Country File: Sovereign Military Order Of Malta

And today, our Country File is about the third completely enclaved microstate you’ll find within Italy, along with San Marino and the Vatican: the Sovereign Military Order Of Malta!


“Wait, what?” you say? “You did Malta last, and it’s an island and its own country, not inside Italy. What’s up with that?”

Well, this is one of those quirks of history that is perhaps the very quirkiest to persist into the modern world: the Sovereign Military Order Of Malta is the only widely recognized country that does not, in fact, actually have any territory of its own.

How does that happen, you ask? The timeline goes like this:

1099: The Order Of St. John, aka the Knights Hospitaller, is founded in Jerusalem after the First Crusade. They operated through the Middle East, building for instance the most impressive World Heritage Site nobody ever visits, the Krak des Chevaliers in Syria; but over the centuries are pushed out to Cyprus, then to Rhodes, and finally expelled from there in 1522.

1530: Charles of Spain, the King of Sicily, gives the Order the fiefdom of Malta, where they started building World Heritage Sites, fighting Ottomans, hunting pirates, colonizing the Caribbean, and other such manly pursuits.

1798: The Order surrenders to Napoleon and is expelled from Malta.

1822: The Congress of Verona settling up the post-Napoleonic European order agrees that although Malta is a British colony now, the Order is still a sovereign entity, making its leader the proverbial King without a country.

1834: The Order headquarters in Rome and is granted extraterritoriality, similar to an embassy.

Today, those buildings are counted as an MTP location, prompting one wag to observe

Rome must be unique among cities in having three MTP locations. Walking down Via Condetti it is easy to miss the location dazzled as most people must be by the high end fashion shops and the well dressed pedestrians…

Can confirm, us scruffy travel tickers taking pictures of what must be the least interesting looking building for miles in any direction get some rather puzzled stares!

So, that’s not sounding like a country to you? Well, they issue passports,

This Is the World’s Most Exclusive Passport and Only 500 People Have It

coins, postage stamps, and license plates; they have diplomatic relations with 107 United Nations members and observer status at the UN and UNESCO —

— although they’re not a UNESCO member, so they’re not a real country by this site’s definition! —

— and run humanitarian projects in 120 countries:

What’s the Sovereign Military Order of Malta up to These Days?

Which is pretty serious, for an entity with no territory, permanent population, or economy!

We’ll just leave you with this last link, because the title sums things up just about perfectly:


p dir=”ltr”>Sovereign Military Order Of Malta
Knights Of Malta, Knights Of St. John, Knights Hospitaller, Order Of Malta, Knights of Jerusalem, Different Names But Relate To The Same Order Of The Knights

Whether you count the Order as a country or not, that’s certainly an intriguing history isn’t it now? Since there’s so many other good reasons to go to Rome anyways … might as well stroll down Via Condetti and check it out!

About Author


I go places.

Leave a Reply