The Museum of the Order of St John tells a unique and fascinating story — the story of the Order of St John. The Order was founded after the first Crusade captured Jerusalem in 1099.
The Order consisted of a group of Knights, men from noble European families who took vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and care of the sick.
In the 1140s the Priory in Clerkenwell was set up as the English headquarters of the Order. When King Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church and established a new Anglican Church, the Order in England was dissolved and all its lands and wealth were seized by the Crown. The Order was briefly restored by Henry’s Catholic daughter, Queen Mary, who granted it a Royal Charter. However, on the accession of her Protestant sister, Queen Elizabeth I, the Order in England was dissolved for good.
In the eighteenth century the Gate was briefly used as a coffee house, run by Richard Hogarth, father of the artist William Hogarth. Dr. Samuel Johnson was given his first job in London at St John’s Gate, writing reports for The Gentlemen’s Magazine. At the end of the eighteenth century the Gate was used as a pub, The Old Jerusalem Tavern, where artists and writers, including Charles Dickens, used to meet.
The modern Order of St John in England was granted a Royal Charter by Queen Victoria in 1888.
The Museum has just been restored and has a fabulous, well organised display but the highlight of the church is the old crypt which has a rather macabre monument of William Weston, who was the last Prior before Henry VIII dissolved the Order in England. Apparently he died of a broken heart!!!
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