Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Knights of Malta and the Great Siege of 1565

Today marks the four hundredth and fiftieth anniversary of Malta's victory over the Ottoman Empire  during the Great Siege of Malta.    

Victory Day, September 8th, is a national holiday in Malta. It is locally known as il-Vitorja (the Victory) and il-Bambina (Baby Mary). It marks the following events:

  • The victory of the Great Siege by the Knights of St. John against the Ottoman Turks of 1565.

  • The rebellion against the French troops in Malta ended in those days in September 1800 driving them from the Maltese islands.

  • Italy surrendered during Second World in 1943, and turned against its former German ally.

The day is also connected to the Nativity of Mary, and in fact feasts are celebrated in towns Xagħra, Naxxar, Senglea, and Mellieħa on the day.

The Siege of Malta (also known as the Great Siege of Malta) took place in 1565 when the Ottoman Empire invaded the island, then held by the Knights Hospitaller (also known as the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, Knights of Malta, Knights of Rhodes, and Chevaliers of Malta).

The Knights, together with between 4-5,000 Maltese men, women and children and approximately 2,000 footsoldiers won the siege, one of the bloodiest and most fiercely contested in history, and one which became one of the most celebrated events in sixteenth century Europe. Voltaire said, "Nothing is better known than the siege of Malta," and it undoubtedly contributed to the eventual erosion of the European perception of Ottoman invincibility and marked a new phase in Spanish domination of the Mediterranean.The siege was the climax of an escalating contest between a Christian alliance and the Ottoman Empire for control of the Mediterranean, a contest that included Turkish corsair Turgut Reis's attack on Malta in 1551, and the Turkish utter destruction of an allied Christian fleet at the Battle of Djerba in 1560.

To mark this occasion we present two documentaries concerning the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta and the Great Siege of 1565. 

The siege of Malta  "Arrival of the Turkish fleet" (Matteo Perez d' Aleccio)

Their motto was To Defend the Faith and Serve the Poor. From humble monks to fearsome warrior knights, the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta embodied, as they do today, an alluring thousand year legacy intertwined with intriguing legends of the riches of Solomon, Barbary coast pirates, and the elusive Holy Grail. Through re-enactments and interviews filmed in twelve countries, we witness the story of the legendary Knights of Malta, the gallant vanguard of the Maltese Cross.

The Siege of Malta  Flight of the Ottomans , by Matteo Perez d' Aleccio

To Learn more about this period of Maltese and Mediterranean History read The Great Siege: Malta 1565 by Ernle Bradford available from Amazon Books and Audible in audio format.

Book Description
Suleiman the Magnificent, the most powerful ruler in the world, was determined to conquer Europe. Only one thing stood in his way: a dot of an island in the Mediterranean called Malta, occupied by the Knights of St. John, the cream of the warriors of the Holy Roman Empire. A clash of civilizations was shaping up the likes of which had not been seen since Persia invaded Greece. Determined to capture Malta and use its port to launch operations against Europe, Suleiman sent an armada and an overwhelming army. A few thousand defenders in Fort St. Elmo fought to the last man, enduring cruel hardships. When they captured the fort the Turks took no prisoners and mutilated the defenders' bodies. Grand Master La Vallette of the Knights reciprocated by decapitating his Turkish prisoners and using their heads to cannonade the enemy. Then the battle for Malta began in earnest: no quarter asked; none given.

The Knights of Malta

The Siege of Malta Knights of St John vs Ottoman Empire 
This show looks at the rising Ottoman Empire attempts to conquer all Mediterranean trade routes, but the tiny island of Malta stands in its way. This island is also home to the fiercest knights, the Order of St. John, or Knights Hospitaller. 8,000 Knights and native Maltese fended off approx 48,000 Turkish warriors.
Copyright Disclaimer
Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

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