Sant’Anton Palace is the official residence of the President of the Republic of Malta.
The earliest known building dates to the early seventeenth century, built as a country villa by the then knight of Malta and future Grandmaster Antoine de Paule (1623-1636). De Paule’s choice for a site approximately at the centre of the island in the village of Attard, with Balzan and Lija close by, was the place for country residences and hunting lodges, including extensive gardens, built over time by successive members of the Order of St John. On his election to the Magistracy in 1623, De Paule enlarged and extended the villa into a fully-fledged palace with surrounding gardens. De Paule’s legacy still holds in the choice of name referring to De Paule’s patron saint Anthony of Padova. By the late 1620s, Sant’ Anton Palace also became a place of interest for travellers to the islands.
De Paule’s villa would have been a thriving household including stables and accommodation for the Grandmaster’s retinue. The original building also included stables and a series of inter-connected room accessed through a main staircase. The linchpin architectural element would have been the square tower that gives the core of the historic palace the looks of a fortress. Additional structures were added by successive Grandmasters over time. A chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pilar was built by Grandmaster António Manoel de Vilhena (1722-1736) and Grandmaster Emmanuel De Rohan-Polduc (1775 – 1797) acquired additional land on which to extend the palace grounds. Major architectural interventions were carried out well into the British period. This includes the arched open air loggias serving the purpose of covered connecting walkways and what was later to be known as the Russian chapel built to the design of General Sir George Whitmore (1775-1862) in the Neo-Classical style.