Villiers de l’Isle Adam – The Battles Of A Two Islands Hero

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, 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.

During the 1522 Siege, Villiers de l’Isle Adam, as Commander of the Knights, confronted Over 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. After a long battle, unable to repel the opposition, Villiers de l’Isle Adam and his order surrendered and accepted an offer to leave Rhodes for Crete on New Year’s Day, 1523.

Post Battle

Philippe Villiers de l'Isle Adam
Philippe Villiers de l’Isle Adam
KNOW MALTA by Peter Grima, CC BY-SA 2.0, via 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. The Knights Order obtained the ship called The Santa Anna from Nice, France, constructed in the 16th century as a state-of-the-art vessel.

From here, the order established their base and renamed themselves as The Maltese Knights, a name they still hold 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.

The city also featured the fortress known as 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.

Villiers de l’Isle Adam In His 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 Siege Of Malta - Villiers de l'Isle Adam
The Siege Of Malta

The City Also Featured The Fortress Known As Fort Saint Angelo. – Overall

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.

What are your thoughts on Villiers de l’Isle Adam and his actions?

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

28 thoughts on “Villiers de l’Isle Adam – The Battles Of A Two Islands Hero”

  1. Thanks for that interesting history lesson. Can’t help but think what strength and courage a man must have had to rise to be a Grand Master of the Knights.

    You mentioned in a comment reply that they had to fight alongside their Knights on the battlefield. Can you image in this day and age if a politician had to go to the wars they start as a soldier and fight the battle themselves – there would be no wars! 

    I have not heard about the Ottoman Empire before. Where did they originate? Did they control a lot of Europe at the time?

    Thanks for a very educational post.

    • Indeed you are correct Greg, you will never seen a modern day politician standing with his men on the battlefield ready to back up the decisions that have been made. Instead they would be sat in the comfort of their homes and leave the dirty work to others.

      The Grand Master of The Knights had the duty to stand by his men. For better and for worse, he would lead from the front. 

      As for The Ottomans, (The Ottoman Empire), they are also known simply as Turkey, i.e the country.

      This was a state that had massive control of Europe, Africa and the Asian Minor back in the 14th Century right up until the 20th Century.

      You can read a lot more about The Ottoman Empire here.

      I hope this helps you my friend.



  2. Hello Chris.

    History teaches us great lessons. Real historical stories usually do not end as we would like it but if you dig into the details, you will learn a lot. 

    You’ve got a lot of interesting materials on your site. I think it will keep me busy for a few days.



  3. I can’t imagine how scary it must be being with just 600 men and having to go up against 100 000. I am sure glad I wasn’t living in those turbulent times. They must have been very brave.

    At least they were not killed, well I hope not a lot were killed, at they were given a way to escape with their lives.

    Amazing that they were able to regroup as the Maltese Knights. Sad for Villiers de l’isle Adam that he never got to see his homeland again, and that he never got to realize that Malta was actually the place to be.

    • Brave is a great word to use Michel. It took a lot of courage to encounter battle with those number. The odds were really against them.

      Although a way out was found in the end, a lot of blood was spilled. There were heavy losses on both sides, so by no means was it an easy fight.

      It is a shame this amazing Grand Master was never to return to Rhodes. On that being said, the name Villiers de I’sle Adam is well documented in the history of Rhodes.

      Thanks Michel


  4. I enjoyed your interesting history lesson sir. I’m from Turkey and have been to the beautiful Island of Rhodes.

    There is even a mosque within the castle walls, I remember seeing if I’m not mistaken. The Ottomans respected The Grand Master, as do I. 

    I haven’t been to Malta, but hope to visit and maybe even play a little poker while I’m there. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Lev, and yes you are quite right.

      Within the Medieval City here in Rhodes you will find The Mosque of Suleiman. Your memory serves you correctly. This was of course constructed after he took the island of Rhodes from Villiers de I’sle Adam and his Knights.

      Although the Knights actually went on to settle in Malta, I will also admit I have never visited. Maybe I will one day, but I will be avoiding the Poker. I work too hard for my money 🙂

      All the best Lev, and thanks for passing by.


  5. This has seemed very interesting, I didn´t know much data that you mention in this post and the truth is that I was with some intrigues that fortunately I could clarify by reading the comments.

    It’s good to see this type of post, it’s always good to know more about the story, because unfortunately, there are many historical facts that too many people don´t know since it was never open to the public.

    I love History.

    Thank you very much.

  6. Hey this article is quite interesting and motivating. I love reading history that inspires us. I totally agree with you that it was difficult to set up a new place like Malta in those days. 

    But one thing i did not understand is that why did Ottoman empire again tried to siege Malta when they had already captured Rhodes? 

    • Thank you for reading and also thank you for your question.

      The attacks by The Ottoman Empire on Malta and the other islands was all to do with trying to capture and control the movements in the Mediterranean. It was a final fight and contest between the Islamic Ottoman Empire and the Christians.

      They were unsuccessful though, as when the tried to force their way onto Malta, The Knights stood strong and repelled the attack. 

      The Knights Hospitaller remained in Malta until 1798 when they were defeated by Napoleon.

      Hope this helps you.


  7. I love the fact that the story ended pretty well for the Knights. Being forced out of your home is not something pleasant to deal with, and for what reason?

    And when they finally made a new home, only for the enemies to come back with the hopes of frustrating them again? Why is it that some people simply don’t want to see others happy? And the Knights responded maturely with bravery. How their Grand Master must have been very proud of his men watching from his grave.

    It was a good thing that Suleiman The Magnificent struck again. Because for the first time, the Knights had the chance of reestablishing their pride, dignity, and confidence, which they did.

    I usually don’t like anything to do with History, but the ending of this story made me happy that I read it in the first place. Thanks for this great post.

    • Thank you for reading. I am happy you enjoyed the information on this amazing Grand Master and his courage during the siege of Rhodes.

      I think most people can look back on the time of The Knights in Rhodes with pride. They stood strong, and even in with defeat, they kept going. I have full admiration for them as you are quite right, it must be very difficult to survive conflict and be forced away from your home.

      Thanks for reading. i am happy you enjoyed the post.


  8. Thank you for this captivating history lesson on Villiers de I’lsle Adam and the island of Rhodes. 

    What a man and what a life! He was an incredibly brave and charismatic leader. 

    Love the fact that his ship was state-of-the-art type! Guess that must have been very expensive. Where did his riches come from, do you maybe know? 

    I visited Rhodes some 15 years ago, and even though we were there only for a couple of days, I remember it being so beautiful and interesting to be there. I definitely plan to go back in the next couple of years. 



    • Hello Alenka and thanks for reading.

      You will find Rhodes today just as beautiful as you did 15 years ago. Maybe next time you will be able to stop for more than a couple of days to really see what it has to offer? 🙂 I hope so.

      As for your question, I will admit I do not know the value of the Santa Anna. I have also not seen any literature with regards to this. I I find something, I will be sure to post it here.



  9. A really interesting post on an obviously beautiful part of the world – unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to travel to Rhodes or Malta, but I love reading about countries I’ve not yet been able to visit in life. 

    I’d like to learn a little more about this Villiers de Lisle Adam character – more specifically – how was he linked so deeply with the island (Rhodes). 

    Also, his name seems European, but not from Rhodes or Malta – would I be correct in thinking that he was originally from France?

    • Hello Chris and thanks for reading.

      You are quite right, Philippe Villiers de L’Isle-Adam was actually born in Beauvais, France in 1464. He did not originate from Malta or Rhodes.

      His connection to Rhodes and Malta was of course through his commitment and service to The Knights Hospitaller.



  10. Villiers de l’isle Adam lived a full life despite the hard times back in those days. You say he was born in 1464 and died 21st of August 1534, so that would have made him 70 years old. That’s not too bad for those days, so he knew how to look after himself and his crew.

    I have learned quite a bit from your website. If it wasn’t for you creating this blog post I wouldn’t have known anything about these great men that have achieved so much in so little time.

    • Hi Sonny and thanks my friend. It is good to know you enjoyed your visit here and you learned something new.

      I think it is important for people to be remembered for what they achieved, especially when it has made a massive impact and changed the course of history.

      Villiers de l’isle Adam, Suleiman and Pierre d’Aubusson are all examples. Should they have done things differently and made alternative choices, maybe Rhodes would not be the place it is today? Not only Rhodes too, let’s face it, Suleiman was ready to take control of a lot of countries (some he did).

      It takes a special person to be a Grand Master of The Knights Order, and sometimes hard decisions need to be made. I think Villiers de l’isle Adam did very well under the difficult circumstances he was faced with.

      Thanks Sonny, Nice to hear from you.


  11. 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.

    • 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 🙂



  12. 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.

    • 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.


  13. 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!

    • 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.



  14. 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 🙂

    • 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!



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The Island Of Rhodes