The Order of St John of the Hospital of Jerusalem (or the Hospitallers as they are better known) has existed for almost a thousand years. It was established in Jerusalem in the mid-11th century to care for Christian pilgrims and its role initially was entirely non-combatant. But, as the wars of the crusades progressed, the Order took on a military role, at first simply protecting the pilgrims and then expressed as "defending the Holy Sepulchre to the last drop of blood and fighting the infidel wherever one can find them". The military arm of the Order quickly emerged as one of the most effective fighting forces of the era and was given responsibility for the construction and defense of several of the major fortresses of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, exercising considerable political and strategic influence. When Jerusalem and Acre fell at the end of the 13th century the Hospitallers moved to Cyprus and then established a new base in Rhodes, having taken the island by force. After two centuries there protecting Christian shipping and other interests in the region they were driven out by the Ottoman Turks and continued as a bastion of Christendom in Malta. In 1565 the Order achieved its greatest military success, beating off the massive forces of Suleiman the Magnificent in the Great Siege. They continued to be a force in the Mediterranean but finally capitulated tamely to Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798 and a much changed world. However, the Order of St John carry on their Christian work to this day with Priories all over the world, including North America, with support of the St John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem a key piece of their mission.
Dr Nicolle illuminates the world of the warrior Knight Hospitaller, both his training, skill at arms and campaign experience, and his beliefs and daily life at home, through centuries of religious and territorial conflict. Numerous color and black & white images support an absorbing narrative of adventure, courage and service.