The origin of the Bois de Saint-Jean farm dates back to 1182, when Philippe d’Alsace, count of Flanders gave “to the brothers of the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem two hides * in the forest of Grigny”. It is specified in the document that on those lands the Hospitallers must build a church where their brothers of the Order from the neighbouring dioceses (Thérouanne, Arras, Tournai, Cambrai and Noyon) would come every year to hold a chapter. This was one of the first commanderies of the Order of Saint John in the North of France.
The Commandery was to contribute to the resources of the Order, either with its own funds (land and housing income, food, shelter and care offered to pilgrims and the sick), or thanks to the right-of-way fees imposed on those using the paths of the domain.
Why establish the monastery outside the city and in the countryside?
Presumably, the Roman road from Vieil Hesdin to Boulogne, which ran along the eastern boundary of the current forest of Hesdin, had something to do with the selection of that particular site as it offered the opportunity to take in the pilgrims travelling on that road. The domain of Bois Saint-Jean is bordered to the south by the Park of the Dukes of Burgundy, established in 1295. In all likelihood, the proximity of the abbey of Auchy, created in 1113, was also a determining factor in establishing the Commandery.
Building and uses
A document dated 1209 shows that the Commandery was built and thus occupied then.
In 1336, the Commandery was annexed by that of Fieffes, located in Ponthieu.
The buildings, except the chapel where mass was given twice a week, were destroyed twice, in 1376 and 1437, by English troops. In the aftermath of the battle of Agincourt, in 1415, many of the wounded were cared for in neighbouring religious establishments. The Commandery of Bois Saint-Jean was requested to take in the casualties. Squires and other men-at-arms were cared for by the monks and some died there where they remain buried to this day.
In 1530, Charles V relocated the headquarters of the Order in Malta (hence creating the Order of Malta).
In 1650, the farm was damaged again, this time by Balthasar Fargues, governor of Hesdin.
After the French Revolution, the farmer Jean-Marie Daullé, one of whose sons, Pierre Daullé, became general, bought the farm in late 1793.
Following the death of Jean-Marie (1824), the estate was sold to Martin Capet in 1826, and later on in 1856 to François Anselme Lefebvre, ancestor of the current owners.
Forgotten and unknown for a long time, it is the current owners who have started research on the estate. Following this, the property was listed as a Historic Monument in 2009, when the restoration works began.
* Translator’s note: a unit of measure equal to the length of a ploughed furrow intended to represent the amount of land sufficient to support a household.