Structure and organization of the Order of Malta
The Order of Malta constitutes the sole unbroken continuation of the Order of the Hospital of St. John recognised in 1113. It alone is a religious Order of the Catholic Church and at the same time a Catholic Order of Knighthood. It alone contains the governing nucleus of the professed Knights of Justice, direct successors of its founders, from among whom the Grand Master and most of the members of the Soverign Council are elected, and which is placed above the ranks of the lay Knights, grown numerous since the fall of Malta. It has never ceased to be recognised by the community of nations as sovereign and independent of any civil power. These facts consitute the irrefutable proof of the Order's unique historical identity and authenticity, to which no other organisation can lay claim.


The sovereignty of the Order is expressed in the diarchy of the Prince and Grand Master, who is the Supreme Head, and of the Councils :

  • the Sovereign Council
  • the General Chapter - Supreme assembly of the Knights, it convenes normally every five years, and elects members of the Sovereign Council;
  • the Council Complete of State - Convened for the purpose of electing a Grand Master or a Lieutenant.

Both the General Chapter and the Council Complete of State contain representatives of the Grand Priories, Priories, Sub-Priories, and National Associations, into which the Order is territorially divided throughout the world.

The Grand Master
The full title of the Grand Master is, in Latin : Dei gratia Sacrae Domus Hospitalis Sancti Johannis Hierosolymitani et militaris Ordinis Santi Sepulchri Dominici magister humilis pauperumque Jesu Christi custos. A part of this title commemorates the granting to the Grand Master d'Aubusson of the Mastership of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre by Pope Innocent VIII in 1489, which grant proved temporary.

Enjoying the precedence of a Cardinal and therefore that of a Royal Prince as well as the dignity of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire (recognised later by Austria and Italy), and formerly a reigning Prince of Rhodes and then of Malta, the Grand Master is styled both Eminence and Highness, or Most Eminent Highness, and is internationally recognised as a Chief of State and sovereign honours are vested in him.

Currently, the Grand Master is His Most Eminent Highness the Prince and Grand Master Fra' Andrew Bertie.

Full list of the Grand Masters of the Order of Malta.

Sovereign Council
The Grand Master governs the Order with the assistance of the Sovereign Council, presided by himself and composed of the four High Officers of the Grand Magistry elected by the General Chapter :
- the Grand Commander
S. Exc. le Vén. Bailli Fra' Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein
- the Grand Chancellor
S. Exc. le Bailli Grand-Croix d'Obédience Amb. Comte Don Carlo Marullo di Condojanni, Prince di Casalnuovo
- the Hospitaller
S. Exc. le Bailli Grand-Croix d'Obédience Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager
- the Receiver of the Common Treasure
S. Exc. le Bailli Grand-Croix d'Obédience Amb. Comte Don Carlo Marullo di Condojanni, Prince di Casalnuovo
as well as of six Councillors. The holders of these offices are chosen from among the professed Knights and, exceptionnally, from among the Knights of Obedience.
The Sovereign Pontiff nominates as His representatives to it a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, styled Cardinalis Patronus: the latter is assisted by the Prelate of the Order, who is likewise appointed by the Sovereign Pontiff. The Prelate of the Order is the ecclesiastical superior of the Order's clergy and the Grand Master's assistant in the care for the spiritual welfare of the Order.

The life and activities of the Order are regulated by the Constitutional Charter approved by the Holy See, and the Code. The Code de Rohan, promulgated by the Grand Master de Rohan in the eighteenth century, retains its validity as a supplementary source of law, provided its provisions are applicable and not contrary to the two other sources of law. Juridical questions and problems of interest and importance for the Order are dealt with the Consultative Juridical Council, appointed by the Grand Master with the consent of the Sovereign Council.

The Order has its own Courts of Law of First Instance and Courts of Appeal, with the Presidents, Judges, Promoters of Justice and Auxiliaries appointed by the Grand Master with the deliberative vote of the Sovereign Council. Appeals against the sentences of the Order's Courts may be lodged with the Court of Cassation of the Vatican State, which, in such cases, acting by proxy on behalf of the Order, may exercise the function of Supreme Court.

A Board of Auditors, elected by the General Chapter, controls the income and the expenditures of the Order.

False Orders Committee
Some organizations are using the name, or part of it, the badge and the history of the SMOM. To fight against these self-styled orders (false orders), the SMOM and the four members of the Alliance of Orders of Saint John have created this committee.





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  • Sovereign Military Order of Malta
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  • Hohanniterorden i Sverige
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Diplomatic relations
Under the provisions of International Law, the Order maintains diplomatic relations, with the Holy See, on which, in its double nature, it depends as a religious Order, but is independent, as a Sovereign of Knighthood, and with the following 75 countries : (chronologically)
Holy See Spain Haiti Panama
Argentina El Salvador Portugal Brazil
Paraguay Nicaragua Ecuador Peru
Lebanon Italy Chile Dominican Rep.
Colombia Austria Costa Rica Liberia
Guatemala Honduras Cuba Somalia
Camerun Bolivia Gabon Uruguay
Philippines Senegal Malta San Marino
Venezuela Ethiopia Niger Benin
Ivory Coast Egypt Central Africa Rep. Comores
Congo (ex- Zaïre) Thailand Guinea Mali
Morocco Chad Hungary Slovakia
Czech Republic Poland Madagascar Seychelles
Romania Slovenia Lituhania Congo (Brazaville)
Russian Federation Croatia Cambodia Sudan
Albania Liechtenstein Bulgaria Latvia
Belarussia Macedonia Equatorial Guinea Capo Verde
Bosnia Herzegovina Mozambique Saint-Vincent

Moreover, it maintains Delegations in






United Nations and international organizations
UN flagAs from 1994, the Order has been admitted as Permanent Observer to the United Nations General Assembly : in this capacity, it maintains Permanent Delegations to the International Organisations in New York, Geneva, Paris, Rome and Vienna.
His Most Eminent Highness the Prince and Grand Master of the Order rules, with the assistance of the Sovereign Council, a world-wide and supranational institution which, while never abandoning its aim of the defence of Christendom, is now dedicated to providing assistance in the sanitary, social and humanitarian fields in the widest possible meaning of these words, without religious and ideological discriminations.

Copyright ©Museum of the Order of Malta / August 1998