Saturday, 19 July 2014

Holy Infirmary Pharmacy, Valletta

The Sacra Infermeria or Holy Infirmary was extended in 1712 during the rule of Grand Master Fra' Ramon Perellos y Roccafull with the construction of the Upper Quadrangle bounded by Hospital, North and Merchants Streets. The new main entrance, the Porta principale opened onto Merchants Street.

The Upper Quadrangle became known as the New Hospital or Infermeria Nuova. Arranged around the courtyard were premises to house the pharmacy, its laboratory and accommodation for lay members of the hospital staff. In the centre of the quadrangle was a fountain decorated with the escutcheon of Fra' Ramon Perellos y Roccafull that supplied water to the kitchens, the pharmacy and to the laboratory.

The Pharmacy was located under the arcade on the ground floor of the Infermeria Nuova, just inside the Porta Principale. In charge of running the Pharmacy was the Pharmacist who was assisted by five apprentices (lavoranti), a Reader of Prescriptions (lettore di recetti) and a barber-surgeon for the clysters or enemas, (barberotto dei clisteri).

The Valletta Pharmacy was especially renowned for its beautifully painted Maiolica  jars used for storing drugs and medicines. These jars were of different shapes and sizes and were decorated with the figures of saints, foliage and flowers, the arms of the Order of St. John and the names of the drugs and herbs they contained.

Pharmacy jar, (detail.) Mailoica, 16th century.
(St John's Gate)

Pharmacy jar. Maiolica, 16th century
(San Anton Palace)

Pharmacy jar in the shape of an owl. Maiolica, 16th century
(San Anton Palace)

Pharmacy jar. Maiolica, 16th century
The decoration shows a Carrack of the Order.
(St John's Gate)

Pharmacy jar. Maiolica, 16th century
(St John's Gate)

Pharmacy jar with arms of Grand Master Fra' Nicolo Cotoner (1663-1680) Mailoica
(St John's Gate)

l.Pharmacy jar labelled Creta Gallica Mailoica, 18th century
Creta Gallica means 'French Chalk', a substance similar to talcum powder.

middle. Pharmacy jar with arms of Grand Master Fra' Manoel de Vilhena (1772-1736)
Mailoica, 18th century made in  Caltagirone, Sicily labelled Sapo Mollis  Mailoica, 18th century
Sapo Mollis means 'soft soap', a type of olive oil based soap

r. Pharmacy jar labelled Sang. Dragon Maiolica, 18th century
Sang Dragon means 'Dragon's blood', a plant resin that is deep red.
(St John's Gate)

Pharmacy jar labelled Spicel Rad. Maiolica, 18th century.
Spicel Rad, or Spigelia, means 'Pink Root', a wildflower.
(St John's Gate)

Pharmacy jars Maiolica, 17th and 18th century
(St John's Gate)

Pharmacy jars. Paris, 18th century
(Palazzo Falzon)

Mortar Bronze, 1690-1697 for grinding ingredients
(St John's Gate)

Mortar Bronze 1775-1797 for grinding ingredients
(St John's Gate)


 The Nuova Infermeria received a direct hit during the aerial bombardment of WW2. The Pharmacy was completely destroyed.