The Knights of St. John's founding purpose and mission was to provide nursing to the sick and hospitality and shelter to the needy during the Crusades. After leaving Palestine in the 12th Century, they first moved to Cyprus and later to Rhodes where they remained up to 1523. On their arrival in Malta in 1530 they proceeded to continue with their mission of providing care and welfare for the sick as well as upholding the defence of Christendom from its attackers.
In Birgu, across the Grand Harbour, they established their first hospital but their pride and joy was to come later just over a decade after the 'Great Siege' with the building of the Sacra Infermeria at the tip of Valletta.
The Knights Hospitallers heritage attraction is dedicated to the very noble work of the knights focusing primarily on their work as a hospitaller order in the Island of Malta. Visitors can wander at their own pace and linger and focus on and where they choose and see amongst many others:
* How the origins of the Order started, particularaly during the Crusades, and how the Knights continued to care for the sick and the needy after this era.
* How the Order come to Malta and built the Holy Infirmary giving birth to the concept of modern day nursing and health care.
* How siege medicine was administered and battle wounds were treated in a display that re-enacts the night attack on Fort St. Elmo on 10th June 1565.
The Knights Hospitallers is sited in the Magazine Ward, one of many other wards at the Holy Infirmary, which originally held 36 beds and housed disturbed mental patients.
The attraction combines a mixed range of media including displays with full-scale figures and others with smaller scale dioramas interspersed with 30cm high figures. The whole attraction houses over 100 figures some in period costume.
Foremost amongst the exhibits is a display featuring the Great Ward with the recreation of rows of various beds with the sick being attended to by physicians and the Grand Master himself.
Surgery and surgeons are given pride of place with a trio of full-scale figures depicting the major surgeons who practised in the Holy Infirmary including a life size display of a pharmacy of the Order with full-scale figures. There is also a recreation of a perceived 17th Century surgical theatre with an autoposy in progress - a miniature gemstone from the history of medicine and surgery.
Venereal and contagious diseases were a major ailment in the medieval period. The Holy Infirmary contained a block for housing such patients and treating them with a number of methods. A gripping display of the 'phalangue' shows patients undergoing mercury inunctions, which were given for curing venereal disease, and also having hot-air baths.
In the rock-cup shelters hewn out of the live rock, deep in the basement of the Sacra Infermeria, one can hear an account of how an outbreak of plague was dealt with. The startling realism of commonplace life in medieval Malta is vividly portrayed.
All scenic sets are finished to great detail and balanced ambience lighting, supported with text in English, German, French, Italian and Maltese complete a memorable visitor experience for all those who are interested in the finer details of the glorious history of the Knights of St. John.