09 February 2021

Order of Malta

I've long been fascinated by the Order of Malta, formally known as the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, because of its unusual status as a holdover from a much earlier era and its one-time connection with my father's native island of Cyprus. Established almost a thousand years ago in 1048, it was once headquartered successively in Jerusalem, Cyprus, Rhodes, and Malta. As such it functioned as a sovereign territorial entity with its own military, led by a grand master. Sovereignty over Malta ended when Napoleon captured the islands in 1798 during his Egyptian expedition. Now located in the Grand Magistral Palace, on Via Condotti in Rome, the Order of Malta still retains some of the trappings of statehood and maintains diplomatic relations with 110 states. It mints its own coins, produces its own stamps, and issues its own passports. However, without territory many would judge that it cannot be considered a state, as James Kerr-Lindsay concludes in this video:

In 2008 the Order established diplomatic relations with Canada, although the two did not exchange ambassadors as such. Canada's contact with the Order is through this country's ambassador to the Vatican.

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