Hospitaller Brothers of St John

 

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Excerpt from The Gentleman’s Magazine – Volume 265 published in 1888 – Article ‘The St John Ambulance Association by Alfred J H Crespi – November 1888’

Hospitaller Brothers of St John

St Johns Gate, ClerkenwellAt Jerusalem there were then living some Italian merchants of Amalfi, who daily witnessed scenes that wrung their hearts, and, with the consent of the Calif of Egypt, they built a hospital for the reception and relief of pilgrims. This nursing community was at first known as the Hospitaller Brothers of St John the Baptist of Jerusalem, though some authorities contend that it was originally dedicated to St. John the Almoner. Before long, however, it was placed under the protection of St John the Baptist, and it bears his name to this day. The nursing community threw itself into its work with impassioned zeal, knowing no weariness and recognising no distinction of race or creed the only passport to its help was to need it; and it has been in that catholic spirit that the work has been ever since carried on “for the glory of God and the good of man.” The fame of the order rapidly spread – rich gifts poured in upon it, many recruits joined its ranks, its power increased, and the good it did augmented. But the Seljuk Turks did not always continue to respect the hospice, and when the Crusaders entered Jerusalem in 1099 they found Gerard, the rector of the order, in prison.

Released from captivity, he commanded the doors of the hospital to be flung open for the reception of the sick and wounded. Some of the Crusaders before long joined the order and devoted themselves to the good work, while Godfrey de Bouillon, the leader of the expedition, and some of his companions, were so grateful for the benefits which they received that they endowed the hospital with lands and manors in many parts of Europe. Gerard, after a time, persuaded the brethren to take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience before the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and in 1113 Pope Pascal II. gave his official sanction to what had been done. Raymond du Puy, the successor of Gerard, framed a code of laws which was confirmed by Pope Calixtus II. To the obligations taken by the earlier members were subsequently added those of fighting against the infidels and defending the Holy Sepulchre. Hospices, called commanderies, were established in many parts of Europe, and the order soon included in its ranks numbers of powerful and high-born recruits, more particularly after it added a military organisation to its religious duties. In 1187, after the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin, the Hospitallers retired to Margat in Phoenicia, and in 1285 to Acre; in [1291] they again removed, this time to Limisso, where Henry II. of Cyprus gave them a residence. In its days of greatest power it counted as a valuable factor in the wars against the infidels; its members were then divided into three classes – the knights, the chaplains, and the serving brothers, the last being fighting squires who accompanied the knights to battle. At one time the order consisted of eight langues – Provence, Auvergne, France, Italy, Aragon, Castile, Germany, and England. Most European countries had several priories, under which there were a number of commanderies. In England the chief establishment was the magnificent priory of Clerkenwell, the head of which was styled Premier Baron of England, and had a seat in the Upper House of Parliament. Quite recently the headquarters of that most useful body, the St. John Ambulance Association, has been placed in the gateway of the ancient building, and there the chief secretary, Major Sir Herbert Perrott, Bart., and his efficient and untiring staff of assistants and friends, get through their noble work – work far grander than that of the old knights, for the modern representatives concern themselves only with the relief of suffering – a far wider field than that of the original order, for it is co-extensive with the world, and good is being done in India, Russia, the Cape, and wherever any opening is found for it.

Excerpt from The Gentleman’s Magazine – Volume 265 published in 1888 – Article ‘The St John Ambulance Association by Alfred J H Crespi – November 1888’

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Further Reading and External Links 

St John Ambulance on Wikipedia

St John Ambulance Association Website