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The Knights of Malta


Villedieu-les-Poêles, the first French commandery of the Knights of Malta

Villedieu-les-Poêles was founded in the XII century, or more precisely in 1130 by the Hospitaliers of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. Having obtained several dozen hectares in the Valley of the Sienne, from the Duke of Normandy and the King of England Henry 1st Beauclerc, the Order decided to place a Commandery in Villedieu lès Saultchevreuil.

These privileges created a rapid development

Different acts of which one dated 1187, shows the rapid development of the Commandery under the direction of its Commander. This development is put down to several privileges given by Henry 1st Beauclerc. Also to visit the town the stream of the river Sienne had to be crossed and was situated on one of the pilgrim routes towards the Mont Saint Michel so was another source of income for the town. Villedieu had the authorisation to organise a weekly market on a Tuesday and an annual fair. From this the Commander had the right to receive taxes on all the merchandise sold in the town. At the same time the inhabitants of the Commandery were exempt from royal taxes and of going into military service.


The influence of the hospitalier Knights on the town

Villedieu benefited for nearly 500 years from an independence free from religious or royal constraint, that is to say that any King, gentleman, Bishop or Curate ...... can not intervene in the town and question the decisions of the Commander, only the Pope in person. The Commandery had the right to benefit from the medical services of the hospitaliers receiving the pilgrims, the homeless and the sick under the direction of the "grand aumônier" . The protection of the hospital and the town was assured by the bourgeois military of which the Captain and the Lieutenant were chosen by the Commander.


Hospitaliers, Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, or the Order of Malta?

From an historic point of view, the Order of the Hospitaliers of Saint John of Jerusalem, was couramment renamed in the XVI century, the Order of Malta. After that the Order had been constraint to leave successively Saint Jean d'Acre, Cypress and Rhodes - where its sovereignty has been institutionalised - to take possession of the Isle of Malta which was conceded in 1522 by the Emperor Charles V.

The ceremonies of the Great Rite

From 1655 to the Revolution, the brotherhood of Saint Sacrament organised with the support of the Knights of Malta a grand procession "The Great Rite". In 1955, for its 300 anniversary, the Great Rite was reintroduced. Due to the success of the festivities of the Great Rite that it now takes place in Villedieu les Poêles every four years. The next ceremony will take place between mid-June 2022. While awaiting this event, why not immerse yourself in the photos of the Great Rite of 2012?
Today the original mission of the Order of Malta: to welcome, nurse and save the weakest and never change anywhere throughout the world. To discover this Order, consult their website.

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