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This is an 1879 oil painting of the Villa Malta by Sanford Robinson Gifford at the National Portrait Gallery.

The Villa Malta in Rome, Italy, is the home of The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta.

According to Wikipedia:

" ... The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta ..., also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order of, traditionally, a military, chivalrous and noble nature. It is the world's oldest surviving order of chivalry. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is headquartered in Rome, Italy, and is widely considered a sovereign subject of international law.

SMOM is the modern continuation of the original medieval order of Saint John of Jerusalem, known as the "Fraternitas Hospitalaria" and later as the Knights Hospitaller, a group founded in Jerusalem around the year 1050 as an Amalfitan hospital to provide care for poor and sick pilgrims to the Holy Land. After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, it became a military order under its own charter. Following the loss of Christian held territories of the Holy Land to Muslims, the order operated from Rhodes (1310–1523), and later from Malta (1530–1798), over which it was sovereign.

Although this state came to an end with the ejection of the order from Malta by Napoleon Bonaparte, the order as such survived. It retains its claims of sovereignty under international law and has been granted permanent observer status at the United Nations. ..."SMOM, Wikipedia.


Also according to Wikipedia, the SMOM are the direct heirs of the Knights Templar:

" ...Pope Clement V dissolved the Hospitallers' rival order, the Knights Templar, in 1312 with a series of papal bulls, including the Ad providam bull, which turned over much of their property to the Hospitallers. The holdings were organised into eight "tongues" (one each in Crown of Aragon, Auvergne, Castile, England, France, Germany, Italy and Provence). Each was administered by a Prior or, if there was more than one priory in the tongue, by a Grand Prior. At Rhodes and later Malta, the resident knights of each tongue were headed by a Bailli. The English Grand Prior at the time was Philip De Thame, who acquired the estates allocated to the English tongue from 1330 to 1358. In 1334, the Knights of Rhodes defeated Andronicus and his Turkish auxiliaries. In the 14th century, there were several other battles in which they fought.

On Rhodes the Hospitallers, by then also referred to as the Knights of Rhodes, were forced to become a more militarised force, fighting especially with the Barbary pirates. They withstood two invasions in the 15th century, one by the Sultan of Egypt in 1444 and another by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1480 who, after capturing Constantinople and defeating the Byzantine Empire in 1453, made the Knights a priority target.

In 1494 they created a stronghold on the peninsula of Halicarnassus (presently Bodrum). They used pieces of the partially destroyed Mausoleum, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, to strengthen their rampart, the Petronium.

In 1522, an entirely new sort of force arrived: 400 ships under the command of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent delivered 100,000 men to the island (200,000 in other sources). Against this force the Knights, under Grand Master Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, had about 7,000 men-at-arms and their fortifications. The siege lasted six months, at the end of which the surviving defeated Hospitallers were allowed to withdraw to Sicily. Despite the defeat, both Christians and Muslims seem to have regarded the conduct of Villiers de L'Isle-Adam as extremely valiant, and the Grand Master was proclaimed a Defender of the Faith by Pope Adrian VI. ..." Knights Hospitaller, Wikipedia.


The current head of the SMOM is Prince Matthew Festing.

According the Wikipedia: " ... The full title of Fra' Matthew is: His Most Eminent Highness Fra' Matthew Festing, Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, Most Humble Guardian of the Poor of Jesus Christ.

The Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta was the sovereign ruler of Malta from 1530 until 1798, and nowadays represents the Order's claim to sovereign status. The Sovereign Prince was created ex officio a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire by the Holy Roman Emperor in 1607 (as an honorary title, as the Prince and Grand Master was already a Head of State in his own right outside the Empire), as well as the style of Most Eminent Highness from the Pope in 1630, recognizing his status as a Prince of the Church. In Catholic Church precedence Fra' Matthew is the highest-ranked officer following the Cardinals, and remains the only leader of an entity within the Catholic Church in modern times, apart from the Pope, to be considered as an independent monarch (as sovereign of Vatican City): historically, many bishops (and archbishops) held sovereign-prince status. ..." Matthew Festing, Wikipedia.


For an overview of the SMOM see: "An Essay on the Order of St. John (S.M.O.M.)" by Chevalier PAUL


List of Grand Masters of the SMOM (1099 AD to present). Note the strange choice of the Russian Orthodox Paul 1 of Russia, who was elected 72nd Grand Master as a bulwark against Napoleon.


I call this photo, taken in July 2015:

"Villa Malta."



Sea Urchin


This is "Aurora Borealis", an 1865 oil painting by Frederic Edwin Church, also at the National Portrait Gallery.

I call this photo, also taken in July 2015:

"Aurora Borealis."




Aurora Borealis

Page 133


2015 by Waweru Njenga. All rights reserved.

First posted: 7/22/2015



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