A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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Sidebar: Order of St. John, Knights of Malta

John Giordmaine was a member of the Order of St. John. He was a Knight of Malta, whose roots date back to Pope Gregory the Great Abbot of 600 A.D. Pope Gregory directed the Monks of Benedictine to start a hospital in Jerusalem. They were to take care of the health needs of the Christian pilgrims travelling to that city. The Monks of Benedictine adopted the eight-point cross as their emblem. Each point of the cross symbolizes one of the virtues which were espoused by Christ during the Sermon on the Mount.

Over the next three hundred years, the Monks tended to the needs of these pilgrims. During this period, the hospital was attacked, destroyed, and rebuilt twice. It wasn't until the first crusades, when the Christian Knights captured the city of Jerusalem from the Muslims in 1099, that the Order of St. John was formally founded by one of the Generals of the first Crusades. ‘The Great Gregory of Boullion', impressed by the care that not only his knights had received, but that the common people of Jerusalem had received, formally made the Monks an Order of Knights with the same rights and privileges of other orders, including land grants and Knights for protection. A humble beginning for the Order of St. John.

Over the next centuries, Jerusalem fell to the Muslims. The Order of St. John moved its headquarters to Rhodes, where they stayed for over 200 years, until they were defeated by the Turks. On March 23, 1530, the Order of St. John came to an agreement with the King of Sicily that they could settle on the Island of Malta. In return, the King of Sicily expected two things. First, that no ship at war with Sicily would be allowed to anchor at Malta, and second, that each year the Order's ambassador was to swear homage and fealty to its feudal overlord and present him with a falcon. In 1565 there was a great siege of Malta by the Ottoman empire, which was defeated after two bloody years of battle.13 This siege, along with Nazi attacks during World War II, are remembered on September 8 each year.

In 1798, Napoleon captured Malta without firing a shot. In so doing he brought to an end the last bastion of the Knights of the Crusades in Europe.14 Two years later, the great English naval officer Nelson freed Malta from the French. The Order of St. John was in disarray. They reformed in England at St. John Gate.

"...In 1870, the Order pledged itself to provide voluntary aid to the sick and wounded in war. During the Franco-Prussian War (1870-72), 200 surgeons, nurses and other workers devoted themselves to the care of stricken soldiers on behalf of the Order of St. John. In 1877, the Order of St. John inaugurated the St. John Ambulance Association "to train men and women for benefit of the sick and wounded. Courses in first-aid for the general public began. Five years later training was available in Canada..."15

Today, many Canadian doctors and nurses can trace their choice of career back to time spent with the St. John Ambulance in their youth

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