The Armenian Community of Malta

The Armenian Community of MaltaThe Armenian community of Malta has existed since the years of the Armenian Cilician Kingdom when the Armenian clergy and kings had first established relations with the representatives of the Order of Malta.

The first meetings between Armenians and the Order took place in 1097. Since 1149, the Order of Malta (the Jerusalem Order of the Hospitallers) owned lands in the Cilician Armenian Kingdom.

The Armenian Cilician Catholic elite maintained ties with the Maltese for a long historical period. Moreover, interethnic assimilation processes took place: Cilician Armenians entered into family ties with the representatives of the ruling class of Malta.

In 1163, the Order of Malta received a new gift, a fortress near the city of Mamestia (Central Cilicia), as well as two fortresses in Seleucia from Cilician Armenian King Levon II. In addition, the Order of the Hospitallers also purchased Cilician lands.

The Hospitallers did not make use of their right of extraterritoriality, but they had immunity as the vassals of the Armenian royal dynasty of the Rubenids, although this vassalage had a special character due to double submission.

Created with the consent and blessing of the Pope – its supreme suzerain – the Order, as a spiritual organization, with its own consent chose their direct secular suzerain.

At the head of the order was the commander who through the Grand Master stationed in Jerusalem and Cyprus was subordinate to the Pope. At the same time, he had to perform vassal service for the princes and kings of the countries in which this Order was located.

The vassal service of the Jerusalem Hospitaller Order was their military assistance to Armenian Cilicia.

The honorary letters granted by the great princes and kings of Cilicia to the Jerusalem Order of the Hospitallers show that these awards were, in fact, benefices.

And besides, the awards were of a temporary, conditional nature since each diploma was bound to be approved by the heir of the giver after his accession to the throne.

The lords (Armenian kings), in turn, were obliged to respect the inviolability of the possessions of the Order (vassal) for as long as the latter carried its service.

It is also important to note that in the Armenian Cilicia, the Jerusalem Order of the Hospitallers was exempt from taxes, as it was the case with other vassals.

In the meantime, an Armenian community has been forming in Malta. After the Collapse of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, many Armenian knights and ordinary citizens moved to the island of Malta. And the Order itself has existed in Cilicia until 1375.

To this day in Malta live the descendants of the representatives of Armenian Cilician noble families, but they have long identified themselves as Maltese, and only their family lists and surnames indicate their Armenian origin.

One of the historical examples of the presence of Armenians in Malta is the Church of Our Lady of Liesse that was built in 1620 with the funds provided by Knight Jean de Belay Bally de Armenia, a descendant of the Armenian Lusignan dynasty.

Now, there are about 350 Armenians living in Malta. In addition, there are over 6.000 Maltese who are of Armenian descent.



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