Postage stamps and postal history of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

A stamp from the first series of SMOM stamps issued in 1966

This is an article about the postage stamps and postal history of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta, otherwise known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta or SMOM is a Roman Catholic order based in Rome, Italy. The order takes its origins from the Knights Hospitaller, an organization founded in Jerusalem in 1050. Following the loss of Christian held territories of the Holy Land to Muslims, the Order operated from Rhodes (1310–1523), and later from Malta (1530–1798), over which it was sovereign.

Postal service in Hospitaller Malta

The Casa del Commun Tesoro, which housed the Order's post office in Malta from 1708 to 1798

The Knights Hospitaller established an early form of postal service in Malta in the early 1530s, and the earliest known letter from the islands was sent from Grand Master Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam to François II de Dinteville [fr], the Bishop of Auxerre and the French ambassador in Rome, on 14 June 1532. In 1708, a formal postal service known as the Commissary of Posts was established by Grand Master Ramon Perellós, and it was based at the Casa del Commun Tesoro in Valletta. The first postal markings on Maltese mail appeared later on in the 18th century, and the postal service continued to function until the expulsion of the Hospitallers by Napoleon in 1798. Malta's postal service was subsequently reformed during French and later British rule, and part of the Casa del Commun Tesoro remained a post office until 1849.[1][2]


A miniature sheet issued by the SMOM in 2004

In 1950, the SMOM issued a set of cinderella letter seals (Italian: chiudilettere) depicting locations and people associated with the Order, and they were sold for 1 Italian lira.[3]

The Order's modern postal administration, known as the Poste Magistrali, was instituted on 20 May 1966 under a Decree of the Grand Master, and post offices were established at Palazzo Malta and Villa del Priorato di Malta in Rome. Poste Magistrali issued its first set of stamps on 15 November 1966,[3] and these and subsequent issues were denominated in Scudi, Grani and Tarì, which roughly equated to the currency of Malta before it joined the Eurozone; 1 scudo = 12 tari = 240 grani = 12 Maltese cents.[4] Since 1 January 2005 the stamps have been denominated in euros.[5]

The stamps are inscribed Poste Magistrali and bear one or more small Maltese Crosses. Early issues were printed by De La Rue, but today a variety of Maltese and Italian printers are used. As well as postage stamps, the Order has produced aerogrammes, maximum cards, first day covers, miniature sheets, postage due stamps and postcards with imprinted stamps.[4]

Each year, one stamp issue is devoted to St. John the Baptist, who is the Order's Patron Saint, and one to the celebration of Christmas.[5]


Post boxes of the SMOM at their headquarters in Rome

The stamps are issued for both postal and charitable reasons. Despite over 50 bi-lateral postal agreements[5] the stamps are usually classed as cinderella stamps as they do not have postal validity throughout the world. Most postal agreements are with countries in which the order does charitable work.[citation needed]

The SMOM is not a member of the Universal Postal Union.[6]


  1. ^ "Maltapost privatisation latest red-letter day in postal history". Times of Malta. 21 January 2008. Archived from the original on 22 March 2020.
  2. ^ Dandria, David (12 March 2017). "Postal history at the Notarial Archives". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 18 April 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  3. ^ a b Bonavia, Carmel G.; Bonnici, A. (April 2015). "SMOM and Malta issues" (PDF). Journal of the Malta Philatelic Society. 44 (1): 27–35. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 July 2021.
  4. ^ a b Said, Godwin., ed. Said S.M.O.M. Stamp and Coin Catalogue 1996. Valletta, Malta: Said International Ltd., 1996. ISBN 99909-43-16-8
  5. ^ a b c "Associate Countries". Retrieved 3 October 2017.
  6. ^ UPU membership list. Retrieved 23.04.10.

External links

  • Magistral Post of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta - Official philatelic website
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