chapter  19
10 Pages

Piety and ritual in the Magistral Palace of the Order of St John in Malta

ByTHERESA VELLA (MALTA)

The one constant element in the 1,000-year history of the Order of St John is its dedication to the Hospitaller role. From the fi rst hospital in the Holy Land, to the Sacra Infermeria in Malta up to the present day, the Order’s active involvement in the care and healing of the ill and wounded has evolved by adapting to changing contexts and circumstances. The Hospitaller values of charity and mercy were rooted in Christian teachings as well as in older teachings by Aristotle and Seneca, leading to the potent match of the nobleman’s societal duty to be liberal (generous) and the religious duty to fulfi l acts of charity and mercy. 1

The Hospitaller knight’s religious life formed an intrinsic part of the identity of the military and religious noblemen of the Order of St John, yet the practice of private religious devotion has received little academic attention. Perhaps understandably, in the balance between meditative piety and outward displays of great deeds, it may be expected that visible achievements would command the attention of historians.