The 27th elected Grand Master Of The Order Of The Knights Of Saint John was a man named Dieudonne 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 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.
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 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’.
Dieudonne 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.
Unlike Villiers l’isle Adam and Pierre d’Aubusson, they are remembered for battle, courage and honor. This is not the case for De Gozon. What do you think?
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.
A French uncle of mine, a regional specialist of medieval regional France (Quercy), said the skull of a reptile would have been kept on top of the wall of the city of Rhodes to be later removed during the XXth century. If true, people of Rhodes and historical associations and museums might be able to confirm or infirm.
Absolutely Olivier, and believe me I have asked around before compiling the information here. I also wrote a piece on The Rhodes Dragon if you want to take a look.
Unfortunately, it is hard to pin down any accurate and/or concrete details and a lot of it now has become myth and personal opinion.
Thanks for reading! Nice to hear from you.
Nice write up. Loved your deep analysis of the whole thing. Very brilliant.
I felt so bad for De Gozon too. To have died thinking he would be remembered for being a grand master only to be termed a near liar. Somehow the story makes me remember a documentary i listened to on journalists releasing an hidden truth on thefts carried out by Shakespeare!
Now he got his precious name smeared.
Like Alfred Nobel, I want to from now change my testimony so that when I die people will have really good stuff to say about me. Just imagine, he turned from the “the guy that made the first bomb that killed people” to the guy that “gave Nobel prizes to great people”!
What a significant difference!
Thanks again for the insightful article. Very well composed!
Keep it up. Your site is well organized too. Awesomeness all over!
Thanks so much Jey.
Yeah, people want to be remembered for sure after they are no longer here. It is how they are remembered that does not always go with the plan though, like your examples which you offered.
I am happy you enjoyed your visit to my site. Thanks a lot for reading.
so, for you? Dragon Slayer or Knight?
Interesting article and site you have here! I have recently being paying attention a lot more to history, especially ancient history and there are so many little pockets of information that are turning up all the time these days with the help of modern technology to be able to verify archaeological finds, for example.
I have also noticed that a lot of so called myths according to the documentaries I have been watching may actually have more factual truth to them than most people realize. I think there has been a lot of suppression over the years (like thousands of years) and now today in our digital era it is even easier to erase whole sections of what may have happened in our past.
News becomes questionable all the time and so how can we really know whether something is fact or fiction these days? Whatever the case, it is sure fun thinking about it and I would much rather be remembered for a dragon slayer than a knight!
Very true Liz. These days with the use of modern technology it is easier to cover up the truth, and/or to let people see what you want them to see.
I suppose we have to use our own judgement the best we can.
Thanks for your vote too on the Knight or Dragon Slayer question. These results here are quite mixed 🙂
For such a small island it sure has a rich history. Thank you for sharing.
I remember when I was in grade six I did a project on Greece. I don’t really remember what epoch or theme we worked on, though I did have a fascinating interest in the life of Alexander the Great. I do remember writing all our main information on black construction paper with a white pencil crayon using “ancient Greek” letters. After all the hard work and preparation, I was unable to attend the open house our class put on because I came down with croup. I missed all the fun and all the food each group had prepared to match the people they had studied.
In your post, you touch an interesting aspect of history. How much is factual and how much is fables? You do a very good job presenting the information in an entertaining way and let your reader consider the options on this historical figure. My girls are fascinated by stories of dragons and have read a number of book series whose main theme is dragons. I guess I would be their hero if I was know as a “dragon slayer”… or maybe I would be known as the villain? (they really like dragons) Might be better if I stick with the gallant knight.
Thanks so much for your interest my friend. I really appreciate it.
Rhodes has a massive history, more than most people might think. On the surface it seems just like a small quiet island in the Dodecanese, where in reality it is a very important island and it has seen its fair share of battles in the past.
As for the Dragon or Knight debate, I am with you I think. I would go with the title of a Knight 🙂
Wow, you have done a great job to tell us an interesting story about Dragons. I wonder if dragons existed or it is myth. I saw dragon in the movie called Marlin where the dragon was behaving like a human. Is it true that Dragon breath out fire? Is it possible that Dragons can see the future? oh my i have many questions about dragons.
Hi there Julienne.
Although I am not talking about Dragons in general here, and I am referring to Dieudonne de Gozon as the Dragon Slayor, I still appreciate your interest.
I will confess, I am far from an expert on Dragons, but I found one link here which you may find of interest and it also might answer some of your questions.
I hope you find it helpful. Here is the link :- Dragons
I definitely get what you’re saying about not wanting to be remembered as something that may or may not have happened. But I don’t know. Being known as a dragon slayer just sounds so cool! I think I WOULD want to be remembered that way. Then again, his job as Grand Master of The Order of Knights probably *was* more important.
Which way would you like to be remembered in history? Don’t you think there’s something really fun and mysterious about being known as a dragon slayer?
Hey Christina, yes I admit that to be known as a Dragon Slayer would be very *cool*, but my feelings are torn.
When doing my historical researches for this website, I have read about some of the very courageous Grand Masters and their Knights. They were something very special in my eyes. Personally, I think it would be an honor to serve them.
Although Dieudonne de Gozon had the honor of experiencing both titles, personally I would have gone for being a member of The Knights. Being remembered for making a heroic stance would be far more important to me I think.
Hello Chris, thanks for your article. When it comes to either choice, I would like to be remembered as the man who slain the dragon, which probably isn’t true, or one of the most paramount knights of all time, which probably is true, I would have to be a knight.
Hopefully one day I will be remembered for doing something great, not quite sure what that is yet, but whatever it is, let it be true.
Thanks Micah, so.. which one finally? 🙂
We are all put on this planet for a purpose my friend. Whatever is your destiny, you will find it.
Thanks for getting in touch!
I am really enjoying reading all the history of the Island of Rhodes on this blog of yours. This seems pretty well documented to thanks to Frederick Hasluck.
I think maybe the term dragon slayer was just given to brave knights who won a lot of battles against stronger men, although I am no historian and could be wrong. Maybe it was a term used, as is The Grand Master.
All I can say is I am glad I didn’t live in those days with all the wars that seemed to be raging. Although if you look around nowadays, there are probably just as many small scale wars going on.
Yes Michel, even today there are wars happening, whether you chose to watch.get involved or not.
In those days, war was war. There was little in the way of protection and rights, and battle was battle. It must have been very tough.
To be knowledge, I am informed that Dieudonne de Gozon was given the name Dragon Slayer because of the said actions that took place. It is not just a name offered to people who fought in battle.
Quite a name to be remembered by though eh? 🙂
I don’t know how many people would chose the same choice as me, but I would rather be known as the Dragon Slayer. Not only because I am such a fan of fantasy, fables and myths, but also because I think that it is unique. During that time, there must have been so many people who went to war and who were courageous in battle, either protecting their king, their captains, their family…
So even if I were courageous in battle, my name would have been lost among the many others who gave up their lives so courageously.
That being said, I would much rather be a Dragon Slayer because it would set me apart from the rest, even if it turns out to be just a myth. 🙂
Thank you for your choice Reyhana, and you have a good reason too.
Lots of lives are lost in battle yes, and back in those days there are names that are not remembered today. It is a shame, as all of them showed courage and honor.
Like you say, fable/myth or not, Dieudonne de Gozon’s name has been recorded in history.
Another interesting historical story. I certainly prefer to live in a world with dragons and dragon slayers full of adventures yet unfortunately dragons live in Game Of Thrones and the only way to get there is to watch HBO. LOL.
I think from the historical point of view, lives of people like Villiers I’isle Adam have more lessons and deserve more attention but mankind is always interested in fiction and legends. When reading history, it is always important to be able to differentiate the reality from the fiction as much as possible.
Thank you very much Albert.
Thankfully, The Game Of Thrones is fictional, although it can appear very lifelike. I am not sure how I would rect in front of a Dragon. Probably not in a positive manner 🙂
Thanks for reading and for your comment. I appreciate it!
Hey there! This was a very interesting read about dragon slayers. I think I’d rather be remembered as a dragon slayer even if it was a myth because like you said, the title of ‘Grand Master of The Order of the Knights’ wasn’t really that unique or spectacular. I would rather choose the unique title but that’s just me.
Although the title “Dragon Slayer” is impressive, maybe the fable/myth behind it all is not.
Although you may also think the title ‘Grand Master of The Knights’ is not as strong, the duties of the Grand Master are indeed very courageous.
Personally I would go for The Grand Master 🙂
We get to choose what we prefer though, while Diedonne De Gozon had the honor of carrying both titles!
Nice to hear from you.
Wow, that’s not long ago at all. There could have been dragons living just a few hundred years ago, and I never new that? I knew I was born in the wrong century! Ha-ha.
Do the tales talk of how long the dragon was? Or how tall? Also, do you know if it breathed fire and/or flew?
Hello Cyrus and thanks for reading.
Unfortunately a lot of the fuller details are somewhat vague when it comes to the dragon of Rhodes. Dimensions and such are not something I can provide to be honest.
Of course my research is always continuing, so if something comes my with information to this, I will be sure to update you.