The Museum of the Order of St John
St John's Gate, London, United Kingdom
www.museumstjohn.org.uk - 020 7324 4005
The Museum of the Order of St John London Reviews
Excellent introduction to a worldwide chivalric order Aug 14, 2015
The Order of St John today is a major international charity dedicated to providing First Aid and health care, with a worldwide body of staff and volunteers that numbers upwards of 250,000 people. The order operates in some 40 countries, ranging from the UK to Uganda, and includes a dedicated Eye Hospital in Israel. The UK is where the order originated, and is best-known by people in this country for being the leading provider of First Aid training.
Despite its prolific standing today, many people are unaware of the history of this venerable order, which dates back some 900 years. This museum, tucked away on a side street in Clerkenwell in East London, serves as an excellent (and free) introduction to the highly eventful history of the order, from its roots as a hospital set up to care for sick pilgrims during the Crusades right through to the present day.
The museum is logically laid out and easy to follow; a timeline spans the central room, detailing the highs and lows of the history of the order, and two separate rooms branch off to feature exhibits on its days as a Roman Catholic Military Order in the Middle Ages (where they became known as the ‘Knights of Rhodes’ and the ‘Knights of Malta’, having fought against enemies including the Barbary Pirates) and its more recent history, from its 19th century revival through to the present day.
Highlights among the exhibits include manuscripts dating from the middle ages, a bronze cannon donated by Henry VIII, suits of armour worn and weapons wielded by Knights of Rhodes/Malta and a comprehensive cabinet of medals that are given to members of the order. There’s also a nearby church and crypt, complete with Cloister Garden that grows medicinal herbs similar to those the order would’ve grown for use in Medieval times.
The museum itself is in the Clerkenwell Priory that was established as the Order’s base. It has served other purposes since it was dissolved during the Reformation, before eventually becoming a museum to the order in the 20th century. This history of the venue certainly permeates the air, ensuring an atmospheric as well as an informative visit.
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