The Knights of the Order of St. John

The Knights of St. John, a Catholic order of Hospitalers, were organized during the time of the Crusades to protect and care for Christian pilgrims. By the beginning of the 12th century the order had become military in nature, and after the fall of Acre in 1291 to the Arabs, the knights fled from Palestine, withdrawing first to Cyprus and then to Rhodes. In 1312 they inherited the immense wealth of the Templars (another religious military order, which had just been outlawed by the pope) and used it to fortify Rhodes. But for all their power and the strength of their walls, moats, and artillery, the Knights could not hold back the Turks. In 1522 the Ottomans, with 300 ships and 100,000 men under Süleyman the Magnificent, began what was to be the final siege, taking the city after six months. Centuries later, Mussolini's Italy would restore many of this era's original buildings to further its own fascist agenda, and even today no one has done as much as the Knights to shape modern Rhodes.

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