Carlow Historical & Archaeological Society’s February lecture was about ‘ The Hospitaller Knights of St John in Carlow & South Leinster from the 12th to the 21st Centuries’ by Dr Declan Downey KM.
The talk will took place on Wednesday 17th February at 8pm by Zoom.
The Hospitaller Knights of St John or as it’s more generally known as The Order of Malta is the oldest order of chivalry in the world. Ever since its foundation 900 years ago it still operates as a volunteer charity caring for the vulnerable and marginalized, and it is a major provider of emergency medical assistance. Among the world’s major humanitarian organizations, the Order is unique in that it is recognized in International Law and diplomacy as an independent sovereign entity under the governance of its elected princely grand master and council.
The Order first arrived in Ireland in 1171 and it swiftly established 129 preceptories (houses that offered medical care services and facilities) and lazar houses (for the care of lepers) in Counties Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny, Carlow, Kildare, Tipperary, Cork, Limerick, Kerry, Kildare, Meath, Louth and Down. Many of the Order’s Irish priors were quite colourful characters, including Roger Utlagh (Outlawe), who had opposed Bishop de Ledrede’s infamous witch trial of Alice Kyteler in Kilkenny in 1324. The medieval Priory of Ireland was independent of England, and it communicated directly with the Order’s Grand Masters in Jerusalem and later in Rhodes during this period. There is evidence that Irish Knights had brought the devotion to St. Brigid of Kildare with them to Acre. In 1540, Henry VIII suppressed the Order in Ireland.
Dr Downey spoke about the arrival of the Order in Carlow and in South Leinster and its activities in the region during the medieval period, as well as some of its notable and in some cases controversial personalities.