History of the building

The Hospital of the Commenda di San Giovanni di Prè was run and managed by a religious and military order, the Friars of St. John – who got their name from the Hospital of St. John in Jerusalem in the second half of the 11th century – and later known by other names, such as the Hospitalers, the Knights of Jerusalem, the Knights of Rodi and, finally, the Knights of Malta.

This was the meeting place between the land routes of traders and pilgrims between Genoa, northern Italy, and western and northern Europe, and the sea routes of the 11th century between Genoa and the African coasts of the Mediterranean and Anatolia: the coasts of Syria, Palestine and Egypt.

Along these routes, in the age of the Crusades (between 1095 and 1291) and for at least two centuries, knights, soldiers, merchants, clergymen and pilgrims passed through and found hospitality in Genoa. They were returning from travel adventures by land or sea, witnesses of events such as the start of the Crusades, the conquests of Antioch and Jerusalem, the mutual massacres of Christians and Muslims, but also of Jews, Armenians and many minority groups in the East. Sometimes there were also women, but the majority of the female pilgrims was hosted in the nearby monastery of St. Leonardo.

In the 19th century, the Commenda complex witnessed the westward expansion of the city. After the construction of the Piazza Principe train station and the Federico Guglielmo sea bridge, the Commenda ended up being in the middle of the arrival area of migrants about to embark for the Americas.

After forty years of architectural and artistic restoration and archaeological research, overseen by the local Government offices with the Municipality of Genoa, the Hospital became one of the most extraordinary monuments of its kind, as well as one of the oldest and better-preserved buildings in Genoa.