Langue (Knights Hospitaller)

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search

A langue or "tongue" was the major administrative division of the Knights Hospitaller or Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The term referred to a rough ethno-linguistic division of the geographical distribution of the order's members and possessions;

The Gallo-Romance sphere was divided into Auvergne, France and Provence.

The Ibero-Romance areal was designated an "Aragonese" langue, in 1462 split into Aragonese and "Castilian", the latter comprising the priories of Castille, Léon and Portugal.

The Italo-Romance areal was given its own Italian langue. Germanic Europe was divided into a "German" langue on one hand (including all of the Holy Roman Empire, including its Slavic-speaking parts, as well as Scandinavia, Hungary and Poland), while the British Isles was designated a separate "English" langue.

After the order's breakup following the Protestant Reformation, some of the langues were re-organised; specifically, the "English" langue was recreated as "Anglo-Bavaro-Polish" langue.

For the purposes of structuring the order in its main seat in Rhodes (late medieval period) and later Malta (early modern period), the langues were designated individual Auberges. For the purposes of administration of the order's possessions in Europe, the langues were divided into great priories, some of which were further divided into priories or bailiwicks, and at the lowest level into commandries dealing with regional or local administration.


By the early fourteenth century, when the order moved to Rhodes, the knights were organised into eight langues or "tongues", based on language or geographical origin.

The head of each langue was known as a pilier or bailiff. The piliers, together with the Knights Grand Cross, the bishop, the bailiffs of the convents and the prior of the Conventual Church, sat on the Grand Council of the order. Each pilier also had specific responsibilities within the order; that of France was the Hospitaller, that of Italy was the Admiral. [1]:64–65

Each langue was housed in its own headquarters or auberge, in Rhodes, then in Birgu (Vittoriosa), Malta, and then, from the 1570s, in the new city of Valletta. Each langue has a chapel in the Co-Cathedral of St. John in Valletta.[2]

Auberges in Malta

In Malta, a total of sixteen Auberges were built, eight in Birgu and later another eight in Valletta.

At the time of the construction of Valletta (1570s), there were eight langues: Auvergne, France, Provence, Italy, Aragon, Castille and Portugal (split from Aragon in 1462), Germany, England. The English langue however consisted of one knight only, and only seven auberges were built. [3] In the late 18th century, the English langue was re-created as the "Anglo-Bavaro-Polish", and an Auberge was built for it then.[1]:225–26

Of the sixteen auberges built in the 16th to 18th centuries, eleven survive to this day, two are mostly destroyed but some parts have remained, and three are completely destroyed. Of the five destroyed Auberges, four were demolished following extensive damage by bombing in the Second World War.

Two Auberges in Birgu which were side by side were later merged into one Auberge, that of Auvergne and Provence.



See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ernle Bradford (2002 [1972]). The Shield and the Sword. London: Penguin.
  2. The Chapels. St John's Co-Cathedral. Accessed February 2014.
  3. Auberge de Castille. Office of the Prime Minister. Archived 5 July 2008.