HISTORY OF THE MALTESE CROSS

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The eight points or 'tenets' are said to
represent the knightly virtues of:
Tact
Resourse
Observation
Dexterity
Explicitness
Sympathy
Discrimination
Perseverance

The origins of the eight pointed star can be traced back to the time of the Crusades in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The star originates from the Maltese Cross, the emblem of the Knights of Malta, and was used by the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem during the Crusades.

The Knights of St. John fought the Saracens for possession of the Holy Land. The Saracen's worst weapon was a glass bomb filled with highly flammable Naptha and the knights who risked their lives to save their brothers from a fiery death during battle were highly respected. The Maltese Cross, named after the knights' homeland on the island of Malta, was awarded to knights for bravery in the face of fire and later it became to be associated with fire service for the bravery regularly displayed by firefighters.

The Knights of Saint John was primarily a charitable, non-military organisation. A white or silver cross on a dark background was adopted by these knights or 'hospitallers' as they were known, because of their charity toward the sick and poor in setting up hospices and hospitals. Later, they did in fact assist the knights of the crusades with their goodwill and also military assistance in an effort to win back the Holy Land. Many members were called upon to perform heroic deeds, such as rescue fellow Knights and extinguish fires. In acknowledgement of this bravery, these Knights wore a Maltese Cross that was inscribed with their actions. It is therefore likely that this is where the association of the Maltese Cross with firefighters was born.

Wherever the line between myth and truth lies is not exactly known, but it can perhaps be said without contradiction, that the Maltese Cross and also any derivatives are regarded as a symbol of protection and courage. It does, perhaps, in simple terms identify with the fact that the firefighter who wears the badge could, and sometimes do, lay down his/her life for others in the same way as the Crusaders sacrificed their lives so many years ago.


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