Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Jean Parisot de La Valette became Grand Master of the Knights of St John
Jean Parisot de La Valette was born in 1494 and at 28 years of age served throughout the last siege of Rhodes. He was 20 when he joined the convent and from that day on remained entirely devoted to the Order, never as far as is known, leaving the island to visit his family estates in Toulouse, even during the period when the Order was in exile in Nice. He was an extract of the old breed, ardent in his religious practices as he was upon the field of battle. He had for a long time been Admiral of the Order’s fleet, a distinction in itself as most Admirals came from the langue of Italy as was required by Charles V when he gave the island to the Order.
Jean Parisot de La Valette became Grand Master in 1557 and was described by Abbe de Branthome as being a ‘very handsome man, speaking several languages fluently including Italian, Spanish, Greek, Arabic and Turkish.’
By the time the great siege drew upon the island, in 1565, with King Solomon desperate to be rid of ‘Those sons of dogs who I have already conquered and who were spread only by clemency at Rhodes forty-three years ago.’ both Solomon and La Valette were seventy years of age. However whilst the great Sultan would be sitting in his scented gardens in Constantinople, La Valette would be fighting in the breach.
It was only under the good government of the brave and devout La Valette that Malta had overcome the forceful Turkish attack. As La Valette rode through the island following the retreat of the Turkish corsairs, he could only reflect upon the thought that if there were to be another invasion there would be no chance of the Order surviving. It was at this time that La Valette decided to take up the suggestions of the military engineers Ferramolino and Strozzi, and build a new city on the peninsula known as Mount Sciberras on the far side of the Grand Harbour, the city which would ultimately take the name of La Valette. The Grand Master suffered a stroke from which he did not recover in 1568, three years after the Great Siege ended and is buried within the crypt of the Grand Masters in St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta.