Like all religious and military orders, the Hospitallers were governed by a rule which dictated the activities and conduct of those who belonged to the Order. There is some speculation about whether the Hospitallers initially followed the Benedictine rule, but it is clear that by the mid-twelfth century, a rule for the Hospitallers had been created to reflect their new status as defenders of the Holy Land. The Rule was first conceived as a Latin text in the mid-twelfth century, and a written French-language version was probably created shortly thereafter. The earliest extant witness to the French-language version dates only to the 1270s, but supporting evidence for a French-language version, such as an Anglo-Norman version of the rule created in the late twelfth century, argues for an earlier written-French version than what is now extant.
Several changes and additions were made to the Rule over the course of the Order's history, all of which probably appeared in French and which at times were translated into other languages for the benefit of the Order's western chapters. These changes or additions are sometimes called the Statutes, and at other times, are referred to using the name of the Grand Master under which they were made, or the location of the assembly at which they were passed. There are therefore many forms of the Rule, published in editions that reflect the changes made to the Rule or variations that were made by local chapters.
The French Version of the Rule
The earliest manuscripts for the French-language version of the Rule are:
Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat Lat 4852 (c. 1278-1283)
Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, f.fr. 6049 (early 14th century)
Luttrell, Anthony. “The Hospitallers’ Early Written Records.” In The Crusades and their Sources: Essays presented to Bernard Hamilton, edited J. France and W. Zajac. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998. 135-54.
The Rule of Raymond Le Puy
Also called the Rule of Raymond du Puy, after the Master of the Order from 1120-1160, the first version of the rule was produced in both Latin and Old French, and was amended to include new rules and statutes over the course of the order's history.
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, fr. 7909-03
Turin, Biblioteca dell"Universita, ms. G. II, 36
Malta, Archives of the Order, ms. no number
Cartulaire Générale de l’ordre des Hospitaliers de Saint Jean de Jérusalem (1100-1310). d. J. Delaville Le Roulx, 4. vols. Paris: 1894-1906.
English translation: King, E.J. The Rule, Statutes, and Customs of the Hospitallers 1099-1310. London, UK: Methuen, 1934. Reprint: 1981.
The Anglo-Norman Version
For an interesting example of an Anglo-Norman version of the Rule, composed in rhyming couplets in later 12th-century Britain, see:
Statutes of Roger of Moulins
Written in Acre between 1278 and 1283, these statutes are further additions to the Hospitaller Rule.
Rome, Vatican Lat, 4852
Edgington, S. "Administrative Regulations for the Hospital of St. John in Jerusalem dating from the 1180s." Crusade 4 (2005), 21-37.
Statutes from Cyprus
“Statutes and Regulations of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, established during the Order’s stay on the Island of Cyprus.” In Histoire de l’Isle de Chypre sous le règne des princes de la maison de Lusignan. Vol. 2. Paris, Imprimerie Nationale:1852. pp. 89-91.
Statutes from Rhodes
A copy of 17 enactments made in the Chapter General held in Rhodes on the 2nd of March, 1353:
Catalogue of the Records of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in the Royal Malta Library. Compiled by Zammit Gabarretta and Joseph Mizzi. Vol. 1, Archives 1-72, Malta University Press, Malta: 1964. 91.