Military Wiki
Gregorio Carafa
Grand Master of the Order of Saint John

In office
2 May 1680 – 21 July 1690
Preceded by Nicolas Cotoner
Succeeded by Adrien de Wignacourt
Personal details
Born (1615-03-17)March 17, 1615
Castelvetere (modern Caulonia) Calabria
Died 21 July 1690(1690-07-21) (aged 75)
Resting place St. John's Co-Cathedral
Nationality Italian
Military service
Allegiance Sovereign Military Order of Malta Order of Saint John
Battles/wars Battle of the Dardanelles

Fra Gregorio Carafa (17 March 1615 – 21 July 1690) was a nobleman from the House of Carafa and the 61st Grand Master of the Order of Saint John, from 1680 to his death in 1690.

Early life

Carafa was born on 17 March 1615 in Castelvetere (modern Caulonia)[1][2][3][4] in Calabria, Italy to Girolamo, Prince of Roccella and Diana Vittori, the niece of Pope Paul V. His brother was the Cardinal Carlo Carafa della Spina.[5]

He was enlisted with the Order of Saint John when he was aged only three months, in June 1615. He studied in Naples, and various dignitaries and knights of the Order contributed to his education. In 1635 he went to Catalonia with his uncle Francesco Carafa, the Prior general of Roccella. Carafa was soon promoted to Knight Grand Cross of the Order, and was promoted to Prior general of Rocella after his uncle died.[6]

In 1647, he was involved in the Masaniello revolt in which he tried to restore peace and order in Naples. After the defeat of the rebels in Naples, he was sent to Calabria to quell the uprising there. These events led to him being promoted and he was given command of the Order's fleet.[6]

In 1656, he commanded the 7 Maltese galleys at the Battle of the Dardanelles. In this battle, the joint Venetian-Maltese fleet was victorious, and as a reward, Malta received 11 captured Ottoman ships. This battle was heaviest naval defeat for the Ottomans since the Battle of Lepanto.[7]

After the victorious battle he was welcomed in Malta as a hero. Subsequently he reclaimed the wetlands at Bormola and strengthened the Order's fleet.[6]


In 1682, he was elected Grand Master of the Order after the death of Nicolas Cotoner. In the same year that he became Grand Master, Carafa paid for the renovation of Auberge d'Italie. The facade was rebuilt in Baroque style, and a bronze bust of Carafa was placed in a prominent position over the front door of the Auberge. His personal coat of arms was also sculpted close to the bust.[8]

From 1681 onwards, Fort Saint Angelo was strengthened and rebuilt by the architect Carlos de Grunenbergh, at Carafa's request. Carafa's name appears on the plaque above the fort's main gate.

During his reign, the Order's navy was at its peak, with galleys led by knights and manned by experienced crews. Fearing an Ottoman attack, in 1687 Carafa strengthened Fort Saint Elmo by building a series of fortifications known as the Carafa Enceinte on the foreshore surrounding the fortress.[9]

Playing Cards was introduced in Malta during his reign.[10]

Carafa died on 21 July 1690 and was succeeded by Adrien de Wignacourt. He is buried in the Chapel of the Langue of Italy of St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta.


Further reading

  • Sirago, Maria. Gregorio Carafa: Gran Maestro dell'Ordine di Malta. Taranto: Centro studi melitensi, 2001.

External links

Preceded by
Nicolas Cotoner
Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller
Succeeded by
Adrien de Wignacourt

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