The Order of St John has a history dating back to the 11TH Century, when Crusader Knights set up hospitals for pilgrims and fought for Christian interests in the Middle East. The Order of St John’s slowly morphed from prestigious knight’s order into a prestigious hospital charity and has saved lives during both World Wars, throughout the British Colonies and beyond. It goes without saying then, that the Museum of the Order of St John has therefore got a wealth of history to draw from when curating exhibits for their museum and is definitely one that guests who are using London City Break Deals to explore the capital should certainly tick off their tourist checklist.
What is the Venerable Order of St John?
This royal order of chivalry was first created by Queen Victoria is affiliated with the Jerusalem based St John Ophthalmic Hospital which was formed in 1882 and dating back to the times of Crusades. The hospital has since become the home of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade who run a charitable ambulance service throughout the country.
Architecture of the museum building
St John’s Gate is the building in which the Museum of the Ordert is based. This is a 16th century Gatehouse which once formed the priory of Clerkenwell which dates back to the 11th century, the orginal headquarters for the order of St John. On site visitors can find a Norman Crypt, a 16th century church and the Gate House itself which found many uses after the dissolution of the monasteries. In the late 19th century the titular gate was brought back to the gatehouse and is now furnished with stained glass, gilding and carving to create an illuminated inside. These developments over the course of history have added to the buildings character, making not only the charity it celebrates a marvel, but the age old building itself.
What to find in the museum
The Museum is based in the Clerkenwell area of London and has many exhibits concerning the history of the order itself. There are over 60,000 historic objects in the museum, including medals manuscripts and ceramics. Many of these depict certain notable people who were linked with the order whilst others show the equipment used by the ambulance and medical service throughout its long spanning history.
These include a medal Portrait Medal of Cosimo I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, which was commissioned to celebrate his son’s marriage to Joanna of Austria as well as a Verge of Beadle’s Staff, a stunning silver figurine placed on staffs, which was used in the 17th 18th and 19th centuries by the Beadle of the St John’s church, a high ranking official of the churches order. Another stunning object found within the museum includes the stunning Valette crystal cross which is in the shape of an eight pointed cross, the symbol associated with the order of St John and placed on a bronze mount. This historic beauty was given to Grand Master Jean de la Valette by Pope Pius V in 1565 for his efforts in repelling the Ottoman forces during the Siege of Malta.
It is historic pieces like the ones described above that really make the Museum of the Order of St John stand out. It’s wealth of artefacts all have amazing stories behind them, and the museum itself is definitely worth a visit.