Villiers de l’Isle Adam – From Rhodes To Malta

Villiers de l'Isle Adam

An important figure for the history of Rhodes was a man called Philippe Villiers de l’Isle Adam. Born in the year 1464, he became the 44th Grand Master of The Knights of Saint John In Rhodes in the year 1521.

He would be the last Grand Master on the island, later becoming the first Grand Master in Malta on the 26th October 1530.

The 1522 Siege Of Rhodes

As did Pierre d’Aubusson in the 1480 Siege Of Rhodes, Philippe Villiers de l’Isle Adam also had to face the strength of The Ottoman Empire in the 1522 Siege Of Rhodes.

This time, Rhodes was up against the fury of The Sultan Suleiman and his army.

Villiers de l’Isle Adam, being Commander of the Knights during this 1522 Siege, was confronted with over a 100,000 Ottoman Soldiers. They arrived in force and the siege lasted for 6 months.

Against 100,000 men, it was always going to be a difficult task. He had only 600 of his Knights and 4500 soldiers. It was simply not enough to resist Suleiman and his forces. Being unable to repel the opposition after a long battle, he and his order were forced to surrender. They were offered a path out, and they left the island of Rhodes for Crete, on New Year’s Day in 1523.

Post Battle

Philippe Villiers de l'Isle Adam

Philippe Villiers de l’Isle Adam- Courtesy of Vortbot (Wikimedia Commons)

After the siege had come to a close, Villiers de l’Isle Adam and his Knights Order went on to relocate in different places over the next years.

First, they landed in Messina (Sicily, Italy), then onto Viterbo (Lazio) and to Nice in France.

It was not until the 26th October 1530 that they landed in Malta with their ship. This ship was called the Santa Anna and was obtained from Nice in France. This vessel was constructed in the 16th century and was considered somewhat state of the art during that time. Malta had been granted to The Knights Order by Roman Emporor Charles V.

From here, The Order set up base and they reestablished themselves as The Maltese Knights, for which they are still known today.

Villiers de l’Isle Adam And His Knights In Malta

The Knights settled in an area called Birgu (also known as Citta Vittoriosa) in the South East of Malta.

This city was also equipped with the fortress, which goes by the name Fort Saint Angelo. The Knights used this as settlement when they arrived and slowly they built their accommodation for the different Langues. They constructed their empire once more. They had their protective fortress, their palace, their accommodation, their hospital and their overall foundations in place again!

At first, The Knights were not too happy with Malta. They saw it as a desolate land. After saying that, the location of Malta was considered a very strategic location. Situated in the middle of The Mediterranean, it served as a great advantage point between the east and the west. They soon went on to transform Malta into a powerful operation.

The Grand Masters Later Years

Despite all this, Villiers de l’Isle Adam and many of his knights dreamed of recapturing the island of Rhodes again in the future. They longed to have their home back!

This was never to be though, and Villiers de l’Isle Adam passed away on the 21st August 1534 and he was buried inside the grounds of Fort Saint Angelo.

Long after his death, in the year 1565, The Ottoman Empire struck again. This time they wanted to capture Malta. The Knights were able to repel these attacks and this went on to be known as ‘The Great Siege Of Malta’.

After only a few days, The Ottoman Empire retreated. It was after The Great Siege that The Knights order decided to make Malta their permanent residence.

The Knights Of Malta

The Knights Of Malta


As you can see, The Knights were really up against it centuries ago.

Grand Masters such as Villiers de l’Isle Adam and their Knights really needed to have courage, strength and resistance.

Although defeat was suffered in Rhodes, they went on to reform in Malta. This was no easy task in those days.

After the death of The Grand Master, his fierce enemy Suleiman The Magnificent is said to have ordered a memorial for him. This took place in all Mosques across The Ottoman Empire.

Personally I love to read about the history of people that have made a difference. What are your thoughts? I would love to hear what you have to say.

Just leave me a comment below and I will get back to you.


Click From Below To Learn More About Some Important Historical Figures In Rhodes



Chris Towers
Hi there, I am Chris and I live on The Island Of Rhodes In Greece. I am more than happy to assist you in anyway possible if you are looking for information or help on this amazing Greek Island.

Feel free to leave me a message if you have any questions or need advice!

Hey, maybe you have visited this beautiful place yourself and you have something you want to share?

I look forward to hearing from all of you.

8 comments on “Villiers de l’Isle Adam – From Rhodes To Malta

  1. Matt's Mom

    A couple questions come to mind. I am curious exactly what a grand master is? What exactly was Villiers de L’isle Adams role with Rhodes. My second questions, maybe unrelated to this post, but where is Malta, compared to Rhodes? Are they both very near each other? I believe Malta is part of Italy right? I know these questions are off the post subject, just got me to thinking 🙂

    • Chris Towers Post author

      Great questions Leahrae and I am happy to answer them

      A Grand Master of The Knights order is considered the Supreme. He is the responsible person and has full control of The Order but at the same time, when required, he is expected to act in the same way as The Knights. ie In Battle. In layman terms, he is the boss! 🙂

      So Villiers de L’isle Adams during conflict with The Ottoman Empire was in overall charge of the Order, but he was expected to fight along side his Knights too.

      As for Malta, it is a small island that lies to the south of Sicily (Italy). From Rhodes, it is over 2,500km away to the west. Until 1964, Malta was part of the United Kingdom, where after was given Independence. 

      I hope this clears it up for you.

      Thanks Leahrae!


  2. Christopher

    Hi Chris:

    This is a fascinating historical account that I bet very few people know about.

    What type of ruler was Philippe Villiers de l’Isle Adam? Was his a democratic type of society? Was he more authoritarian?

    When Suleiman and his forces invaded with such an overwhelming army did surrender come quickly or was it drawn out with many casualties?

    What influences has he left on the Rhodes of today?

    Thank you!

    • Chris Towers Post author

      Hi there and thanks for reading and for your questions.

      Well, Villiers de l’Isle Adam was the Grand Master Of The Knights. This is a Catholic Military Order as opposed to government, so for sure he was a strong and commanding leader. These are the days where leaders needed to be courageous and stand strong with their soldiers.

      Like I said in the information above, the siege was over a 6 month period. The Ottoman Empire arrived with 100,000 men, and yes, there were casualties on both sides.

      When it comes to seeing Rhodes as it is today, you can see a massive influence from The Knights stay here. Although a lot of structures have been redeveloped by the Italian Forces during their stay in the early 1900’s, The Knights work is clearly visible to appreciate.

      I hope this answers your questions Christopher.



  3. Michael Howell

    I did not know that Malta was such a strategic location for self-defense. The ultimate thing that makes any place feel like home is a feeling of safety!

    I believe protecting the West from the Ottoman Empire was foundational in laying the grounds for the modern world as we know it.

    • Chris Towers Post author

      Yes of course Michael. Security and protection was very important in them days.

      Although The Knights did not settle initially, they did come to see the advantage points of staying in Malta. They are still there to this day.

      Thanks my friend.


  4. Riaz Shah

    100,000 men on a small land, impressive! I would love to read in detail how the battle went, reading war strategies fascinate me! Especially the etiquette part on how each side react despite the tension.

    As always, I really love reading your history lessons Chris, or maybe because there’s a calling for me in rhodes, oh mon dieu.

    • Chris Towers Post author

      Thanks my friend, I hope you are doing fine!

      Yes it must have been an impressive battle as you  say, and for The Knights to withstand such an onslought by so many men must have been an arduous task. Fascinating though for sure, and it is interesting that after all this conflict, a solution was found with dialogue. 

      Happy you like the site Riaz, and Rhodes is waiting for you 🙂



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