Next to the Knights Templar, probably the most well known group of Crusader knights is the Knights of Malta, also known as the Hospitallers and the Knights of St John. Alongside the Templars they were one of the preeminent defenders of the Christian presence in the Holy Land, mostly the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. Their names come from the fact that St John the Baptist was their patron saint (hence, Knights of St John) and because they originally ran a hospital for Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem they became known as the Hospitallers. Later, after the fall of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem they took the name of whatever their base of operations was, particularly Rhodes and finally Malta. The Knights of St John were one of the earliest military orders, founded around 1099 in the aftermath of the First Crusade and the capture of Jerusalem by the Christian forces. As their name suggests, they got their start simply running a hospital, founded by Blessed Gerard Thom, a native of southern Italy (exactly where is disputed) who became guardian of a hospital built in Jerusalem. Eventually, the need for military protection became more evident as his organization grew until it was granted official sanction by Pope Paschall II in 1113. This was because pilgrims became more and more in need of armed escorts to ensure their safety throughout the region but, it is important to note, even when they became a specifically military religious order, the Knights Hospitaller never lost their commitment to their humanitarian medical role. (Read entire post.)The Knights figure prominently in my novel, The Night's Dark Shade.