Monday, February 23, 2009

The Maltese Falcon Trumps the Da Vinci Code at St John's Gate

Tired of the Da Vinci Code? Me too. All that stuff about Jesus and Mary Magdalene getting it on. Oh please.

So if you don’t want to join the trekkies doing the Temple Church/Kings College/Westminster Abbey tour of London but are still fascinated by the story of warrior monks who set off from London to defend the faith, head instead to St John’s Gate in Clerkenwell. There you will find the museum of the Order of St John, a British Order of Chivalry inspired by the Knights Hospitalliers, a religious order similar to the Knights Templar, who fought and provided medical care during the Crusades and later become the rulers of Rhodes and Malta.

The best time to visit the museum is on Tuesday, Fridays and Saturdays at either 11am or 2:30 when guided tours of St John’s Gate and Grand Priory Church are on offer. Otherwise, you can show yourself around the galleries which contain medical, religious and military artefacts as well an exhibition explaining the work of St John Ambulance, the modern first aid charity which traces its roots back to the work of the Hospitalliers in 11th century Jerusalem.

What this quirky small museum lacks in size it makes up with lots of interesting information about the Order. We loved the medicinal jars which were made from the earth of St Paul’s cave, also considered a good snake bite remedy at the time. There are some very fine altar pieces and a wonderful model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. We learned that Swedish mid-summer began as St John’s Day and that we can thank the Hospitallers for the herbal remedy St John’s Wort.

In addition to the galleries, there is a small but good gift shop. As befits a first aid charity, there are also large, spotless toilets. Admission is free although a donation of £5 is asked for the guided tours. On the day we were there, we had this wonderful little museum all to ourselves.

The Museum of the Order of St John
St John’s Gate
St John’s Lande
Clerkenwell London EC1M 4DA
Tel: 020 7324 4074
Photo Credit : Wikipedia

1 comment:

  1. I love St. John's Gate, every brick of its arch and all within. Now where did John the Conqueror root come from?