July, 05 - September, 09, 2012

the One-Pillar Chamber of the Patriarch's Palace

Organized by:
the Moscow Kremlin Museums 

01# Crown of the Grand Master of the Order of St John of Jerusalem (Maltese)The Sovereign Order of Malta, repository of the world’s oldest hospitaller tradition, has strong bonds with Russia through some of the most significant events in its almost thousand year history. Special relations between the Russian Empire and the Knights of Malta were proved in the XVIIIth century, when Emperor Paul I signed a Treaty with the Order of Malta and became the Protector of the Order. After the Mediterranean stronghold of Malta was captured by Napoleon in 1798 and the Order was dispersed, the Emperor gave the largest number of Knights shelter in Saint-Petersburg and later on, in November, 1798 he was elected to become a Grand Master of the Order of Malta. By his decree the Maltese cross was introduced into the Russian state emblem and seal. In the reign of Paul I the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem became the highest decoration awarded for military and civil service. The Emperor, his wife and son, the heir to the throne, as well as some members of the Imperial family were wearing the Order's insignia.

The relations between Imperial Russia and the Order of Malta were reflected in the history of the acquisitions of the Moscow Kremlin Armoury. The museum's collection of foreign orders was established in 1799 when Emperor Paul I had the reliquary of Grand Master Philippe de Villiers de l'Isle'Adam transferred to the Armoury for safekeeping. Later our the museum funds acquired the crosses of famous Grand Masters Pierre d'Aubusson and Jean de la Vallette, the distinguished participants of the struggle for Rhodes and Malta, as well as by the crown of Malta and the orders of Russian Emperors and Empresses. The Order's right to the treasures collected through its long history was violated by Napoleon Bonaparte. The French occupation of Malta in 1798 and the consequent expulsion of the knights from the island led to shameless plundering of the Order's possessions. As a result, a great number of artifacts, especially those made of precious metals and stones were lost. Thus the crosses of the Grand Masters presented to Paul I upon the decision by the Council of the Order in 1797 are symbolic artifacts that had been carefully preserved in the collection of the Kremlin Museums and now displayed at the exhibition.

The project covers the legendary history of the Order. Wonderful artifacts linked to the history of the Order had been scattered around the world and have been gathered together in one exhibition space for the first time. Among then are the portrait of a knight of Malta by Merisi da Caravaggio, as well as the early crosses and regalia of the Order. The exhibition incorporates about 200 objects from 19 public and private collections of Russia, Malta, Italy and France, which had been executed by the best jewellers, artisans and artists, along with the Order's uniforms and rare documents from archival collections.