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The formal name for the Knights of Malta is the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, or the Order of Malta, which was formed long before their reign on the island of Malta. The Order was established in 1085 as a community of monks responsible for looking after the sick at the Hospital of Saint John in Jerusalem. In 1113, Pope Paschal II sanctioned the Hospitallers Order, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. By 1126, the Order had become a military Order, charged with defending Christian territory in the Holy Lands, and protecting Christians during pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The Order built castles and other fortifications throughout Palestine. Membership in the Order was restricted to those from noble families, and the Order soon acquired much wealth from those it recruited. The Order was ruled by a Grand Master who was answerable only to the Pope, and Knights were chosen from the aristocratic families of England, France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, and were sworn to celibacy, poverty and obedience. The Order was both a religious, military and medical order, so not everyone associated with the Order was a knight. After a series of retreats in its fight against Islam, the Order surrendered on Christmas Eve of 1522, and were allowed to depart from their last base on Rhodes in January 1, 1523. Although without territory, the Order was still recognized as a sovereign power, and over the next few years it established seats at Crete and elsewhere. In 1530, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V gave them a choice between Malta or Tripoli as a new base of operations. They chose Malta, and remained there for 268 years, and it was in that period that they became known as the Knights of Malta. Today, the Order continues to be a sovereign power, with associations in several countries, and has an agreement with the Maltese government for the use of Fort Sant'Angelo on Malta. Membership in the Knights is by invitation only and solicitations are not considered.



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