Jean de la Cassière
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Fra' Jean l'Evesque de la Cassière (1502 – 21 December 1581) was the 51st Grand Master of the Order of Malta, from 1572 to 1581. He commissioned the building of the Conventual Church of the Order (St John's Co-Cathedral) in Valletta, Malta, and is buried in the Crypt of St. John.
La Cassiere had earned acclaim for his bravery in the battle of Zoara in Northern Africa where he had saved the colors of the Order. He was Grand Prior of the Order’s Langue d’Auvergne when he was elected on 30 January 1572 to succeed Pierre de Monte as Grandmaster.
The early years of his reign as Grand Master were marked by numerous disputes and quarrels between the Order and the Bishop of Malta over the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the bishop. These disputes were unprecedented in the history of the Order since it had arrived in Malta in 1530 with a grant of virtual sovereignty from Emperor Charles V. La Cassiere was unable to resolve the matter, which finally was submitted to Pope Gregory XIII who in turn appointed a Grand Inquisitor, a step that caused enormous resentment within the Order.
A second major conflict arose in 1575 with the Republic of Venice, when Maltese galleys seized a Venetian ship that carried goods for Jewish owners. Venice was outraged, and the Order soon faced the threat of having all of its property on Venetian territory confiscated. Again it required the intervention of the Pope, as well as the payment by La Cassiere of complete compensation, to resolve the dispute. And again, there was much discontent among the knights over this perceived rebuke to their assumed right to confiscate any property of non-Christians.
The third and most serious cause of discord within the Order during La Cassiere’s rule was triggered by King Philip II of Spain who managed to arrange the appointment of one of his close relatives, 17-year old Archduke Wenzel (Wenceslaus) of Austria (son of Emperor Maximilan II, Philip’s cousin), to the Grand Priory of Castile and Leon and the Bailiwick of Lora. Outraged by the king’s interference, the Castilian knights of the Order openly rebelled against this appointment. In response, the Pope ordered them to apologize publicly before the Grand Master and the General Convent for this insubordination.
These events further fuelled resentment within the Order and the General Convent against La Cassiere, who was widely perceived to be the cause of these problems and humiliations. It eventually broke into virtual mutiny in 1581, when the Convent deposed La Cassiere and placed him in confinement in Fort St. Angelo. This meant that Mathurin Romegas, former Grand Prior of Toulouse and the Order’s most celebrated naval hero, who had been elected Lieutenant to the Grand Master in 1577, was now the de facto Grand Master.
The Pope immediately sent a special envoy, Gaspare Visconti, to investigate and, simultaneously, to administer the Order until the dispute could be settled. La Cassiere and Romegas were both summoned to Rome to explain their conduct and plead their case. La Cassiere arrived in Rome on 26 October 1581 and, on orders of Pope Gregory XIII, was treated with much deference and ceremony. By contrast, Romegas was treated with extreme coldness and much disdain. He died, alone and with broken spirit, within a week, on 4 November 1581. La Cassiere was honorably acquitted of all charges against him and restored to the position of Grand Master. He did not live long enough, however, to enjoy his triumph, dying in Rome on 21 December 1581 at the age of seventy-eight. His body was transferred to Malta and buried in St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta.
Pierre de Monte
|Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller
Hugues Loubenx de Verdalle