The Grandmaster's Palace
|Former names||Governor's Palace|
|Alternative names||The Palace|
|Address||Saint George's Square|
|Town or city||Valletta|
|Design and construction|
The Grandmaster's Palace (officially referred to as The Palace) is located in Valletta. It currently houses the Office of the President of Malta and the House of Representatives, as well as being a heritage site run by Heritage Malta.
The site of the Grandmaster's Palace was originally an Auberge d'Italie. The Auberge was built in 1570 on the design of Girolamo Cassar. This was also the house of Eustachio del Monte, a nephew of Grandmaster Jean Parisot de Valette, founder of the city. In 1571 the Auberge was purchased and Cassar was once again commissioned to enlarge it into a palace. Another Auberge d'Italie was built in Valletta which is now used by the Ministry of Tourism and the Malta Tourism Authority.
Over the years, the Palace was enlarged and developed by successive Grandmasters to serve as their official residence. In the 18th-century, traveller Patrick Brydone noted that:
the Grand Master (who studies conveniency more than magnificence) is more comfortably and commodiously, lodged than any prince in Europe, the King of Sardenia perhaps only excepted.
During the British period it served as the Governor's Palace. The Council of Government and the Malta Legislative Assembly (precursors to the present day House of Representatives) met here and it also was the first place to serve as the office of the Prime Minister.
A new parliament building is under construction as of 2014 and the House of Representatives will move from the Grandmaster's Palace to the new building once construction is completed.
The palace is built around two courtyards, one of which is dominated by a statue of Neptune. There are two entrances in the front and one entrance from Piazza Regina (Republic Square) just west of the National Library. The entrance to the state rooms is in the Neptune Courtyard via a spiral staircase. The ceiling of this entrance was painted by Nicolau Nasoni in 1724.
The Armoury, which houses one of the finest collections of weapons of the period of the Knights of Malta, runs the width of the back of the palace. Spears, swords, shields, heavy armour and other weapons are on display. It contains only a fraction of its original splendour due to the "organised robbery of art treasure and historic treasures" during the French occupation of Malta in 1798. Despite this, it still contains material of European origin and even some captured Ottoman weaponry. Examples include parade armour of various Grandmasters including Jean Parisot de Valette and Alof de Wignacourt, and Dragut's own sword.
The Throne Room
The Throne Room, originally known as the Supreme Council Hall (Sala del Maggior Consiglio) was built during the reign of Grandmaster Jean de la Cassière. It was used by successive Grandmasters to host ambassadors and visiting high ranking dignitaries. During the British administration it became known as the Hall of Saint Michael and Saint George after the Order of St Michael and St George which was founded in 1818 in 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 are the work Matteo Perez d'Aleccio and represent various episodes of the Great Siege of Malta. The coat-of-arms of Grandmaster Jean de Valette on the wall recess behind the minstrels gallery was painted by Giuseppe Calì.
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.
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