Thursday, 10 March 2022

Friday 4 March 2022: Visit to the Museum of the Order of St John, Clerkenwell

 A dozen sketchers presented themselves at the antique entrance to the Museum of the Order of St John in Clerkenwell, to a warm welcome from Amie Hampsheir-Gill, our guide for the day.   It was a truly fascinating place.  We were taken upstairs into the sixteenth century chambers, plus the much larger Chapter Hall which was built around 1900 in traditional style.  The original building had been built by the Knights of St John (the Hospitallers) in early Tudor times, but was lost to the Order as part of Henry VIII's  reformation seizures.  A deeply traumatic moment, reflected in the effigy of the prior of the time, who died under the shock of the loss; we saw his bony effigy in the Crypt (Norman and slightly later).

The Knights of St John's headquarters for several centuries was in Malta.   Although our artists did not really focus on this part of the history, being preoccupied with getting on with their sketches, the heroic effort by the Knights and the Maltese who held off the vast navy of the Sultan of the Ottomans, the Mediterranean superpower of their day,  in a terrible siege of the Island in 1565, has a resonance right now.    The Knights and the Maltese fought off a much larger aggressor then: the Ukrainians have the determination to do it today.

When we were taken across to the Priory Church, as well as the skeletal effigy of Sir William Weston (noted above), we saw the effigy in full armour (plus lion and pageboy) of Don Juan Ruiz de Vergara, who died fighting the Turks at sea off Marseilles later in the century, and might have also been at the Great Siege, this is not clear from the literature. 

Due to the sensitive nature of the buildings, we were asked to use only dry materials while on the premises, but some artists pre-prepared their paper in advance, and some applied paint (and possibly other materials) afterwards.   Many aspects of the Museum and Church caught our eye, it was difficult to decide which area to focus on.  Our artists' work reflects the multiplicity of choices.

We very much appreciate the generosity of the Museum of the Order of St John in allowing us to sketch in their spaces, and the helpfulness of our guide, Amie.   We also very much enjoyed hearing something of the history of the buildings and of the Order, which over the centuries has evolved from its knightly origins into the much loved St John's Ambulance Brigade and also runs an eye hospital in Jerusalem.    We hope very much to come back in the future to sketch and to learn more more of the history.

We had one continental visitor with us on this occasion, who kindly pointed out that down in the Cote d'Azur there is a very active urban sketcher group based in Nice, which we would be very welcome to join in with if visiting this lovely part of France.  One day!

Enjoy our images:

Image below by Priscilla Worley:

Image below by Janet Payne: 

Image below by Pam  Rigdon:

Image below by Sue Lees:

 Images below by Audrey Rapier:


Audrey Rapier was able to complete this oil on gesso board painting below at home later based on her sketches:

Images below by Marianne Heredge:

Image below by Daniel Lloyd-Morgan

 Image below by Diane Umemoto:

Image below by Gill D'Ambrosio:

 Image below by Gill Steiner:

Image below by Daniel Lloyd-Morgan:

 Image below by Audrey Rapier: 

Image below by Gill D'Ambrosio:

 Image below by Sue Lees:





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