The Kremlin Museums, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Russia, are currently hosting an exhibition on the Order of St John, focusing on the historical link between the Order and Russia. This exhibition is commemorating the 20th anniversary of the establishment of official relations between the Russian Federation and the Order. It was inaugurated on 5 July 2012 by the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra Matthew Festing, and the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Medinskiy, and will run till 9 September. Thousands are visiting the exhibition daily.
More than 25% of the artefacts on display derive from Heritage Malta's national collection, mainly from the Palace Armoury, the National Museum of Fine Arts and the Malta Maritime Museum. Three important documents are also on loan from the National Library of Malta. Artefacts from the Palace Armoury include the siege armour of Grandmaster Alof de Wignacourt, parts of an armour belonging to a member of the La Vallette family, and the Verdelin suit of armour, famous due to its portrayal in a painting by Caravaggio, now at the Louvre. The portrait of Grandmaster Pinto by Favray, and two silver chalices of Grandmasters Lascaris and L’Isle Adam, derive from the National Museum of Fine Arts. The Order’s model of the ‘San Gioacchino’ and a selection of artillery tables and tools from the Malta Maritime Museum are also being exhibited.
Other important items from foreign museums include Caravaggio’s portrait of Antonio Martelli from Palazzo Pitti, a model of a galley of the Order from the Hermitage Museum, the crowns and seals of Czar Paul III from Palazzo Malta in Rome and the Kremlin Museums, the La Vallette dagger from the Louvre, a large selection of medals and uniform insigna from the Musee Legion d’Honour, and the icon of Mt. Fileremo from the Basilica of the Porziuncola in Assisi.
The historic links between the Order of St John and Russia go back to at least 1698 during the rule of Grandmaster Perellos. Following the fall of Malta, Tsar Paul I of Russia offered to host some Knights of the Order of St John. Although not Roman Catholic, and lacking the requisites to be elected Grandmaster, Tsar Paul defended the Order, thus sheltering its continuity during such a dramatic phase of its long existence.