Friday, 12 April 2013

Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Have you every heard of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta - SMOM? To be honest, I hadn't known about it before I joined the Postcrossing and set the goal to get a written and stamped postcard from every country/territory in the world. So what's SOMOM.... Officially the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta is a Roman Catholic lay religious order of, traditionally, a military,chivalrous and noble nature.It is the world's oldest surviving order of chivalry. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is headquartered in Rome.

SMOM is the modern continuation of the original medieval order of Saint John of Jerusalem,known as the "Fraternitas Hospitalaria" and later as the Knights Hospitaller, a group founded in Jerusalem about 1050 as an Amalfitan hospital. Later it became amilitary order under its own charter. Following the loss of Christian held territories of the Holy Land to Muslims, the Order operated from Rhodes, and later from Malta, over which it was sovereign. With its unique history and unusual present circumstances, the exact status of the Order in international law has been the subject of debate. It describes itself as a "sovereign subject of international law." Its two headquarters in Rome — the Palazzo Malta in Via di Condotti 68, where the Grand Master resides and Government Bodies meet, and the Villa del Priorato di Malta on the Aventine, which hosts the Grand Priory of Rome — Fort Saint Angelo on the island of Malta, the Embassy of the Order to Holy See and the Embassy of the Order to Italy have all been granted extraterritoriality.

SMOM has had no territory since the loss of the island of Malta in 1798. Currently, SMOM has only the properties with extraterritoriality listed above. Italy recognizes, in addition to extraterritoriality, the exercise by SMOM of all the prerogatives of sovereignty in its headquarters. Therefore, Italian sovereignty and SMOM sovereignty uniquely coexist without overlapping.

The SMOM began issuing euro-denominated postage stamps in 2005, although the scudo remains the official currency of the SMOM. It's really interesting to receive a postcard from such an unique place (the postcard itself shows a sight in Rome that has nothing to do with the SMOM though). Huge thanks to Luca!


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