The Museum of the Order of St. John
Located in their former English headquarters and one of London’s ancient gateways is the Museum of the Order of St. John. The gate is of course called St. John’s Gate! The Order was founded during the crusades and used to run the largest hospital in Europe.
Their history is long and distinguished. The Order used to rule the different places and hold vast amounts of land in Western Europe. Becoming a member of the Order was a smart career choice for the second son of nobility. At one point they controlled the island of Rhodes and later the island of Malta.
They even minted their own coins and were a major power in the Mediterranean and beyond. I loved the coin display -so cool. They lost their lands in the UK when Henry VIII created the Anglican Church.
In the UK they are well known in their modern form as first responders. They set up one of the first ambulance services along with running the first courses in First Aid training. During the First World War they set up hospitals, which were all civilian run.
At the moment, their special exhibition is about this painting of the Cardsharp by Caravaggio. They investigate the beautiful fabrics painted in the work and compare them to church vestments in their collection. It’s an interesting way to look at the painting.
The museum is quite small but it is really lovely. My favourite factoid was that the gate was at one point home to a coffee shop run by the artist William Hogarth’s father.
Pros: Amazing location/ building, great collection, well woven story, fascinating special exhibition, cute shop, kind staff, free to visit, places to sit
Cons: the museum is closely tied to Roman Catholic Church history which is not everyone’s cup of tea, may not be that great for kids