The Order of Malta and Bulgaria - exhibition at Danovo School, Perushtitsa

от: 2018-09-25 18:00    до: 2018-10-30 12:00

The Order of Malta and Bulgaria - exhibition at Danovo School, Perushtitsa from September 25, 2018 to October 30, 2018.

In 1396, in the west, far from his capital Rhodes, after twenty years of service as Grand Master of the Order of Hospitallers of St. John, Br. Juan Fernandez de Heredia of Aragon died. In his place, the Council of Hospitallers elected the prior of Aquitaine, Fra Philibert de Nayac.

As soon as Fra Philibert de Nayac learned of his choice, he went to Rhodes and mobilized the knights of his order to take part in the crusade organized by Pope Boniface IX and King Sigismund of Hungary in the hope of stopping the Ottoman invasion of Europe.

De Nayac equipped his fleet, connected it with the armada of Venice, which had joined the campaign, and led by him in the late summer of 1396, the ships crossed the Black Sea into the Danube. Some of the Knight Brothers reached by land from Western and Central Europe to Nikopol, and by the second half of September the Hospitallers had met Sigismund's crusader army, which included numerous troops from almost all parts of Catholic Europe.


On September 25, 1396, the Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Sratsimir opened the gates of the Vidin Fortress to meet this Christian army and joined it with his army.

The battle against the army of Bayezid I broke out the next day and ended with the complete defeat of the Crusaders. The Ioannites saved the Hungarian king by dragging him with their fleet along the Danube and took him across the Black Sea to Constantinople, where Sigismund helped Manuel II Palaeologus repel an Ottoman attack.

Hospitallers also played a major role in the redemption of prominent Western European captives by the Turks.




A strange society has declared as its patron Forerunner - the Sovereign Military Order of the Hospitallers of St. John. It was founded in 1099 under Brother Gerard. The seat of the fraternity in Jerusalem was the hospital of St. John the Baptist, therefore, in addition to "Ioannites" (their patron), they are also called "hospitallers" (from the Latin hospitale - hospitable; hospital - hospital, sanatorium). It was officially recognized by Popes Pascal II in 1113 and Eugene III in 1153. 

By the middle of the twelfth century, the order was clearly divided into two main fraternities - warriors and healers. The pope's protection provided him with some significant advantages, including not paying the church tithe and the right to build his own religious buildings. The Brotherhood of St. John controlled seven fortified settlements and 140 manors in the Holy Land. Respect for the order became so high that in 1185 the Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa entrusted him with his own safety and security with a special official charter.

In 1120, Raymond de Puy reorganized the order and militarized it heavily. Its members were forbidden to marry. They were to make a vow of obedience, modesty, and chastity, pledging with arms to fight "the enemies of the cross and the Christian faith." In the Order, knights were a privileged upper class and a major fighting force, and the sick and poor were cared for by the clergy brothers, who, however, had to serve as infantry in combat. On the battlefield, knights and soldiers wore a bright red shirt with a white cross on their armor, and in peacetime were dressed in black with a white octagonal cross (later called the Maltese cross) on their chests. The order was subordinated only to the pope and received from him various special rights. The Hospitallers succeeded in gaining sovereign rights in Syria, until they were expelled by the Mamluks in the early 14th century. Then the order conquered the Byzantine Rhodes in the Aegean Sea and created its own independent state there. THE MALTIAN ORDER

In 1522, the Ottomans, led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent I (later called "Magnificent"), expelled the Ioannites from Rhodes. In 1530, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, King of Spain and Sicily, granted them the small rocky island of Malta, only 22.5 km long and 13 km wide, where they moved.

However, the knights refused to occupy the fortified city of Mdina in the middle of the island, and liked the Great Port, where there was a small fort on a peninsula. They immediately built new settlements near it and built solid fortifications with high walls, towers and bastions around them.

On bare rocks without soil or trees, however, they soon discovered the benefits of piracy as a livelihood for prosperity. Over the next two centuries, their galleys became a threat to the navigation and coastal areas of the Mediterranean Muslim countries. Their ships returned with rich booty and many slaves. Some of the captives they used as construction workers or as rowers in galleys, while others sold, and Malta soon became the center of this trade.

But the knights and their galleys began to interfere with the Turks, who considered themselves masters of the Mediterranean. Sultan Suleiman decided to take Malta and make the island a springboard for his campaign against Central Europe through Italy. An Ottoman army of nearly 30,000 men, carried by about 200 ships, landed on the Maltese coast on May 18, 1565. The Grand Master of the Order of Jean de la Vallette had just over 7,000 soldiers, 600 of whom were heavily armed knights, but they succeeded. to repel many attacks by land and water, until in early September the losses of the Order reached 6,000 people, and the local Maltese population - 7,000 people.

Failing to conquer the island quickly and satisfy the thirst of its askers for booty, disease and inadequate food supply undermined discipline in the Turkish army. Its losses amounted to about 20,000 killed, and more than 3,000 were seriously ill. When 10,000 Spanish infantrymen, transported by 28 ships, landed on the island to help the Ioannites on September 8, the Turks retreated, first burning 40 of their galleys because they did not have enough experienced men to serve them. The Knights of Malta received large sums of money from European monarchs to build the spectacular fortifications that made Malta the largest fortress in the Mediterranean.

But by the middle of the 18th century, the Turks were no longer dangerous. Far from the principles on which the Order was built, the Ioannites began to fill their days with drunkenness, gambling, and sexual immorality. The name of their capital, Valletta, became a disgrace because of the free manners in that city and the easily accessible women there. The splendor and luxury in which the knights lived, served by numerous slaves, undermined their fighting spirit. At the end of the 18th century, the Order began to lose a lot of money as piracy and the slave trade gradually died out.

In a desperate attempt to strengthen its position, in 1798 the order knighted Russian Tsar Paul I and declared him protector of the island. Negotiations began with the Russians, who were eager to have a naval base in the Mediterranean. In response, the French sent an army under General Napoleon Bonaparte, which descended on Malta in June 1798. Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompes surrendered the island without a fight and the knights were driven from the island and their treasures confiscated.


The patron saint of the Hospitaller Knights, St. John the Baptist, was born half a year before Jesus as the son of the priest Zacharias, when his father had already reached old age without a child. On the other hand, his child miraculously (as if preserved from above !!) was not harmed when the 14,000 babies were killed in Bethlehem and the surrounding area by order of Herod.

St. John began preaching in the year 29. He was 30 and his cry from the banks of the Jordan: "Birds of the wicked! Who told you to run away from future anger? Therefore, make a fruit worthy of repentance ”forced many to enter the river with him and receive baptism from him for a new and God-pleasing life.


He was certainly no ordinary man, having been appointed to perform the rite in which his first maternal cousin and Son of God would take on the Savior's mission. But after Jesus baptized in the Jordan River, he set out not to preach His covenant, but (still in his same poor camel's robe) to tell left and right ... what a scoundrel Queen Herodias was. True, a princess by birth, she first married her uncle Herod II and, according to the contemporary of these events, Josephus, even bore him a daughter, Salome. At about the age of 23, however, she preferred her other uncle, Herod Antipas, who was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, and - although he was also the half-son of her father-in-law Herod the Great - she married him. I don't know if this really bothered the Jews so that God's punishment would not befall them, but the Baptist of Jesus chose to be the one crying in the wilderness (Luke 3: 4) against the shamelessness of the king who married his living brother's wife.

There is no convincing explanation as to why the Predecessor was followed by such suicidal behavior. It was as if he was in a hurry to disappear from Earth before anyone understood the secret nature of his role here. It was natural for his terrible talk against the king and his wife to arrest him and throw him into the dungeons of the fortress of Mahera on the east shore of the Dead Sea. And as soon as he hurried to leave his human body, the exact map was drawn for him (again, as if definitely from above ?!): above this hole was the palace of Herod Antipas. As a Roman protégé and without real power, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea did not consider wars of liberation for his people, but feasted and had fun. He was already desperate to try Salome, the daughter of his brother from their common niece, whom he had taken from him as his wife, so that the no less lustful Herodias would surely use his "royal" desire to get rid of his stubborn denunciator. The story is still known: while the stepfather was rolling his stepdaughter after another over-exciting dance FOR him, which completely blew his brakes, on the advice of his mother, the "little one" asked the voluptuous person to bring her the Baptist's head on a plate ...

From the recently revealed Gospel of Judas, we learned that Jesus himself asked this apostle to hand him over to the Romans so that he could get rid of his human body. The Bogomils preached that man is an angel walled up by Satan in a clay body. But even such a significant departure of a human body from a great initiate definitely deserves careful insight into all the circumstances surrounding this execution! It was probably expected to be public and far above the society in which Herod was partying. Herodias certainly skillfully thwarted John's skillful bet to receive a square martyr's praise.

But in the end it was outplayed - John is glorified even with the amazing three times finding his severed head, for which in the temples he is annually glorified with special services on February 24 (for the first and second), and on May 25 - for the third . Since the main task in his life was fulfilled on the day of the Epiphany in Jordan, from ancient times the Holy Church has set aside for his remembrance the next day (January 7), called his "council",for at this liturgical celebration all believers are called to gather for the prayerful celebration of this "greatest among women born of women" God's prophet and righteous man. In addition, his memory is celebrated on September 23 (as the day of his conception), on June 24 (his birthday), August 29 (when he was slaughtered, Seknovenie) and ... every Tuesday of the year.

As an undoubted hint to the super-secret nature of his mission, we should pay attention to the fact that on most icons in the temples under Bulgarian influence we see John the Forerunner with wings like an angel and ... two heads - one holding on to the bloody plate on which the executioners they presented it to Salome, and the other was in place on his neck.

In the Christian world, other saints can be seen holding their severed heads as a symbol of the extremely terrible ordeal during which they shone. But outside the lands under the Bulgarian spiritual influence they do not have a new one on their shoulders. Only on his neck, even the Christian patron of Paris, St. Denis, humbly holds his between his palms ...

It is believed that the Baptist's body was most likely kept in Alexandria, where other medieval sources indicate that the skeleton of a first-century man with a missing head was resting. In the special department of the five-hundred-year-old sultan's palace Top Kappa in Istanbul, among the most sacred relics, along with the belongings of the Prophet Muhammad, the foot of the Prophet Moses and his scepter, is exposed and encrusted in gold and silver the hand of St. John the Baptist. Muslims.

On July 28, 2010 during the archeological excavations of the medieval monastery "St. John the Baptist ”on the island of St. Ivan near Sozopol in the foundations of a church from the end of IV - beginning of V century in an alabaster reliquary were found parts of hand, face and tooth, which are stored in Sozopol church“ Saints Cyril and Methodius ” as relics of the Forerunner.



The Sovereign Military Order of Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta (also known as the Order of Malta) is now based in Rome. He has observer status at the UN and diplomatic relations with 104 countries, including Bulgaria. It issues its own passports, stamps its own currency, stamps and license plates, but its sovereignty is seen at the level of a diplomatic mission, not as a sovereign state. The Grand Master of the Order held his office as papal viceroy.

In our time, the order seems to have reached its original essence - hospitalization. An example is his activity in our country: through its embassy in Bulgaria the Order of Malta has worked on over 200 projects for the supply of medical equipment, medicines, food, clothing, teaching aids, vehicles for hospitals and distribution of hot food to the poor. families, and many of his volunteers helped after the catastrophic floods in Varna, Asparuhovo, Mizia and Malko Tarnovo.

In turn, during a traveling seminar organized by the Videley Foundation to Malta, in which Assoc. Prof. Dr. Veselina Vachkova and I were lecturers, we carried and handed over to our hosts soil from the site of the battle for Nikopol.

Author: Hristo Bukovski