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Friday, January 07, 2005

Militant monks

An exhibition at the former Papal military stronghold Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome has earned public praise for the way it deals with what appears in contemporary terms as a paradox. Zenit, an international news agency focusing on Catholic issues, draws attention to the exhibition entitled "Monks at Arms" saying it reminds the public that even the papacy has known times of menace and violence:

This exhibit brings together about 150 artifacts from all over the world pertaining to the religious military orders of the Knights Templar, the Knights of St. John, Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta, and the Teutonic Knights as well as the Knights of St. Stephen. Most of these orders were formed around the 12th century, during the time of the Crusades.

Next come the Knights of St. John founded in Jerusalem in 1099, now better known as the Knights of Malta, whose exploits brought them to Rhodes and Malta before they established their present headquarters on the Aventine Hill in Rome. As the Knights of Malta are still very active today, both running hospitals and providing relief in emergency situations around the world, artifacts representing numerous phases of their activity are prominently featured in the exhibit.

While the model of a Maltese galley -- the low, fast, oar-powered boat that tormented the Turkish fleet -- commands attention, the most captivating item is the dress armor in steel and gold, worn by Jean de la Vallette, grand master of the order. This hero of the siege of Malta in 1565 personifies the ideal of a monk-knight. His ingenious defense tactics and stalwart honor enabled 600 knights to hold off the Turkish fleet and save Europe from invasion by the Ottomans.

Also worthy of note is the armor of Alof di Wignacourt, a Maltese grand master who was immortalized in a Caravaggio portrait after Wignacourt had conferred a knighthood on the painter. (Film noir fans please note: The exhibit sheds no light on the current whereabouts of "The Maltese Falcon.")

Warrior monks - Samurai warfare

Latest news from Zenit Agency

Blogger Gindy said...

Interesting post. 

Friday, January 07, 2005 8:00:00 PM

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