Dieudonné De Gozon, named as the 27th elected Grand Master Of The Order Of The Knights Of Saint John, led the order with distinction. 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’.
Of course, this title translates to ‘The Dragon Slayer,’ referring to the man said to have killed The Dragon of Rhodes.
Dieudonné de Gozon – Dragon Slayer Or Not?
Naturally, as people spoke of dragons, they told many stories, some of which turned into myths. Over time, these tales lost their truth, leaving us with fables.
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.
In his writings, he mentions the inscription ‘Draconis Extinctor – Dragon Slayer’ on De Gozon’s tomb. However, questions arise about this, as Bosio’s tenure in Malta began after the 1522 Siege of Rhodes.
It is likely he was never in Rhodes at all to see the tomb for himself.
In 1877, authorities transported the tomb of Dieudonne De Gozon from Rhodes to France. Despite its simplicity, it bears markings that indicate 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.
Religious processions often featured a model of a dragon, symbolizing the spirit of evil. As the festivals concluded, the act of slaying the dragon became a central part of the ceremony.
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?
True or not, Dieudonne De Gozon firmly holds his place in history and will always be known as ‘The Dragon Slayer’.
Dieudonné De Gozon As Grand Master
His tenure as Grand Master of The Order Of The Knights was actually quite ordinary and unexciting.
After all, being known as the dragon slayer sets a high bar for excitement, doesn’t it?
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.
I believe it’s a shame to remember someone in history for something that may not be true. In my opinion, his efforts to become a well-remembered Grand Master are somewhat overshadowed by what could be a fable.
Do you want to be remembered as a dragon slayer, or as a Knight who demonstrated gallantry and bravery in battle?
Leave your comments below and I will get back to you.