Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Maltese Cross

Although many fire department tools and symbols still in use have historical origins, the Maltese Cross goes back a bit further than most.  Around 1113 AD, a Benedictine Monk founded the Order of Knights Hospitaller, subsequently known as the Knights of St. John.   

Originally a charitable organization, the Knights were drawn into battle to defend their city against attacking Saracens.  The Saracens hurled containers filled with flammable liquids onto the defenders, followed by flaming torches.  The Knights were flamboyant in dress, wearing crimson capes over their armor.  The knights rode among their burning brethren, using their capes to extinguish the fires, demonstrating courage and gallantry.   

As a reward, the Knights were given the Island of Malta and the eight pointed symbol became known as the Maltese Cross, one of valor and protection.  Regularly used on badges, patches, and apparatus, the nearly thousand year old emblem has a lineage of honor.