The Sovereign Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem - Ordo Fratrum Hospitaliorum Hierosolymitarum Sancti Iohannis Baptistae - was founded in Jerusalem about 1090. It is the oldest christian order of knighthood of the world, still existing. The name of the order is abbreviated The Order of St. John. From religious brotherhood nursing the poor and the sick it also developed into an order of knighthood for defence of the christians in Palestine. After the muslim victory in Palestine the order was driven out and stayed on Cyprus until the Order established a sovereign state of its own on Rhodes (1309 - 1522). Driven out from Rhodes by the muslims the order got a new sovereign state on Malta (1530 - 1798). Most people, not knowing what the Order of St. John is, know very well about the Order of Malta and the Knights of Malta. But all the time it is the question of the very same order, however differently named. All the time the Knights of St. John combined their humanitarian work with the military task and they became world-famous for bravery and unexampled fight against a hundredfold muslim enemy-force both on Rhodes and Malta. Military academies all over the world lecture about it. But the Knights of St. John are just as much known for their hospitals and medical treatment that was far ahead of the contemporary standard. Rhodes and Malta were ruled by the order as independent and sovereign states and the Grand Master of the order was named sovereign and prince. As to a convention The Order of St. John 1798 surrendered to Napoleon and Malta was given over to the French Republic. The headquater of the order was moved to St. Petersburg and for a couple of years the Emperor Paul I of Russia was Grand Master of the order. After that the roman catholic order moved to Rome where it still has its headquater with preserved sovereignity and in fact this roman catholic order constitutionally is a recognized state
with f.i. legations in other countries. Its territory must be the smallest sovereign state of the world today. At the Reformation in the 16th century the roman catholic order of St. John was prohibited in most not-roman catholic countries but national orders of different confessions were established instead.
The Order of St. John came to Scandinavia around 1164 and from King Valdemar the Great it got the very first estate of Antvorskov in Denmark, where the very first Scandinavian convent was built. It became headquater of the order for all Scandinavia including Sweden and Norway. In Denmark the order was not prohibited at the Reformation as in many other countries. As to royal decrees of 1536, 1539, 1559, 1596 and 1648 the order was maintained but as a danish national order and of protestantic confession. In the end of the 16th century the order became "dormant", sleeping, although it never was abolished by the authorities. 1934 The Danish Order of St. John, SUPREMUS ORDO DOMUS HOSPITALIS SANCTI IOHANNIS HIEROSOLOMITANI REGNI DANIAE, was re-established but now as an oecumenical order with knights and sisters of protestantic, roman catholic and orthodox confessions. Since 1952 two autonomous and dynastic priories — 1565 and 1779 acknowledged by the Grand Master on Malta — are incorporated. The Danish Order of St. John is organized in priories, commanderies and associations in Scandinavia including Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Members also in several other european countries and on the american continent, f.i. in Canada and U.S.A. The task of the order is humanitarian work and aid in different countries and its foundations for contributions of that kind are acknowledged by the danish ministry of social affairs.