The 27th elected Grand Master Of The Order Of The Knights Of Saint John was a man named Dieudonné De Gozon. He was the successor to Helion De Villeneuve and held the position of Grand Master from 1346 until his death in 1353.
He was born in the South of France in the district known today as Occitanie (capital Toulouse). During his lifetime, this area was known as Languedoc.
If you have read through the section on The Rhodes Dragon here on this website, you will know the name Dieudonné De Gozon, and it would be no surprise to you that he was given the nickname ‘Extinctor Draconis’. This of course translates to ‘The Dragon Slayer’, as he is the man that is said to have killed The Dragon Of Rhodes.
Dieudonné de Gozon: Dragon Slayer Or Not?
Naturally, with the talk of dragons, many stories were told and some of them became myth. Over time, truth is lost and what we are left with is fables. Or are we?
Well it is with regret, that the tale of slaying the Dragon Of Rhodes is probably not true.
Frederick William Hasluck (1878 – 1920) was an English Historian and Archaeologist. He documented in his writings in 1913 that the story of the dragon was not common knowledge on the island of Rhodes before 1520-1521. This was over a century (and more) after the death of Dieudonne De Gozon.
Giacomo Bosio (1544-1627) was another important figure and was actually a member of The Knights Order along with other members of his family. He wrote a historical journal about The Oder Of The Knights Of Saint John. Within his writings he refers to the words ‘Draconis Extinctor – Dragon Slayer’ being engraved on De Gozon’s tomb. There have been questions asked of this however, as Bosio’s time in office would have been in Malta after the Siege of Rhodes in 1522. It is likely he was never in Rhodes at all to see the tomb for himself.
The tomb of Dieudonne De Gozon was taken from Rhodes in 1877 to France. Although it is said to be a very simplistic piece, it does have markings indicating the legend of the dragon.
A More Likely Theory
Within further writings from Historian and Archaeologist Frederick William Hasluck, he documents that back in history, France, Holland and Spain all took part in so called Medieval Festivals.
These were often religious, and as part of the procession, a model of a dragon was used. This was the case, as a dragon was seen to be the spirit of evil. As part of the conclusion to these festivals, and as part of the act, the dragon was slain.
With this in mind, when Dieudonné De Gozon asked for leave of his duties from Rhodes to be with his Father in France to make plans to defeat the beast, there is every chance he was witness to one of these festivals (or may have actually taken part in one himself).
It is likely that this is closer to the truth, and once Dieudonne De Gozon returned to Rhodes, the story returned with him. This then over time became related to a real dragon killing.
It is more feasible to say that it was a large crocodile that met its fate against De Gozon, or indeed the whole story could be merely a tale.
There again, this all happened hundreds of years ago, so maybe he really did kill a dragon? Who is to know?
Either way, true or not, Dieudonne De Gozon holds his place in history and will always be known as ‘The Dragon Slayer’.
Dieudonné De Gozon As Grand Master
His position as Grand Master of The Order Of The Knights was actually considered to be very ordinary and unexciting.
Being known as the dragon slayer, I mean what comes close to that right?
With the exception of this tale, he did redeem himself when he marched with his Knights in 1347/1348 to offer assistance to The King Of Armenia. This was to stand by King Constantine V during the Mamluk period and the threat from the Sultan of Egypt An-Nasir Hasan.
For me, I think it is a shame for someone to be remembered in history for something that may or may not have been true. His efforts to become a well remembered Grand Master in my opinion are somewhat overshadowed by what could be a fable.
Would you like to be remembered as a dragon slayer or a Knight with gallantry and bravery that went into to battle?
I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and opinions as, just leave them in the comments below and I will get back to you.