When in 1530 emperor Charles V of Spain gave the islands of Malta to the knights of Saint John, the order found itself in a better position than when it had been in Rhodes. There, it was but a stone’s throw away from the Turkish coast and thus could be easily watched.
But now, in the centre of the Mediterranean and hundreds of miles from Turkey, the Order’s galleys could venture out of Malta’s superb harbours and wreak havoc on any Moslem ship sailing between Turkey and North Africa.
Therefore, in the year 1564, sultan Suleyman I decided to invade Malta and destroy once and for all the order of Saint John.
In March 1565 the Ottoman fleet sailed for Malta with an army of more than 30,000 men. Defending the island were 600 members of the Order together with 9,000 troops, most of them Maltese. To the Turks, victory seemed inevitable.