Official Dress
















The Order of St John has its origin around 1070 in the hospital of  Italian merchants (from Amalfi) in Jerusalem. Their leader, a certain Gérard, founded, after the conquest of the city by the crusaders in 1099, a lay brotherhood that would take care of the sick and wounded. The brotherhood was recognized by Pope Paschalius II in 1113 under the nameof  "Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem". In 1125 the Order was reorganized into a spiritual knighthood. The brothers were divided into three categories: knights for the military service, clergy for the church service and laymen for the hospital service. The knights fought alongside the Crusaders until the last Christian settlements in the Holy Land fell into the hands of the Mamluks in 1291. Given the military nature of the Order, she had to move elsewhere. Initially, the Order settled in Cyprus but in 1310 it founded a state on Rhodes that lasted until 1523 when the island was conquered by Sultan Suleiman the Great. In 1524, the again displaced Order made a request to the Spanish king Charles I (V) who acted as defender of the faith (fidei defensor) for a place of establishment from which the tasks that the order had set itself could be carried out. In 1530 the request was honored and the Order took possession of Malta as the location for its headquarters.

In 1798 the Order was ousted from the island by the troops of Napoleon without significant resistance.

After the Order was first taken under protection by Tsar Paul I of Russia, after the death of Grand Master Tommasi in 1805, a government interim was created and the Order was governed by deputy grandmasters.

In 1879 the Order was revived by Pope Leo XIII. The head office is now based in Rome.


The dress of the Order

In the rules of the order of Raymond du Puy from 1153 it was established that the  brothers of the order would wear a cross on their clothes, on the left side of their chest. Initially this clothing consisted of a wide habit with wide incisions for the arms. The cross is usually assumed to have been white and had the characteristic eight-pointed shape.

In this respect, however, there are indications that the eight pointed cross has developed slowly. Images from the 12th century usually show a more or less a cross patée, finished with cross-lines that are sometimes curled so that points are formed at the ends. Sometimes a ball or dot is added between these points. Only in the thirteenth century there is a certain differentiation in the forms of the crosses used in heraldry.

In the fifteenth century the white eight pointed cross was fully developed and became the specific cross of the Order of St. John.

In papal letters from 1248 and 1259 the dress of the order, which seriously impeded fighting, was changed for the battlefield. It was allowed to wear a red armor with a white cross on it.

The dress of the order has not changed substantially in the course of the centuries. However, images from Johannieter naval officers from the eighteenth century show that at sea the dress of the Order was also red, but with an eight pointed cross instead of the white straight cross that was customary for the army.[1]


The Banner.

We only hear of a banner for the Order through Matthew Paris giving the Vexillum Hospitalis for the years 1240 and 1241. It is a white cross patée on a red cloth.

This banner is also quoted in the rules of the order of 1259. That stated that in times of war the mantle would be red with a white cross “in accordance with the standard”.

The banner is the same as the Banner of the Empire which is also red with a white cross. According to some, this standard dates from the time of Emperor Henry VI, but it can also be assumed that it only came into being after the establishment of the Latin Empire in 1204. From this time on, the colors gold and red, which are the original national colors, seem to be limited to the sphere of influence of Byzantium. At the same time, the combination of red and white in the west is increasing, both in lion coats of arms and in arms with a cross.

A banner with  white cross on red is preserved in Bamberg and is said to have been of Saint George, the patron of the west. 

The banner of a red cross on a white field at the same time is the banner of the Ecclesia, known at least from the Carolingian era.

A white cross on red led King Henry VII as a Roman King. Furthermore, this combination is known from the House Savoie from at least 1231. Later users are the bishop of Utrecht (late 13th century), the king of Denmark (14th century) and the Swiss League.

The banner that the Johanieters used in 1241 can certainly be called the national standard and must therefore be associated with the imperial party. After all, in the treaty that Richard of Cornwall made in that year with the Sultan of Egypt, the Saint Johns elected the suzerainty of the Sultan, which was in accordance with the policy of Frederick II who in 1229 had recognized the suzerainty of the Sultan over the Kingdom of Jerusalem. . Because of this they collided with the Templars who were in charge of the Pope's case. In the controversy between Emperor and Pope these two orders also came to stand against each other continuously.

The cross on the banner remains long-term for a long time. In the fifteenth century, the right, presumably at the same time as the crystallization of the eight pointed cross on the order garment, and in this form the banner is carried by the Johannite Order until the present day.


The Arms

Some time later (1275) the arms are also described: "le auntient del Hospitall, gules un crois formy d'argent".

The cross on the arms went through the same development as that on the banner and probably no essential distinction was made between banner and weapon. In the fifteenth century, the cross became right but showpieces, as is not added by other princes in Western Europe. Only when the Order is established in Malta is the weapon crowned. At the beginning of the 18th century the weapon was placed on a Johannite cross and surrounded by a rosary with a hanging cross. On the shield a crown of five fleurons corresponding to the status of Rijksvorst that the Grand Master of the Order had from the beginning of the seventeenth century.

In this form the weapon of the Order remains in use until 1798.

Paul I of Russia placed the weapon on the chest of the Russian eagle. At the end of the nineteenth century, after the restoration of the Order in 1879, it was placed on a coat of arms on top of which was the crown of the Saint John's who consisted of a five-armed crown with an eight-pointed cross on top.

At present the arm of the Order is surrounded by two red banners with a white cross and placed on a black, crowned coat of arms.




"Piae Postulatio Voluntatis". Bull issued by Pope Paschal II in 1113 in favour of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, which was to transform what was a community of pious men into an institution within the Church. By virtue of this document, the pope officially recognized the existence of the new organisation as an operative and militant part of the Roman Catholic Church, granting it papal protection and confirming its properties in Europe and Asia.


The bull is preserved at the National Library of Malta in Valletta


Translation in English of the Bull


Paschal, bishop, and servant of such as are the servants of God, to his venerable son Gerard, founder and Master of the Hospital at Jerusalem, and to his lawful successors for evermore.

The requests of a devout desire ought to meet with a corresponding fulfillment. Inasmuch, as of your affection thou hast requested, with regard to the Hospital which thou hast founded in the city of Jerusalem, in proximity to the Church of the Blessed John the Baptist, that it should be supported by the authority of the Apostolic See, and fostered by the patronage of the blessed Apostle Peter: We, therefore, much pleased with the pious earnestness of your hospitality, do receive the petition with our paternal favour, and do ordain and establish, by the authority of this our present decree, that that house of God, your Hospital, shall now be placed, and shall for ever remain, under the protection of the Apostolic See, and under that of the Blessed Peter. All things whatsoever, therefore, which by your preserving care and solicitude have been collected for the benefit of the said Hospital, for the support and maintenance of pilgrims, or for relieving the necessities of the poor, whether in the churches of Jerusalem, or in those of parishes within the limits of other cities; and whatsoever goods may have been offered already by the faithful, or for the future may through God’s grace be so offered, or collected by other lawful means; and whatsoever goods have been, or shall be granted to thee, or to thy successors, or to the brethren who are occupied in the care and support of pilgrims, by the venerable brethren the bishops of the diocese of Jerusalem; we hereby decree shall be retained by you and undiminished.

Moreover, as to the tithes of your revenues, which you collect everywhere at your own charge, and by your own toil, we do hereby fix and decree, that they shall be retained by your own Hospital, all opposition on the part of the bishops and their clergy notwithstanding. We also decree as valid all donations which have been made to your Hospital by pious princes, either of their tribute moneys or other donations. We ordain furthermore, that at your death no man shall be appointed in your place, as chief and master, by any underhand subtlety, or by violence; but him only who shall, by the inspiration of God, have been duly elected by the professed brethren of the Institution.

Furthermore, all dignities or possessions which your Hospital at present holds either on this side of the water, in Asia, or in Europe, as also those which hereafter by God’s bounty it may obtain; we confirm them to you and to your successors, who shall devote themselves with pious zeal to the cares of hospitality, and through you to the said Hospital in perpetuity. We further decree that it shall be unlawful for any man whatsoever rashly to disturb your Hospital, or to carry off any of its property, or if carried off to retain possession of it, or to diminish anything from its revenues, or to harass it with audacious annoyances. But let all its property remain intact, for the sole use and enjoyment of those for whose maintenance and support it has been granted. As to the Hospitals or Poor Houses in the Western provinces, in the Borgo of St.Egidio, Asti, Pisa, Bari, Otranto, Taranto and Messina, which are distinguished by the title of Hospitals of Jerusalem, we decree that they shall for ever remain, as they are this day, under the subjection and disposal of yourself and your successors. If, therefore, at a future time, any person, whether ecclesiastical or secular, knowing this paragraph of our constitution, shall attempt to oppose its provisions, and if, after having received a second or third warning, he shall not make a suitable satisfaction and restitution, let him be deprived of all his dignities and honours, and let him know that he stands exposed to the judgment of God, for the iniquity he has perpetrated; and let him be deprived of the Sacraments of the Body and Blood of Christ, and of the benefits of the redemption of our Lord, and at the last judgment let him meet with the severest vengeance. But to all who deal justly and rightly with the same, on them be the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that not only here below they may receive the rewards of good actions, but also before the Judge of all mankind, they may enjoy the blessing of peace eternal.


I Paschal, bishop of the Catholic Church, have signed

I Richard Bishop of Albano, have signed

I Landulphus Archbishop of Benevento, have read and signed

I Canon Bishop of the Church of Preneste, have read and signed

I Anastasio Cardinal priest with the title of Blessed Clement, have signed

I Gregory Bishop of Terracina, have read and signed

I John Bishop of Mellito, have read and signed

I Romuald Cardinal Deacon of the Roman Church, have signed

I Gregorio Cardinal priest of San Crisogono, have read and signed


Given at Benevento, by the hand of John, Cardinal and librarian of the Roman Church, on the 15th day of February, in the 6th cycle of indiction of the incarnation of our Lord, in the year 1113, and in the 14th year of the Pontificate of Pope Paschal II.




There are several emblems known of the order.


1. A coat of arms for peace, that is to say the official dress of the Knights of the Order. This consisted of a black mantle with a white cross. The cross evoluated from a cross patée to an eight pointed cross.

2. An emblem. This consisted of an eight-pointed cross. It evoluated to the arms Gules, an eight-pointed cross Argent


Official dress (Coat of arms)


1153 – Rules of the Order established by the 2nd Master of the Order Raymond du Puy:


All Brothers must carry the cross on their surplies and mantles to honour God and the Holy Cross. They must carry it on their breasts, that by this sign God will strengthen the faith, work and humility in us and defend the body and soul of us and all Christian benefactors against the power of the devil in this and in the other world. Amen. [2]                                                                                

Cartul. i n° 70. [3]


Representation of a knight of St. John

By a troubadour of the Provence. 1250-1300

 Paris BNF ms français 854, fol. 113v°


On the  back of his black mantle a white cross patée pommelled.


Silver coin of Helion de Villeneuve (1319-’46)


Juan Fernandez de Heredia (1377-‘96)

From: Grant Cronica de Espanya. fol 1. Tercera partida | Fernández de Heredia, Juan

Ms. 355 de la Biblioteca de Cataluña [4]



Grand Master Pierre d’Aubusson (1476-1503) in conference with the eight piliers of The Order after 1462. All are dressed in black mantles with white, eight-pointed crosses on their breast.


From: BNF Latin 6067: Caoursin, Guillaume: Obsidionis Rhodiae urbis descriptio. fol. 3 v° .


Lead seal of the Grand Master and capital of the Order of St. John, 1693 [5]

Eight knights kneeling before a double cross


Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in base the dead Christ



1693 V. 27 Bolla di piombo (Æ mm 37 ca), pendente tramite filo di canapa;

r. X b[ulla magi]stri et conventus//

Nove cavalieri oranti, tre dei quali a figura intera con il mantello ornato di una croce biforcata, genuflessi davanti ad una croce doppia, alla cui destra è una lettera A.

v. X hospitalis . hierusalem 

In alto il profilo della chiesa del Santo Sepolchro con tre cupole: da quella centrale pende un lampada; in basso la figura di Christo morto, il capo nimbato, deposito su un giaciglio sorretto da archetti; a sinistra un turibolo in movimento, a destra croce astile biforcata.

La raffigurazione per elementi essentiali dell’interno del tempio del Santo Sepolchro connotava le bolle plombee dell’ordine di S. Giovanni in Gerusalemme fin dai primi esemplari conosciuti, risalenti al secolo XII.

(Il Sigillo n° 205.  Bascapè, G.C. Sigillografia. Il sigillo nella diplomatica, nel diritto, nella storia, nell’arte. Vol. II: Sigillografia ecclesiastica. Milano 1978, pp. 254-255. Tavv. 252, n.1, p. 253, n. 5, p. 263, n. 1.)


On both sides eight-pointed crosses.


Knights of the Order of St. John, 2018


The Emblem


The Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades used a plain Latin cross. The association of the “Maltese Cross” with the order dates to the late 15th century; it is possibly first mentioned in 1489 in a regulation requiring the knights of Malta to wear "the white cross with eight points".However, these eight-points do not signify that the shape required was that of the four-arrowhead form of 1567, or anything near it, as many variants of an eight-point cross are known.


A cross patée fitchée was on the first seals of the Order.




A good example of early forms of the cross are provided by the two seals of the Oxford Hospital circa 1234 and later. These are in the form of Cross Formée and Pattée Formée, both with Fitch at Foot (fig. 2.) #5.  [6]



Seal of the Knights of Rhodes (1311-1523)


The association of the eight-pointed cross with Malta arose after the Knights Hospitaller moved from Rhodes to Malta in 1530


The first evidence for use of the Maltese cross on Malta appears on the 2-tarì and 4-tarì copper coins of the Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette (Grand Master 1557–‘68). The 2- and 4-tarì coins are dated 1567. This provides a date for the introduction of the Maltese cross.[


MALTA.  Jean de la Vallete 1557-‘68.AE.2 Tari 1567.( 5.40g, 27.3mm, 3h )

Obv.: X SVB HOC SIGNA MILITAMVS, cross of the order.

Reverse: X NON AES SED FIDES, conjoined hands, above date 1(56)7, below value T.Z.


Alof de Wignacourt, 54th Grand Master, 1601-1622. 3 Tari n. d., Valetta. Very rare.


Photo.H.d.V 09.2000.

1647 Gules an eight-pointed cross Argent.

L.: stone carved for the priory of the knights of malta, quebec, 1647.


Achievement of the Order

on the façade of the church of the Knights of St John in Florence (1699)




The Maltese cross was depicted on the two-mils coin in the old Maltese currency and is now shown on the back of the one- and two-euro coins, introduced in January 2008


Throne of Tsar Paul as a Grand Master of the Order


Johanniter Ordens-Hospiz, Jerusalem

established 1866




The Arms of the Order


Coat of arms for war. This consisted of a a banner Gules, a (straight) cross Argent. This evoluated from a flag to the arms of the Order



1240 Mattheus Parisiensis: Historia Anglorum B.L. Ms Roy. 14.C.VII fol. 130v: Deaths of French Crusaders at Gaza, 1240. left margin: three inverted shield: Scutum victorum Francorum non procul a Gazre. Captu sunt etiam et occisi multi de Templariis et Hospitalariis: (a) Dareines (gules two trumpets in pile, or); Henry II, Count of Bar (azure, two barbels addorsed or); (c) John de Barres (gules a cross recercly or). Below are the inverted standards of the Hospitallers and Templars: (a) Vexillum Hospitalis (gules, a cross argent) and (b) Vexillum Templi (argent, a chief sable).



1241 The same:  Chronica Majora. Cambridge, Corpus Christi College Ms 16, fol. 141: Banners of the Hospitallers and Templars, 1241- bottom left margin: ecce tria signa inter omnia magis infide­libus formidabilia - vexillum hospitalis, vexillum templi, oloflamma Franciae.[7]


“The habit of the order, both in peace and war, was originally a black cappa clausa (i.e. the long monastic bell-like cloak with a slit on each side for the arms) with a white, eight-pointed “Maltese” cross on the breast. As this was highly inconvenient for fighting, Innocent IV in 1248 authorized the brethren to wear in locis suspectis a large super-tunic with a cross on the breast.” [8]



Bull of Pope Alexander IV,

 dated in 1259, decreeing a

distinctive dress for the

Knights of Justice.


Since it has come to our knowledge that, amongst the bretheren of your Order, both Knights and others, there is no distinction or diversity of dress, contrary to the usual custom in most other similar institutions;.....

.....we, therefore, [...] do hereby grant to you [...] the regulation, that the Knights, brethren of your Order, shall wear black mantles, that they may be distinguished from the other brethren; but in campaigns, and in battle, they shall wear surcoats and other military decorations of a red colour, on which there shall be a cross of white colour, sewn on in accordance with that of your standard; in order that by the uniformity of signs, the unanimity of your spirits may be clearly apparent, and that thus, in consequence, the safety of your persons may be insured. [9]


1275 In an english roll of arms the arms are blazoned:

1275 ca Le auntient del Hospitall, gules un crois formy d’argent (Walford C20 Cl. 22 Cd 39) [10]

Gules, a cross formy Argent (~1350)

As documented by the Libro de Conoscimiento n° p. 54 n° 34. [11]




As in Ulrich Richental Konzil zu Konstanz, 1417-‘20

Rex turcie och under dem grossen can


Arms of the Order

as in alliance with the personal arms of the Grand Master, 15th cent.

Bronze seal and wax print. End of 15th cent.

Arms: Cross patée

Crest: Agnus Dei


British Museum number 1872,0603.8

Description: Seal-matrix: Knights Hospitallers of Jerusalem; bronze; pointed oval; shaped ridge; pierced; shield of arms bearing Maltese cross; Agnus Dei; foliage in the field; legend; with wax impression.

Date: 14th C- 15th C (End of the 15th C (Société de Sphragistique, 1852-1853)

Production place:  France, Mâcon

Dimensions: 5.25 ´ 3.2 cm

Inscriptions: *S: INDULGECIE: HOSPITALIS:IERUSALEM: (Seal of the Indulgence of the Hospital of Jerusalem)


Galley of the Order of St. John

at the battle of Lepanto, 07.10. 1571


On the cover of the captain’s quarters: Gules a cross formy witin a bordure Argent.

On the stern the white flag: Argent, a cross formy within a bordure Gules

On the main: Argent, a cross formy within a bordure Gules


The arms could be crowned with a princely crown after 1620


Crowned coat of arms of the Order in the Palace



Flags of Malta, ~ 1700


62: Gules a cross Argent  (Roode Vlag van Malta)

63 Argent, an eight-pointed cross Gules (Witte Vlag van Malta)


From: Danckertsz, Cornelis: Nieuwe Tafel van al de Zee vaarende Vlagge des Weerelts, (ca. 1700).

These flags also on later (1750) translated editions of this map







Restoration of the Office of Grand Master by Pope Leo XIII, 1879





Arms: Gules a cross Argent.

Supporters:  A Maltese cross Argent fimbriated Or

Order: A rosdary of the Order of St. John of Jeruzalem, called the Order of Malta on a black ribbon.

Mantle: Purpure., fringed and tasseled Or, and princely crowned.

(Heyer von Rosenfeld, 1895 ).


The Achievement


The achievement of the Order, 1594

From: Dell’ Istoria Della Sacra Religione Et Illma Militia Di S. Gio Gierosolno di iacomo bosio. Volume 2, 1594


The Double-Headed Eagle of the Order Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller

before 1798.

Copyright © The Rev'd Dr Michael Foster SSC MIWO


The double headed eagle, which provided a supporter for the arms of the Order under Grand Master Paul I, was not an innovation as some might believe. The original form of the Double-headed eagle was Austrian and had been in use from 1778 to 1798, and had resulted from the absorption of the Order of St Anthony into that of St John, which itself had used the Austrian Eagle. The precedent for Paul had been set by the Order before he became a Protector, or its Grandmaster. All that Paul I did, was to replace the eagle of the Holy Roman/Austrian Empire, with that of the Empire of Russia.


Romanesque church in Fixey (Cote d’Or) (1170).

Dedicated to St Antoine



Arms of the Order

Cross of the Order

Photo’s Henk Tijhof

This Hospitaller Order of St Anthony (not an Order of Chivalry but a non-military Monastic Order) was founded at La Motte in the Dauphiné of France in 1095 by Gaston, a nobleman, whose son was struck by a fungal disease, known in the Middle Ages as Saint Anthony's fire (ergotism). This disease is caused by a transformation of the grain (often rye) into enlarged, hard, brown to black spur-like structures that constitute the source of the drug ergot in flour and causes convulsions often leading to death. (In Dutch: moederkoornvergiftiging; in German: Mutterkornvergiftigung; in Swedish: mjoldryka and in Finnish: torajyva).

The members of this Order specialised in curing patients suffering from this disease, hence the name Saint Anthony's fire. The Order originally consisting of laymen, was approved by Pope Urban II during the Council of Clermont in 1095. Later, in 1218, Pope Honorius III permitted the brothers to take the vows of obedience, poverty and chastity. In the thirteenth century the Order spread over the whole of Western Europe with about 370 hospitals.


Blue arms with a tau-cross

Der hertzog in kriechen von Bastym

In Ulrich Richental’s Council of Constantz ca. 1420


Because of the wars and disorder during the Reformation the monasteries and hospitals of the Order were often confiscated or destroyed. The attempt of their Grand Master in 1630 to reform the Order was not a success. In 1775 Pope Pius VI incorporated the Order into the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem.


The coat of arms of the Hospitallers of Saint Anthony was: Or, a Tau-cross Azure which the members of the Order wore on their black cloak.

In 1502 the Austrian Emperor Maximilian I granted the Austrian double-headed eagle as an augmentation to their coat of arms, placed behind the Tau-Cross When the Order was amalgamated with the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem this double-headed eagle was placed as a supporter behind the coat of arms of the latter Order and also behind that of the Grand Master.

In 1778, three years after the amalgamation of the Order of Saint Anthony with the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Grand Master Rohan placed the Order's arms upon the Austrian double-headed eagle. On this Gold Coin from Grand Master Rohan's time which dates to 1778, the eagle holds a Tau-Cross in both beaks.

The correct eagle for the pre 1798 period is all black with a red tongue. It follows that golden beaks and claws, red beaks and claws and white feathers amongst the black are inappropriate and historically incorrect. Late 1798 the Austrian Eagle had been replaced by the Russian Eagle.


The last time the Order used the Austrian Eagle as a supporter was under Ferdinand von Hompesch in 1798. Following the disgrace of Hompesch and the election of Paul I (initially schismatically) to the Grandmastership of the Order, the Austrian Eagle was replaced by the Russian Eagle, and in addition to the plain white greek cross on a red shield, the Maltese Cross was placed behind the shield.

Following the transfer of the Grand Magistracy to Roman Catholic control in 1803, the Russian Arms ceased to be the Official Arms of the Order. However the Russian Grand Priory continued with the Arms as given by Emperor Paul I. The exilic Grand Priory, which was given a formal existence by the Russian Commanders of Family meeting at Paris in 1928, provided a description of the Arms in the Constitution framed in 1953;

ART. 11. Les armoiries du Grand Prieuré Russe représentant le blason octroyé au Prieuré par le Grand Maître de l'Ordre Souverain de Saint-Jean de Jérusalem et Empereur de toutes les Russies, Paul Ier l'Aigle bicéphale de Russie avec la Croix de Malte blanche à huit pointes sur son poitrail portant l'antique écu militaire de cet Ordre à la Croix pleine blanche sur champ de gueules (rouge).

Les principaux actes du Grand Prieuré Russe sont timbrés de ce blason, dont se sert également son Grand Prieur (ou Protecteur). Le blason ordinaire du Grand Prieuré est la double Croix de Malte décrite ci-dessus.


ART. 12. L'insigne dont peuvent se servir et le porter sur le côté gauche de la poitrine les membres du Grand Prieuré est la Croix de Malte blanche à huit pointes avec un écusson d'or le superposé portant l'Aigle Noire bicéphale de Russie.


In English Translation: 

ART. 11. The coat of arms of Russian Grand Priory representing the blason granted to the Priory by the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Saint-John of Jerusalem and Emperor of all Russians, Paul I, The two headed Eagle of Russia with the white Cross of Malta with eight points on its breast carrying the antique military shield of this Order with a plain white Cross on a field of gules (red).
The principal acts of Russian Grand Priory are stamped with this blason, which equally serves the Grand Prior (or Protector). The ordinary blason of Grand Priory is the double Cross of Malta described above.

ART. 12. The insignia which can serve and to be worn on the left side of the chest of the members of Grand Priory is the white Cross of Malta with eight points with a gold shield superimposed carrying the Black double-headed Eagle of Russia.


© The Reverend Dr. Michael Foster SSC. MIWO.


Lit.: Caluwé, The Reverend Robert de. Guide notes on Heraldry of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller, OSJ ivzw Belgium, 2000, pages 42 & 43.


Gold coin of the Order, 1778


The achievement of the Order in the time of Tsar Paul of Russia (1798-1801)


Arms: The Order

Crown: A royal c rown

Supporters: A Maltese cross supported by a two-headed eagle with sceptre and orb crowned and imperially crowned being the Russian Imperial Eagle. (Pichel. 1970 frontisp.)



Achievement of the Order and the legend:  ORDRE SOUVERAIN  DE SAINT JEAN DE JERUSALEM 1798



Paul I liet een kroon voor de Johannieter Orde maken. Een afbeelding hiervan in: Dom Romanovich, St. Petersburg, 1992 p. 232. Eerder gepubliceerd in: Drevnosti Rossiiskogo Gosudarstva. Cht. I-VI. M, 1849-1853.


The armorial bearings of the Order display a white latin cross on a red oval field surrounded by a rosary, all superimposed on a white eight-pointed cross and displayed under a princely mantle surmounted by a crown (as described in Article 6 of the Order’s Constitution). It is the emblem of the Sovereign Order of Malta’s Grand Magistry and its Institutions: Grand Priories, Subpriories, National Associations and Diplomatic Missions.








Promulgated 27 June 1961 revised by the Extraordinary Chapter General 28-30 April 1997



Flags, Insignia and Armorial Bearings of the Order


Par. 1 — The flag of the Order bears either the white latin cross on a red field or the white eight - pointed cross (cross of Malta) on a red field.

Par. 2 — The armorial bearings of the Order display a white latin cross on a red oval field, surrounded by a rosary, all superimposed on a white eight - pointed cross and displayed under a princely mantle surmounted by a crown .

Par. 3 — A special regulation, approved by the Grand Master with the deliberative vote of the Sovereign Council, defines the characteristics and the use of the flags, the insignia and the a rmorial bearings of the Order. 14


The Emblem of the Order’s works

The emblem is the symbol of the Order of Malta’s medical and humanitarian activities worldwide.
It is a red shield with a white, eight-pointed cross (as described in Article 242 of the Order of Malta’s Code).


Photo H.d.V. March 1997

Sign board of the Headquarters of the Order in St. Paul Street, Valetta

The Arms of the Grand Priories of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller


Arms: Gules a cross Argent

Supporters: An eight-pointed cross Argent and a two-headed eagle billed an clawed Argent.

Crown: a royal crown of five hoops.

Legend: World Headquarters Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller.


PRO FIDE PRO UTILITATE HOMINUM (For the Faith and the benefit of mankind)

Author: Michael Medvedev, GHA[R] / 2006-11-23




Arms: Gules a cross Argent

Order: Rosary with Maltese cross.

Supporters: An eight-pointed cross Argent, and four banners of the Order in saltire

Mantle: Sable, fringed and tasseled.

Legend: Embassy of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta.

(Sign board of the Embassy of The Order in Ordnance Street, Valetta. Photo H.d.V. March 1997)


The Langues


The Knights Hospitaller began to take the features of a state following its acquisition of Rhodes and nearby islands in the early 14th century. The subdivision of the Order into langues began in 1319 during a meeting of the Chapter General in Montpellier. For the purposes of administration of the Order's possessions in Europe, the langues were divided into grand priories, some of which were further divided into priories or bailiwicks, and at the lowest level into commandries dealing with regional or local administration.

The head of each langue was known as a pilier or bailiff. The piliers, together with the Knights Grand Cross, the bishop, the bailiffs of the convents and the prior of the Conventual Church, sat on the Grand Council of the Order. Each pilier also had specific responsibilities within the order; that of France was the Hospitaller, that of Italy was the Admiral of the Order's fleet.

The headquarters of each langue was known as an auberge, a French word meaning inn. Auberges were first built in Rhodes in the late Middle Ages.

After the Order moved to Malta in 1530, auberges were built in Birgu between the 1530s and the 1550s, and later in Valletta from the 1570s onwards.

When the system of the langues was established in the 14th century, there were seven langues split according to ethno-linguistic divisions:

the Gallo-Romance sphere was divided into the langues of Auvergne, France and Provence.

the Ibero-Romance areal was designated as the langue of Aragon

the Italo-Romance areal was designated as the langue of Italy

Germanic Europe was designated as the langue of Germany, and it included all of the Holy Roman Empire, including its Slavic-speaking parts, as well as Scandinavia, Hungary and Poland

the British Isles were designated as the langue of England

In 1462, the langue of Castille, Léon and Portugal was split from that of Aragon. The langue of England was dissolved in the mid-16th century following the English Reformation, and while there was an Auberge d'Angleterre in Birgu, no English auberge was built in Valletta. The langue was reinstituted by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc in 1784 as the Anglo-Bavarian Langue, which also included Bavarian and Polish knights. It was housed in Auberge de Bavière, which had been built as a private palazzo.


The banners of the langues of the Order of St. John


From left to right: Provence; Auvergne; France; Italy; Present Arms of the Order; Aragon; England; Germany; Castilia


St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, which was built as the Order's conventual church, contains chapels for each of the langues.

The langues were dissolved when the Order was expelled from Malta with the French invasion and occupation in 1798. In the 19th century, the system of langues was replaced by Grand Priories and National Associations.


Æ To Order of St. John, Grandmasters



Back to Main Page



 © Hubert de Vries 2019-12-18




[1] See also: La tenue des frères de l’hôpital a la fin du XIIeme siècle

[2] Wienand, Adam: Der Johanniter Orde. Der Malteser Orde. Köln, 1988.  p. 22

[3]  Delaville-Le Roulx, J.: Cartulaire Général des Hospitaliers de Saint Jean de Jérusalem (1100-1310) 4 vols. folio. 1904.


[5] I Sigillo nella storia e nella cultura, Roma 1985. P. 195-196.


[7]  Lewis, Suzanne The Art of Matthew Paris in the Chronica Majora. Univ. of California Press. Berkeley/Los Angeles, 1987

[8]  Delaville Cartul. ii  n° 2479

[9] Delaville Cartul. ii n° 2928. Pichel, Thourot: History of the Hereditary Government of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. Knights of Malta. Maltese Cross Press Publishers. Shickshinny, Pa. 18655. 1970. p.107-108.

[10] Brault, Gerard J.: Eight Thirteenth-Century Rolls of Arms in French and Anglo-Norman Blazon. The Pennsylvania State University Press. University Park and London, 1973.

[11] Libro del Conoscimiento de todos los reynos y tierras y señorios que son por el mundo, y de las señales y armas que han cada tierra y señorio.  Book of the knowledge of all the kingdoms, lands, and lordships that are in the world. The Hakluyt Society. Second Series N° XXIX. Issued for 1912.n° 34