Knights Hospitaller of the Order of St John of Jerusalem

The Preceptory,Torphichen, Scotland.

an Historic Scotland site (see also Blackness Castle and Cairnpapple)

(Link with Ogilface)

West Lothian Archaeology Index

Aerial Photo

See also Temple Midlothian


Remains of the Preceptory and Parish Kirk, Torphichen   KAP

Originally the Scottish Headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.

Castlethorn prehistoric hillfort top left

Another view of Castlethorn prehistoric hillfort


Looking from the north (See also the Kirk).

From the south east in the Kirkyard


Preceptory Opening Times

Summer Months Only: April - September

Saturdays: 1300 - 1700

Sundays: 1300 - 1700

Adults: £2

Concessions: £1-50

Children (5 -15 years): 80 pence


Photos by Jim Knowles
The northern side. 
Looking from the north east.


This image shows the the re-use of a grave slab as a window lintel engraved with sword carving.

The image shows one of the screen columns which has masons marks clearly inscribed on each piece of stone work.

Wall decoration that would have covered most of the wall within the interior of the church.

This image shows a carving representing a donkey behind the main door into the preceptory. It is said it was carved by the mason to provide a tally of his daily work. It is likely a monk carved this to poke fun at his senior.

The modern Kirk sits on the floor of the original nave, as can be seen the blocked up doorway is flanked by columns.

This image shows the remains of the monument to the 1532 Preceptor Sir Walter Lindsey.

The nave of the preceptory is now the parish church, which was rebuilt in the 18th century. This image shows what is left of the interior of the old nave showing fireplaces and the roofing slot.
The columns of the chancel arch.

Is this a gargoyle that was found and replaced on the wall at a later date or is it original?

This image shows a stone pecked with holes in the southern wall of the upper room of the Preceptory. Is it prehistoric?

The upper rooms of the Preceptory.
Southern gatehouse




This image, and the one below, show the remains of the original 13th Century southern gatehouse. There is a chamfered doorway that would have held the gate and a curving wall just beyond this which may represent part of the tower. 

© Jim Knowles  2 April 2011


3 April 2011  Near IR
Opening in the wall to the east of the southern gatehouse.


Circular feature on the other side of the above wall

Tower or doocot?

(Glebe House - private property)

Large circular feature cut by a utility trench.  Near IR
Jim Knowles preparing for a resistivity survey.
Tree by the southern gatehouse.   Near IR


Central sanctuary stone, reputedly similar to an ancient stone found at Cairnpapple.


© Jim Knowles


Knights of the Order of St John at Torphichen, with the former Prior, Sir James Stirling, centre-left.

© The Priory of Scotland


Looking from the south.


Historical Notes on the Knights Hospitaller and Torphichen Preceptory

Torphichen Preceptory, the former administrative headquarters, in Scotland, of the Knights Hospitaller of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, is situated below the Torphichen Hills, in the village of Torphichen, West Lothian, twenty miles west of Edinburgh.  All that remains of the church and monastery (that: once owned vast swathes of land in Scotland; recruited knights and men to fight; organised the care of ill and wounded during their many military campaigns) is represented by a tall tower with singularly high transepts on both sides.

In 1132, David I invited the Order to Scotland.  By 1153, it had been granted a charter to build its Preceptory at Torphichen. The Preceptory became the Hospitallers' principal Scottish house, dependent on the Clerkenwell-based Hospitallers' Priory, which oversaw the British Isles.  Torphichen was significant not only as a sheltered, well-resourced community on a long-distance travellersí route, but also for its site where a wooden church is thought to have been established by St Ninian.

By 1168, King William IV decreed that the Chapel at Torphichen should rank as Parish Church and that it should recognise St Michaelís, Linlithgow, as its Mother Church. From the twelfth to the fifteenth century, the Preceptory was built, rebuilt and enlarged. A cruciform church was built with an aisleless nave, central tower, transepts, a choir, and, on the north side, around a cloistered courtyard, domestic buildings (housing the Preceptorís private quarters, a refectory and kitchen, as well as a dormitory).  The Preceptory was dedicated to John the Baptist and one of its side altars was dedicated to St Ninian.  By 1500, the transepts had been rebuilt with new windows and vaulting, and a new stair-turret had been added to the tower.  The tower and transepts remain today, but the nave was demolished in 1761 to allow for the construction of Torphichen Kirk.

By the late twelfth century, the Order had accumulated many minor holdings and Malcolm IV added to them by granting the Order one toft in all of his burghs.  This was particularly useful as, by 1300, the Order enjoyed a special category of exemption from secular service in its burgh properties. By 1226, the Hospitallers had continued expanding westward, securing the rights of teinds in nearby Ogilface to add to those they enjoyed in Torphichen. 

The Grand Master and the Pope were involved in the selection of the Preceptor, but the King of Scotland appointed him formally.  The Preceptor was responsible for the administration of ecclesiastical and secular property, as well as for giving spiritual guidance to the Order.  He had to secure the maximum returns from the Preceptoryís properties while paying for the maintenance of buildings in various places, including an Edinburgh townhouse, as well as meeting the cost of the administration of properties scattered over a wide area.  He was responsible for sending his responsions (payment) to the convent in Rhodes via the English Priory at Clerkenwell.

In 1291 and in 1296, Alexander de Welles, Master of Torphichen Preceptory, swore fealty to Edward I and the Order supported the English side during the Wars of Independence. During the period between the Battle of Stirling in September 1297 and the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298, William Wallace and his army camped at Torphichen, the Order probably removing itself to another location during their occupancy.  Before the Battle of Falkirk, Wallace was entertained at Torphichen by the Preceptor Alexander de Welles. The only surviving document signed by Wallace was prepared at the Preceptory during that period.  On 22 July 1298, during the battle, Alexander de Welles was killed.  Also at the battle were Adam de Welle(s) of Lincolnshire, and later of Yester Castle, Lothian, and Philip de Welle(s).  After the battle, the victorious Edward I came to the Preceptory for treatment to his horse-inflicted chest injury, which had happened at his Polmont camp before the battle.  After the success of the English campaign, the Orderís relationship with its Scottish neighbours was more strained, as shown by an English Priory petition to Edward I to allow the Torphichen Hospitallers to be received in Linlithgow Palace when the need arose.  As in the case of the Templars, the Hospitallersí household was mainly English knights, and their main English house, the Priory, was at Clerkenwell, London.  Such ties with England appear to have made them unpopular in Scotland during subsequent centuries.

Since the arrival of the Knights Templar in Scotland in 1128, as a result of the efforts of their first master, Hugh de Paiens of Champagne, the Order had impressed David I greatly.  It provided the fighting men to defend the Holy Land and the Order was admirably rewarded for its Brother-Knightsí efforts.  Most Templars appear to have been English and they administered their Scottish lands as part of the English Priory.  Also, they served in the royal household from David Iís time and seem to have enjoyed a sound and influential relationship with the Crown, providing the required military presence in the Holy Land while also providing other services at home, such as an almoner to the Scottish throne and a banking service to the English King.

The power of the Order of the Knights Templar through its immense wealth was seen with increasing suspicion by many in Scotland, and so the accusations against the Orderís members, at their Holyrood trial in 1309, were not unexpected.

Three years after the trial, the Order of the Knights Templar was suppressed by Pope Clement V.  Its wealth in Scotland was half as much again as that of the Knights Hospitaller. Its extensive lands in Scotland, (five baronies, patronage of six kirks and sundry lands), which had been administered from its Temple monastery, were granted to the Knights Hospitaller, thereby markedly increasing the property administered by the Torphichen headquarters.  However, there is evidence that the Hospitallers struggled to gain possession of some Templar properties well into the fourteenth century. The re-distribution of estates encouraged dishonest practices, one of those accused of such conduct being Reginald More, a lay administrator at Torphichen.

After 1312, the Hospitallers acquired most of their appropriated parish churches.  The Preceptor of the Order owned six baronies including Torphichen, each of which contributed towards the maintenance of the Order and his household, but problems arose as each of the baronies was isolated from the others, and so they had to be overseen remotely.  Although the work of the Hospitallers, as well as that of other crusading orders, was widely appreciated, many of the gifts were only small parts of the holdings of the benefactors, and so the geographically scattered gifts were often difficult to administer and unprofitable as assets, unless leased, or even sold.  As a result, Preceptors had to possess sound business skills to ensure the efficient administration of the Orderís holdings. 

By the fifteenth century, many of the properties had been let as a lease or feuferm, initially disapproved of, but accepted, eventually, by the Church. Land donations were given generously, especially by the King and his nobles, so that, by the early 1500s, the Order owned over 700 properties in Scotland, particularly in the Borders, Central Belt and along the east coast, but not in Argyll, Bute or Orkney. 

In 1314, after the Scotsí victory at Bannockburn, the Knights Hospitaller left Scotland, only returning after a reconciliation with Robert the Bruce.  In 1356, the Pope recommended the appointment of David de Mar, Procurator to the Hospital of St John of Rhodes, as Preceptor, but the subsequent appointment caused further controversy, and even his successor was unsuccessful in resolving the issue.  Eventually, it was agreed that all money should be funnelled through the London Priory and that Robert Grant should be appointed to exercise his singular administrative skills. 

Recruited novices were supposed to receive religious training, but this did not happen while their services were needed in the military campaigns of the Middle East.  Priest brothers received training at the monastery while elderly or infirm brothers lived their final years there, receiving care from the hospice.  However, there appears to have been no provision for the physical care of the population who lived outside the Preceptory in Torphichen. 

In the 1430s and 1440s, Andrew Meldrum, principal officer of the Hospitallers, carried out considerable building works.  The Preceptory was extended, the nave rebuilt, the transepts raised significantly, while a cloister on the north side, with surrounding ranges, was completed.  Meldrumís name even appears on one of the ribs in the vault of the north transept.  Meanwhile, Preceptors and their recruits were involved in sea-battles involving Hospitallers at Rhodes.

In 1466, the Grand Master awarded William Knollis a grant of the Preceptory, which was confirmed by the Pope a few months later.  Knollis was one of the longest serving Preceptors.  For six years, in the 1470s, he collected alms from visitors (who were then rewarded by indulgences), claiming that James III favoured the church whose ruinous state was clearly in need of help.  After the Kingís downfall, Knollis benefited from an illustrious career as a diplomat as well as a public servant, overseeing Torphichen more as a secular barony while being careful to pay the English Priory its dues. 

In 1504, on a visit to Rhodes, George Dundas obtained to right to succeed as Preceptor. In 1508, there was a dispute over the right of the London Priory to appoint a Preceptor in Scotland. James IV, a frequent visitor to Torphichen, believed that the Order in Scotland should be independent. He did not believe Hospitallers born and living in Scotland should have to seek protection from the English Priory, a view he expressed by letters to the Grand Master in Rhodes in 1513. English - Scottish relations were only improved when the Order moved to Malta.

In Scotland, Dundas succeeded Knollis and was firmly in position from 1518 until his death fourteen years later. Sir Walter Lindsay secured the right of succession after Dundas and he proved to be an effective administrator, as well as a well respected leader of the Scottish army.  He compiled a Rental of the Orderís ownership in Scotland, and, as shown by his Charter of 7 March 1542, he feued the Orderís remote lands, where revenue collection was difficult, to avoid further bloodshed.

On the 29 June 1550, Sir James Sandilands, second son of James Sandilands, Baron Calder, gained possession of the Preceptory, which he held for four years.  He was descended from a family that had owned extensive estates in the area since 1348. In April 1540, the Order in England was closed by an Act of Parliament. The Reformation brought an end to the Hospitallers' Order in Scotland as it was of the Roman Catholic faith, and it was suppressed in 1554.  On 22 January 1564, Sir James Sandilands, Lord St John, surrendered the Preceptory lands to Mary Queen of Scots, to whom he was related.  However, two days later, at the cost of 10,000 crowns of the sun, (gold coins minted in France weighing 50Ĺ grains Troy), and an annual feu duty of 500 merks, he obtained a Royal Charter re-granting them to him as a hereditary barony, as well as the Lord Torphichen title, and these were added to his Barony of Calder, the Sandilands seat being at Calder House (originally Caldour Castle), a few miles from Torphichen.  He sold seven of the eight baronies, including most of Torphichen Barony, to pay his debts, but he retained the Preceptory and Torphichen Mains, thereby retaining his title.

After the Reformation, the Preceptoryís nave was used as Torphichen Parish Kirk, while the remainder of the buildings were allowed to fall into disrepair.  In 1756, Torphichen Parish Kirk was demolished and the remains were restyled to form the foundations of the new T-plan Parish Kirk on the west side of the Preceptory.  The domestic buildings on the north side of the church were demolished, their stone being used elsewhere in Torphichen.  The transepts and the tower became a courthouse of the Regality of Torphichen, but the tower fell into disuse and was only refurbished with a new roof in 1947, twenty years after restoration work was carried out on the Preceptory by the Ministry of Public Building and Works.

Torphichen has always been seen as a place of sanctuary.  In the Parish Kirkyard stands a sanctuary stone. Four others are believed to be located in the surrounding countryside and to be originally positioned one Scots mile away, north, south, east and west.

 It is likely that they were linked to the main approach routes to the village.  In times past, if a fugitive could reach the safety of the Great Sanctuary area around the Preceptory, he or she would be guaranteed protection from revenge and a fair trial by civil authorities.

In 1831, the Order was revived by the Captulary Commission.  However, the successor of the original Roman Catholic Order, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta with its headquarters in Rome, declined to admit anyone who was not a Roman Catholic, and, in 1858, it was decided that the 'Tongue' had not been satisfactorily revived.

In 1888, Queen Victoria decreed that, in the British Isles, the Most Venerable Order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem was established as a Royal Order of Chivalry with the Sovereign at its head.  The Order in Scotland received special status within the Venerable Order, existing as an independent establishment within the Grand Priory of the British Realm, under the Sovereign Head.

On 26 June 1947, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, the Earl of Lindsay was installed as the first Prior of Scotland of the Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.  A special service was held at Torphichen Preceptory with the Grand Prior, HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, in attendance.

The aims of the Order in Scotland continue to be related to the relief of suffering by charitable works, including the maintenance of establishments such as rest homes and sheltered housing, and the development of the Seagull Trust, which provides cruising and sailing for the disabled. Research connected with the Order in Scotland is encouraged and a Library is maintained in Edinburgh.  The Priory is assisted in its work by the St John Association in Scotland, but it does not run an ambulance service because of a 1908 agreement with the St Andrew's Ambulance Service.

The Preceptory buildings are now in the care of Historic Scotland.  The St John Association committee runs a custodian service at Torphichen Preceptory every weekend during summer months so that this splendid historical site can be visited.

The informative displays and the fifteenth century stonework collection in the thirteenth century bell chamber involve a climb of about 46 steps up the turnpike stairs.  However, there are interesting sights at ground level and the neighbouring Kirkyard and its splendid Kirk, as well as the tiny village of Torphichen and its neighbouring countryside, full of historical gems such as Cairnpapple and Linlithgow Palace, are well worth visiting and exploring.


Torphichen by by Jack Smith, 1997

Torphichen Kirk: a church with a sure foundation by Jack Smith, 2006

 The Knights of St John of Jerusalem in Scotland, ed. Cowan, Ian Borthwick, Mackay, P. H. R., Macquarrie, Alan,  printed for the Scottish History Society by C. Constable, Edinburgh, 1983.

The Order of St John in Scotland by Charles J Burnett KStJ and Henry Tilling KStJ, Edinburgh 1997

The Knights Hospitaller by Helen Nicholson, Boydell Press, 2001

Hospitallers, The History of the Order of St John by Jonathan Riley-Smith, Hambledon Press, London, 1999

Knights of Jerusalem, The Crusading Order of Hospitallers 1100 - 1565 by David Nicolle, Osprey publishing, Oxford, 2008


Title: Agreement between the abbot W. and convent of Holyrood on the one hand, and Walter "Magistrum" [master] and the brethren of "Torphean" [Torphichen, West Lothian] on the other, with regard to the dispute sent before the ecclesiastical judges about the teinds and obventions of Ogilfas [Ogilface, West Lothian]. By the authority of the judges, in presence of "W. de Bosch" [William del Bois (Wood)], the king's chancellor, and other knowledgeable men, the abbot and convent of Holyrood agree to concede to the brethren all the teinds and ecclesiastical incomes that they used to receive on the land of Ogilface. The brethren will hold it freely but will give back to Holyrood Abbey every year 4 marks of silver, 2 at the day of Pentecost and 2 at the day of St Martin. In order for this agreement to remain unchanged and not revoked, the ecclesiastical judges, the convent of the chapter of St Andrews and the chapter of the Hospital of Lundon [London] signed [no names]. June 1211 - November 1224.  Ref No: GD45/13/247. Repository: National Archives of Scotland

In 1298, during the Battle of Falkirk, Alexander de Welles, Master of Torphichen Preceptory, was killed. Based on the heraldic evidence* there is very little doubt that Alexander de Welles was a member of the Lincolnshire family. Also at Falkirk were Adam de Welle(s) of Lincolnshire (and later of the Castle of Yester in Lothian to whom King Edward gave various properties - Ref No: GD45/27/141) and Philip de Welle(s)**

Alexander is said to have been replaced as Master by Ranulph de Lindsay. It is interesting to note that in 1390, in Edinburgh, Baron John de Welles, of the same family, challenged David Lindsay (later 1st Earl of Crawford (2) ) to a duel, a joust on London Bridge in which Welles was unhorsed at the third pass. The last of this Welles line was John, Viscount Lord Welles (2) who died in 1499.

Any possible link between Alexander de Welles, Brother Richard of Welles (House of the Temple***, Perth), Walter de Welles (Aberdeen) and chaplain Galfridus (Geoffrey) de Wellys (Aberdeen) has yet to be established. However, it is probable that they too were English or of English descent.

More details are included here.

See also:

Torphichen and the Knights Hospitaller. W.J. MacLennan****, J R Coll Physicians Edinb. 2003;33(Suppl 12):64-71.


* Bruce McAndrew, Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot, 129, 663-752, (1999) and Scotland's Historic Heraldry (2006), Boydell and Brewer Ltd: 'The seal probably has a crusilly background, to differentiate Alexander from the head of his house'.

George F. Black also cites references to Alexander's seal (A shield, lion rampant, S' F' ris - Bain, II, p. 202, 558), Richard de Welles (1240), Walter de Welles (1277) and Galfridus (Geoffrey) de Wellys (1317) in The Surnames of Scotland 1946, reprinted 1999.

**Probably of Essex as Philip de Welles of Lincolnshire was dead by 1282/3 (J. L. Knapp, pers. comm.). (NB John, son of Adam de Welles held the manor of Theydon Garnon, Essex Record Office: Note of Final Concord 1345/46, by service of 7s. with inter alia, land at Epping and claimed ten. at Sutton, Lincolnshire. John, Lord de Welles died in 1361, holding jointly with his wife the manor, a messuage, and lands in Theydon Garnon, Epping and Theydon Bois From: 'Theydon Garnon: Manors', A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4: Ongar Hundred (1956), pp. 262-269).

Lionel Lord Welles, Methley, Yorkshire.

On the 29th March 1461 at the Battle of Towton, near Tadcaster in Yorkshire, Lionel Lord Welles of the Lincolnshire line was killed and his body conveyed in secret to his tomb in Methley near Leeds (home of his second wife). 

*** The House of the Temple could refer to the ancient site of the Temple of Mars which was situated on the site of the present corner of High Street and Watergate in Perth. Later, it was the site of the town house of the Mercer family. We would like to acknowledge the information provided by Steve Connelly (Archivist, Perth & Kinross Council Archive) relating to this property and to land owned by the Templars in Perthshire.

**** Professor Emeritus of Geriatric Medicine, The University of Edinburgh and member of the EAFS survey team at Woodend (Ogilface Castle, West Lothian).


We (John and Rosie) have a research interest in the Well(e)s families of the UK, especially Robert Welles (2) of Galphay (in the parish of Kirkby Malzeard, which was the lower half of the Peculiar of Masham in Yorkshire), who leased a substantial property there for 45 years from Fountains Abbey (1) (2) in 1538 (shortly before its dissolution) paying 5 marks per annum (1 mark = 13 shillings and 4 pence = 66p). Lands in the Kirkby Malzeard area were once the property of the Mowbray (Moubray / Moubrai) family, who had a castle there just over 2km from Galphay (which was besieged in 20 Henry II [ie 1174] by Henry, the elect Bishop of Lincoln and soon after pulled down along with his other castle at Thirsk).



Historical Overview

By the time of the recapture of Jerusalem by the First Crusade on the 15 July 1099, the well-respected hospice, funded by Amalfi merchants, for the care of pilgrims and poor travellers, had already been in continuous existence in Jerusalem for over three decades.  It replaced an earlier hospice founded to the south of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre compound by a Benedictine Abbey, Sancta Maria Latina, the only Catholic establishment in Jerusalem at the time.   (Two other hospices, one for women, the other for men, had been founded in the early 1080s.)  Monks from the Abbey administered the hospice, and, as the number of Western pilgrims grew, so did the hospice.

After the Conquest, the hospice neither returned to Sancta Maria Latina nor came under the auspices of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Instead,  Blessed Gťrard de Saxo became its first supervisor in 1113 when it broke away from its Abbey and was recognised  by Pope Paschal II as a separate Order of the Church, the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.  Blessed Gťrard de Saxo became known as Grand Master of the Order of St John of Jerusalem and changed the Order to the Rule of St Augustine, thereby reflecting the knightsí vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and the Orderís practical role in tending the poor and sick, the 'holy poor'.  It was subject to the authority of the Pope and was free from tithe payment to secular authorities.  The Hospitallers' symbol became a white, eight-pointed cross.

Many of those who encouraged the Order's work, or who had benefited from the hospitalís treatment, bestowed gifts upon the Order.  Others chose to join the Order to participate directly in its caring and compassionate approach.  The estates in Europe and Asia Minor that the Order received produced the income to fund its work. 

In 1130, the Hospitallers and other Christians were forced to leave Jerusalem.

By 1160, the Order believed that it should not only care for the sick poor, but it also had a military duty to join other Crusaders to protect Holy Land pilgrims and settlers.  Kings and powerful rulers bestowed gifts of  lands and churches were upon the Order to enable them to fund their duties.  In the West, the Hospitallers' work was overseen by Priors at a regional level, and by Preceptors at a local level. During the next two centuries, the Order was formed eight 'Tongues' or sections: Aragon, Auvergne, Castile, England (including Scotland), France, Germany, Italy, and Provence. 

By 1291, when the last of the Christian strongholds fell, the Hospitallers had also been forced to leave Acre.  They settled briefly in Cyprus and then moved on to Rhodes where they maintained a strong presence from 1309 until 1523.  One of the first buildings they created in Rhodes was a hospital, and so, although they fortified the city and established a strong fleet of galleys, every Knight was obligated to spend time in a caring role.  The Hospitallers' military activities prompted the ill-fated siege of Rhodes by the Turks in 1480,  but they were overcome by a successful Turkish six-months' siege in 1522.

Philippe de Villiers de L'Isle Adam led his Hospitallers' search for a base over which they would have sole jurisdiction.  In 1530, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, offered them the Island of Malta with its capacious natural harbour, suitable for their galleys, in exchange for the yearly presentation of a falcon.

To qualify to serve as a Knight, an applicant had to be 18 years of age, and he had to prove his noble lineage over time periods ranging from four generations to four hundred years, depending on his 'Tongue'. During his first year, the Knight was a novice and he received religious and military training. After satisfactory completion of the year, he took his vows of obedience, poverty and chastity and was given a cloak adorned with the Order's cross. While on the Island, Knights lived in exceptionally well-equipped inns, according to their 'Tongue', and led a monastic life. When a Knight had served for two years on Malta, he qualified to return home to the position of Commander or Prior, appointed by the Grand Master and confirmed by the Pope. Members of the Order elected the Grand Master to the supreme role in the Order for life. He was regarded as a sovereign, sending ambassadors to European royal courts while living in the luxurious surroundings of his Valetta palace. The Order built a hospital capable of housing 500 patients on a position overlooking the harbour in Valetta and every Knight of the Order, no matter how high his rank, was expected to spend some time tending those who were sick or in need.  However, other time was spent either manning defences on land or fulfilling the Order's military role by sea, engaging in various campaigns, such as the Turkish assault from May until September 1565, when only 600 men capable of bearing arms remained to fight on the Maltese side out of a force of 600 Knights Hospitaller, 4,000 Maltese and others. They lost 7,000 men in a succession of encounters with the Turkish fleet and army, but, significantly, the vanquished Turks lost at least half of their 40,000 men.

On the 17 June 1798, Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch and his Order were expelled from Malta by Napoleon and the Order's possessions on the island were seized. Many of the Order's Knights were given sanctuary by Tsar Paul I of Russia. Once the Royal Navy had come to Malta's help to expel the French invaders, the Order was no longer able to return to sole jurisdiction there, and so it moved to Sicily and then to Rome, while maintaining its long-established role caring for the sick.

Nowadays, the remaining Roman Catholic order, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta has its headquarters in the Palazzo Malta in Rome from which the Grand Master rules as an independent Sovereign.