MALT-01 Jean Parisot de La Valette, Grand Master of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem
Jean “Parisot” de la Valette (4th February 1495 – 21st August 1568) was a French nobleman and the 49th Grand Master of the Order of Malta. As a Knight Hospitaller, joining the order in the Langue de Provence, he fought with distinction against the Turks at Rhodes.
As Grand Master, Valette became the Order’s hero and most illustrious leader, commanding the resistance against the Ottomans at the Great Siege of Malta in 1565.
After the great siege, he commissioned the construction of the new city of Valetta in 1566, laying the first stone with his own hands. The city became known as the most aristocratic and exclusive fortress in Europe, and Valletta remains the Maltese capital to this day.
La Valette never saw the completed city, and died from a stroke on 21st August 1568. His tomb can be found in the Crypt of the Conventual Church of the Order (now St. John’s C0-Cathedral) situated within the walls of Valletta. The inscription on his tomb, which was composed by his Latin Secretary, Sir Oliver Starkey, the last Knight of the English Langue at the time of the Great Siege, states in Latin,
Here lies La Valette.
Worthy of eternal honour,
He who was once the scourge of Africa and Asia,
And the shield of Europe,
Whence he expelled the barbarians by his Holy Arms,
Is the first to be buried in this beloved city,
Whose founder he was.
Jean de Valette, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, had a key influence in the victory against the Ottomans with his example and his ability to encourage and hold people together. This example had a major impact, bringing together the Kings of Europe in an alliance against the previously seemingly invincible Ottomans. The result was the vast union of forces against the Ottomans at the Battle of Lepanto six years later.
Such was the gratitude of Europe for the Knights’ heroic defence that money soon began pouring into the island, allowing Valette to construct a fortified city, Valletta, with the intent to deny the position to any future enemies.
The Great Siege of Malta occurred in 1565 when the Ottoman Empire attempted to conquer the Island of Malta, then held by the Knights Hospitaller. The siege lasted nearly four months, from 18th May to 11th September 1565.