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Treasures of the Order of Malta: an exhibition at the Kremlin Museum, Moscow

Grand Master Fra’Matthew Festing opens historic collection

Moscow, 5 July 2012

Caravaggio’s Portrait of
Antonio Martelli

The Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra’ Matthew Festing, has today inaugurated in the rooms of the Kremlin Museum, Moscow, an exhibition entitled: Treasures of the Order of Malta. Nine centures at the service of faith and charity.’

Over 200 items of special interest – pictures, statues, arms, uniforms, manuscripts and other exhibits – are displayed in Russia for the first time. Many of the works have been gathered from the Museums of the Kremlin, St.Petersburg, Gatchina and Pavlovsk, as well as loans from the Louvre Musuem in Paris, the Galleria Palatina di Palazzo Pitti in Florence, the Maritime Museum of Malta, and the National Library of Valletta, Malta.

Among the most important exhibits are Caravaggio’s Portrait of Antonio Martelli, from the Pitti and the icon of Mt.Fileremo, which for centuries has been at the heart of the spirituality of the members of the Order, and which, thanks to the Franciscan Fathers, has temporarily left the Basilica of the Porziuncola in Assisi.

The Louvre has lent the dagger which Grand Master La Vallette presented to Philip II, King of Spain, after the victory against the Ottomans in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. Among the many documents are  genealogical trees of Knights of Malta. Many of exhibits were created by the best artisans in Europe, and as well as being historic heirlooms, are genuine works of art.

The historic link between the Order of Malta and Russia goes back to 1798, after the fall of Malta, when Czar Paul I offered shelter to the Order. Although not Catholic, and lacking the requisites to be elected Grand Master, Czar Paul defended the Order, thus preserving its historic continuity during the most dramatic phase of its history since its foundation in Jerusalem in the eleventh century. Among the items in the Kremlin are  the crown, dagger and seal which Czar Paul I commissioned for his coronation as Grand Master of the Order. Thus, with this historic link, the eight-pointed cross – the symbol of the Order of Malta – became a part of the symbols of Imperial Russia from then until the revolution.

In one section of the exhibition, a document describes the characteristics and the medical and humanitarian works of the Order of Malta, today active in 120 countries of the world.

The exhibition, organised by the Embassy of the Sovereign Order of Malta in Russia to mark the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the establishing of diplomatic relations, and under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, is open until 9 September 2012.

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The mission of the Order of Malta is inspired by its tradition of ‘Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum', to assist the poor and the sick, and bear witness to the Christian faith.


The Sovereign Order of Malta is a sovereign subject of international law. The Order - which is based in Rome, in via Condotti - has its own Government, an independent magistracy, and bilateral diplomatic relations with 110 countries.


The Order of St John of Jerusalem is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilisation. Present in Palestine in around 1048, it is a lay religious Order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature.