- Rafael Cotoner joined the Order of Malta at just seven years old in the Langue of Aragon.
- He expanded the Old Ward of the Sacra Infermeria by 500 feet during his tenure.
- Italian Baroque artist Mattia Preti was commissioned by Cotoner to decorate the Conventual Church's ceiling.
- Under Cotoner’s reign, the Maltese battalion helped defend Venice-ruled Candia against the Turks.
Rafael Cotoner y de Oleza, born in Mallorca in 1601, joined the Order at the young age of seven in the Langue of Aragon. As a young knight with a reputation for wisdom and prudence, he climbed the ranks to attain important positions within the Order, including Bailiff of Negroponte and Mallorca.
After Grand Master Annet de Clermont de Chattes-Gessan's death in 1660, Cotoner was one of several candidates for the esteemed role. The election proved difficult, with initial votes yielding no clear result. Ultimately, Grand Commander Momeian, tasked with choosing a single candidate, selected Cotoner as Grand Master on June 6, 1660.
True to his reputation, Cotoner wasted no time in convening the Council two days after his election. He appointed Fra’ Francesco Maria Carafa to inform the Pope of his election and Fra’ Gilberto del Bene as ambassador to Rome.
He expanded the Old Ward of the Sacra Infermeria by 500 feet.
One of Cotoner's most significant achievements was the expansion of the Old Ward of the Sacra Infermeria by 500 feet. The Sacra Infermeria was renowned for its high standards of care and medical services, and the expansion made great improvements to the hospital’s facilities.
Furthermore, Cotoner’s passion for the arts led him to enrich the Conventual Church (St. John’s Co-Cathedral) through the engagement of the Italian Baroque artist Mattia Preti, known as "Il Cavalier Calabrese”. Preti was commissioned to decorate the ceiling of the Conventual Church with scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist, a task he executed magnificently.
The Order's battalion played a crucial role in repelling the Turks from Candia, until their eventual victory in 1669.
The Order's fleet remained active during Cotoner's time as Grand Master. He dispatched seven galleys to the aid of the Venice-ruled city of Candia (modern-day Heraklion, Crete), where the Maltese battalion played a crucial role in repelling the Turks until their eventual victory in 1669.
Meanwhile, the Order's vessels faced continuous harassment from North African corsairs, often leading to skirmishes, captures, and loss of lives.
Grand Master Cotoner's life came to an abrupt end in October 1663. While returning from Buskett to Valletta for the feast of Our Lady of Pillar, he developed a fever and passed away on October 20. Cotoner was buried in the Chapel of Aragon in the Conventual Church, leaving behind a legacy of steadfast leadership, artistic patronage, and dedication to the Order of Malta.