Auberge de Castille

Triq Il-Merkanti, Valletta show on map

The Auberge de Castille is considered to be one of the most beautiful Baroque buildings in Valetta. Designed by Maltese respected architect Girolamo Cassar in 1574 the Auberge is located at the highest spot of Valetta. A great view of Floriana and the Grand Harbour opens in front of the visitors’ eyes from the building’s territory. Today the auberge houses the Office of the Maltese Prime Minister.

Among the Knights Hospitalier there was a tradition to build separate auberges (inns) for each nationality and language representatives and this particular accommodation was built to house the knights of the Langue of Castille, Leon and Portugal, corresponding to modern Spanish and Portuguese languages. This group of knights was one of the most powerful in St.John’s Order. The auberge was initially built in the Mannerist style, considered as one of the most innovative designs of Cassar. This style implied usage of unexpected elements in generally ordinary design. In this case the building had just one tier and a plain façade with paneled pilasters dividing the facade into eleven parts.

The Auberge in the appearance it has today dates back to the times of the Manuel Pinto da Fonseca on the Grand Master’s position, the 1740s, when it was completely redesigned in the Baroque style with its amazingly decorated facades. The construction process was headed by Domenico Cachia. Lately, in 1791, certain minor alterations, like enlargement of the main door were also made. Thus, for today it is a wonderful two-storey building, having the form of rectangle with a courtyard.

After the St. John’s Order was expelled from the island as a result of the French occupation in 1798 the auberge became the headquarters of the French military forces. Later on their National Property Commission was settled there. In 1805, when the British came, the Auberge de Castille became the headquarters again, this time for the British military forces. In another period it served as a residence for the British officers. There was even a period when the building accommodated the disabled army of Egypt.

It is difficult to enumerate all the purposes the building had a chance to serve. Thus, in 1840 a protestant chapel was established in one of the first floor rooms. Then, in 1889 a signaling station was constructed on the roof. The latest served as means of communication with the warships which were moored in the Grand Harbour. This station was removed following reconstruction of the damages brought by the Second World War. The Auberge de Castille also had a period of housing headquarters of the military forces for Malta and Libya and then – for Cyprus. In 1972 the Auberge de Castille was chosen as a place for the office of the Prime Minister of Malta which still stays there. Between the 2009 and 2014 the building of the auberge was restored.

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