What is the history of the Knights of St. John of Rhodes?

Are you a traveler to Rhodes fascinated by the history of the Knights of St. John? If so, you have come to the right place! A tour through time waits for us as we embark on our journey into the captivating past of The Knights Hospitaller (otherwise called as the "Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order", "Order of St. John" "Knights of Rhodes", "Knights of Malta", "Rhodes Knights" etc.) and their ties to the beautiful island city of Rhodes.

From its historical inception in 1099 over 1000 years ago, The Order has held reigning power throughout this coastal Mediterranean landscape and beyond for centuries.

Our exploration will dive into fascinating accounts that give insight to their political strategies spanning from ancient times up until today, showcasing just how influential these esteemed warriors were across European and Middle Eastern territories - all with an unseen patriotic obligation destined for eight centuries!

Rhodes: Palace of the Grand Master Skip the Line Ticket

Visit the majestic building of the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. Save time with this pre-booked ticket, and see the most important monument of the city.
  • Dive into the medieval, architectural history of Rhodes Island.
  • See one of the few examples of Gothic architecture in Greece.
  • Explore the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights.
  • See real medieval costumes, armor and swords.
  • Dive into the legend of the Knights of Rhodes & Malta.
  • Step into the throne room and the Palace's Yard.

Origins of the Knights of St. John of Rhodes

The Knights of St. John of Rhodes (also called as Knights of Rhodes) have a long and fascinating history, tracing back to the 11th century. Originally known as the Knights Hospitaller, the order was founded to care for sick and injured pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land.

In the 14th century, the Knights of St. John of Rhodes were established when the order was forced to relocate from Jerusalem to the Aegean island of Rhodes. It was there that the knights achieved great military prowess, defending the island against invaders for over two centuries.

In 1522, the order was once again forced to relocate, this time to Malta where they continued their humanitarian and military missions. Today, the Knights of St. John of Rhodes are remembered as a symbol of bravery, chivalry and service to others.

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Relationship of the Knights of Rhodes with Rhodes Old Town

The relationship between the Knights of Rhodes and the Old Town of Rhodes is deeply intertwined, shaping the very essence of this ancient city. The Knights fortified the existing city, transforming it into a stronghold from which they could defend the island against potential aggressors.

With their military skill and architectural genius, the Knights constructed several impressive buildings, many of which are still standing today.

As you wander the cobbled streets of Rhodes Old Town (Unesco World Heritage Site), the influence of the Knights is unmistakable. The Palace of the Grand Master, also known as the Castello, stands as a testament to their power and architectural prowess. The Street of the Knights, once home to the lodgings of the various nationalities within the order, is another iconic remnant of their presence.

Additionally, the fortification walls and the gates, such as the Gate of Amboise, showcase the strategic thinking and determination of the Knights to protect the city.

These architectural marvels not only serve as a tangible connection to the past but also as a reminder of the indelible mark the Knights of St. John of Rhodes left on the historic city of Rhodes.

The Roles & Responsibilities of the Knights of St. John

The Knights of St. John (also called as Knights of Rhodes) were a religious and military order that played a crucial role during the medieval period. Their primary role was that of protecting the vulnerable and the weak, including pilgrims, travelers and the sick.

They were recognised for their chivalric deeds and were often called upon by various kingdoms to defend their territories. As a religious order, they were responsible for ensuring the spiritual welfare of the people under their care.

Additionally, they were required to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. This meant that they were not entitled to personal possessions and had to maintain a life of rigorous discipline. Looking back, it is clear that the Knights of St. John played a vital role in shaping the history of Europe.

Renaissance Era and The Knights of St. John

The Renaissance Era was a time of great change and enlightenment in Europe. It was a period of cultural revival, where the arts and sciences flourished. During this time, one of the most fascinating and influential groups operating in Europe were the Knights of St. John.

This religious order was founded in the 11th century to provide medical care for Christians during the Crusades. However, over time, the order evolved into a group of warrior-monks who defended Christian territories against Muslim forces.

The Knights of St. John were a defining force of the Renaissance era, and their legacy continues to fascinate historians and writers to this day.

Expansion and Legacy of the St. John Knights' Influence in Europe

The St. John Knights' influence in Europe has left a lasting legacy that continues to impact the continent to this day. As a prominent order of knights, they played a critical role in the Christianization of Europe during the Middle Ages, spreading their beliefs and values through their military and charitable efforts.

Their influence extended beyond simply religious affairs, as they played a crucial role in shaping the political and economic landscape of Europe.

In this sense, the St. John Knights' legacy is one of immense significance, and it is not difficult to see why they remain revered to this day.

Despite having been established over 900 years ago, their impact on Europe continues to be felt, serving as a testament to the enduring success of one of history's most esteemed institutions.

Important Figures in the History of the Knights of St. John

The Knights of St. John, also known as the Knights Hospitaller or Knights of Rhodes, have a rich history dating back to the 11th century. Over the centuries, many important figures have played a significant role in shaping the Knights into the organization it is today.

One such important figure is Jean de Valette, who was a Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller in the 16th century. During his tenure, Valette led the Knights to a decisive victory against the Ottoman Empire in the Great Siege of Malta. Additionally, he oversaw the construction of the city of Valletta, which was named in his honour.

Another notable figure is Raymond du Puy, who was the first Grand Master of the Knights in Jerusalem. He is credited with establishing the Hospitallers as a military order and for his efforts in expanding the organization's reach across Europe. These are just a few examples of the remarkable individuals who have left an indelible mark on the history of the Knights of St. John.

The role of the Grand Master of the Knights of St. John (Knights of Rhodes)

The role of the Grand Master of the Knights of St. John was an essential one, as they were responsible for leading the order and overseeing its various activities.

The Grand Master held both religious and military authority, ensuring that the knights adhered to their vows and were prepared for battle when called upon to defend their territories. In addition to their military leadership, the Grand Master was entrusted with diplomatic duties, forging alliances with other nations and maintaining the order's political influence.

The last Grand Master, Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim, served from 1797 to 1799. Under his leadership, the Knights faced a significant challenge when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Malta, ultimately leading to the surrender of the order and the beginning of a new chapter in their storied history.

Relationship of the Knights of Rhodes with Ottoman Turks

The relationship between the Knights of Rhodes and the Ottoman Turks was marked by a series of conflicts and confrontations during the medieval period. As the Ottoman Empire sought to expand its influence in the Mediterranean, it often found itself clashing with the Knights of St. John, who were dedicated to defending Christian territories and ensuring the safety of Christian pilgrims.

One of the most significant encounters between the Knights of Rhodes and the Ottoman Turks took place in 1480, when the Turkish forces laid siege to the island of Rhodes. Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Knights, under the leadership of Grand Master Pierre d'Aubusson, successfully defended the island, forcing the invading forces to retreat.

However, the two sides would meet again in 1522, when the Ottoman Empire, led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, launched a second, larger-scale siege against the island. After a prolonged and fierce battle, the Knights of Rhodes, now under the command of Grand Master Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, were ultimately forced to surrender the island to the Ottomans.

Despite their defeat, the Knights of Rhodes never lost their resolve to protect Christian territories and interests. They would subsequently relocate to Malta, where they continued their military and humanitarian endeavours. The relationship between the Knights of Rhodes and the Ottoman Turks serves as a powerful example of the complex dynamics that shaped the political, military, and religious landscape of medieval Europe.

Modern Day Legacy and Impact of the Knights of St. John on Society

Throughout history, the Knights of St. John have left an indelible mark on society, and their legacy continues in modern times. These warrior monks were originally established to protect Christian pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land during the Crusades.

Over the years, they developed a reputation as fierce defenders of Christianity and played a significant role in shaping the future of Europe. Today, the Knights of St. John are still active in many countries, such as Malta, where they continue to assist the poor and marginalized in society.

Their values of compassion, courage, and selflessness inspire people around the world to this day, reminding us of the importance of serving others and making a positive impact in our communities.

The history of the Knights of St. John of Rhodes is one that spans centuries and has impacted many different areas of society.

From their beginnings in the 11th century, they developed a strong code of chivalry to uphold during their military campaigns and provided protection for those under their care.

During the Renaissance period, the Knights increased their influence and power in Europe, largely due to the contributions of important figures like Grand Master Jean de Valette who led them through successful battles against foreign attacks.

Furthermore, although centuries have passed since then, the legacy and teachings that followed this Order lives on today as we can spot references to it in various forms such as literature, art and even graphic movie depictions.

It is safe to conclude that for centuries now, the Knights have played a major role in shaping much of our society’s values today which serve as our beacon towards justice and peace.


The oldest inhabited medieval city in Europe. A thrill beyond.

Explore the curated information about the history of Rhodes Old Town


Rhodes Old Town can be accessed also by bicycles! Find a wide range of bicycles at the link below!

About Municipality of Rhodes

The Greek island of Rhodes welcomes you with open arms. We are hospitable, well-traveled people and love to share our culture with visitors. Explore this beautiful corner of Europe and discover the rich history that surrounds everything! This ancient city is known as "Rhodes, The Island Of Knights" for its illustrious past; it's also famous for hosting fantastic culinary experiences, vibrant nightlife along with warmhearted locals who enjoy greeting newcomers like old friends - all under our unique sun where hospitality reigns supreme.

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Medieval City of Rhodes, a journey where the past meets the present under the blue sky