This magnificent palace was the administrative headquarters of the Order of St. John, the seat of council, the control centre for matters of state, for military, economic and religious decisions, as well as the formal court of the Grand Master.
Designed by the prolific Gilormu Cassar, it was completed in 1574 and over the centuries has remained the focal point of the Government. Plaques and paintings, decorations and furnishings reflect the varied history of the Order, the British colonial rule and the Republic of Malta. Today it is the office of the President and home of Parliament where a functional space has been converted into the House of Representatives.
The exterior is severe and forceful. The only embellishments, the two Doric portals and the wooden balconies, were added towards the end of the eighteenth century.
The entrance leads almost immediately into a charming courtyard with subtropical trees, flowers and a fabled bronze statue of Neptune. Local limestone forms high vaulting, saucer domes and wide corridors. All state rooms are on the first floor; originally the ground floor was reserved for stable, coaches, kitchens, servants’ quarters and store rooms.
Within the palace is a wealth of splendour. On view are the Corridor, Throne Room, Hall of St. Michael and the Council Chamber, which is hung with superb Gobelin tapestries incredibly well preserved. These are world renowned treasures, known as Les Tentures des Indes (Indian hangings). They depict in vivid colours jungle scenes recalling the hunting expeditions of a German Prince in Brazil, the Caribbean Islands, India and tropical Africa in the middle of the seventeenth century. At the rear of the Palace is the Armoury. It is unique. There are over 5700 pieces from all over Europe, giving a concentrated view of the developments in weapons up to the 18th century; rapiers, swords, daggers, halberds, pikes and lances, pistols, mortars and small ordnance. Pride of place, however goes to the armour, which above all captures the spirit of the Knight bringing their world to life.
Outside is Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt’s gold embossed suit weighing 50 kgs.
Visitor Information: Respect Malta’s heritage sites; in some places whilst photography is allowed, the use of a flash is forbidden – look out for the information signs.