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Order of Saint John at Rhodes and Malta
43rd Grand Master: Fabrizio del Carretto, 1513-1521
44th Grand Master: Philippe Villiers de l'Isle Adam, 1521-1534
45th Grand Master: Pierino del Ponte, 1534-1535
49th Grand Master: Jean de la Valette, 1557-1568

The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem - abbreviated Order of Saint John - was created after the conquest of Jerusalem in the First Crusade (1099) as an international lay brotherhood to provide care for sick, poor or injured pilgrims coming to the Holy Land. The brotherhood became a religious order in 1113 and a spiritual order of knights in 1153. The order was expelled from Jerusalem in 1187, then from Acre in 1291. They stayed in Cyprus until 1307, from where they moved their headquarters to the city of Rhodes, they had conquered in 1310.

43rd Grand Master: Fabrizio del Carretto, 1513-1521.
When Sultan Mehmed II launched a major attack on Rhodes in 1480, Fabrizio (french Fabrice) was involved in the happy defense of the fortress of St. John. During the tenure of Grand Master Fabrizio, peace with the Mamluks of Egypt was renewed. But when Sultan Selim conquered Egypt in 1517, it became clear that Rhodes was at great risk because it lies on the sea route between Constantinople and Egypt. Therefore, the city fortifications were extended according to the latest knowledge. The death of Sultan Selim (1520) delayed the expected attack. Fabrizio died a little later.

Specimen of the Coin Cabinet, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
Minted silver medal n. d.    Ø 39 mm, 20,68 g.   R.Morris pl.II,fig.3; Hill(1930) 730; Börner 265.
Obv.:   ✠·Frater·FABRICIVS·DE·CARRETTO·MAGNVS·Magister·Rodi·   "... Grand Master of Rhodes"
Rev.:   DEO ET BEATE VIRGINI   "For God and the Blessed Virgin"
Quartered shield: Order cross / family coat of arms.
A stamp from Malta was created on this model.


Ducat n. d. (zecchino) Rhodes.     Ø 22,5 mm, 3,50 g.   Friedb.(Rhodes) 11.
Obv.:   ·Frater·FABRICII·De·CArretto· - S·IOAnnI
The Grand Master of the order kneeling left before St. John, jointly holding banner between themselves.
Rev.:   ·SIT·Tibi·XPЄ·DATus·Quem·TV - ·RЄGIS·ISTЄ·DVCatus·
"To you, o Christ, be given this dukedom which you are governing"   -   Within mandorla: Christ, nimbate,
standing facing, holding Book of Gospels, his right hand raised in benediction, nine stars around him.
The Venetian-medieval coin design found stereotyped application on Rhodes.
This similarity underlined the equivalence with the prestigious Venetian zecchino.
Compare a Ducat from Venice with kneeling Doge and ·Sanctus·Marcus·VЄNЄTI.

44th Grand Master: Philippe Villiers de l'Isle Adam, 1521-1534.
Philippe of the De Villiers family comes from L'Isle-Adam, 30 km north of Paris. He was Grand Prior (Head) of a French branch when he was elected Grand Master of St. John in Rhodes in 1521. Fortunately, the city of Rhodes survived an Ottoman siege in 1480 and then became the most modern fortress of the time. But the city suffered again an Ottoman attack in 1522, now commanded by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent himself. After 6 months of siege, the Johanniter reached an honorable departure to Crete. 5000 Rhodesians could take their belongings with them on their remaining ships. Seven years without a permanent home followed, although Emperor Charles V had offered the island of Malta to the order. When their coinage right was clarified, the Order of Saint John took over Tripoli and the barren islands of Malta at the end of 1530 as fiefs of the Spanish Kingdom of Sicily. Malta was fortified and served as the basis for continuing the struggle against the Ottomans, who in turn made Malta the target of conquest. Philippe's attempt to establish an outpost on the way to recapture Rhodes failed in 1531.


Ducat n. d. (zecchino) Rhodes     Ø 21 mm, 3,52 g.   Friedb.(Malta) 1.
Obv.:   ·Frater·PhILIPPVS· - S/I/O/A/n/n/I   (read left side downwards)
Grand Master kneeling to left, grasping the staff given to him by St. John.
Rev.:  ·SIT·Tibi·XPE·DATus quem·Tu· - REGIS·ISTE·DVcatus·  -  Christ between stars within mandorla.
Old style: Probably this specimen were struck in Rhodes during the last months of the siege and before the Knights of St. John were forced to leave the island. The portrait pieces in gold and silver were probably issued somewhere in Italy, possibly Rome, before the Order of St. John took possession of Malta in 1530.


Ducat n. d., (zecchino) Malta.     Ø 21 mm, 3,49 g.   Friedb.(Malta) 1 var.
Obv.:  ·Frater·PHilippuS·DE·LILE ADA - Magister·HOSpitalis·HIErosoliMorum·  (read left side upwards)
Nimbed Saint John presents the Order's flag to the Grand Master kneeling before him.

Rev.:  ·DA·MIHI·VIRTVTEM· - ·COnTRA·HOSTES·TVOS·   "Give me strength against your enemies"
Christ stands between stars in the mandorla.
New style: This is the first ducat on which the name of St. John is replaced by the detailed name of the grand master in the inscription.


Ducat n. d. (zecchino) Rome or Malta.     Ø 22 mm, 3,41 g.   R.Morris pl.II,fig.4; Friedb.2.
Obv.:   +·F·PHVS·DE·LILE·ADAM·M·HOSPLIS·HIERLM   (Legend as before)
Bearded bust in religious clothing with beret. The octagonal cross on the shoulder.

Rev.:   +·DA·MIHI·VIRTVTEM· - COnTRA·HOSTES·TVOS·
Quartered shield: coat of arms of the Order of St. John (cross) | Philipp's family arms (outstretched hand with stole, decorated with tails). Shield surrounded by a chain with an order?
This commemorative coin with an excellent Renaissance portrait was probably made in an experienced mint like Rome. The coin may have impressed the Spanish governor of Sicily, who had opposed the Maltese coinage right.

Compare with the painting from the 15th century (?). It belongs to the portrait gallery "Galerie des Illustres" at Beauregard Castle in the Loire Valley, which was created over 16 years since 1617.
Philipp's portrait on the coin served as a model for a Maltese stamp.

45th Grand Master: Pierino del Ponte, 1534-1535.
Pierino del Ponte comes from Piemont (Italy) and was the last Order's governor of the island of Lango (Kos). When he was elected Grand Master, he hesitated two months to accept the election. He sent an Order's navy to help Emperor Charles V conquer Tunis in 1535. Pierino del Ponte died only 15 months after his election as Grandmaster.


Ducat n. d. (zecchino) Malta.     Ø 21,7 mm, 3,50 g.   Friedb. 4.
Specimen from John Gatt, Coins of Malta

Obv.:   ·F·PETRINVS - ·D/E/·/P/O/N/T/E   (read left side upwards)
Grand Master kneeling before Saint John, as before.

Rev.:   ·DA·MIHI·VIRTVTEM· - COnTRA·HOSTES·TVOS·
Mandorla with Christ standing between nine stars.

49th Grand Master: Jean de la Valette, 1557-1568.
Jean comes from Provence. He entered the knightly order at the age of 20 years and became Grand Prior of the local branch. He was captured by the Ottomans during a sea battle in 1541. After a year as a galley slave he was released through prisoner exchanges. He became the Order's Governor of Tripoli, then Admiral of the Order's fleet. 63 years old he was elected Grand Master of the Order. His most difficult task was to repulsed the Turks at the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. In 1566 Valette laid the first stone of a new city, which was called Valletta after his founder.


Ducat n. d. (zecchino) Malta.     Ø 22 mm, 3,40 g.   Friedb. 5.
Obv.:   F·IOANNES DE - V/A/L/L/E/T/E   -   Grand Master kneeling before St. John.
Rev.:   DA MICHI VIRTVTEM - CONTRA HOSTES TVOs   -   Christ standing in mandorla.


Cast bronze medal n. d. (1565).    Ø 51 mm, 64,20 g.  Bargello 594; Schembri 3; Börner 483.
On Malta's defense against the Ottoman in 1565.   By Frederico Cocciola (worked 1560-74 in Rom).

Obv.:   Frater·IOannes·VALLETA - ·Magnus·Magister·HOSPitalis·HIERosolimorum
Armored effigy to the right. Maltese octagonal cross partially visible on the chest.
Lion's head on the shoulder, below the truncation: F·CO (die cutter signature).

Rev.:   VNVS X·MILLIA   "One killed ten thousand"
David swings a sword over Goliath lying on the ground. The throwing slingshot, David's real weapon, lies
on the ground, next to it are fleeing Philistines, on the horizon the sea with ships.
Three throwing balls lying on the ground next to Goliath's head.


Cast bronze medal n. d. (1565).     Ø 42,8 mm, 33,67 g.   Schembri p.197, no.8.
by F. Cocciola, on the survived siege by the Turkish troops in 1565.

Obv.:   ·Frater·IOannes·VALLETA·Magnus·Magister·HOSPitalis·HIERosolimorum·
Armored bust left, behind his head symbols of his victories over the Turks.
Rev.:   +MELITA - RENASCENS  "Malta's rebirth"
Bird's-eye view of the island of Malta between waves as shown in the following illustration:
Fort St. Elmo at the cape of the Sciberras Peninsula (now center of Valletta) between
the small harbor (left side) and the grand harbor (right side)
and Fort St. Angelo with barrier chain across the bay of the galleys inside the grand harbor.
Look at the Siege of Malta Fresco [16th century, commons.wikimedia.org, source unknown]
and also at a Satellite view of modern Valletta.


Cast bronze medal n. d. (c. 1566).   by Mario d'Aluigi.   Ø 59,5 mm, 105,18 g.
Attwood 747; Toderi/Vannel 2703; Armand I 220 & III 102; Schembri p.195, no.1.
On the foundation of Valletta after the siege by Turkish troops.

Obv.:   ·Fratres·IOANNES·DE·VALLETE· - ·Magister·HOSPitalis·HIErosolimorum·
Armored bust to the left with Maltese cross on the chest.
Rev.:   ·HABEO·TE·   "I have you"
An elephant with a tower on its back stands in the sea, in front of it a Maltese warship with three warriors at its front. A man holds the elephant by the trunk while somebody leans forward on the tower.
A palm tree behind. In the background view of the island of Malta with the map of Valletta.
This means: The elephant (the powerful Ottomans) is stopped by a Maltese soldier.

Compare with the oil painting (2nd half of the 16th century, 12x10 cm, at KHM in Vienna)
and with the bust attributed to Leone Leoni (1565-68, height 23 cm, Museum of the Order of St John, London).

Tripoli was conquered by the Spaniards in 1510 and handed over to the Order of Saint John in 1530. In 1551, Tripoli was lost to the Ottomans, whose power in the western Mediterranean had grown to such an extent that an attack on Malta was foreseeable. Negotiations to move the Order to Corsica were unsuccessful. Therefore fortifications on the north-east coast of Malta were reinforced.
The expected Ottoman army landed on Malta in May 1565. The St. Elmo fort at the cape of the Sciberras Peninsula was cruelly conquered after about a month. Now the Ottomans could transfer troops over the peninsula into the grand harbor and attack the two remaining forts and the adjacent headquarters of the Order by water and by land. Although the Order knights repulsed the Ottomans several times and even undertook a horseback attack on their headquarters, the Order's defeat was foreseeable when the Spanish Viceroy of Sicily surprised the Ottomans with relief. After four months of a very lossy siege, the Ottomans had to withdraw to their homeland. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who had conquered Rhodes in 1522, wanted to repeat the campaign under personal direction, but he died beforehand. The Maltese fortifications were expanded to became the most impressive in the world.


Cast bronze medal n. d. (1568).     Ø 48,1 mm, 60,41 g.   Schembri p.196, no.5.
by E. A. Bosio, on the reconstruction of St. Elmo fort.

Obv.:   ·F·IO·DE·VALLETA·M·M·H·H·MELITEN·PRINCeps·   "... Prince of Malta"
Armored bust with folded coat. Signature BOSIVS at the arm section.

Rev.:   TVRCICÆ·OBSIDIONIS·PERPETVO·PROPVGNACVLO
"Permanent defence against a Turkish siege"
Bird's eye view of the rebuilt Fort St. Elmo between DEO - LVX.

Lit. :
• John Gatt :  site Coins of Malta and book: Coins Minted by the Knights in Malta 1530-1798. Melbourne 2018
• H.J.A. Sire :  The knights of Malta. 1994.   Google Reading sample
• F. Restelli / J. Sammut :  The Coinage of the Knights in Malta. Valletta, 1977
• H. C. Schembri :  Coins and Medals of the Knights of Malta. London 1908/10 & reprint 1966
• E. H. Furse :  Mémoires numismatiques de l'Ordre Souverain de Saint-Jean de Jérusalem, illustrés avec les
    médailles et monnaies frappées par les grands maîtres de l'Ordre
. Rome 1885 & reprint
• R. Morris :  Coins of the grand masters of the Order of Malta. Boston 1884.   online
• NAC : The Restelli Collection: Coins and Medals from the Knights of St.John, Auct.58, 4.2011, Zurich PDF
• F. R. Künker :  Sammlung Malteserorden auf Malta, Auct.246, No.2817-2978, Osnabrück 3.2014

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