While the Knights Templar may be considered by many to be the sexier 11th century military order (in so much as a brotherhood of celibate monks can be considered "sexy"), a lot of people don't realize that the Knights Hospitaller were seriously fucking harsh. Founded in 1080 and initially tasked with aiding poor, sick, and wounded knights and pilgrims traveling in the Holy Land, these warrior-monks quickly discovered that it's way more awesome (not to mention easier) to inflict traumatic gaping flesh wounds rather than treat them. Wearing their trademarked black tunics emblazoned with white crosses, these asskicking motherfuckers busted nutsacks up and down the Levant throughout the Middle Ages with everything from broadswords to bone saws, and the family of Jean de Valette was right in the middle of all the asskicking fun during this time, having served the Knights with distinction in five different Crusades.
In the 1520's this young warrior was more than happy to take up the onyx mantle of the Knights Hospitallers, and it wasn't long into his tenure with these badass warriors that he found himself right in the middle of a massive unholy shitstorm. The Knights’ headquarters on the Greek island of Rhodes came under a massive siege by the Ottoman Turks in 1522, who, under the command of badass, trachea-destroying sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, sent an army of roughly 100,000 screaming, angry Muslim warriors to destroy all life on the island and reduce the Palace of the Grand Master of the Hospitallers to a giant pile of bloody rubble. There were only 700 Knights of Rhodes and about 7,000 foot soldiers defending the citadel, but they were willing to bust their nutsacks to keep the infidels out of their heavily-fortified bastion of holy Christiandom. The Turks, expecting to plow through the defenders like a hot dog-eating champion assaulting a Nathan's stand, hurled themselves repeatedly at the walls of the island, but ended up bashing their heads into a solid brick wall of Go Fuck Yourself. Their ships launched cannonballs from every direction, pounding the stone walls of Rhodes, but every time the artillery managed to bust a hole in the fortifications, the Turks poured into the breach only to have the Knights Hospitaller - and Jean de Valette - standing there, swords drawn, ready to drop-kick their heathen Jesus-hating asses back into the Mediterranean. For six months the battle raged on, but the Turks were never able to penetrate the fortress at Rhodes. Unfortunately, it’s not all roses for the heroes of this particular story - the Knights were eventually forced to surrender when they ran out of food and supplies (but not until after they'd inflicted significant casualties on the enemy, so that’s something).
The Knights withdrew to Sicily, and then went to the Mediterranean isle of Malta, where they re-established their base of operations. As if he wasn't already hardcore and badass enough, life on Malta toughened Valette up even more. One time he unchivalrously beat the fucking snot out of a guy who was pissing him off, so the knights threw him in a hole for four months. Another time, he was captured by Barbary pirates and had to spend a year serving as a lowly galley slave for the legendary Turkish corsair Turgut Reis. Valette eventually escaped, swearing revenge on those motherfuckers for imprisoning him, enslaving him, and destroying the headquarters of his beloved military order.
Back on Malta, Jean de Valette took command of a ship filled with badass armored knights and set sail looking for fucking asses to demolish. For over a decade, this grim, humorless assortment of holy paladins roamed the seas doing battle with badass Turkish corsairs like Barbarossa, and Valette repeatedly distinguished himself as the greatest and most balls-out of the Christian sea-warriors. He stomped colons wherever he could find them, was appointed Admiral of the Malta Fleet, and eventually was elected Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller in 1557.
Well it wasn't long before shit was going to come screaming back to Jean de Valette like a bad acid trip or a Vietnam flashback -- the Turks were coming to wrench the island of Malta from his cold, dead hands. In 1565 Suleiman assembled a massive armada of 40,000 Ottoman warriors, and prepared to slash Valette's face off with the realness and destroy the Order of the Knights Hospitaller once and for fucking all. But fuck that. Jean de Valette didn't spend his entire life battling these motherfuckers just to bend over and take it like a man when they came knocking on his door - he was going to make them pay for every inch of land they wanted to try and gank from him.
The island fortress of Malta
Staring down at an insane armada of tens of thousands of Turks was a force of only 500 Knights, led by the immovable resolve of Jean Parisot de la Valette. This badass warrior knew the odds were hopelessly stacked against him, but he did everything he could to try and hold off the oncoming tides of pointy death. First, he recruited a makeshift militia of 6,000 citizens from the island, and gave them some basic miltiary training: “This is a cannon. You point it and shoot it at any motherfucker not wearing black armor.” Then he built up the fortifications as best he could, and ordered all the grain on the island be harvested and all the wells be poisoned - this would keep the Turks from living off the land during their siege. He told his men to offer no quarter and expect none - this would be a fight to the death, and the Knights Hospitaller were not going to take a single step backwards in the face of the enemy.
The battle for Malta began with a massive, round-the-clock artillery bombardment by the Turkish Navy, followed by wave after wave of pissed-of Ottoman warriors charging balls-out at the walls of the island's fortresses. Now Malta was garissoned by three main outposts: St. Angelo, St. Elmo, and St. Michael. St. Elmo fell relatively early in the siege, after fierce hand-to-hand fighting in which the garrison's knights were all slain to the last man. During the fighting, however, the brave defenders of St. Elmo were able to take out the Turkish Admiral Turgut Reis, as well as 2,000 of the badass elite Turkish Janissaries - tough-as-shit musketeers known for their epic assbeating powers. The intense shelling was then directed at the remaining two forts. At one point during the brutal struggle, the Turks broke through the defenses at St. Michael, but Jean de Valette pulled his long sword and personally led the charge that pushed the onslaught back.
The battle raged across the countryside night and day in a near-constant stream of death and swordfighting, until finally, four months after they arrived, the Turkish army decided to pack up their shit and head home. They had lost and estimated 25,000 warriors to fighting and disease, and they didn’t have any more fight left in them. The Island of Malta lost a third of its entire population and only 300 Hospitallers walked away from the battle, but they had defied all odds and somehow emerged victorious.
After the battle, Jean Parisot de la Valette was celebrated across the western world as a hero and the champion of European Christendom. He turned down an opportunity to be made a fucking Cardinal - he was much more content to be a badass armor-wearing, sword-swinging warrior-monk - and dedicated the rest of his life to rebuilding the devastated island of Malta. He died peacefully in 1568 at the age of 74, one of the greatest unsung heroes of the Late Middle Ages and a totally badass motherfucker who spent fifty years of his life hacking the faces off of his hated arch-enemies.
The Great Siege of Malta