Monday, June 20, 2011

Baroque Malta: Mdina

This counts as studying, since I write my final exam on architecture during the time of the Knights (of the Order of St John) on Wednesday. So there.

I'll spare you the dry art history student bits and just give you the pictures and a brief run down. (Yes, I can write about this in a more academic way. But that's not as fun for you)

The Knights of the Order of St John take care of sick pilgrims in Jerusalem in the 12th century. They are a celibate, frugal and serious bunch. They get kicked out of the Holy Land by Muslims in 1291 and go to Cyprus, then Rhodes. They get kicked out of Rhodes by the Ottoman Turks after a couple hundred years and come here, to Malta in 1530. (They hate Malta at first because it's not as nice and green as Rhodes. And it has a teeny population. But what can you do.) They pay rent to King Charles V to stay in Malta - a whooping sum of one falcon a year.

These Knights start out in Birgu and eventually build their own city across the Harbour at Valletta. They forget the whole celibate, frugal and serious thing. They start to think they are pretty cool. So cool that they start building great big Baroque palaces in Valletta and Mdina to make sure everyone knows they are the shiz. 
Then something really weird happens. There are no more Turks in the Mediterranean to fight. The Knights don't really have a reason to exist anymore, plus they are getting poor. Why? That darn Napoleon confiscated all of the estates in France, which is where the Knights got their money. So they start cost cutting and stop building great big Baroque palaces.

Eventually Napoleon hands them their pink slip and they leave Malta in 1798. Quite embarrased and humiliated, I might add. Poor knights. Sweet job with the palaces, though. 

main gate to mdina

main gate to mdina

main gate to mdina

torre dello standardo, vilhena coat-of-arms

magisterial palace (museum of natural history) mdina

magisterial palace, mdina

magisterial palace, bust of vilhena, mdina

banca giuratale, mdina

banca giuratale, mdina

banca giuratale, mdina

seminary building, (cathedral museum), mdina

seminary building, mdina

corte capitinale, mdina


  1. There is something special about the texture of the stone buildings in Europe and the Med. I guess it is because we have predominately wooden buildings that we (or I) notice it.

  2. Your pictures are beautiful. Thanks for posting them. This is definitely a place that I would love to visit someday.


Let's talk.