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Hospitalers of Jerusalem

In the middle of the eleventh century, some merchants of Amalfi, a rich city of the kingdom of Naples, while trading in Egypt, obtained from the Calif Monstaser Billah permission to establish hospitals in the city of Jerusalem for the use of poor and sick Catholic pilgrims. A site was assigned to them close to the Holy Sepulcher, on which they erected a chapel dedicated to the Virgin, giving it the name of Saint Mary ad Latinos, to distinguish it from those churches where the service was performed according to this Greek ritual.

The building was completed in the year 1048; and at the same time two hospitals, one for either sex, were erected in the vicinity of the chapel for the reception of pilgrims. Subsequently each of these hospitals had a separate chapel annexed to it; that for the men being dedicated to Saint John the Almoner, and that for the women to Saint Mary Magdalen. Many of the pilgrims who had experienced the kindness so liberally bestowed upon all wayfarers, abandoned all idea of returning to Europe, and formed themselves into a band of charitable assistants, and, without assuming any regular, religious profession, devoted themselves to the service of the hospital and the care of its sick inmates. The chief cities of the south of Europe subscribed liberally for the support of this institution; and the merchants of Amalfi who were its original founders acted as the stewards of their bounty, which was greatly augmented from the favorable reports of grateful pilgrims who had returned home, and the revenues of the hospital were thus much increased. The associates assumed the name of Hospitalers of Jerusalern. Afterward, taking up arms for the protection of the holy places against the Saracens, they called themselves Knights Hospitalers, a title which they subsequently changed to that of Knights of Rhodes, and finally to that of Knights of Malta.

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