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Originally Knights of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. After 1310 they were also know as the Knights of Rhodes, and from 1530 as the Knights of Malta. Their beginning may be traced to the Benedictines in the eleventh century. Founded to care for the sick, during the Crusades they also gave protection to the pilgrims and in time became either soldiers (military brothers) or physicians and nurses (brother infirmarians). Eventually the military phase went out of existence. The term "hospitalers" is also applied in a wider sense to other religious institutes, e.g., the Brothers Hospitalers, founded by St. John of God, approved by Pope St. Pius V in 1572.
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.