Nobility, Faith and Masculinity

The Hospitaller Knights of Malta c.1580-c.1700


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This is an important study of elite European noblemen who joined the Order of Malta. The Order – functioning in parallel with the convents that absorbed the surplus daughters of the nobility – provided a highly respectable outlet for sons not earmarked for marriage. The process of becoming a Hospitaller was a semi-structured one, involving clear-cut (if flexible) social and financial requirements on the part of the candidate, and a mixture of formal and informal socialization into the ways of the Order. Once enrolled, a Hospitaller became part of a very hierarchical and ethnically mixed organisation, within which he could seek offices and status. This process was delineated by a complex interaction of internal factors – hierarchy, patriarchy and age – set within external mechanisms such as papal patronage and interference. This book is innovative in its methodology, drawing on a wide range of sources and applying historiographical approaches not previously brought to bear on the Order.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Becoming a Hospitaller 2. Hospitaller Ranks: Hierarchy, Patriarchy and Age 3. Religious Identity, Beliefs and Practices 4. The Body, Chastity and Sexuality 5. Violence and Punishments Conclusion: Towards a Cultural History of the Order of Malta Epilogue Appendix: Popes, Grand Masters, Bishops and Inquisitors c.1580-c.1700 Bibliography Index


“…Buttigieg describes very well an institution that reflected, as one would expect, seventeenth-century Western society… thinking about this topic has led him to some extraordinarily interesting sources. He gives us insights into the world of the knights and their attitudes to dress, modes of behaviour and sex. His book is both thought-provoking and a good read…” –  The Tablet,
“… Nobility, Faith and Masculinity- is as dense with facts as you would expect a history book to be- but there’s nothing cold or clinical about [Emanuel’s] treatment of the Order. The Knights are flesh-and-blood mortals, mostly honourable yet fallible, largely holy yet frequently deviating from the Church’s teachings, truly brave yet plagued by the same fears and superstitions that beset so many others at the time. One-dimensional they are not.” –  Sunday Circle,
“In presenting the history of the Order of St John, Emanuel Buttigieg sets forth an entirely new approach to the subject. He examines the history of the Order primarily from a social and cultural perspective, which contrasts with previously applied approaches…. The book is well constructed, its structure is logical and well-articulated. … Buttigieg’s style is fluent and readable. The author is rigorous in the application of the historical method of inquiry, with extensive use of archival and printed primary sources. Furthermore the author also uses significant secondary literature to explain the position of the book in relation to the existent historiography. While being academically intense, the work is not dry, but highly engaging for the wider reading public.” –  Zsolt Palotás, AETAS
“The merits of this work are various… It is neither the traditional history of rulers nor that which is commonly called ‘history from below’; it is rather a history that cuts through the point where the two meet – a history of meeting points between different cultures within a shared world. That said, Nobility, Faith and Masculinity becomes a historiographic challenge to historians of Maltese early modernity by setting forth a new agenda that has been long in waiting.” –  Aleks Farrugia, University of Malta, The Journal of Baroque Studies
“Emanuel Buttigieg’s innovative and well researched book looks at the years in the Order’s history from the end of the sixteenth century to the beginning of the eighteenth when it was developing a more self conscious attitude to its life and institutions… Dr Buttigieg’s three themes of nobility, faith and masculinity provide an excellent entrée into a discussion of Hospitaller knighthood in the period… The book’s ideas and examples are drawn from a wide range of European archival and secondary sources. It is an important contribution to Hospitaller studies.” –  Ann Williams, University of Exeter, Melita Historica
“Especially rewarding here is the author’s engagement with the full panoply of the knights’ gendered regime of material display: from beards to armour, clothes to weapons… the lack of up-to-date literature on this topic makes this book a particularly welcome addition.” –  English Historical Review

Additional information

Weight 670.0000 g
Dimensions 24.0 × 16.5 cm
Pages 318
ISBN 978-1-441-10343-7
Year of publication

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