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Lot 709

Estimate: 1'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 1'000 CHF Price realized: 1'500 CHF
The Knights of St. John in Rhodes. Pierre d'Aubusson, 40th Grand Master, 1476-1503. Ducato, n.d. AV 3.47 g. .f.Pª.DAUBUS-SON - S./I/O/h/A/n/n/I Grand Master kneeling l., receiving from St. John, nimbate and standing r., staff with the flag of the Order; star between nimbus and flag, r. M/P Rev. .SIT.T.XPª.DATU. - .RªGIS.ISTª.D.Within mandorla, Christ, nimbate, standing facing, holding Book of Gospels in his l. hand, his r. hand raised in bene­diction; four stars in field l., five stars r., below feet, pellet. Fr. 6; Gamberini, Contraffazioni 380; Schlum­berger, Orient pl. XI, 1.
Scarce. Good very fine
Provenance: Münzen und Medaillen AG, Basel - Fixed Price List 288 (1968), 119.
Grand Master Pierre d’Aubusson (1476-1503).
The 40th Grand Master d’Aubusson, of French origin (his family was related to the ancient vicomtes de la Marche) was 58 years old at the time of his election. He was a military leader of some repute, having fought against the Turks in numerous battles, more recently in Euboea. He was also a specialist in engineering, with a great know­ledge of fortifications. For many years he had supervised with great energy the defence building in Rhodes. One of the Grand Master’s first actions, was to enter into diplomatic negotiations with Egypt and Tunis, with a view of concluding trade agreements.
Two years later came the moment the Knights of St. John had dreaded for years: Sultan Mehmed II, his hands free from other wars, launched a full scale attack on Rhodes. On 23rd May 1480, a fleet of 170 vessels with 170.000 soldiers, led by the Grand Vizier Meshikh Pasha Palaiologos (distantly related to the family which had occupied the Byzantine throne) invaded the island. The famous siege began, lasting more than three months. The Grand Master had ordered that the local population take refuge in the forti­fied castles, such as Lindos and Kastellos. Both sides fought with great vigour and cou­rage. On one occasion the Turks even managed to take one of the main defence towers and to enter the city. They were repulsed by the knights, the Grand Master himself directing the battle. Finally, the Turks retreated and the Hospitallers were able to coun­terattack, taking rich booty from the Turkish camp. On 17th August, the Turkish fleet, having lost thousands of men, broke off the siege and departed.
The following year the island of Rhodes was shaken by a great earthquake, which caused enormous destruction, particularly in the city. The Sultan, disappointed by the setback in Rhodes, was planning a major campaign in Asia, but died soon afterwards (1481). His two sons, Bayazed II and Prince Djem, laid claim to the throne. Djem, fearing for his life, took refuge in Rhodes, where the Grand Master welcomed him with open arms. The Turkish Sultan despatched envoys, requesting the return of the renegade Prince. Fearing for his safety, the Knights sent him to France, from where he was moved to Rome. Prince Djem died under mysterious circumstances, having been in the custody of King Charles VIII of France. The Pope, wishing to honour the Grand Master for his great victory over the Turks, conferred on him the title of Cardinal Legate of Asia in 1489. It was under d’Aubusson tenure of office, that the Flemish Guillaume Caoursin, one of the most cultured and learned men to have lived in Rhodes, chronicled Rhodian history, describing in detail the great siege of Rhodes of 1480 and the events connected with Prince Djem. The famous manuscript, from where ten of the most magnificent contemporary pictures of Rhodes are drawn, is now in the collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris. Caoursin also codified the laws of the Order and had them translated into French.
In Rome, Pope Alexander VI had grandiose plans to call for a new crusade against the Turkish Empire, hoping that the forces of Charles VIII could be persuaded to participate and wishing to appoint Grand Master d’Aubusson as commander. Nothing came of this, first the French King died (1498) and a few years later d’Aubusson, by now 80 years of age, also died. He had been one of the great leaders of the Order of St. John.

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