After centuries of distinguished service in defence ofthe Christian faith in Europe and the Holy Land, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, called of Rhodes, called of Malta (the Order of Malta for short) faced extinction when in 1798 the Maltese islands were surrendered to Napoleonic France and the Knights of Malta expelled from their territory. As the Order departed into exile, the heroic days of Lepanto and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire seemed forever lost.
H. J. A. Sire gives an unflinching account of the Order's hardships and loss - in which its very existence was threatened as much by internal dissensions and personal ambitions as by the vicissitudes of fortune - and the long, patient process of recovery which saw the Order open its membership more widely and return to its founding vocation of care for Christian pilgrims. Now over nine hundred years old, the Order boasts a vibrant, growing membership and a proud record of charitable works across the world.