By the time the Order of the Hospital of St John reached Malta in 1530, it had grown into a wealthy institution because it had for long possessed extensive landed resources throughout Europe. ‘Land, in a pre-industrial society’, we are told, ‘was the source of … all wealth’. 1 Acquired partly through donations from its early days, and partly through occasional new acquisitions over the years, these vast and generally secure holdings were indispensable to the performance of the Hospital’s mission and its survival. For a more efficient administration, they were grouped into priories in harmony with the determining forces of geography, language, and regional culture, with each priory composed of a number of smaller units, known as preceptories or commanderies. Most of these were leased to third parties to create sufficient funds in the form of responsions, a fixed percentage of their net annual income, to finance all their activities—from the religious to the naval and the military, and from the spiritual to the political and the charitable. Moreover, they sustained the livelihood of the entire brotherhood. It was in these preceptories that new members were recruited; it was to these centres that elder brethren retired. 2 Moreover, these responsions kept the fortress of Malta in a state of military readiness as they had done with the Order’s fortresses in the Latin East and later on Rhodes, and helped the institution to maintain a splendid and impressive presence at all the major princely courts in Europe. Immune from the dominance of both diocesan and secular authorities, this colossal network of estates gave the Hospital international relevance: 3 it helped it grow from a humble charitable institution in the 1070s to one of great privilege and influence and whose service benefitted a wide cross section of the society of which the Hospitallers formed part. It did not demonstrate, as detractors and some historians are inclined to claim (with hardly any convincing supporting evidence), that over the very long term, the institution became so enmeshed in worldly affairs that it neglected its original mission. The ‘holy poor’, the sick, and a professed endeavour to contain militant Islam and to prevent the spread of diseases such as the plague remained its focus.