History – 1568 – 1572 Pietro del Monte

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Pietro del Monte, of the Langue of Italy, Prior of Capua, nephew of Pope Julius Ill., was elected on the 23rd August 1568 to fill the post of Grand Master on the death of la Vallete. The lengthened services of del Monte and the high reputation to which he had risen, both at the siege of Rhodes and during the siege of Malta, had fully entitled him to the position which the vote of the fraternity now called upon him to occupy. His first thoughts on assuming the magisterial baton were at once bent, on carrying out the reforms which his glorious predecessor had begun. The works of the new city progressed rapidly under his fostering care, and although the new residence of the Order was still unfinished, he moved the Convent from the Bourg to Valletta with great pomp and magnificence on the 18th March 1571.

The navy under the administration of this Grand Master attained a strength unparalleled in the history of’ the Order. In addition to the galleys of the regular navy, a number of Knights obtained permission from their chief to fit out ships at their own expense and to cruise the waters of the Mediterranean in search of marauding vessels. Fired with ambition, they undertook several expeditions against the corsairs, returning to Malta with many valuable prizes. The lack of bravery, however, shown by St. Clement, general of the galleys, in all encounter, with lucciali, tended to tarnish the fair name of the Order. Whilst in command of four vessels engaged against this celebrated corsair, St. Clement, after losing two of his ships beached his own vessel and incontinently fled. Arraigned before the Council, his cowardice was so clearly proved that he was divested of his habit and handed over to the secular authorities, by whom he was condemned to death.

In 1571 the Maltese navy once more vindicated its glorious reputation. Three galleys under the command of Pietro Giustiniani took part in the hard-fought battle of Lepanto, when the combined fleets of Christendom inflicted such an overwhelming defeat upon the Turks that the Mediterranean was practically freed from their depredations for many years.

During the latter part of his reign del Monte, weighed down by the cares of State, strenuously endeavoured to obtain from the Pope permission to resign the Grand Mastership. Plus V., however, was unwilling to accede to this request, and del Monte reluctantly retained his office until his death on the 27th January 1572 at the advanced age of seventy six years.

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