One of the most popular places of interest in Malta is the Palace Armoury, the museum of the magnificent collection of arms, accommodated in the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valetta. Originally these armaments belonged to Knights of St. John’s Order, noblemen from Europe who restlessly battled the Ottoman Turks in defense of the Catholic religion. Today we can see only a part of the arms, which survived until present times, but even in such composition it is one of the largest armament collections in the world.
During its history, the armoury had a great number of rearrangements. Its initial location the arsenal found in 1604, when the Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt placed it to the large hall in the rear part of the Grandmaster’s Palace. For that moment there would be enough of arms for thousands soldiers army. In the 17th and 18th century it was the main armoury of the St.John’s Order and it was the last arsenal collected by the order of crusaders.
The next rearrangement was made in the 18th century when Manuel Pinto da Fonseca was the Grand Master. It is believed that part of the armoury was moved to France in times of French occupation of Malta in 1798 – 1800 in the process of the so-called Napoleon’s organized robbery of art and history treasures. The real reason stays unknown but somehow, following the forced departure of the St. John’s Order from Malta in the end of the 18th century, the armoury lost its considerable part.
Further expansions were not that significant. Thus, the 19th century came with armoury alterations by the British, who added some arms tailored in Egyptian style, which were later removed and then returned to England in 1855. In the end of 1850s, restoration of the armoury was held by the Governor John Gaspard Le Marchant, after which it became a museum, opened to the public in 1860.
During the Second World War, in 1942, the hall of the Palace was damaged due to bombardment. To assure secure storage of the arsenal it was moved to the basement to Girgenti Palace. After the hall was restored from war damages in 1948, the armament museum was opened to the public again. In the 1850s, the British were thinking about removing collection to London to be sure that it is kept in safety but happily they never did it and the precious treasure stayed in the place it historically belonged to.
In 1975 the armoury was placed to its today’s layout in two former stables of the Palace, right under its initial location. And as to the original armoury, from 1976 and to 2015 it has been used as the House of Representatives, which later moved to the newly built Parliament House.
For today the armoury collections include numerous precious items, being the undeniable cultural heritage of the entire Europe. Thus, it contains a great number of trophies collected by the Knights in their battles. The collection can boast with one of the richest range of German, French, Italian and Spanish armament, as well as with exotic Ottoman and Islamic additions. As to Maltese arms, collections store 16th and 17th - century suits of the St. John’s Order Knights, suits of the regular soldiers, 15th to 18th - century swords, cannons and another weaponry.
Observing the armoury sections do not miss its special rarities, such as the armours of the Grand Masters Wignacourt and la Valette, and such kinds of armours as the Italian Sallet, the 'Pompeo della Cesa' armour, the Cuirassier armour and others. Guided tour will be the most appropriate way to get acquainted with the exhibits as the volume of information one may collect in the museum is simply overwhelming, but missing it is unacceptable.