Monastic State of the Knights Hospitaller

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The state of the Knights of Knights Hospitaller was a sovereign territorial entity of the Knights Hospitaller who settled on the island of Rhodes remaining there for 217 years (1305-1522). They came from Palestine and from Cyprus, where they did not exercise temporal power: the first Grand Master was the French Foulques de Villaret (1305-1319).


Due to repeated disagreements with the king of Cyprus Henry II, which left the privileges of the Knights Hospitaller unaltered, Foulques de Villaret made the decision to transfer the Order to the nearby island of Rhodes which was under the formal authority of the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos. He then went to Avignon and Paris to ask for help and consent from Pope Clement V and King Philip IV of France. The pontiff approved the project and, without revealing the end of the mission, ordered the sending of new crusaders and in September 1308 a fleet of Genoese and Neapolitan ships set sail from Brindisi. The emperor had rejected the homage proposal made by Villaret and sent reinforcements to defend the island. The Knights repulsed them, on August 15, 1309 conquered Rhodes and the nearby islands, thus becoming a European bulwark in the Aegean Sea against the advance of the Muslims.

In 1522 the sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent (1520-1566) wanted to take possession of Rhodes, difficult to conquer, with an army of 100,000 soldiers and a fleet of 300 ships. The Turks penetrated the fortified center by the bastion defended by the Spanish langue, helped by the knight of Amaral, disappointed by the magisterial election, in his stead, by Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, destined to be the last Grand Master of Rhodes and the first of Malta. The heavy siege lasted from 28 July to 22 December 1522: the seven thousand inhabitants of the island firmly fought together with the five hundred horsemen. The citadel, however, was occupied.


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