The Palace stands in the very heart of Valletta – the World Heritage City founded by the Sovereign Hospitaller Military Order of St John after the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. Besides being the Office of The President, The Palace also serves as the House of Representatives and boasts of, an armoury which symbolises the past glories of the Order.
The first structure on this site was built during the reign of Grandmaster Jean de La Cassiere (1572-1581) in order to serve as the Grandmaster's Palace. Subsequent Grandmasters enlarged and embellished the original structure until it took its present shape during the mid-18th century. Following the French occupation between 1798 and 1800 The Palace was taken over by the British administration, thereby serving as the Palace of the Governor. It also saw Malta's constitutional development as it was the seat of Malta's first Constitutional Parliament in 1921 and, following Independence in 1964, the seat of Parliament and also of the Head of State.
The Throne Room, originally known as the Supreme Council Hall or Sala del Maggior Consiglio, was originally built during the reign of Grandmaster La Cassiere (1572-1581). It was used by successive Grandmasters to host ambassadors and high ranking dignitaries visiting the island. During the British administration it became known as the Hall of St Michael and St George after the newly-founded chivalric order for Malta and the Ionian Islands. It is currently used for state functions held by the President of Malta.
The cycle of wall paintings decorating the upper part of the hall represent salient episodes of the 1565 Great Siege of Malta and are the work of the Rome-trained painter Matteo Perez d’Aleccio (1547-1616). The coat-of-arms of Grandmaster Jean de la Valette-Parisot (1557-1568) on the wall recess behind the minstrels gallery was painted by Giuseppe Cali, Malta’s most important artist at the turn of the 20th century. In 1818, the British transformed this hall by completely covering the walls with neo-classical architectural features designed by Lieutenant-Colonel George Whitmore. These were removed in the early 20th century. The minstrel’s gallery is thought to have been relocated to this hall from the palace chapel which was probably its original location. Of particular interest is the original coffered ceiling and the late 18th century - style chandeliers.
This hall was the former meeting place of the Council of the Order of St John where the Grandmaster would discuss the administration of the Order and the island with high ranking knights. It was later used by the British for official functions and social gatherings. This chamber was also the meeting place for the Legislative Council during the British rule and subsequently hosted Malta’s first Parliamentary Assembly established through a Self Government constitution granted by the British in 1921 following a Maltese unrest. The last session of Parliament in this hall was held in 1976 when the former Armoury of The Palace was transformed into the new Parliament Hall.
The tapestry set was appositely made for the chamber where it now hangs by the Gobelins Royal Factory (France) and funded by the Valencian Grandmaster Ramon Perellos y Rocaful (1697-1720). Known as the Teintre des Indes, it was commissioned in 1708 and completed two years later in 1710. The work was inspired by designs presented to King Louis XIV of France in 1679 by the Dutch Prince Johan Maurtiz featuring exotic plants and animals. These were subsequently included in painting compositions from which to-scale preparatory drawings were then prepared for the weavers to work on. This is the only known surviving set of tapestries still complete from the few sets of Teintures des Indes produced.
Of particular interest is the original coffered ceiling of this hall and the cycle of wall paintings representing naval battle scenes conducted by the Order against the Ottomans.
The Dining Room was rebuilt in the aftermath of the Second World War when it was hit by enemy bombing. During the British period it is known to have been decorated with official portraits of British monarchs and other early modern works of art. The portraits now hanging on the walls of this hall feature Malta’s Heads of State since the country became a Republic in December 1974.
The Pages Room, probably used by the numerous pages waiting on the Grandmaster, was originally an interconnecting hall between the Grandmaster’s private apartments, including a private chapel and the Throne Room, all built during the rule of Grandmaster Hughues Loubenx de Verdalle (1582-1595).
The mural paintings of this series of interconnecting rooms are attributed to Lionello Spada and were painted in 1609, shortly after Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s departure from Malta. The cycle describes episodes from the history of the Order prior to being granted the island of Malta in fief by King of Spain Charles V in 1530. The frescoes are linked together into one narrative cycle that leads to the visual narration of the Great Siege of Malta on the frescoes decorating the Throne Room. Of particular interest are the numerous works of art including paintings and furniture items located in this room.
This hall is utilised by the President of Malta for important state functions such as the swearing-in of new cabinet ministers and government officials. It is also used during State Visits by foreign dignitaries and the presentation of credentials by newly appointed ambassadors to Malta. The hall is known to have been used as a business room during the British colonial administration. Of particular interest are the series of paintings representing 17th and 18th century monarchs and dignitaries.
Of particular interest are the portraits of various Grandmasters of the Order of St John and furniture items that decorate The Palace corridors. The mid-nineteenth century marble flooring includes the coat of arms of distinguished Grandmasters of the Order who ruled Malta alongside national emblems and ensigns of State.