History of Amalfi
is the place, where the merchants, who established the Benedictine Monastery St. Maria Latina in Jerusalem in AD 1048, came from. Their guesthouse was called the "Hospital of Jerusalem" and this became the historical cradle of the Order of Malta (which is actually called the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta). The guest master of this Benedictine Monastery was Blessed Gérard, who founded a brotherhood to help him nurse the sick. This brotherhood very soon developed into an independent religious order, being the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. There are two conflicting traditions as far as Blessed Gérard's home is concerned. The one assumes that he comes from the island of Martigues next to Marseilles in Southern France and gives him the surname "Tenque" or "Tonque". The other theory calls Scala next to Amalfi his home and gives him the surname "del Sasso". The contemporary inhabitants of the little village Scala know little about the most famous of their sons.
However, they have named a local church youth group after him: Circolo "Gerardo Sasso".
It took us a long time, after following three conflicting directions, to get to
the house called "Villa Saxo", which is believed to have been the seat of the "del Sasso" family.
There is very little left of what could have withstood the destructive powers of history for more than 900 years.
In fact, the family living in the "Villa Saxo" pointed out to us, that the columns in the basement of the building would be the only remainder of the former splendour.
St. Peter's church in the village has a stone sculpture donated by Paolo de Saxo in 1358, probably depicting Blessed Gérard in the manner of St. Michael.
Another clue is the fact, that in the former Amalfi Cathedral (Basilica del Crocifisso), which is now used as a museum (Museo del Duomo), a fresco was found, which is also believed to show
Blessed Gérard as a young knight.
We know for sure, that in Blessed Gérard's times, the Order was purely and solely a hospital order without any military tasks. The fresco depicts Blessed Gérard wearing a sword. Maybe Blessed Gérard was posthumously granted such an attribute, as his Order had developed into a military order later. [Interesting link: Le origini amalfitane del Sovrano Ordine di Malta]
As far as the history of the Maltese Cross is concerned, it is interesting to know, that it is part of the coat of arms of Amalfi.
I have not yet found an answer to the question: "Since when did Amalfi have a Maltese Cross in it's coat of arms?" This would be to determine, whether the Order of Malta got the Maltese Cross from Amalfi or vice versa, Amalfi got it from the Order of Malta.
This page is part of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard Newsletter No. 14 (Easter 1998)
This page was last updated on Saturday, 19 September 2015 16:21:17
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