Fra ‘Jean de la Valette, Grand Master of the Military Order of Malta.

John, Valette, Grand Master, Military Order, Malta,
Fra ‘Jean de la Valette, also Jean Parisot de La Valette,

John la Valette

Fra ‘Jean de la Valette, Jean Parisot de La Valette, (1494 – 1568) was from 1557 until his death the 49th Grand Master of the Military Order of Malta and founder of present capital of Malta, Valletta.

Born in Occitania, Parisot, today Tarn-et-Garonne department, he entered the Order of the Knights Hospitaller and fought at Rhodes against the Turks, by whom he was taken prisoner and put to the oars on a galley. Later freed, he rose through the ranks to become Grand Master, the Order’s highest office. A man of exceptional energy, it was said of him that he was capable “of ruling a kingdom or converting a Protestant”.

As Grand Master, La Valette played a leading role in the siege of Malta in 1565, sometimes considered one of the greatest sieges of all time. When the island was attacked by a large Turkish fleet, he organised and directed the resistance, imposing the tactic of defence to the bitter end of all strongholds, and took part in several battles in person, despite the fact that he was now seventy-one years old. In this way, despite being severely outnumbered, the Knights of Malta resisted for four months. Finally, on 6 September, when both contenders were exhausted, a Spanish rescue fleet landed and put the Turks to flight.

To reward him for the victory, the Pope offered La Valette the title of cardinal, but he declined the offer, believing that fighting was an occupation unsuitable for a prince of the Church. Instead, King Philip II of Spain sent him a precious sword as a gift, with a dedication engraved on the blade.

La Valette then began the reconstruction of the island, which had been half-destroyed by the siege, and founded what became the new capital of Malta, which was named humilissima civitas Valettae (“the very humble city of Valetta”) in his honour. While directing the works, he was struck down by sunstroke in 1568, which led to his death. He was buried with full honours in St. John’s Cathedral, where his body still lies today. He was succeeded by Grand Master Pierre de Monte. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Order of St. John was built after the conquest of Jerusalem by the army of the First Crusade in 1099 as the Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem (Latin name: Ordo Sancti Johannis Hospitalis Ierosolimitani). The religious community was also called Knightly Order of St. John of Jerusalem from the hospital, the Knights were called St. John or Hospitallers.

Valetta, Malta, Harbour, 1827, 19th, century,
City of Valetta and suburbs. Malta 1827.

After the fall of the Crusader states first in 1291 the seat of the Order was moved from Jerusalem to Cyprus and in 1309 to Rhodes. In the time in Rhodes the Knights were also called Rhodesians. After the conquest of the island by the Ottomans, the Order subsided after multiple stops settled down in Malta in 1530. So the usual names today Maltese or Maltese Order emerged.

Source: Travels in Malta and Sicily, with sketches of Gibraltar, in MDCCCXXVII by Andrew Bigelow. Publisher: Carter, Hendee & Babcock 1831.

Illustration, Manis, Dasypodidae
Manis Dasypodidae


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