The introduction of the Maltese Cross into the Order

In the mid 1500s, when the Knights are at Malta, the familiar design now known as the "Maltese Cross" makes its appearance. With some exceptions, all portrayals of the Cross of the Order become Maltese, even those portraying earlier figures and events in the Order. This is the beginning of the myth. So how and when was the Maltese Cross introduced into the Order? The first evidence of the modern Maltese Cross appears on a 2 Tari and a 4 Tari Copper coins of the Grand Master Jean de la Vallette-Parisot (1557-1568). The 2 Tari Copper coin dated 1567. This provides a date for the introduction of the Maltese Cross into the Order. For a period older forms of the Order's Cross persisted such as that at the Dutch Commandery of Harderwijk. A possible explanation. Louis de Boisgelin, a Knight of the Order in Malta, prior to the events of their ejection by Napoleon, may provide some clues in the details about the Nuns of Sixena, who were originally a part of the Order of St John but had, at the end of the fifteenth century, separated to come under the direct authority of the Pope. Writing about their returned to the obedience of the Order in 1569, he describes their emblem as a "white cross with eight points" #13. There would have been discussions well before the date of their return, and within Vallette's time. The reconciliation of the Nuns may well prove to be the origins of the introduction of the Maltese Cross to the Order. Boisgelin's attention to the detail of the cross, suggests en passant, that it was novum to the Order. Its introduction at that point in time fits in with its historic appearance at about the same time.What may be needed, is more research on the use of Maltese Cross by the Nuns of Sixena, beyond the scope of this monograph, which seeks to account for its introduction into the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Dutch 1570 Cross #12 "For a period older forms of the Order's Cross persisted." What is certain is that no example of the Maltese Cross (as defined above) is used by the Order earlier than the mid sixteenth century (except anachronistically), and thus it can be accepted with historic accuracy that the cross known to be the Maltese Cross was introduced in use to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem during their time in Malta.

The Maltese Cross

The insignia of the fire service is the Cross Pattee-Nowy, otherwise known as the Maltese Cross. This cross represents the fire service ideals of saving lives and extinguishing fires. The fire service borrows the cross from the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, a charitable, non-military organization that existed during the 11th and 12th centuries. A white or silver cross on a dark background was adopted by these Knights of Hospitallers, as they were also known, because of their charity toward the sick and poor in setting up hospices and hospitals. Later they assisted the Knights of the crusades through their goodwill and also through military assistance in an effort to win back the Holy Land. The Knights of St. John eventually moved to the Island of Malta, The island for which the Maltese Cross was named. The need for an identifiable emblem for the Knights had become crucial. Because of the extensive armor which covered their bodies and faces, the Knights were unable to distinguish friend from foe in battle. They chose the Cross of Calvary as their symbol since they fought their battles for a holy cause. The cross was later callled the "Maltese Cross" and represented the principles of charity, loyalty, chivalry, gallantry, generosities to friend and foe, protection of the weak, and dexterity in service. During the Crusades, many knights became firefighters out of necessity. Their enemies had resorted to throwing glass bombs containing naphtha and sailing their vessels of war containing naptha, rosin, sulfur, and flaming oil into the vessels of the knights. Many knights were called to do heroic deeds by rescuing fellow knights , and extinguishing fires.

The badge of a fireman is the Maltese Cross. This Maltese Cross is a symbol of protection and a badge of honor. Its story is hundreds of years old. When a courageous band of crusaders known as the Knights of St. John, fought the Saracens for possession of the holy land, they encountered a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple, but a horrible device of war, it wrought excruciating pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters for the cross. The Saracen's weapon was fire. As the crusaders advanced on the walls of the city, they were struck by glass bombs containing naphtha. When they became saturated with the highly flammable liquid, the Saracens hurled a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the knights were burned alive; others risked their lives to save their brothers-in-arms from dying painful, fiery deaths. Thus, these men became our first firemen and the first of a long list of courageous firefighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded each here a badge of honor - a cross similar to the one firemen wear today. Since the Knights of St. John lived for close to four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the cross came to be known as the Maltese Cross. The Maltese Cross is your symbol of protection. It means that the fireman who wears this cross is willing to lay down his life for you just as the crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a fireman's badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage - a ladder rung away from death.

  • All the information found on this web site is the result of a lot of research, from books I own dating back to the 1900's and other resources. All credit goes to the respective authors. If you think that I am in breach of any copyright, please contact me, and I will remove the material in question.

  • ^ back to top ^

  • The George Cross

  • About Me

  • HOME

  • Email

  • Copyright © 2003 - 2004 Louis Henwood
    All Rights Reserved