British art historian elected grand master of Knights of Malta

Historians in the News

The Knights of Malta have elected a British art historian as the new grand master of the lay Roman Catholic order.

Fra Matthew Festing replaces the late Fra Andrew Bertie as head of the 900-year-old charitable order.

The Knights of Malta chose the 59-year-old Festing as their 79th grand master during a meeting Tuesday in Rome.

Festing joined the Order of Malta in 1977. He has led humanitarian missions in Lebanon and Kosovo as the Grand Prior of England, a senior position he has held for the last 15 years.

Officially known as the Sovereign Military Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, the order was founded with a pilgrims' hospice in 11th century Jerusalem and has the status of an independent state.

The order has 12,500 members and operates in 120 countries, providing medical and social services, particularly in war zones and impoverished areas. It maintains diplomatic relations with 100 countries.

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