The official name of the Order of Malta is:   Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta.

Recent excavations in the City of Jerusalem have uncovered the remnants of the Order of St. John’s first hospital.  The hospital dates back to the period between 1099 and 1291 A.D., and was located in the heart of the Christian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, near its principal road, King David Street.

Amit Re’em, excavation co-director for the Israel Antiquities Authority, stated that “This was where the members of the St. John’s Hospital order lived.  This is where it started.  This was the first place where they used an ambulatory service to bring in sick and wounded people to the hospital.  They had riders on camels and horses…”

The hospital is the largest of its era to be discovered in the Middle East region.  The excavation work exposed parts of a structure which seems to extend across a large area.  It is more than six meters high and reveals a great hall composed of pillars and ribbed vaults, rooms and smaller halls.

The Israeli Authority, in presenting the exciting findings, commented that:  “The hospital was established and constructed by the Order of St. John of the Hospital in Jerusalem, and known by its Latin name the Hospitallers (from the word hospital).  They took an oath to care for and watch over pilgrims, and when necessary, they joined the ranks of the fighters as an elite protective unit.”

The findings and the early sources, mostly in Latin, provide much detail.  The hospital was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, and treated people of all faiths passing through Jerusalem.  It had different wings and departments, depending on the nature of the illness and the condition of the patient, similar to the arrangements in a modern hospital.  In an emergency, the hospital could accept as many as 2000 patients.  The Hospitallers treated sick men and women of different religions with respect, no matter who they were, nor where they came from.

The sources also note that, in addition to the medical departments, the hospital also functioned as an orphanage where abandoned newborns were brought.

In 1457 A.D., the building collapsed in an earthquake and was buried.  It remained buried until this recent excavation took place.