Thanks to Twitter (which is where I get most of my information from these days) I was made aware of the fact that, firstly there is a museum of the Order of St John in London for me to visit and, secondly, that there’s a Caravaggio there.
For the record (again), Caravaggio is my favourite artist. Apart from his obvious skill as an artist, I absolutely love the fact that he used pimps and whores and common criminals off the street as models for his religious paintings. Not that this Caravaggio is a religious work. No, this painting is called ‘Cardsharps’ and features two rather dishonest chaps about to fleece an unsuspecting third.
It is on loan for an indefinite period and sits high up a wall, staring down at unsuspecting museum visitors who may not have been expecting it. Actually, I read a comment in the museum which wanted to know why it wasn’t more prominently displayed. The person had a point. However, being high up means it doesn’t have to be behind glass and overly protected, I guess.
Whatever the reason, I don’t care. I am just grateful I could see it.
Now, as for the museum…it was all a bit odd. As I walked around, it was like I was experiencing some sort of extremely lucid deja vu. It wasn’t long before I realised why everything seemed so utterly familiar. Ages ago, at the Science Museum, I was researching an object that related to the Order of St John and when I told Nick (at work) that there was no People record for the actual order, he told me to make one. So I did. And while I may have forgotten I did, a lot of the information was still in my head. Not that I realised it.
What I didn’t know was that the priory was built in Clerkenwell, not far from where the chinaman, Edmund Butterick lived with his small family up Jerusalem Passage. In fact, the priory church (mostly still standing) was where the Buttericks were married in the 1840’s. It was all a bit familiar knowing that my ancestors had wandered around pretty much the same places I did today.
As I said, I popped into the church after the museum. It wasn’t looking it’s best because they’ve recently had an exhibition there and are in the midst of removing it. Even so, you get the idea of how plain yet bright and airy it is. It was also especially lovely because a woman was practicing singing and the accoustics were very full and warm.
My favourite bit, however, was the crypt. This part of the priory complex is the oldest bit still standing and dates back to the 12th century. It managed to survive Henry’s Dissolution as well as the German’s bombs and is still holding the church up.
While the crypt may have been my favourite bit, the cloister garden is clearly the favourite of office workers from around about. And I understand why. It is a little floral oasis in the middle of a noisy, smelly, rush-a-day city.
Afterwards I popped into the Jerusalem Inn for a couple of meditative pints of St Peter’s Golden Ale.
I’m back to the country tomorrow, my brief respite in London, over.