The Eight-Pointed Cross (now commonly known as the Maltese Cross) owes its origin to the Maritime Republic of Amalfi, Italy, the birthplace of some pious merchants who founded the first hospice in Jerusalem in 1048. Ever since, it has become the emblem of the Knights Hospitaller.
The cross is eight-pointed and has the form of four “V”-shaped arms joined together at their tips.
The four arms represented the Christian virtues: Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude; and the points, the eight Beatitudes (Matth III, 28) which spring from those virtues; and also the eight Langues of the Order, namely: Provence, France, Auvergne, Italy, Aragon, Allemagne, England and Portugal (Castille). It is a white cross, which symbolises the purity of life required of those who dedicate their lives to defending the Christian Faith and live in service of the poor and suffering.
Between 1530 and 1798 Malta was the residence of the Order of St. John, the Knights Hospitaller.