Letter from Valette to George of Hohenheim

Fr John de Valette, Master of the Hospital of Jerusalelm to our most beloved brother , George of Hohenheim, called Bombaste, Priore of our German Priory, Salutem Dicit

Although we do not doubt but that from many letters and reports you have already learned of the arrival of the Turkish fleet to these islands, with the purpose of invading our order and destroying it utterly, and of our God given victory over them. Nevertheless by itself, we thought that it would be much more comforting to you to hear the news of these same events from our own hand.

For we are ourselves assured that in this our success you will give thanks to God and shall reap no small benefit of this happy outcome for the elevated place which you hold in this our Order, and so we thought it good to share this common cause of joy with you and make it known that this famous and divine victory is wholly to be attributed to our lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings and giver of all good things, and that you may do so willingly and worthily, I will put down all the story not at any great extent (for that were to write a history), but summarily and in few words.

Sultan Suleiman, most bitter enemy of the Christian faith in general and of our Order in particular, not content with having expelled us from the famous island of Rhodes, and fortress of Tripoli, and having despoiled nearly all our earthly goods, could think of nothing else other than how to destroy us utterly, and wipe us out entirely. He ordered a strong navy fully furnished of all things to be prepared against us and set out from Constantinople the (21) 19th of March and arrive at Malta the (17)16th of May. The fleet had among her galleys, hulks and other lesser ships very near the number of 250. The number of the enemy able to fight was under or very near 40,000.

Mustapha Pasha was general of the land army, Piali Pasha, master of the fleet.

This force, having spent a few days in landing their provision in scouting out geography, in pitching their tents and ordering other matters (as must be done), began to assault Fort St Elmo. This they did for many days without surcease of force, and brought down a great part of the wall, and fought with all manner of projectiles. And yet by the virtue and diligence of our knights and of other soldiers, it was fought over and defended for thirty five days, with great slaughter and injury to the enemy; this even though the castle itself, in the judgment of many, had appeared scarcely able to hold out against such a force for more than a few days.

At length on Jun 23 when our men could not endure the number and force of the enemy, and the fort, surrounded by land and sea, blocked off, devoid of all aid, those few of our brethren still alive were killed by the Turk and the fort was taken.

Bolstered by this victory, they began the assault on the fort and town of St Michael and on this new city, especially the bastions of Castile and Portugal. Following their normal habits, in many places and with great diligence, with large machines, with more force and number of canons then before, they battered and breached the walls.

Which terrible and frightful assault horrible was the work of the entire Turkish force, all but most invincible at sea and by land, and then by monstrous guns, none larger country hath huger or more forcible, which both day and night shot balls of iron and stone measuring five and seven palms in circumference, and with which they were able not only to cast down thick walls but also to overthrow mountain. By such force our walls were so battered in so many places that it it was a simple matter to walk up them. In this manner the Turks with great force and noise frequently attempted to enter very often time yet each time were both slain and wounded.

Their captains both of sea and land having in so many places with all their force assaulted us in vain almost four months long and having lost the greater part of their seasoned soldiers, when the winter approached (at which time all wars by consent of all nations ought to cease) they thought of nothing else but to remove their siege or rather to fly away which flight the coming of Don Garcia viceroy of Sicily and governor of the Spanish king’s fleet caused them to hasten, having in his company 10,000 soldiers and chosen men, among whom were at least 214 knights of our order and other noble men and gentlemen, who, inspired only by Christian piety gathered voluntarily from various parts of the world to help us.

You have now in brief a summary of the progress and flight of the Turkish fleet and the victory obtained for us by God. It is for you to ponder and consider in what state the Order and island may presently to what poverty we be come, how many thing we need which, except they be supplied us by the help and contribution of our brethren, especially such as you are, as we hope and believe we shall be, we are utterly undone.

 

Farewell!   Malta October 9, 1565