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The Palace, Valletta

 

 

 

The Valletta Palace is a good example of Italianate-style architecture with two centrally located courtyards in an otherwise double-square symmetrical layout. Both courtyards can be accessed from two imposing doors on the main facade and access to the building from all surrounding streets.  

The site was amongst the first to be built in the new city of Valletta following the laying of its foundation stone in March 1566. A previous building on site, built around 1569 by the Knight of Malta Eustachio del Monte was temporarily used by his uncle, Grandmaster Pietro de Monte (1568-1572) as Magistral Palace following the transfer of the Order’s administration from Vittoriosa to the new city of Valletta in 1571. The first Auberge of the Langue of Italy was also built on this site around 1571 to be replaced by the present building at the upper end of today’s Merchants street. These two buildings were rethought, remodelled and connected by Grandmaster Jean L’ Eveque de La Cassiere (1572-1581) around 1574 to become the Magistral Palace. 

The Throne room, originally known as the Supreme Council Hall, and the main spiral staircase date back to the origional palace structure built by La Cassiere. This is the main hall of the Palace that was subsequently renamed the Hall of St Michael and St George during the early British period. The main feature of this hall is the painted narrative cycle of the Great Siege of Malta (1565) painted by the Italian artist Matteo Perez d’Aleccio (1547-1628) who was later to work in Seville (Spain) and Lima (Spanish Viceregal Peru). 

The Palace was built in stages over time, with each Grandmaster adding halls and apartments as required. Grandmaster Hugues Loubenx de Verdalle (1582-1595) built the summer apartments along the east-facing wing of the building. The Palace armoury, later to become the seat of Malta’s Parliament, was built by Grandmaster Aloph de Wignacourt (1601-1622) in 1604 and considered to have been one of the most equipped armouries in all Europe. In the 1740s, Grandmaster Manuel Pinto de Fonseca (1741-1773) made extensive alterations to the building and gave it its present configuration. Pinto’s renovations included the construction of a clocktower in one of the courtyards known as the Moors’ clock. 

The Palace is a rich repository of works of art most of which date back to the times of the Order of St John. Portraits of reigning monarchs presented as diplomatic gifts complement a collection of Grandmasters’ portraits hanging along the main corridors and halls. The highlight is without doubt the tapestry set known as “Les Teintures des Indes” purposely commissioned by Grandmaster Ramon Perellos y Rocafull (1697-1720) to the Gobelins Manufactory for the Grand Council Chamber and presented in 1710. The decorative schemes of the main corridors connecting the various chambers and halls were decorated with frescoes by the Portuguese painter Nicolau Nasoni (1691-1773) in 1724, during the magistracy of António Manoel de Vilhena (1722-1736). 

The Palace was the seat of Malta’s successive parliaments from the first constitutional parliament in 1921 to current legislatures until 2015 when  the House of Representatives relocated to the purpose-built Parliament House at the entrance to Valletta. 

The Palace State Rooms and the Palace Armoury are open to the public. Access is managed by Heritage Malta. Major restoration works are also currently underway on the building and its contents. These should be completed in the coming months. 

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