The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta , also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta or Order of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order traditionally of military, chivalrous and noble nature. It was founded as the Knights Hospitaller circa 1099 in Jerusalem, Kingdom of Jerusalem, by the Blessed Gerard, making it the world's oldest surviving chivalric order. Headquartered in Palazzo Malta in Rome, its mission is summed up in its motto: Tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum, "Defence of the faith and assistance to the poor". The order is an elective monarchy and is ruled by a Prince and Grand Master.
The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is the present-day continuation of the medieval Knights Hospitaller, now based in Rome, with origins in the Fraternitas Hospitalaria hospital founded circa 1048 by merchants from the Duchy of Amalfi in the Muristan district of Jerusalem, Fatimid Caliphate, to provide medical care for pilgrims to the Holy Land. Following the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade and the loss of the Kingdom of Jerusalem to the Mamluk Sultanate, it became a military order to protect Christians against Islamic persecution and was recognised as sovereign in 1113 by Pope Paschal II. It operated from Cyprus , Rhodes , Malta , over which it was sovereign until the French occupation, and from Palazzo Malta in Rome from 1834 until the present, subsequently known under its current name. The order venerates as its patroness the Virgin Mary, under the title "Our Lady of Mount Philermos".
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