Valletta - The Capital & Cultural Capital City of Europe 2018

Valletta, named after the French Grand Master Jean Parisot De La Vallette, is the Capital City of Malta also known locally as Il-Belt – The City. Valletta is a living, working city. The administrative and commercial heart of the Islands of the Maltese archipelago, that has welcomed Emperors & Presidents, Kings & Queens, Artists, Authors, Poets, Singers, and Actors. It is now the permanent seat of the Government of Malta. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Valletta is proud to have mostly baroque architecture buildings from the 16th century that were built by the Knights of Order of St, John. These include the Magnificent Auberge de Castille, today housing the offices of the Prime Minister, St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens, the house of Parliament designed by the International Architect Renzo Piano, the Grand Master’s Palace, today the offices of the President of the Republic, and a lot of other Palaces & Fortifications.

Valletta has a series of defensive walls surrounding it – the fortifications. The first to be built was Fort St. Elmo in 1552. More fortified walls were built after the foundation stone was laid in 1566. The last fortification being Fort Lascaris, which was completed in 1856, then during the British period.

Valletta is filled with quaint cafes, wine bars, restaurants, and shopping opportunities and is considered as one of Malta’s main tourist attractions. It also provides a stunning view of the Grand Harbour, the most welcoming harbour of the Mediterranean. The Capital’s unique setting also hosts Cultural Events from theatre in English to concerts by leading international opera singers.

A must visit to St. John’s Co-Cathedral

The construction of St. John’s Co-Cathedral was commissioned in 1572 by Grand Master Jean de la Cassiere to serve as the conventual church of the Knight of Malta. It was designed by the Maltese Military Architect Gerolmu Cassar. The Cathedral is a gem of Baroque art and architecture. The church was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of the Order. The Grand Masters and several knights donated gifts of high artistic value and made enormous contributions to enrich the Catherdral with only the best works of art.

The most famous paintings of Michelangelo Merisi, better known as CARAVAGGIO, can be seen at St. John’s Co-Cathedral. These include “The Beheading of St. John the Baptist” and “St, Jerome Writing”. Mattia Preti, a prominent italian artist of the Baroque style who died in 1699 was buried at St. John’s, also made remarkable painting contributions that include several altar pieces from the life of St. John the Baptist.

The entire floor of the nave, chapels and the oratory are covered with inlaid marble tombstones that commemorate some of the most illustrious knights of the Order. Several of them were members of powerful aristocratic families of Europe ranking from Grand Priors, Admirals and Baliffs among others. These were often referred to as the Most Illustrious Lord Brother – Illustrissimus Dominus Frater.


From Grand Masters to Presidents of the Republic

The Valletta Palace is the official seat of the President of the Republic of Malta. It is located at the centre of the capital city, Valletta, and has been the seat of authority in Malta ever since the times of the Order of St John. It was back then known as the Magistral Palace, later renamed Palais National during the French period (1798- 1800), and subsequently become known as the Governor’s Palace during the British Period (1800-1964).

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, Grand Master Pietro del 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 adjacent to it and within the same block around 1571. These two buildings were rethought, remodelled, and connected by Grand Master Jean L’Evesque de La Cassière (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 original palace structure built by La Cassière. 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 narrative cycle of the Great Siege of Malta (1565) painted by the Italian artist Matteo Pérez da Lecce (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 Grand Master adding halls and apartments as required. Grand Master 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 Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt (1601-1622) in 1604 and considered to have been one of the most equipped armouries in all Europe. In the 1740s, Grand Master Manuel Pinto da 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.

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