HISTORY OF MEMBER ORDERS OF THE 
ALLIANCE

 

The Alliance members consist of the four major protestant Orders of St John:

Balley Brandenburg ("Johanniterorden") 
Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem
Johanniterorden I Sverige
Johanniter Orde in Nederland

and four non-German Commanderies of the Bailiwick of Brandenburg:

Swiss Commandery of the Order of St John
French Commandery of the Order of St John
Hungarian Commandery of the Order of St John
Finnish Commandery of the Order of St John

 

THE BAILIWICK OF BRANDENBURG (Johanniter Order)

The German langue of the order consisted of the priories of Germany, Poland, Dacia (Denmark and Sweden) and Hungary. The history of the Bailiwick of Brandenburg within the German Priory, begins with the establishment of the oldest house of the Order, on the Elbe, in 1160. It had become largely self-dependent, taking over much property from the Templar Order, when that was dissolved in 1312. This greatly increased the assets of the Order in middle and eastern Germany. However, as had already occurred in 1366, the headquarters of the Order had probably sold still more Order estates on their borders to the neighbouring German Order because of the high costs of building defences in Rhodes.

With the 1382 Treaty of Heimbach between the German Grand Prior and the 'Herrenmeister', the Bailiwick of Brandenburg attained official autonomous status within the structure of the German Priories. The leaders of the prebends (commanderies) selected the head of the Bailiwick, who was then confirmed in his post by the German Prior. This procedure was confirmed in 1383 by the Chapter General of the Order in Valencia and later also by the Curia and by the Margrave of Brandenburg as head of State. Thus the Bailiwick of Brandenburg acquired special rights enjoyed by no other in the Order.

When the House of Hohenzollern, which had supplied the margraves and Kurfürsten of Brandenburg since 1415, turned to the teachings of Luther in 1538, a few commanders (Komtures) followed suit and later married. This would have made them more dependent on the State rulers. Following protests from the German Grand Prior, in 1551 one provincial Chapter ruled that married commanders should lose neither their honour nor their prebends. Measures to contest this by the Grand Master of Malta remained unsuccessful; and the Bailiwick of Brandenburg was still regarded as belonging to the Order. In the Treaties of Westphalia of 1648, the Kurfürst of Brandenburg was recognised as Protector of the Bailiwick of Brandenburg, a move which was to have far-reaching consequences. After 1693, the office of Herrenmeister was always filled by members of the House of Hohenzollern. In an Order of 1745, King Friedrich II of Prussia commanded that the cross of the Order should be added to the crown of the Prussian king; this is still shown in the Cross of Rechtsritter and Kommendators.

To repay the huge debts arising from the Prussian defeat by Napoleon, King Friedrich Wilhelm III commandeered all clerical estates including those of the Bailiwick of Brandenburg in 1810/11. The German Grand Priory had been dissolved in 1806 and the old Order of the Bailiwick of Brandenburg followed soon after. But as early as May 1812, Friedrich Wilhelm III had founded, in honourable memory of the old Bailiwick, a royal Prussian Order of St John as an honour for services, the decoration for which was the simple cross of the Order in the form of today's Iron Cross. Members of the former Bailiwick were also admitted to this royal Order. King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia then reinstated the Bailiwick of Brandenburg of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem by a cabinet Decree of October 1852.

Eight knights had formed a Chapter from the old Bailiwick and elected as new Herrenmeister Prince Friedrich Carl Alexander of Prussia. Following the agreements in the Hambacher treaty of 1382, he reported his election to the representative of the Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Rome, Count Colloredo-Mels, because since 1806 there had been no further German Grand Priors. As Protector, the King commanded that all members of the Royal Order of St John should be admitted as Honorary Knights in the Bailiwick and that they could also be named Rechtsritter.

In the spirit of the times, the Order dedicated itself to caring work. It opened hospitals, created the Institute of the Johanniter Sisters, and was also substantially involved in the founding of the International Red Cross in 1836. During the wars of 1864, 1866, 1870/1, as well as in World War 1, it was successfully involved (often together with the Order of Malta) in the running of military hospitals and in the transport of the wounded. During the Third Reich, the activities of the Order were greatly reduced. As active members of the Resistance, 14 Johanniter members sacrificed their lives.

Making a new start after 1945 was especially difficult because of the division of Germany. Nevertheless the Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe (Johanniter Accident Aid) was set up in 1952; and the Johanniter Sisterhood and the Johanniter Community Aid enterprises followed. All three helped care for the suffering in the difficult conditions of that time. After the reunification of Germany, the Order once again faced great challenges which it has successfully tackled.

Today, the Johanniterorden is divided into 18 German Fellowships/Prebends along regional lines. In addition, it holds formal responsibility for five non-German Fellowships (commanderies) in Finland, Hungary, Austria, France and Switzerland. Outside Europe, the Order is also represented in the USA, Canada, the Baltic States, in parts of Latin America and Namibia. Current membership is around 3,400 Johanniter knights.

The head of the Order is the Herrenmeister. Since September 1999, this post has been filled by Oscar, Prince of Prussia. The Herrenmeister is represented by a Governor (Ordensstatthalter) when he cannot carry out his duties for an extended period. The Captain of the Order is responsible for all legal and honorary matters within the Order. Every Fellowship/Prebend is led by a Commander (Kommendator). The person at the head of the Order and the Kommendators make up the Chapter - the most important decision-making body. Its decisions are carried out by the Government of the Order under the Chancellor of the Order.

HRH Oscar, Prince of Prussia assumed his high office on 5 September 1999, as the sixth Herrenmeister since the re-introduction of the Johanniter Order in 1852. He took over from his father, HRH Wilhelm-Karl of Prussia who had been head of the Order for 41 years.

to top

 

THE HISTORY OF THE MOST VENERABLE ORDER OF THE HOSPITAL OF ST JOHN OF JERUSALEM

The English estates of the order were originally subject to the priory of St Gilles in southern France, but in 1185 the priory (later grand priory) of England was established with its headquarters in Clerkenwell. The Order had acquired the site in about 1140 and the modern Order still partly occupies it today. It flourished during the next four centuries; and the Gatehouse of the Priory headquarters was rebuilt in 1504. However, in 1540 the Order was suppressed by King Henry VIII. Despite a brief recovery under Queen Mary, the Order lost all its property although it was never formally dissolved.

In its present form, the Order in England traces its origins to the mediaeval Order through action by French Knights of Malta following 1798. The organ which emerged following that initiative was fostered partly by a movement in England which was inspired by the "age of chivalry". The question remained how to link this movement with a desire to help the sick and needy, as the Hospitallers of old had done. By the middle of the century, public opinion was appalled by the number of accidents in the workplace, where casualties died or were unnecessarily injured through lack of skilled help. Gradually, this thought crystallised into the support for the teaching and practice of First Aid. First, the St John Ambulance Association was established in 1877 to teach First Aid to the public. Then, 10 years later (1887), followed the creation of the St John Ambulance Brigade, which provided well-trained volunteers to give First Aid cover at public events. These two Foundations are now merged under the title of "St John Ambulance". Meanwhile, in 1882, thanks to the personal intervention of the Prince of Wales with the Sultan of Turkey, the Order set up a further Foundation: an ophthalmic hospital in Jerusalem - which remains there, doing invaluable work, to this day. All this persuaded Queen Victoria, in 1888, to grant a Royal Charter which affirmed the status of the Order in England. Since then, the reigning monarch, at present HM Queen Elizabeth II, has always been Sovereign Head of the Order, with a junior member of the Royal Family (for the last half century, the present Duke of Gloucester and his father) acting as Grand Prior. The Order is thus a fully recognised Crown Order of Chivalry in Britain.

Meanwhile, the Order, and particularly the work of its Foundations, soon spread throughout the former British Empire. Autonomous "priories" were established in Scotland (1947), Wales (1918), South Africa (1941), New Zealand (1943), Canada (1946), and Australia (1946). The United States of America became the seventh Priory in 1996. More than 30 other branches, called "National Councils" were also set up, mainly in what are now described as "developing Commonwealth countries". In addition there are Commanderies in Northern Ireland (Ards) and Western Australia; and associated St John bodies in Hong Kong, and the Republic of Ireland.

In October 1999, the Order entered a new phase of its long history. Under the new constitution, which came into force then, the Grand Council became the central governing body of the Order. This now includes 8 Priories, the most recent being a new Priory of England (the original home of the Order). Relations with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (Roman Catholic, with its Headquarters in Rome) are good; and in the UK, there has in recent years been excellent practical collaboration over providing homes for the elderly.

to top

 

THE HISTORY OF THE JOHANNITERORDE IN SWEDEN

Brothers of the Order of St John arrived in Sweden around 1170 and founded before 1185 a monastery in Eskilstuna at the grave of the martyr St Eskil, 100km west of Stockholm. The monastery soon became a centre for the cure of the old and infirm. The Swedish Royal Houses and important noble families became generous donors to St John and Eskilstuna. During the 14th century a smaller monastery was founded in Stockholm where goods and other tributes were stored. From Stockholm, they were sent further to the headquarters of the Priory of Dacia. At the end of the Middle Ages, the Order also acquired a church in Stockholm and a monastery in the southeast of the country close to the town of Kalmar. In 1467 leading Swedish members of the Order had direct independent links with Rhodes. The reformation in 1527 ruled by King Gustav I resulted in the temporary extinction of the Order in Sweden.

During the last centuries, Swedish nobles became knights of the Bailiwick of Brandenburg. Among them a Swedish Commandery of the Order was founded in 1920 under the protection of King Gustav V and Queen Victoria; but the Commandery was formally still affiliated to the Bailiwick of Brandenburg until 1946.

In November 1946, Johanniterorden I Sverige was embodied by a Royal Charter with King Gustav V as its Herre och Mästare (Sire and Master). Today HM King Carl XVI Gustav is the High Patron and HM Queen Silvia the First Honorary Member of the Order. Its headquarters have been at the Riddarhuset in Stockholm. The Order has semi-official status, and has about 330 members of whom at least 50 are Knights of Justice. The Order aims to promote Christian values. Knights have to belong to the Swedish Church or another Christian Evangelical Church and acknowledge the Christian faith.

Kommendatorn (the Commander) is in charge of the Order, assisted by Konventet (the Chapter) with a maximum of twelve members. The highest decision-making body of the Order is Riddardagen (the Annual Meeting). Beneath the Chapter, the Order is organised in four regions: Southern, Western, Eastern and the Stockholm area.

Emblem, standard and decorations
The legally protected Emblem of the Order is the white Amalfi cross with sheaves connecting the arms of the cross. The Standard is in red and blue, white and gold, showing the white cross twice iterated on a red background and three open crowns (the coat of arms of Sweden) in gold on a blue background. The knights wear a breast cross and collar cross in white enamel. The collar cross worn on a black silk ribbon with white edged stripes, again has sheaves connecting the arms with the cross. For the knights of Justice, these are crowned by a royal crown in gold (also protected in law).

to top

 

THE HISTORY OF THE JOHANNITER ORDE IN THE NETHERLANDS

The full name of the Order is Johanniter Orde in Nederland, Nederlandse tak van de aloude Orde van het Hospitaal van Sint Jan te Jeruzalem (Order of St John in the Netherlands, Dutch branch of the ancient Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem). The Hospitallers were mentioned in the Netherlands for the first time in 1122 in Utrecht as Jerosolimitani. The Bailiwick of Utrecht of the Hospitaller Order of St John had from that time hospitals and Commanderies in all other parts of the Netherlands. The Bailiwick was part of the German Langue. After the Reformation, the Dutch Johanniter Knights came under the Order's Bailiwick of Brandenburg, after this Bailiwick became protestant (c.1550 - see above).

On the instigation of HRH Prince Hendrik of the Netherlands, consort of HM Queen Wilhelmina, a Dutch Commandery of the Bailiwick of Brandenburg was created called Commenderij Nederland, of which all Dutch Knights became part. It was instituted by Royal Decree of 30 April 1909. The Dutch branch became independent of the Bailiwick of Brandenburg by a Royal Decree of 5 March 1946.

The Order is ruled by the Chapter, headed by the Landcommandeur. H.R.H. the late Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands was till his death Landcommander. H.M. Queen Beatrix is Commander of Honour. Membership of the Order is limited to the Protestant Dutch nobility and is divided into three classes: Honorary Knights and Dames of the Chapter, Knights and Dames of Justice, and Knights and Dames of Grace. HRH the Prince of Orange, Crown Prince of the Netherlands, is Knight of Justice.

The Order continues its ancient charitable and Hospitaller mission supporting several hospitals and hospices. There is a close co-operation with the Dutch branch of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta: there are four joint Commanderies in the Netherlands together with them. A Joint Association for young aspirant Johanniter and Maltese Knights and Dames is also active.

to top

 

HISTORY OF THE COMMANDERIES IN SWITZERLAND,
FRANCE, HUNGARY AND FINLAND

Swiss Commandery of the Order of St John

At the beginning of the 1920s, about a dozen knights, Swiss and German, members of the Balley Brandenburg, were living around Bern. In 1937, with the approval of the "Herrenmeister" Oscar Prince of Prussia, they created an "Association of the knights of St John in Switzerland" as a part of the Balley Brandenburg. The "Swiss Society of the Order of St John" was set up in 1948 and became the "Swiss Commandery of the Order of St John" in 1975. Five other sub-commanderies have been created: Geneva (1959), Zurich (1961), Basel (1966), Neuchâtel (1971) and Vaud (1976). In 1962 a Relief Organization (Hilfswerk/Oeuvre d'Entraide) has been created, which since then has been active abroad as well as inside Switzerland. In the year 2000, the Swiss Commandery had about 100 members, as well as some 30 guest knights being mostly German and Hungarian nationals.

 

French Commandery of the Order of St John

The French Commandery of the Order of St John originated with the nomination as Knight of Honour of General Hugues de Cabrol in 1957. A few other Knights were created shortly thereafter and founded the Association of the French Knights of the Order of St John. In the context of the reconciliation between France and Germany, with the help of the Swiss Commandery and the Sponsorship of the Sovereign Order of Malta, the Order was officially recognised by the Grand Chancery of the Legion of Honour by a Decree of 21 April 1960 and the French Commandery was founded and recognised that same year. Created originally with ten Knights, the French Commandery of the Order now counts over sixty members.

The Order is organised in France around two Associations: the Commanderie Française du Grand Baillage de Brandenbourg de l'Ordre des Chevaliers de Saint Jean de l'Hôpital de Jérusalem which groups the French Knights, and the Oeuvres de Saint Jean which develops charitable activity under the leadership of the Commandery and is open to all.

 

Hungarian Commandery of the Order of St John

The earliest link between the Order of St John and Hungary dates back to 1135 when Petronilla, a Hungarian noble woman, established a hospice in the Holy Land for the use of pilgrims. Witness to this donation was Raymond du Puy, second grand Master of the Order of St John. In 1147, the second Crusade passed through Hungary and the first hospice of the Order was established by King Geza II of Hungary close to the city of Esztergom. For several centuries, the Order of St John maintained a number of hospices and fortresses scattered across the Kingdom of Hungary in its defence against the infidels. During the Turkish occupation of a large part of Hungary and the ever strengthening Habsburg rule, the Order lost progressively all its possessions and influence in Hungary.

By the beginning of the 20th century, 32 Hungarian protestant noblemen were members of the Bailiwick of Brandenburg (Johanniter Orden). In 1924, with permission from the Herrenmeister HRH Eitel-Friedrich of Prussia, the Hungarian knights established their own national and autonomous Commandery, the Johannitarend Magyar Tagozata. The Sovereign Military Order (catholic) set up direct diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Hungary in 1925, before establishing a national association in 1928. Both organisations maintained significant hospices and charities before and during the war. After WWII, these associations continued their work in exile providing help to refugees. The Hungarian Johanniter Commandery was welcomed back officially to Hungary in 1990, where it maintains co-ordinated and fraternal relationships with its catholic brethren.

 

The Finnish Commandery of the Order of St John

Origins
The roots of the Finnish Commandery of the Order of St John can be traced back to the Bailiwick of Brandenburg: in the 14th century this was granted an almost autonomous position within the Order which it retained until 1811. As noted on p.3 above, the Napoleonic wars placed a heavy burden on the northern parts of Germany; all the Bailiwick's possessions were confiscated by the Prussian State in 1811. The Knights, however, were given as thanks and in memory of the Bailiwick, an Order of Merit granted by the newly created Royal Prussian Order of St John (founded for this purpose). But new winds started to blow. In 1852, the former Bailiwick of Brandenburg was re-instituted by King Fredrik Wilhelm IV, who summoned its surviving Knights to a meeting, where it was decided to resume the mediaeval Bailiwick's activities. Large donations flowed from this decision, making it possible to resume charitable work on a significant scale.

The contemporary Finish branch of the Order of St John
A number of knights from the early 19th century, seem likely to have originated from the "Russian episode" in the history of the Sovereign Order of St John of Malta: i.e. knighthoods conferred by Tsar Paul I, who had declared himself Grand Master 1799-1801 (the Pope never confirmed him as Grand Master). Later, others were derived from the interim period of the Bailiwick (i.e. the Royal Prussian Order of St John, mentioned above). The first knight of the reborn Bailiwick of Brandenburg living in Finland, was Baron Anders Ramsay, born in 1799, who was made a Knight of Justice by the Herrenmeister in 1870. In 1923, the Finnish knights, by then a total of 15, organised themselves into a subchapter. This received the consent of the Chapter General of the Bailiwick of Brandenburg in 1925, and was reflected in statutes in 1935. By 1933 the subchapter had 19 members, but after the Second World War the number fell to 14. Since then, recruitment has been cautious but steady.

In 1949 permission was given for establishment of a separate Finnish Commandery. The members of the Commandery met together for the first time on 18 May 1950, by which time there were 47 knights. The first commander was Baron Ernst Fabian Wrede. He was succeeded in 1952 by Woldemar Fredrik Hackman (1952-1961), followed by Count Carl-Johan Georg Creutz (1961-1987), Professor Nils Christian Edgar Oker-Blom (1987-1995), and (since 1995) Magnus Gabriel von Bonsdorff.

Although the German Johanniter Order has opened its ranks to non-nobles, the Finnish Commandery remains limited to the Finnish nobility, proof of which is regulated by the Finnish House of Nobility. The Order has official recognition in Finland and its decorations can be worn on all occasions, including with military uniforms.

There are now 173 members, including two commanders (one serving, one formerly serving), one honorary commander, 16 knights of Justice and 154 knights of Honour. The Commandery is governed by a Chapter of nine members, consisting of the Commander, Judge (responsible for regulating statutes and membership), Director (Verkmästare responsible for the activities of the Commandery), Treasurer (responsible for the accounts), and the Secretary General (responsible for correspondence and keeping the minutes of meetings), and four Councillors. The Chaplain, Master of Ceremonies and Nurse (who is not a member of the Order) are not members of the Chapter.

The first statutes for the separate Finnish Commandery were drawn up and approved on 18 May 1950, before being confirmed by the Herrenmeister and enacted under Finnish law on 5 May 1951. They were amended on 6 February 1996, to allow for the Commander to be elected for a six-year term with the option of being re-elected for three years at a time. Members of the Chapter are elected for a three-year term with the options of being re-elected

 


to top

Go back

Go back