The Sovereign Military Order of Malta – quite the mouthful to pronounce, and also quite difficult for most people to get their head around. The SMOM, as it’s more commonly referred to, maintains an embassy within St John’s Cavalier, located right opposite Hastings Gardens in Valletta.
The SMOM Embassy is not usually open to the public, but the building’s history and architecture remain fascinating to many travellers to Malta. St John’s Cavalier was in fact one of nine cavaliers that was planned by the Knights, but in the end only two ended up being completed. The other one being, of course, St James Cavalier, which has an identical structure.
The building is located on the back of St John’s Bastion, and the idea was to be able to fire cannons over the bastion’s parapet. The architecture is purely utilitarian, with no concessions to aesthetics.
SMOM Embassy functions in the present day
The SMOM is the successor of the Order of St John and, despite that worrying ‘Military’ in their title, in reality the order has no military function in the present day. Much of the SMOM’s function nowadays revolves around diplomatic relationships and humanitarian missions. It conducts its work mostly in developing countries, strengthening relations with those governments in order to be able to implement medical and aid programmes, providing medical equipment, medicine and the like.
Interestingly, the SMOM is the only state that is recognized by the UN without having any actual territory. It has its own constitution and is ruled by the Prince and Grand Master.
The SMOM is considered a neutral party on the world stage of international politics. This has allowed it to act as mediator in conflicts, often being allowed access to situations where other diplomatic efforts have failed.