Carole Pietrzak

Blog 67 - The Knights of St. John Part 5

In the fifth part on the history of the Knights of St. John, Ms. Pietrazk gives us an account of the side of the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent

Mahomet II left two sons, Bajazet, a mild and pacific prince, and Djem, a generous and warlike son.

As soon as Bajazet was on the throne, he made proposals of peace to Rhodes. A struggle for the imperial power between the partisans of the rival princes ended in the defeat and flight of Djem. Feeling a warm and enthusiastic admiration for d’Aubusson and the heroic order which had defied his father’s invincible arms, he resolved to trust his fortunes turning to the knights of St John.

On his way to Rhodes, Djem was attacked by a party of fifty Mamelukes and realized he had no choice but to remain among the Christians in order to survive. He was warmly welcomed by the gran master in Rhodes, with the courtesy due to his rank. He spent forty days at the knight’s residence under the protection of the French King d’Aubusson. He then moved to France where he had a cold reception, still under the protection of d’Aubusson who also had to prevent him from forming new plots against his brother, whose sovereignty could scarcely be disputed. Djem is supposed to have died of poison in Italy when he was deprived of his usual guards but a whole mystery prevails around his death. The Order was blamed for being part of the plot. D’Aubusson’s government lasted for twenty-three years after the siege of Rhodes. Towards the close of his life a new Christian league was formed against the infidel, including the emperor, the republic of Venice and the kings of France, Castile, Portugal and Hungary. A war broke up between the European sovereigns and each power made peace with the Moslem. The Order was left alone and unsupported to carry on the war. D’Aubusson felt sad and disappointed and remained so until death at the age of 78. He was truly mourned by the knights and Rhodian subjects who saw in him the honour of chivalry, the father of the poor, the Saviour of Rhodes, the sword and buckler of Christendom. After d’Aubusson’s death, Bajazet found himself engaged in different wars with the Venitians, Hungarians and Egyptians. On the whole the Ottoman power remained stationary during his reign. His son and successor, Selim, when seizing the reins of government made great preparations for a second invasion of Rhodes but his death on September 22; 1520, eight years after his accession, prevented his design from being executed. He nevertheless succeeded to add Egypt, Syria and Arabia to the Turkish dominions during his short ruling period and extirpated the very profession of Christianity from his dominions.

Soleiman the Magnificent was raised to the throne. His policy and character differed widely from his predecessors and he conducted his empire on principles of justice and equity. Following the reading of notes left by Selim in which he read that the possession of Rhodes and Belgrade were essential to preserve the empire, he decided to prepare for the siege.

Belgrade fell into the power of the Turks on April 29th 1521 and its cathedral was turned into a mosque. In the meanwhile, Rhodes lost its grand master Fabricius Carretto, the brother in arms of d’Aubusson, in January 1521, and Philip Villiers de l’Isle Adam then residing in Paris was elected and joyfully welcomed in Rhodes. He had several friendly letter exchanges with Soleiman, which conveyed a transparent evil over the threats on Rhodes. Shortly after, in June 1522, Soleiman started a war. L’Isle Adam undertook great preparation of his troops, assigning each man to a specific post and duty, and ensured that each language of the knights was reviewed by a knight of its own division. Greek and Latin united in communion. The Rhodians were fearless, united and vigorous, ready to suffer all things before surrender. On the morning of June,26th 1522, within the octave of the feast of St John and its procession conducted as though the city were in profoundest peace with l’Isle Adam at its head, the Turkish fleet advanced. The knights of Rhodes, with l’Isle Adam in golden armour at their head, watched the coming of the Turkish fleet. In the meanwhile 100,00 men under Soleiman were advancing and the gay and martial music was exchanged for the thunder of artillery.

In the next part, Ms. Carole Pietrazk gives us details of the horrific siege on Rhodes.

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