referring to not just any knights, but to the original Knights Hospitaller.
The story begins in 600 A.D. when the Pope commissioned that a hospital be built in Jerusalem to treat sick and wounded Christian pilgrims coming to the Holy Land. An order of monks ran this abbey and hospital, and after the success of the first Crusade, set up more hospitals all along the route to Jerusalem – hence their moniker, the “Knights Hospitaller.”
As the Crusades crusaded onward, the order began to divide neatly between those who stuck with the original mission of caring for the sick and those who transformed the Hospitallers into a military force. Of course, the members still adhered to their monk’s vows of personal poverty, obedience, and celibacy… But that didn’t stop them from getting a little hardcore and taking up arms to defend the pilgrims, even offering them armed escorts!
Hospitaller Knight Complete Set:
Eventually, the Hospitallers could no longer stand against the Islamic forces, and they were forced out of Jerusalem. After stints in Margat, Acre, and Cyprus, the Knights began a campaign to overtake the island of Rhodes, making it their new headquarters in 1309. For centuries, the Hospitallers ran Rhodes as their own state, defending it successfully against attacks by the notorious Ottoman Empire. A famous battle entailed a Hospitaller army of about 7,000 taking on 100,000 Ottoman soldiers and turning them into nothing more than a glorified footrest.
When the Knights of the Temple dispersed, some surviving Templars joined the Hospitallers, causing the order to become even more warrior-esque. Now the order was dabbling in naval warfare, sending armed ships after Muslim pirates and taking revenge against Turkish merchants with piracy of their own. In 1522, Turkey managed to boot the Hospitallers out of Rhodes, leaving them without a base until Holy Roman Emperor Charles V arranged for them to occupy Malta, on the condition that the Knights send him a falcon every year as a sign of fealty… because nobody wants to betray a man who owns dozens of trained birds of prey.
The Hospitallers gave up warfare over the centuries in favor of medical care and territorial administration. The order exists even to this day, continuing to aid the ailing and suffering by providing medical assistance, caring for refugees, and distributing medicines and basic survival equipment.
The Knights Hospitaller were known in battle by their distinguishing black surcoats decorated with a white cross. To assemble your knightly gear, browse our online collection: www.historicalclothingrealm.com