Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim

Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim, O.S.I. (9 November 1744 – 12 May 1805) was the 71st Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, formally the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, by then better known as the Knights of Malta. He was the first German elected to the office. It was under his rule that the Order lost the island of Malta to France, after ruling there since 1530. This effectively marked the end of their sovereignty over an independent state, dating from the time of the Crusades.

His Most Eminent Highness, Fra

Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim, O.S.I.
Fra Ferdinand von Hompesch G.M. Palace
Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller
In office
17 July 1797 – 6 July 1799
Preceded byEmmanuel de Rohan-Polduc
Succeeded byPaul I of Russia (de facto)
Personal details
Born9 November 1744
Bolheim, Electorate of Cologne, Holy Roman Empire
Died12 May 1805 (aged 60)
Montpellier, Hérault, First French Empire
Resting placeMontpellier, Hérault, France
Military service
AllegianceSovereign Military Order of Malta Order of Saint John
Years of service1761–1799
Battles/warsFrench invasion of Malta


Early career

Hompesch was born in the village of Bolheim, now part of the town of Zülpich in the Eifel region. He received the baptismal names of Ferdinand Joseph Antoine Herman Louis. He was admitted to the Knights Hospitaller on 10 July 1761, at the age of 14, for which he needed to obtain a dispensation from the Holy See, serving as a page to the Grand Master Manuel Pinto da Fonseca.[1] By 1768 he had been promoted to the rank of castellan, and in 1770 he had advanced to the rank of lieutenant, responsible for the inspection of ships and fortifications of the Order. In 1774 he was given responsibility for the island's munitions.

In late 1775 Hompesch was appointed as the Order's ambassador at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna, a post he held for the next 25 years. The following year, he was also raised to the rank of Knight Grand Cross, making him a member of the Standing Council of the Order. During this period, he made efforts to re-unite the Protestant Bailiwick of Brandenburg with the Order; these efforts were unsuccessful largely due to the opposition of the German knights. In the following years, he received charge of the commandery in Rothenburg (1777), followed by those in Herford (1783), Basel and Dorlisheim (1785), Sulz, Colmar and Mülhausen (1786) as well as Villingen, in the Black Forest (1796).[2] He was appointed Grand Bailiff of the German langue, based in Brandenburg, in 1796.[1]

Malta - Fgura-Zabbar - Hompesch Arch 06 ies
Hompesch Gate in the city of Żabbar.

On 17 July 1797 Hompesch was elected Grand Master, which made him a Prince of the Church. As Grand Master, he raised the towns of Żabbar, Żejtun and Siġġiewi to the status of cities.

Loss of Malta

In 1798 Hompesch was warned that the French fleet that was sailing to Egypt under Napoleon Bonaparte intended to attack Malta as well. He disregarded the warning and took no action to reinforce the island's defenses.[3] On 6 June 1798, the advance squadron of the French fleet reached Malta. One ship was permitted to enter the harbour for repairs. On 9 June the main fleet arrived. The French commander Napoleon had a force of 29,000 men against Hompesch's 7,000. Bonaparte demanded free entrance to the harbour for the entire fleet with the excuse to get water provisions. Hompesch replied that only two ships at a time could do so. Napoleon saw it as a provocation and ordered the invasion of the Maltese Islands.

Hompesch Tari 1798 2070482
30 Tarì coin of Ferdinand, dated 1798.

On 10 June the French fleet began disembarking.[4] The French forces were supported by a local insurrection of Maltese, many of whom wished to get rid of the Knights.[5] The rules of the Order prohibited fighting against fellow Christians and many of the French members of the Order did not want to fight against the French forces. Hompesch capitulated on 11 June. The following day a treaty was signed by which the Order handed over sovereignty of the island of Malta to the government of the French Directory. In return, the French Republic agreed to "employ all its credit at the Congress of Rastatt to procure a principality for the Grand Master, equivalent to the one he gives up".[6] Hompesch was also promised an annual pension.

Final years

On 18 June 1798 Hompesch left Malta for Trieste,[7] where he established a new headquarters for the Order. On 12 October he addressed a letter to foreign governments in which he protested against the taking of Malta by the French.[8] He published a second manifesto from Trieste on 23 October.[9] On 6 July 1799 he sent two letters, one to the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, the other to Emperor Paul I of Russia, in which he abdicated as Grand Master.[10] He sent no letter of abdication to the pope as required by canon law, nor did the pope accept his abdication. He soon settled in Ljubljana. On 7 May 1801 and again on 20 September 1801 Hompesch declared that his 1799 letters of abdication had been written for him by the government of the Holy Roman Emperor, that he had been forced to sign them, and that therefore his abdication was invalid.[11] In 1804, he moved to Montpellier in France, where he died penniless one year later of asthma.[12] He is buried in the Church of Saint Eulalie in that city.[13]


  1. ^ a b Whitworth Porter, A History of the Knights of Malta (London: Longman, Brown, Green, 1858), v.2, 438.
  2. ^ Galea, Michael (24 July 2011). "A hamlet called Hompesch". Times of Malta. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  3. ^ Porter, 443-444.
  4. ^ Porter, 445.
  5. ^ Porter, 447.
  6. ^ Porter, 451.
  7. ^ Porter, 457.
  8. ^ Pierredon, I, 171.
  9. ^ Pierredon, I, 238.
  10. ^ The full text of each letter is re-printed in Pierredon, I, 240-241.
  11. ^ Pierredon, I, 242.
  12. ^ Porter, 460.
  13. ^ "200° anniversary of the death of Grand Master von Hompesch". Order of Malta. 10 May 2005. Archived from the original on 20 October 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2014.

Further reading

  • Galea, Michael. Ferdinand von Hompesch, a German Grandmaster in Malta: A Monograph. Malta: Deutsche Gemeinde, 1976. There is an expanded version in German by Joseph A. Ebe, entitled Ferdinand Freiherr von Hompesch, 1744-1805: letzter Grossmeister des Johanniterordens/Malteserordens auf Malta (Paderborn: Melitensia, 1985, ISBN 3-9801071-1-6).
  • Hompesch and Malta: A New Evaluation, edited by Maurice Eminyan. San Gwann, Malta: Enterprises Group, 1999. ISBN 99909-0-237-2.
  • Ferdinand von Hompesch, der letzte Grossmeister auf Malta: Ausstellung im Maltesermuseum Mailberg. Mailberg: Arbeitsgemeinschaft Maltesermuseum Mailberg, 1985.
  • Pierredon, Michel de. Histoire politique de l'Ordre souverain de Saint-Jean de Jérusalem (Ordre de Malte) de 1789 a 1955. 2eme ed. Paris: Scaldis, 1956-1963.

External links

Preceded by
Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc
Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller
Succeeded by
Paul I of Russia
de facto

1805 (MDCCCV)

was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar, the 1805th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 805th year of the 2nd millennium, the 5th year of the 19th century, and the 6th year of the 1800s decade. As of the start of 1805, the Gregorian calendar was

12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923. After thirteen years the First French Empire abolished the French Republican Calendar in favour of the Gregorian calendar.

Armoury (Siġġiewi)

The Armoury (Maltese: L-Armerija), also known as the Old Fortified House (Maltese: Id-Dar il-Fortifikata l-Antika), is a historic building in Siġġiewi, Malta, which was originally used as the residence of captain of the village, and it also served as an arsenal where the weapons of the local militia were stored. The last Grand Master of Malta was hosted in the building by the captain during the feast of the village.

After the departure of the Order the building was adaptively reused according to the exigencies of the village or governor but lost its original purpose. It was used as a temporal school in the village, being among the first public education buildings, before being vacated. Located at 127 Triq il-Kbira (formerly Royal Street), it is a historic landmark, a Grade II scheduled building and a listed monument.

De Rohan Arch

The De Rohan Arch (Maltese: Il-Bieb De Rohan), also known as the New Gateway (Maltese: Il-Bieb il-Ġdid), is a commemorative archway in Żebbuġ, Malta. It was built in 1798 to commemorate the locality's status as a city, which had been granted by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc on 21 June 1777.

Didier de Saint-Jaille

Fra' Didier de Saint-Jaille (died 26 September 1536) was the 46th Grand Master of the Order of Saint John between 1535 and 1536.

De Saint-Jaille was a French nobleman who joined the Knights Hospitaller as part of the Langue of France. He was particularly known for his great prudence, and was elected as Grandmaster following Piero de Ponte's death. At the time he was in France, and so made preparations to go to Malta. However, he fell ill at Montpellier and died before he made it to the island on 26 September 1536.

He was the only Grand Master of Malta who did not die and was not buried in Malta, apart from Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim, who left the islands with the Order's expulsion in 1798. Coincidentally, both Didier de Saint-Jaille and Hompesch are buried in Montpellier.

While he was away from Malta, the knight Jacques Pelliquen acted as Lieutenant Grandmaster, and during his rule Maltese and Calabrian soldiers destroyed El Haid Tower which was close to Tripoli (then a possession of the Order).

French invasion of Malta

The French invasion of Malta (Maltese: Invażjoni Franċiża ta' Malta) was the successful invasion of the islands of Malta and Gozo, then ruled by the Order of St. John, by the French First Republic led by Napoleon in June 1798 as part of the Mediterranean campaign of the French Revolutionary Wars.

The initial landings were met with some resistance from both the Order and the Maltese militia, but in less than a day the French had taken control of the entire Maltese archipelago except for the well-fortified harbour area that included the capital Valletta. The Order had the means to withstand a siege, but a series of circumstances including discontent among its own French members as well as the native Maltese population led to a truce which ended with the capitulation of the Order.

The invasion therefore ended the 268-year-long Hospitaller rule in Malta, and it resulted in the French occupation of Malta. A few months after the invasion, discontent due to reforms that were taking place led to an uprising, which evolved into a blockade of the French garrison by Maltese insurgents aided by the British, Neapolitans and Portuguese. The blockade lasted for two years, and ended with the French surrendering to the British in 1800, making Malta a protectorate and initiating 164 years of British rule.

Giovanni Battista Tommasi

Frà Giovanni Battista Tommasi (Cortona, 6 October 1731 – Catania, 13 June 1805) was an Italian nobleman and 73rd Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta.

Hompesch Gate

The Hompesch Gate (Maltese: Il-Mina ta' Hompesch) is a commemorative archway in Żabbar, Malta. It was built in 1801 to commemorate the locality's status as a city, which had been granted by Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim on 14 September 1797.

Hompesch Hunting Lodge

Hompesch Hunting Lodge, also known as Id-Dar tal-Kaċċa (English: The Hunting Lodge), is an 18th-century hunting lodge in Naxxar, Malta. It is a traditional Maltese historic building with a vernacular architecture. The hunting lodge was built intentionally to be used as a hunting lodge for the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, namely Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim. Today the building is in a dilapidated state.

List of state leaders in 1798

This is a list of heads of state, heads of governments, and other rulers in the year 1798.

National Museum of Montenegro

The National Museum of Montenegro (Narodni muzej Crne Gore), is located in Cetinje, a historic capital of Montenegro. It was established in 1896.

The museum is divided into five departments:

Historical Museum of Montenegro

Ethnographic Museum of Montenegro

Artistic Museum of Montenegro

King Nikola's Palace

Biljarda (Museum of Petar II Petrovic Njegos)The museum possesses the Oktoih Prvoglasnik, a significant printed work from the late 15th century. It also host the original icon of Our Lady of Philermos, which had been in the possession of the Order of St. John since the Crusades. The icon was removed from the St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta by Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim when the Order was expelled from Malta by the French in 1798.

Our Lady of Philermos

Our Lady of Philermos (also Phileremos, Philerme, Filerimos; Greek: Εικόνα της Υπεραγίας Θεοτόκου της Φιλερήμου, Russian: Филермская икона Божией Матери) is a Byzantine icon of the Theotokos, dated to the 11th or 12th century. Originally kept at Phileremos Monastery in Rhodes, the icon was long venerated as the patroness of the Knights Hospitaller, and kept at Rhodes and Malta. It is now kept in the Museum of Art and History at Cetinje, Montenegro.

The icon is tempera on wood, 44 by 36 cm. It depicts just the head of the Virgin Mary. Her face is seen in three-quarters profile, slightly inclined towards her left shoulder. The face is oval with a long nose in the Byzantine style.

The icon was kept at Phileremos Monastery, Rhodes, presumably since the 12th century. It was captured by the Knights Hospitaller in their conquest of Rhodes in 1306/1310. Her fame is due to miracles attributed to her intercession, primarily in the Siege of Rhodes (1480). After the loss of Rhodes in 1522, the icon was rescued, and attached to the mainmast of the Santa Maria, a carrack captured from the Sultan of Egypt in 1507, during the Order's years of exile.

When the Order was given possession of Malta in 1530, the icon was held at the Church of St. Lawrence in their headquarters of Birgu. When the Order moved its base to the newly-built capital city of Valletta in the 1570s, the icon was housed at a purpose-built side chapel at Saint John's Co-Cathedral. The icon remained in Valletta until the French invasion of Malta in 1798 which expelled the Order from the Maltese Islands. The French allowed the Order to take some relics with them, but without their precious reliquaries. The icon together with a fragment of the True Cross and of the hand of John the Baptist were passed by admiral Giulio Renato Litta to Paul I of Russia, who succeeded Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim as Grand Master. Paul placed them in the Priory Palace at Gatchina, near St. Petersburg.

In Russia, the icon was again covered in a riza of gold and precious stones. The riza includes a horseshoe-shaped diadem with rubies and diamonds, two necklaces of saphire and diamond, and a halo in the form of the Maltese cross, the eight points shown as protruding from behind the head of the Virgin. Tsar Nicholas I ordered a copy to be made, to be carried in processions due to the fragile state of the original. This copy is now kept in the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in Assisi.

The relics survived the October Revolution, and were brought out of Soviet Russia by Maria Feodorovna in 1920. Her daughters gave it to Archbishop Anthony, president of the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in exile. They were transferred to Belgrade in 1932 and placed under the protection of Alexander I of Yugoslavia, kept in the chapel of St Andrew in the royal palace at Dedinje until 1941. Their further fate is uncertain. It appears that under the threat of Nazi invasion, they were moved to Ostrog Monastery in Montenegro.

In 1951, a detachment of Yugoslav special forces captured the relics, and they were secretly placed in the vault of the museum at Cetinje. Their presence there was publicly revealed only in 1993, on the occasion of the visit of Russian patriarch Alexis II of Moscow.

Palazzo Correa

Palazzo Correa, also known as Casa Correa, Correa de Sousa Palace or Palazzo Hompesch, was a 17th-century palace in Valletta, Malta, located in Old Bakery Street. It was built on the designs to architect Carlo Gimach in the Mannerist style, the very first in Valletta and very unusual to the period.It was built in 1689 by Fra Antonio Correa de Sousa, the Balì of Leça, as a residence. It was sold to the Manoel Foundation in 1732, and it was let to Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim from 1787 to 1798. The palace hosted the French minister in Malta, General Vial, during the Peace of Amiens between 1802 and 1803.The palace was the residence of John Hookham Frere and his wife Elizabeth Jemima, dowager Countess of Erroll from 1821. The couple had several guests including the niece of Elizabeth, Ms Blake in 1825, followed by Honoria Hamilton Chichester. At this palace the Frere couple had looked after an orphaned girl, named Statyra Livedestro, who Frere had rescued from the sea of Turkey; this happened when the Christian Greeks were expelled from Turkey by orders of Mustafa Ataturk, that before the event was Greek land, during the exchange of Turkish-Greek population in the early 19th-century.In the late 19th century, the palace became the main residence of Marquis Emmanuele Scicluna, the President of La Borsa.

The building was destroyed when it was hit by aerial bombardment in 1942 during World War II. Its site has been rebuilt as St Albert the Great College.The palace's façade has some resemblance to the façade of the Manoel Theatre.

Pierre Jean Louis Ovide Doublet

Pierre Jean Louis Ovide Doublet (25 August 1749 - 4 February 1824) was a French politician and writer who spent much of his life serving in the Knights of Malta. Following his enlistment as a soldier, he entered the service of the French Secretariat of the Knights and was eventually promoted to the leadership of the Secretariat.

Doublet participated in the negotiations for the surrender of the Knights when Malta was captured by Napoleon in 1798. Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim had failed to bolster Valletta's defenses against the French fleet and had peacefully admitted some French ships to the harbor, leading to the island's capture. Doublet, being in the Grand Master's direct service, was accused as a collaborator with the French and became caught in the political maneuvering by other members to depose Hompesch.

Doublet stayed in Malta during the French occupation, serving as Secretary General to the Commission of Government installed by Napoleon and later becoming Commissioner of Malta. He was exiled to France when the island became a British Dominion in 1800 and wrote a book about his experiences in Malta. Doublet remained in exile for most of his life, though he was allowed to make a permanent return soon before his death.

War of the Second Coalition

The War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802) was the second war on revolutionary France by the European monarchies, led by Britain, Austria and Russia, and including the Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Naples, various German monarchies and Sweden. Their goal was to contain the expansion of the French Republic and to restore the monarchy in France. They failed to overthrow the revolutionary regime and French territorial gains since 1793 were confirmed. In the Treaty of Lunéville in 1801, France held all of its previous gains and obtained new lands in Tuscany, Italy, while Austria was granted Venetia and the Dalmatian coast. Britain and France signed the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802, bringing an interval of peace in Europe that lasted for 14 months. By May 1803 Britain and France were again at war and in 1805 Britain assembled the Third Coalition to resume the war against France.


Zülpich is a town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany between Aachen and Bonn. It belongs to the district of Euskirchen.

The town is commonly agreed to be the site with the Latin name of Tolbiacum, famous for the Battle of Tolbiac, fought between the Franks under Clovis I and the Alemanni; the traditional date is 496, corrected in many modern accounts to 506. The battle is commemorated in the names of the Rue de Tolbiac and the Tolbiac Métro station in Paris.


Żabbar (Maltese: Ħaż-Żabbar, [ħɐzˈzɐbbɐr]), also known as Città Hompesch, is a city in the South Eastern Region of Malta. It is the sixth largest city in the country, with a population of 15,404 as of March 2014. Originally a part of Żejtun, Żabbar was granted the title of Città Hompesch by the last of the Grand Masters of the Order of St. John to reign in Malta, Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim.

Żabbar Sanctuary Museum

The Żabbar Sanctuary Museum (Maltese: Mużew tas-Santwarju Żabbar) is the Parish museum of Żabbar, Malta, consisting of artifacts spanning from pre-history to modern contemporary. The majority of the belongings have a religious theme, while others are secular. It is a purposely built museum which during its planning met controversy over the exterior structure in a historic core, next to the parish church.

Built in the middle of the 20th century, it was renovated in 2003, and now has three floors of exhibits. It is run by a committee and a group of volunteers and headed by the Archipriest of Żabbar. The museum is open for three hours daily, from nine in the morning till noon, with a fee of two euro per person. Entrance fees and donations go for the upkeep of the museum and the preservation of the collection.


Żejtun (Maltese: Iż-Żejtun [ɪzˈzɛjtʊn]) is a city in the South Eastern Region of Malta, with a population of 11,218 at end 2016. Żejtun holds the title of Città Beland, which was conferred by the grandmaster of the Order of the Knights of Malta, Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim in 1797. Before that, the village was known as Casale Santa Caterina, named after its patron saint and parish titular.

The old urban cores, called Bisqallin and Ħal Bisbut, largely retain their narrow medieval streets and ancient boundaries. Since at least the 19th century, the name Żejtun, or Casale Zeitoun, has referred to the settlement which developed around these two core villages. Together with a number of small hamlets in the vicinity, the bulk of the conurbation forms the city of Żejtun, administered by the mayor and the Żejtun Local Council. Over successive centuries, Żejtun lost a number of villages and hamlets that used to form part of its territory, which originally covered most of the south eastern part of Malta. The city experienced extensive urbanisation over the seventies and eighties, with the completion of numerous infrastructural and urban projects designed to relieve housing pressure in the neighbouring Cottonera area.

Żejtun is a major centre on the islands, with a significant contribution to the islands' history, arts and commerce. One of the country's principal industrial estates, Bulebel, can be found on the city's borders. Żejtun contains a number of important heritage sites, such as St Catherine's Parish Church, St Catherine's Old Church - known as St Gregory's, numerous votive chapels, and the remains of a Roman villa. The parish of Żejtun is one of the oldest on the islands and already existed in 1436. The original parish church was built in the twelfth century, and rebuilt in 1492. The current mayor is Doris Abela. The archpriest is Fr Nicholas Pace.

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