The Knights of Malta by H. J. A. Sire

By H. J. A. Sire

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The characteristic buildings are the Auberges, with their noble stone carvings facing the street and the graceful arcaded galleries of their garden fronts. These buildings are not the splendid creations of monastic or collegiate life, nor are they the grim fortresses that even merchants' town houses are in the Middle Ages; they are not castles - though the Auberge of France flourishes a few turrets for pomp's sake - and least of all are they barracks. The impression is as if a circle of country gentlemen of sober but companionable habit had built themselves a group of residences at once individual and social, with modesty and convenience as their dominant note, and with a humanity and civility at least a century ahead of their time.

After several knights had lost their lives trying to kill it, the Master had strictly forbidden any more to make the attempt. But Gozon trained two large hounds especially for this fearsome hunt (with the aid of a model built from eyewitness accounts). His plan was put into effect; the wicked Worm was slain. So inexorable, however, was the discipline of the Hospital against disobedience that Helion de Villeneuve upheld the threatened sentence and stripped Gozon of his habit. He later relented on the plea that the act had been for the public good, a grace but for which the Order would have been deprived of one of its most notable Masters.

Nevertheless after the death of Bibars the Order returned to the attack, and in 1280 carried out a raid into the Boquee valley, penetrating almost to Crac. Near Maraclea the raiders worsted a Moslem army sent to stop them, and a punitive expedition despatched by the Sultan was defeated under the walls of Margat. This aggressive policy was continued in succeeding years, until in 1285 the Sultan led a besieging force of exceptional strength against the vexatious outpost. The outcome repeated that of Crac: after a siege of something over a month and the mining of the walls the knights were allowed to ride out from their ruined stronghold.

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