After their loss of Rhodes in 1522 CE to the Ottomans, the Order would spend seven years on the road in search of a permanent home. Travelling through the kingdoms of Europe they eventually found a home in Spain when King Charles V gave them Malta in 1530 for the paltry sum of a single Maltese falcon a year. Their fiefdom included the small island of Gozo off the coast of Malta, as well as the North African port of Tripoli. From their island fortress they returned to their duties safeguarding Christianity taking up arms against Muslim forces, especially the Barbary pirates who raided the Mediterranean for Christian slaves. And although only armed with a handful of ships, the Knights of Malta again quickly drew the ire of the Ottomans.
Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1565 would amass another massive invasion force, interested in not only seeing the pesky knights driven from their island kingdom, but also gaining another base from which to invade Europe from. Early on in the invasion it appeared dire for the Hospitallers with most of the cities on the island destroyed and half the knights killed. With their numbers continuing to dwindle, Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette was even urged by his council to withdraw to Fort St. Angelo and abandon the nearly overrun fortifications.
However with little support evident to come from Sicily, and the same mercy offered them the last time they met Suleiman’s forces unlikely again, the Knights of Malta had to make their stand. With even the wounded taking part in the defence, the Order was able to throw back what turned out to be the last serious assault the besiegers were able to muster as the Turkish situation was deteriorating the longer the fortifications held and the closer winter approached.
Working day and night the Hospitallers repaired the breaches in the fortifications and continued to hold as illness and hunger began to take their toll in the Ottoman encampments. Holding out until September the knights were finally reinforced by Sicilian troops, delivering the final blow to the already fragile Ottoman morale who broke off their siege, and has come to be cited as one of the last military engagements in which a force of knights won such a decisive victory. However with their rebuilding of Malta and the building of its new port city, Valletta, the Order of Hospitallers found themselves devoid of any purpose, their involvement in the Holy Land crusades no longer financially viable thanks to dwindling interest from European sponsors.