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Origins and aims

The birth of the Order dates back to around 1050, when it started a hospice-infirmary for pilgrims in the Holy Land. Hospitaller service towards the poor and the sick in a spirit of christian values are the original aims of the Order. The rules it adopted in the XIIth century called upon its members to ‘aid the poor, welcome the homeless, care for the sick and work for the peace and the good of the world’. Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum. At all times it carried out its work towards the needy regardless of religion, race, origin or age.

These rules are still valid today for the members of the Order (Knights and Dames) and the volunteers acting under its flag. Furthermore, they are consistent with the humanitarian principles and aims of the United Nations Charter; the Order can thus be considered a precursor of today’s international humanitarian institutions.

Wherever the Order has settled throughout its long history – in the Holy Land, in Cyprus, in Rhodes, in Malta (whence its name) and now in Rome – it has built hospitals and dispensaries. The Knights of Malta created the first ever hospital-ship (XVIth century) and were pioneers in such matters as rigorous prophylaxis, teaching medicine, pharmacology and civil emergency aid.

Sovereign Order of Malta

Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations Office and other International Organisations - Geneva 3, place Claparède CH - 1205 Geneva