Wednesday 17 December 2014

Palazzo Falzon, Citta Vecchia (Mdina)

The Norman House, formerly known as Palazzo Falzon was built at the end of the 15th century in the Siculo-Norman style by the Aragonese Vice-Admiral Falzon. 

Although the Norman House is of a much later period than the Palazzo Santa Sofia (1233) nearby, the string course is identical and the decorated double windows are magnificent. Their only equivalents are said to be found only in Sicily and Southern Italy.

This is the palace where Grand Master L'Isle-Adam was received and stayed two days  after his ceremonial reception and state entry into Mdina in 1530.

The Norman House contains paintings of well-known masters, glass and silver, plate, pharmacy jars,  furniture and a collection of Maltese silver and gold objects, as well as a Library of extensive "Melitensia".

During the Second World War a stray bomb damaged the courtyard of the Norman House, but this was subsequently restored.

The Norman House, Palzzo Falzon, was restored by Captain Gollcher and his wife who donated the palace with all its treasures to the Venerable Order of St John in the British Realm in 1943. the donation was to take place after the death of both donors. But after their decease the order realised that they were not able to keep the palace in accordance with Capt. Gollcher's wishes, and they passed it over to the National Museum on condition that the wishes of the testators be complied be respected.

Thursday 4 December 2014

Sword of La Valette

One of the most precious treasures belonging to the Order of St John was the Sword and Poniard (dagger) of Grand Master Fra' Jean de La Valette. The great victory of the 8th September, 1565 at the end of the Great Siege of Malta earned the admiration and gratitude of Christendom. The crowned heads of Europe vied with each other to honour the Order in the person of its victorious Grand Master Fra' Jean de La Valette.

The gifts of the king of Spain, Philip II, a sword, poniard and gurdle,  were to become among the most treasured emblems of the Order of St John. On the sword were engraved these words: PLUS QUAM VALOR VALETTE VALET. The gifts were presented to La Valette by an envoy from the king, Fra' Antonio Maldonado. He delivered a eulogy before a large gathering of members of the Order and many foreigners who were on the island at that time.

Fra' Antonio Maldonado  acclaimed the Grand Master as the greatest of leaders in Christendom and exhorted him to maintain the struggle against the enemy. La Valette was deeply moved by the envoy's words. He replied that without the intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom, he had implored in battle, the victory would have been impossible.  In gratitude he had already proclaimed 8th September, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, was to remain a national feast day of the island, and that from now on teh Sword and Poniard would be carried, unsheathed, in the ceremonies of thanksgiving carried out on that day as a sign of readiness to take up arms in defence of |Christianity.

La Valette decreed that the Sword and Poniard should be kept in the Treasury of the Order. When Valletta was built and the Magistral Palace completed, the treasures were kept in the Armoury and only removed in accordance with the instructions of La Valette. On these occasions the Sword and Poniard were carried by a favourite page of the Grand Master- usually the son of a high ranking nobleman. These gifts, now became regalia and added to the splendour of the Order's ceremonial.

The gurdle was made of gold while the Sword and Poniard were masterpieces of the jewelers art. The hilt and pommel were enamelled and embossed in gold with decoration of emblems of knighthood finished off with scrolls.  The precious stones which encrusted both hilt and pommel gave a flashing brilliance to the weapons when held aloft.

The last appearance of the Sword and Poniard in the Conventual Church of St John at the celebration of Victory was in 1797, a few weeks after the election of Grand Master Hompesch and nine months before the surrender of Malta to Napoleon and the French. it was then that the Sword and Poniard were taken from the Treasury of the Magistral Palace.

The whereabouts of the girdle is unknown but the Sword and Poniard presented to La Valette by Philip II were taken to France where they are now on display in the Louvre.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

St Saviour, Lija

The splendid parish church of St Saviour, Lija was designed in 1694 by the Maltese architect Giovanni Barbara. That it was completed in only six years is evidence of the prosperity of the Maltese derived in great part from the proceeds of the Corso. Giovanni Barbara was born c 1670 in Lija and became famous both in Malta and abroad as a military engineer. st Saviour was one of his first important commissions, and it is by Maltese standards and by his own later work, a simple design.

St Saviour's tall character is accentuated by the western towers which flank the facade. A facade that employs the Corinthian order, while inside Barbara used the Doric order. The dome is relatively small, rising behind the parapet of the tall drum.

St Saviour now stands in a state of somewhat splendid isolation in the middle of Lija after the surrounding houses were demolished.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Archangalos, Rhodes

The village of Archangalos between Rhodes Town and Lindos was raided by the Ottomans in 1457 together with the islands of Episokopi (Telos), Nisyro (Nisyros) and Calymno (Calymnos). That was the year after Constaninople had fallen to the Ottomans and the threat to Rhodes had increased dramatically.  Under the instructions of Fra' Jacques de Milly (1454-1461) the Knights of Rhodes built a castle on a hill near Archangalos, incorporating parts of the pre-existing Byzantine fortress, to provide a safe refuge for the Greek villagers.

Sunday 26 October 2014

St Stephen, Anglars

St Stephen at Anglars became the property of the Commandery of Espalion following the church's  donation to the Hospitallers in 1265. In its appearance the building appears something of a hybrid between an chateau and a church. It has a single nave and a rectangular chancel. The upper sections of the church were fortified in 1381 to provide shelter for the local population during the 100 Years War against the English; the walled cemetery protected their livestock. The two upper turrets were built to provide additional security during the Wars of Religion in the 16th century.

Saturday 25 October 2014

St Saviour, Stydd

The Church of St Saviour at Stydd was founded circa 1136, in the reign of king Stephen by the Knights Hospitaller. The Church is  Norman style although the three light east window with its fine tracery is a little later and dates from the 13th century. The north wall retains all its original features having two narrow round- headed labelled windows. Between them  the original doorway is blocked-up and leaning against the wall is the original door.

The font belongs to the first half of the 16th century and was a gift from Sir Thomas Pemberton who was the Commander of Newland, under which the community of Hospitallers at Stydd was a camera. In 1338 the Commander of Newland had to pay £5.6.8 for a yearly pension of the chaplain at Stydd.

On the South wall is the main door, the fine oak nailed-studded door is original.  The straight headed windows of three lights date from the 15th century and came from St Wilfrid's Church in Ribchester and were installed in the 17th century. The oak screen and pulpit are 17th century.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Chibburn Commandery

The small commandery of Chibburn, between the village of Widdrington and Druridge Bay on the Northumberland coast was donated to the Hospitallers in 1313. The site was located on the main route used by pilgrims visiting Holy Island and Lindisfarne. These ruins are the best preserved commandery of the Order of St John in England. The site is enclosed by a wall and was originally surrounded by a moat,  now filed in.

The commandery buildings at Chibburn are arranged around a courtyard and consist of a chapel, hall and living accommodation for the three members of the Order who lived there including the commander.

There was once a tower on the north side of which little remains. On the west side of the courtyard are the remains of the great hall. The fireplaces have massive lintels.

The chapel on the south side of the courtyard is the best preserved part of the commandery.

Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540 Chibburn was sold by the Crown in 1553 to Sir John Widdrington.  He used  it as the dower house for Whittington Castle. The site was abandoned after being razed by French troops who raided the Northumberland Coast in 1693.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

St Paul's Gate, Rhodes

St Paul's Gate was built by the Knights of St John in the second half of the 15th century to control movement between the two harbours of Rhodes, the Mandraki and the Commercial Harbour and the Mole of St Nicholas. A polygonal bulwark surrounds the tall central tower.

The coats-of-arms of Pope Sixtus IV and Grand Master d'Aubusson incorporated above it  and below the marble plaque with its relief of St Paul indicate that the tower could be dated to 1476-84. However the arrangement of the fortification  would seem to date it from an earlier period, perhaps from the rule of Grand Master Zacosta (1461-67). Pierre d'Aubusson may well have repaired the gate c.1477, when he reinforced the north wall of the city.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Xlejli Tower, Bettina Palace

The Xlejli Tower stands in the gardens of the Bettina Palace, or Dorrel Palace as it is also known at Gudja in the south of Malta. The garden is one of the largest on the island and contains a variety of unusual follies including several antiquities. Dominating the garden and the surrounding country is the tall, round tower.

The earliest reference to the Xlejli Tower is in a book printed in 1570 where it is described as a lookout tower dating from the 12th or 13th centuries. However Louis de Boisgelin, historian of the Order of St John writing in 1804 conjectures that it could date from Roman times. He says that 'an urn of baked earth (terracotta) filled with Roman copper medals was found in this place; but as there was no local inscription, it gave no insight into the history of the tower'. Modern archaeologists in Malta have identified the remains of several other round towers that could well date from the Roman era.

Whatever its age, it seems certain that the Xlejli Tower was built as a lookout and not for defensive purposes. From the top it commands an unbroken view of the island's southern coastline for 180 degrees, from Benghisa Point to the Grand Harbour.

The palazzo itself, one of the loveliest houses in Malta, was built in 1670, and the tower was probably enclosed within the high garden wall at that time. In 1760 the palazzo was bought by Pietro Paolo Dorell Falzon, as a dowry for his daughter Bettina, on the occasion of her marriage. Since then the palazzo has belonged to the Trapani Galea Feriol family. The family title, Barons of San Marciano, was the creation of Grand Master of the Order of St John, Manoel de Vilhena, in 1726. Gino, the present Baron is the tenth since the creation and his eldest son Michael enjoys the courtesy title, Baroncino di San Marciano.

Bettina Dorell had been a lady-in -waiting to the Queen of Naples and was therefore a woman of considerable social consequence on the island. She was much given to entertaining which meant lunch followed by tea, owing to the long distance traveled by horse and carriage from Valletta. After luncheon there was that awkward social gap that had to be filled before tea, and so the hostess endevoured to provide visits to conceits, follies, fancies and other beguilement for the entertainment of her guests. Coffee was served in a hexagonal kiosk that was sadly destroyed by a  bomb that took a direct hit during the Second World War.

Bettina's most ambitious project was to restore and decorate the tower as we see it today: three rooms, one on top of the other, with access by an external spiral staircase. The lowest room , on the first floor, is decorated in the neo-classical taste: the walls are hung with chintz which is probably contemporary with Bettina's refurbishment, two plaster figures of Sappho and Vesta face each other across the room, while in the centre of the painted floor is an empty plinth upon which once stood a third statue- that was shattered by a bomb blast during the War, perhaps by the same bomb that destroyed the kiosk.

 The beams and the interstices of all the ceilings in the tower are beautifully and delicately painted with bands and garlands.

The room on the middle floor is is filled by a large circular table with a chintz cloth over it and small benches set against the painted walls.

 The table is set with dishes of food for a typical Maltese meal: joints of meat and game, fresh fruit and bread - but in fact it is all carved from soft limestone and painted with trompe-l'oeil effect. The Maltese limestone is very soft and workable when quarried, but hardens off after about eighteen months exposure to the air.

The stairs get even more vertiginous as one ascends to and finally reaches the top room which is empty except for an elderly telescope on a stand. The walls, painted in oil on plaster ground, are home to an imaginary landscape filled with strange buildings, cities and villages, and although not alien to the Maltese landscape it bears no direct topographical relationship to the surrounding countryside. It is peopled with an assortment of very strange and enigmatic groups. The name of the painter is unknown, but in the 18th century Malta had a good many itinerant artists who would knock on the doors of large houses offering to paint friezes, stencil and marble; and also execute portraits of the household.

The beautiful palazzo with its gorgeous tower with its interiors decorated in deliciously light airy colours is a brilliant reminder of the sophistication and exquisite cosmopolitan taste of the Maltese aristocracy that flourished under the rule of the Order of St John in the 18th century.

Saturday 27 September 2014

Verdala Palace

Grand Commander Fra' Hughes de Loubenx-Verdalle, a French Knight who belonged to the Langue of Provence was elected Grand Master of the Order of St. John in 1581. Only fifty-one, he was young for a grand master. Five years after his election he was called to Rome where he was made a Cardinal and Prince of the Church. Verdalle did his best to live up to his enhanced status; amongst other things he introduced to Malta the elegant fashion for  music to be played at dinner, "a foretaste of the sweet strains of Paradise".

Verdalle is best remembered in Malta for the castle-like palace he built in the countryside near Mdina. He chose one of the most  prominent positions in the island; a great outcrop overlooking the Boschetto (little wood) or Buskett, the only woodland on the island. The Boschetto is a naturally green valley in an otherwise arid island, where Jerusalem pines flourish and there are some of the finest orange groves, watered by, rare, Maltese springs. The valley had long been a favourite place for the Maltese to escape the summer heat and was a favourite resort to enjoy picnics in the shade among the trees, until Verdalle appropriated the Boschetto for his own personal pleasure, and that of the other Grand-Crosses and his distinguished guests.

Where the great hero of 1565 Valette had declined elevation to become a cardinal and had been content with a modest hunting box to when he came to the Boschetto, the Cardinal Grand Master Verdalle wanted a palace, and he engaged the Maltese architect Gerolamo Cassar to build it. Work began in 1586.

What Cassar designed was a palace with all the outward appearance of a fort. Almost square in plan, Verdala Palace is three stories high and has four pentagonal or bastion shaped corner towers, rising to a forth storey. The lower storey is cut from the living rock and is surrounded by a dry moat. But the Palace was not built to withstand a siege, or even a determined assault, notwithstanding the four pieces of artillery placed on the flat roof. The towers were merely symbolic, emblematic of the proud military heritage of a grand master of the Knights of St.John. The balustrade parapet was added later; during the reign of Grand Master de Vilhena as were his coat-of-arms carved in stone attached to the balustrade on the courtyard and south west fronts. On all four sides of the castle are the smaller coat of arms of the builder Cardinal Grand Master Verdalle.

On the south-west front is a balcony from which a second stone staircase descends to a terrace built by Grand Master Lascaris. Beneath is the terraced garden constructed by walled parterres, filled with shiploads of topsoil; imported from Sicily.

Above the main entrance on the courtyard front , beneath Verdalle's arms  is the inscription "Monte Verdala, Ros et Pluvius" "May dew and rain fall on Monte Verdala".

In the entrance hall is a monumental bust of Verdalle wearing the cardinal's beretta.

On the left side of the entrance hall  were the Grand Master's private apartments. These are the four rooms opening from the great hall on the piano nobile or first floor. In the palace there are three halls and twelve smaller rooms. This is a palace built for pleasure and retreat from the cares of state, not a fortress to repel attackers. However within the walls are secret staircases and oubliettes, some of them with holes carved in the walls for fastening manacles attached to unfortunate captives, imprisoned here for who knows what ends?

The salon has a marble floor and a high ribbed vault ceiling. At either end of the room are lunettes  painted by Filippo Paldini that depict the triumphal rise and rise of Fra' Hughes from cradle to the magistry of the Order of St. John and to his further elevation as a Cardinal. He is depicted at the age of sixteen presenting his proofs of nobility to Grand Master de Homedes for admission into the Order, as Governor of the Artillery, as Grand Prior of Toulouse, as Ambassador of the Hospitallers to Pope Gregory XIII and as Grand Master of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

The wide spiral staircase winds up through the palace from the basement to the flat roof. The steps shallow enough to permit easy  passage by elderly knights wearing  armour.

Above the entrance to the great hall, is inscribed the motto, Cedant Curae Loco; "All cares surrenders in this place." A fitting motto for a place of retreat from the cares of state..

The bedrooms and private apartments have beautiful wooden ceilings painted during the magistry of  Fra' Manoel de Vilhena and  bearing the Portuguese Grand Master's emblems. In spite of these lovely embellishments, in all other respects the palace retains the austere identity bequeathed by its builder.

These wonderful airy rooms with high ceilings and shuttered windows open on to stone balconys that catch the breeze, and have  marvelous views of the island in all directions. The Palace has been a favourite retreat for the islands' rulers ever since Verdalle bequeathed his palace to the Order. In the Colonial era Verdala was used by the British Governor Generals for weekend houseparties. Verdala Castle remains an official residence of the President of the Republic of Malta.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Our Lady of Tortosa

Tortosa (modern day Tartus) on the coast of Syria is reputed to be where St Peter the Apostle said his first mass.  As early as the 3rd century, before Christianity was even tolerated, a chapel was built here to consecrate the site. The chapel has the distinction of being the first to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was popularly believed to have contained an icon of the Virgin painted by St Luke. This Sanctuary became an important pilgrimage site during the Byzantine Empire.

In 1123 the Crusaders began work on the Cathedral of Our Lady of Tortosa built to sanctify the site of the chapel dedicated to the Virgin, to provide a focus for visiting pilgrims. This supremely elegant building was erected on the cusp of the transition between the Romanesque and the Gothic. It has, with good reason, been described as the finest surviving example of Crusader ecclesiastical  architecture in the Holy Land. While the facade is severe and almost unembellished; apart from the main door, there are only five, high, Gothic windows. The interior has graceful columns,Gothic arches and soaring vaulted ceilings. The columns in the nave show marked stylistic variations from Romanesque at the east end to early Gothic at the west.

In 1152, Tortosa was captured by the Nur al-Adin whose army burnt and sacked the city, leaving it destroyed and deserted. After it had been retaken by the Crusaders it became apparent that the County of Tripoli lacked the resources to restore the city. So Tortosa was entrusted to the Order of the Temple which embarked on an ambitious  programme of fortification. Unique among the surviving Crusader churches of the Holy Land, the Cathedral of Our Lady is fortified. Defensive tower-like sacristies still stand at the north east and south east corners of the Cathedral. There were once also defensive towers along the western aisle bays, indicating  that the Cathedral was an integral part of the defences of  Tortosa.

Today the (deconsecrated) Cathedral houses the National Museum of Tartus and houses artifacts from all historical epochs found across Syria.

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Holy Infirmary, Valleta

In 1571 the Knights of St John transferred their Convent (headquarters and seat of government) from Birgu (Vittoriosa) across the Grand Harbour, to the new city of Valletta. At the General Chapter of the Order held on 7th November 1574, during the magistry of Fra' Jean de la Cassiere (1572-82), the decision was taken to build a new conventual hospital, 'in order to provide a house or the needs of the sick who up to the present have been uncomfortably cared for at the infirmary at Birgu.'  The site chosen for the new hospital was a prominent position at the south-eastern side of Valletta, above the St Lazurus Curtain, near the entrance to the Grand Harbour.

The new hospital, which would be known as the Sacra Infermeria (Holy Infirmary), was built around a courtyard,  like the Order's great hospital at Rhodes. This building was later referred to as the Lower Courtyard or Cortile di basso. The two main wards were built at right angles, the one fronting St Lazarus Curtain was in later years known as the Old Ward or Sala vecchia, the other retained the name of Small Ward or Saletta throughout the existence of the hospital. On the other two sides of the quadrangle were a series of small rooms on two floors. The main entrance was on the North Street facade of the Old Ward, facing the esplanade of Fort St Elmo. The scale and ambition of the new hospital, and the prominence of its position  near the entrance of the Grand Harbour reflected the scared duty of caring for the sick that was at the heart of the Order of St John's identity, the duty that gave the Order its original name and which remained fundamental to the Order's  vocation.

The work and direction of the Holy Infirmary expanded greatly during the rule of Grand Master Fra' Hughes de Loubenx Verdale (1582-95). From this time on the hospital also oversaw the charitable activities of the Order; the house of unwanted infants, the hospital for women, and the refuge for prostitutes, as well as treatment outside the hospital for less serious diseases, and for poor law relief for the Maltese and the Rhodians who had followed the Knights. The hospital at Birgu (Vittoriosa) had not catered to pilgrims, few of whom passed through Malta, or or the Maltese population who had their own  hospital at Rabat. So the work of the conventual hospital at Valletta was a significant departure from the hospital at Rhodes, which had not served the Greek population.

On 4th February 1660 a decision was taken by the Order of St John to enlarge the hospital, the first stone being laid by Grand Master Fra' Raphael Cotoner (1660-63). The expansion was completed by 1666, under the rule of his brother Fra' Nicholas Cotoner (1663-1680). The Old Ward was extended in the direction of Old Hospital Street, the new extension being known as the Great Ward or Sala Grande. The join between the old and the new wards was marked by two altars placed back to back in the area where the Saletta joined the two wards at right angles. The Old Ward and the Great Ward from then on formed one continuous hall, later referred to as the Long Ward.

 At 155 metres in length, 10.5 metres in width and over 11 metres in height the Long Ward was at that time one of the largest and most impressive interiors in all of Europe. This magnificent room has a wooden coffered ceiling and its floor was paved with stone slabs. Along the walls are niches which served as latrines for the patients. Those in the Old Ward have rectangular recesses in the sides which seem seem to have been used as cupboards. The windows along the top of the wall adjoining St Lazarus Curtain provided light and air. At the far end of the hall, immediately below the ceiling are the coats-of -arms of the Order of St John and of Grand Master Fra' Gregorio Caraffa (1680-90).

In winter, the walls of the Long Ward were hung with tapestries and the beds were draped with curtains. In summer the curtains were replaced by mosquito nets and the tapestries were replaced by a series of paintings by Mattia Preti (1613-99), depicting scenes in the history of the Order of St John.( By 1881 only one of these painting had survived, illustrating Grand Master Pierre d'Aubusson in the act of venerating the Relic of the right hand of St John the Baptist. This canvas hung at the back of the hall).

It is recorded that there were 85 paintings hanging in the Holy Infirmary, including the altarpieces of the various wards.All of the larger wards were provided with an altar for the spiritual comfort patients. The altar in the Great Ward was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, that of the New Ward to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and of the Ward for the Wounded to Saints Cosmas and Damian. Other wards had altars dedicated to St. Joseph, the Finding of the Cross and St. John the Baptist.

 The number of beds in the hospital varied over the years. In 1787 its complement of beds was 563, which could be increased to 914 in an emergency, by placing 351 extra beds in the corsie or free middle space along the length of the six largest wards.  These beds were for single occupancy, in an era when many hospitals imposed a regime of bed-sharing. The Great Ward had 64 beds for the use of  patients with a fever, the acute cases being ranged on one side and the chronic cases on the other. The Old Ward had 22 beds for the treatment of civilians, members of religious communities and pilgrims with medical illnesses. The Saletta or Small Ward had 20 beds for the terminally ill. No women were allowed to enter this ward, not even close relatives of the patients.

Under the length of the Long Ward, beneath ground level runs the Sala Magazzeno Grande or Great Magazine Ward. This ward has an exquisite cross vaulted ceiling and heraldic bosses at the centre points where the groin meets the top.These bosses show in relief the Lion Rampant of Grand Master Fra' Jean de la Cassiere and the Cotton Plant of the Grand Masters Raphael and Nicolas Cotoner alternating with bosses of the Cross of the Order. The Great Magazine Ward is reached by the gradual slope of a grand balustrated staircase that descends in two flights from near the northern end of the Long Ward. The Great Magazine Ward had 109 beds for the use of sick galley slaves, for invalid sailors and soldiers from the Order's land and sea forces,and also for a few disabled men "who deserved well of the Order" and a small number of shipyard workers.

At the back of the Great Ward but not communicating with it was a block known as the Falanga which was built c1596 and enlarged in 1636 that had 120 beds. This ward was meant for the reception of patients with contagious and venereal diseases. The section reserved for the treatment of syphilis was made up of two sections, the Stufa (stove) and Falanga proper. The Stufa was a basement room containing the stove that heated the rooms above.Three rooms on ground level were where patients received hot water baths and on the first floor where the patients were taken to rest after the hot air treatment. The Falanga proper had five rooms for patients receiving mercury treatment for the same disease.

The Sacra Infermeria had other specialized wards, in advance of the normal practice at the time. The Sala per i Feriti or Ward for the Wounded  had beds for 29 civilian surgical cases. The Sala Nuova or New Ward had 21 beds for patients suffering from dysentery. The Sala di San Giuseppe or St Joseph's Ward had 20 beds for sick convicts.There were two Lithonomy Wards for patients operated on for the removal of bladder stones. The Sal dei Cavalieri of Knights' Ward had 19 beds for members of the Order of St John suffering with medical ailments. The Palombara (Dovecot) consisted of a number of small rooms wit 29 beds for contagious diseases like tuberculosis and ringworm. Two wards with 19 beds for members of the Order with surgical complaints and two rooms with 10 beds for civilian surgical cases.

One room with 18 beds was reserved for the mentally sick. In 1779 it was recommended that they be transferred to a magazine that had up to then been used for the storage of wood, as these individuals were a source of disturbance to other patients. The basement magazine had windows that opened onto Wells Street at the back of the Infirmary. Passers by used to stop and taunt the inmates and goad them into reaction. This part of Wells Street became known as the "Street of Lunatics."

In May 1679 a further room was added for the reception of patients suffering from contagious diseases and in 1687 a hall was built to house the hospital library. At the rear of the hospital close to the Falanga block was the Routa (wheel). This was a room containing a cot revolving on a vertical axis. The room communicated with the street outside by means of an aperture in the wall.Through this opening babies born out of wedlock or unwanted infants, referred to as eposti and bastardi were deposited to be take care of the the Infirmary staff. The whole apparatus was contrived to protect the identity of the person depositing the  unwanted infant.

Further enlargement of the Holy Infirmary was carried out in 1712, during the rule of Grand Master Fra' Ramon Perellos y Roccafull. These additions comprised the Upper Quadrangle bounded by Hospital, North and Merchants Streets with the main entrance or Porta principale opening onto Merchants Street. The courtyard was surrounded by the pharmacy, its laboratory and residential quarters for the medical staff and lay administrative officials. This became known as the New Hospital or Infermeria Nuova. In the centre of the Upper Quadrangle was a stone fountain decorated with the escutcheon of Perrelos y Roccafull that supplied water to the kitchen, pharmacy and the laboratory.

The supreme head of the Infirmary was the Grand Master. He visited the hospital every Friday "in procession", where on arrival he donned an apron to serve the sick and distribute food and medicines to the poor gathered in the courtyard. Ceremonial visits of the whole Convent in procession took place on Feast Days and on Maunday Thursday and on the Sundays between Easter and Ascension, when the Grand Master and other high dignitaries of the order laid aside their symbols of rank as they entered the Infirmary to attend Mass in the Great Ward. Every evening after Vespers, the priest and the clerici also came in procession to the "palace of the sick" to recite the ancient prayer which dated back to at least the time when the Order was at Acre:

       Seigneurs Malades, pries pour pais que Dieu la mande de ceil 
           en terre.
       Seigneurs Malades, pries pour le fruit de la terre que Dieu le multiplie en
          telle maniere que saincte eglise en soit servie et le peuple soustenu.
       Seigneurs Malades, pries pour l'apostell de Rome et pour les
          cardennaus et pour les patriaches et pour les arcevesques et
          pour les evesques et les prelats,-

and for the king of France, and of Germany, and of England and the King of Cyprus and of Jerusalem - that "God may give them peace and the will to conquer the Holy Land." The 'Lords the Sick' were also asked to pray for all pilgrims and for all Christians travelling by sea, that God would conduct them all in safety; and for all Christians who had fallen into the hands of the Saracens, and for all those who had given alms to the Hospital; and for the souls of their own  mothers and fathers, and for their benefactors; and finally, begging that the good God would give them peace, the petition closing with the Pater Noster.

The Great Ward of the Hospital
From the 1584 Edition of the Statutes

The official head of the Infirmary was the Grand Hospitaller, Pilier of the Langue of France. This position was one of the highest dignities in the Order of St John. The French knights were so jealous of this privilege that they "acknowledged no superior authority but that of the Grand Hospitaller", who alone was permitted to enter the infirmary without leaving at the door the insignia of his office, a requirement to which all others, of no matter what rank were required to submit. Not even the Inquisitor was permitted to set foot within the Infirmary without prior permission.

Fra' Joseph de Limerie Des Choisy
Grand Hospitaller 1729
(St Johns Church, Clerkenwell)

It was the prerogative of the Grand Hospitaller to appoint the Infirmirian who was the senior knight responsible for the day to day administration of the hospital. The Infirmirian had an apartment on the upper floor of the Infiremeria Nuova emblazoned with the coats of arms of eighteen Infirmerians who had governed the hospital from 1681-1765. These armorial bearings ran in a frieze beneath the ceiling around the wall of the apartment. The Infirmerian was a professed knight who like the Grand Hospitaller belonged to the French Langue. He had the dinner and supper bells rung to summon all the officials who ensured that the food was properly served to the patients and that the beds were clean and comfortable.

The Holy Infirmary was professionally staffed by well qualified and experienced medical and surgically trained staff, who had often studied abroad in Italy, and in France. Regulations drawn up in the 17th century stipulated that three doctors and one surgeon must sleep in the Hospital every night. By 1725 the  professional staff consisted of three resident senior physicians, three resident junior physicians, three resident surgeons, two junior surgeons (practtici) six barber-surgeons (barberotti) and a phlebotomist for blood-letting who was helped by two assistants for the application of leeches, cataplasms and blisters. The principal surgeons and physicians served in teams in the hospital for a month at a time, overlapping with their successors for three days. They visited the wards daily and recorded on a tablet, which hung at the head of each bed, the food and remedies prescribed. A general consultation was obligatory once a week for all doctors and their salary was docked if they failed to attend it. A medical school was opened by the Jesuits in 1595, and  in 1676 the Holy Infirmary became a teaching hospital, with its own School of Anatomy and Surgery, established by Grand Master Nicholas Cotoner. Nursing was carried out by fourteen so-called servants or guardians (servi or guardi). Forty-four baptized slaves and Turks selected from the slave prison were forced to do the cleaning, washing and all the other menial work..

The distribution and serving of food to the sick at meal times was the duty of the novice knights. Service in the hospital was obligatory once a week for all novices at the Convent with members of each Langue having  a day of the week in which they were on duty. At the stroke of the big bell of St John's each morning the knights on duty processed to the hospital. The Langue of Provence was on duty on Sundays, Auvergne on Monday, France on Tuesday, Italy on Wednesday, Aragon on Thursday, Germany on Friday and Castille on Saturday. While there were knights who voluntarily  nursed the sick, the regular visits were confined to feeding the patients. A small table, covered with a cloth and with water and salt upon it was placed beside each bed. The food was brought into the middle of the ward where an official read out the name of each patient and the diet he had been ordered, which was then carried to the bedside by a knight. Great emphasis was placed on the importance of a proper diet in the care of the sick. Rice, vermicelli, herbs and chicken were provided for the very ill, while the stronger patients were offered meat.pigeon, game sausage and potatoes.

The knights and civilians were provided with silver soup bowls, cups, spoons, and plates, however the slaves and convicts were only given pewter utensils. The silver was provided to the Infirmary at various periods by the Langues of France, Italy and Aragon and also the Common Treasury. When the Order was still at Rhodes, the Arangonese knight Fra' Giovanni de Villaragut, Castellan of Amposta, had endowed the Infirmary with a yearly sum of money to meet the comfort of the sick including the provision of silver plate. It is for this reason that the crest of the Commandery of Villaragut was chosen in 1684 to mark the Holy Infirmary silver to facilitate its identification and safeguard against theft. By 1725 the Holy Infirmary possessed 1150 pieces of table silver but in 1795 owing to the financial predicament of the Order at that time part of this plate had been sold.

Reporting to the Infirmirian, were two knights called Prud Hommes or Comptrollers who were in charge of the expenditure of the hospital. They also distributed alms, soup and old linen to the poor and supervised the management of the hot baths and mercurial anointing. The Prud Hommes  had their own secretar(scrivano), who noted everything that concerned their work in separate books. They supervised the work of the  linciere who was a secular, in charge of the linen, furniture, laundry and hospital equipment, making sure that everything was properly maintained and repaired. A steward or butler (bottigliere)was in charge of  the wine bread and oil etc which was supplied to the patients according to the vouchers of the comptrollers. An under clerk noted the food prescribed by the doctors and handed the list to the comptrollers. The armourer (armoriere)  was usually a servant-at-arms who was responsible for looking after the cleanliness and security of the silver plate. Two cooks, a purveyor and assistants provided meat for the allowances, which they could not receive in the kitchen until inspected by the comptrollers.

Following the capture of the Malta by Napoleon in 1798 and the expulsion of the Order of St John, the Holy Infirmary was taken over by the French for their sick soldiers and sailors. When the French left Malta two years later the former Holy Infirmary remained in use by the British garrison until 1920, when a new hospital was built at Mtarfa. The old hospital was then turned into the headquarters of the Malta police. At the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939 the police evacuated the building which was hit and severely damaged by the aerial bombardment. Of the great complex of hospital buildings, only the Great Ward, the oldest part of the Holy Infirmary survived. It is used today as The Mediterranean Conference Centre.

Sunday 17 August 2014

Castellania, Valletta

The Castellania at the corner of Merchants and St Johns Streets in Valletta was the seat of the Civil and Criminal Courts of the Order of St John. The Castellania, which replaced an earlier building erected during the rule of Grand Master La Cassiere, was designed by the Maltese architect Francesco Zerafa. Work began in 1757 but had to be suspended a year later following  Zerafa's untimely death. The Castellania was completed in 1760 by another Maltese engineer Giuseppe Bonici.

The main entrance was on merchants Street with small shops on either side on the ground floor. The beautiful symmetrical facade was carved by  Sicilian Maestro Gian and depicts in high relief the figures of Truth and Justice and an inscription in Latin recording  that the Castellania was built during the rule of  Grand Master Pinto de Fonseca.

The Castellania contained an elaborately carved chapel, also the work of the Maestro Gian which was consecrated by the Vice-Prior of St Johns on 15th November 1760. The building also contained accommodation for the Castellano or President of the Court and next door was the prison. The Castellano was a Knight appointed by the Grand Master by rote from each of the langues according to seniority. He held the office for two years, and was always preceded by a page bearing his staff of office. The hall is adorned with the coats-of-arms of the Castellani.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Fort St Angelo

 Occupying a commanding position at the centre of the Grand Harbour, Fort St Angelo stands at the tip of the Birgu promontory. It is thought that a temple built by the Phoenicians to the goddess Astarte (Juno), known throughout the Mediterranean world and identified with the evening star stood on the site of Fort St Angelo until about AD 878 when it is believed the first fortification, an Arab fort, was built on the promontory. A small fishing village or suburb grew up alongside the castle beside the harbour and became known as Il Borgo del Castello or Il Borgo. Later it became known as Birgu and after the siege of 1565 as Citta Vittoriosa.

The Arabs held Malta until 1090 when Roger the Norman, Count of Sicily landed on the island and drove them from the castle. In that year he excavated the small troglodytic church dedicated at first to the 'Mother of God' and after the siege of 1565, to the 'Nativity of Our Lady.' In 1220 the Hohenstaufen Emperor, Frederick II appointed a castellan for Malta, who will of course required suitable accommodation. The first mention of the Castrum Maris (Castle by the Sea) is found in documents from 1240. The tower at the north-west corner of the Magistral Palace may even date back to the 12th century. Another reference to the Castrum Maris is from the short period of Angevin rule (1266-1283). From 1283 the islands were under Aragonese rule, although the castle held out for the Angevins for some time after the rest of the islands had fallen. There is no record of when the castle first became known as St Angelo, but a Count de Melfi held the islands  in 1352-53 and his Christian name was Angelo so he may have given his name to the fort.

In 1425 the islands were mortgaged by King Alfonso V of Spain to the Viceroy of Sicily for 30,000 gold florins and a little later the mortgage was transferred to Don Gonsalvo de Monroy, who when he tried to exploit the Maltese caused such resentment that he had to flee the islands and for his own safety and  it decided to shut his wife up in Fort St Angelo until the King and Viceroy had arbitrated in the dispute, The result was the Maltese were enabled to buy the mortgage for themselves. The islanders were given the revenue of the islands for 10 years, in which to pay themselves back, provided that they pay for the upkeep of the garrisons of St Angelo and Notabile (Mdina). About 1430 the Governorship of the Castle was given to a member of the de Nava family and with it the title of Castellano and this appointment was to become hereditary to the family. The de Navas built a palace at  the top of the rock known then as the House of the Castellan of Malta and also the chapel for their private worship, dedicated to St Anne.

In the year 1520 at the eastern end of the Mediterranean the Knights of St John were under mounting pressure in the island of Rhodes, seat of the Order, due to the strength and proximity of the Turks. Charles V of Spain persuaded by Pope Clement VII, was anxious for the Order of St John to garrison Malta, because he could rely on their military power to guard this vital outpost of his empire against the growing threat posed by the Turks. The Viceroy of Sicily therefore arranged for the Order to take over the Governorship of St Angelo. Fra' Alphonse Pardall, a Servant-at-Arms assumed the governorship of St Angelo from Alvarez de Nava in June 1526. (A pension was awarded to de Nava in recognition of the renunciation of his hereditary rights.)

On 20th June 1530 Commander Fra' Aurelio Botigella, Knight of the Order took over command of the Maltese islands and at the same time Commander Fra' Pierre Pitoijs with a company of infantry occupied Fort St Angelo.  On 26 October 1530 the Grand Master, Fra' Phillipe de L'Isle-Adam landed on  Malta and took up residence in  Fort St Angelo. Within the walls of the fort were a whole range of buildings, for accommodating the garrison, defence, observation, kitchens, storage, and worship. On the uppermost level was the Magistral Palace formerly known as the House of the Castellan. There were also the tiny Church of Our Lady and the Chapel of St Anne. The Council of the Order  were also accommodated within the Fort, while the remainder of the Knights and refugees from Rhodes had to find accommodation in Birgu. Under the Knights of St John, Fort St Angelo and Birgu became the center of power in Malta. The peninsula's adjacent creeks, Kalkara Creek on the one side and the Galley Port (Dockyard Creek) on the other offered shelter for the Order's fleet, during even the roughest of weather.

The commission sent by the Grand Master in 1525 to Malta had reported that Fort St Angelo was partly in ruins, its whole artillery consisting of one small mortar, two falcons and a few iron mortars. Therefore despite the sorry state of the Order's Treasury de L'Isle-Adam embarked as a priority  the improvement of the fort's defences and he employed the Florentine engineer, Piccino, to draw up proposals for the improvements and repairs. Piccino designed a massive square cavalier with two chamfered corners on the landward end of the fort. This formed a platform from which the guns could fire onto the harbour entrance, supporting Fort St Elmo and out across the land front of Birgu. Below the cavalier a broad ditch was excavated, capable of securing the galleys and in effect turning the fort into an island.  The imperative was to improve St Angelo's defences; the fort's greatest weakness was that it was dominated by the Scibberas peninsula, on which, in 1566, the new city of Valletta was to be built. The piled up character of Fort St Angelo, like a typical medieval castle, was due to the need to try and match the height of the peninsula opposite.

The Order had barely been established on Malta when it was beset by a serious crisis. In 1531 the Order suffered a serious setback with the defeat of an expedition to Modon in Greece and at the same time  a fratricidal dispute between the Knights of the French and Italian languages. Then to make maters worse when the majority of the Convent had accompanied the Grand Master to Notabile (Mdina) on 29th June the Turkish slaves mutinied and tried to capture Fort St Angelo. The mutiny was however repressed.

Improvement of the fort's defences not with standing the Grand Master's highest priority was the restoration and rebuilding of the Chapel of St Anne. The Chapel and the Castellan's House were remodelled and restored by the Order's Ingeniere e Soprastante dell'Opere, the Portugese, Fra' Diego Perez di Malfriere While it is known that the chapel had been built by the De Nava family soon after they occupied St Angelo the size and scope of the original building are not known.The present chapel is that which was rebuilt by de L'Isle-Adam. It has a simple graceful facade with a round arched door leading into the nave and above it a single elliptical window light.  In the centre of the facade, as in many small Maltese churches is a bell-cot.

In the interior all the central arches of both the Nave and Transept rest on a single pillar of Egyptian granite. It seems likely that this pillar once formed part of the old temple of Astarte or Juno and therefore dates back to 1500 to 1000 BC.

According to the memorial plaque in the Chapel of St Anne, Grand Master de L'Isle-Adam died on August 22nd 1534. He was buried in the Crypt of the Chapel of St Anne.The south wall of the small chapel still carries the white marble commemoration stone of the burial of de L'Isle-Adam in the crypt of the chapel. A translation of the inscription reads,:-

"Brother Phillipus de Villiers L'Isle-Adam, Master of the Hospital of Malta, and wishing to restore his order, which was collapsing, and to rest after ten years of peregrination, fixed his abode in Malta where already beyond his seventieth year, he desired to be buried in this chapel dedicated to the name of Jesus. He died in the year of salvation 1534 on 22nd August".

In the scroll in the base of the tablet is inscribed in Latin:- "This tablet was placed by Fra' Anthony de Grolea., great worshipper of his glory during life, and of his memory after death".

Fra' Pietro del Monte was the next Grand Master and he died soon after on 18th November 1535 and was also buried in the crypt of St Anne.

Fra' Didier de St Jaille was the next Grand Master but he did not live long enough to take up residence in St Angelo as he died in Montpellier on his way to Malta on 26th September 1536.

Work to  improve the defences of St Angelo continued under the direction of Pellequin as Lieutenant for  Didier St Jaille. A battery was constructed overlooking Kalkara Creek, then known as the English Harbour, 3 guns facing the Borgo and 5 towards the harbour entrance. The ditch separating St Angelo and the Birgu was widened and deepened. At that time there was a narrow causeway at the Kalkara end from Birgu to the sheer wall of the Fort. The only other access to the Fort was by a movable wooden drawbridge at the Port of Galleys or Dockyard Creek end of the ditch.

Grand Master Fra' Juan D'Homedes ruled Malta from 1536 to 1553. He obtained the services of  Antonio Ferramolino, engineer to the King of Spain who in 1542 built and armed the Cavalier, "that they might see what passed in the port of Marsamuxetto". In this Cavalier are three are three long chambers probably used for accommodation quarters.Antonio Ferramolino also built the D'Homedes Bastion on the south west corner of the Fort. During D'Homedes reign Fort St Angelo was the setting for the trial of Commander de Valliers, Marshal of the Order held for the loss of Tripoli. D'Homedes died on 6th September 1553 and was buried in the crypt of St Anne's.

After their occupation of St Angelo the Knights  also restored and repaired the old House of the Castellan of Malta in order to turn it into a suitable Magistral Palace. Standing on the highest part of the fort, the palace was enlarged and beautified with stuccoes, frescoes and mosaics and surrounded by gardens and courtyards, including a grotto or Nymphaeum.

The Castellan's hall was turned into the high council chamber and encased with extra rooms to the east and a series of new buildings to the south and with a staircase and loggias to the west. One of the glories of this building remains the medieval window retained from the earlier building, a double window divided by a slim column with a carved capital; the capital is itself surmounted by a palm tree carved in relief.

Fra' Claude de la sengle was the next Grand Master to rule in Malta and it seems that the building on the opposite shore of Dockyard Creek must have commenced in his reign as he gave his name to the city still known as Senglea. On 23 rd October 1555 a great storm developed of such violence that it shook the Fort and carried away its flagstaff and Grand Standard of the Order. La Sengle died in August 1557 and was the last Grand Master to be buried in the Chapel of St Anne. He was succeeded by Fra' Jean Parisot de la Valette probably the greatest Grand Master to rule the Order of St John.

Grand Master Fra' Jean De La Valette (c1750) 
by Antoine Favray (1706-1792)

La Valette made good use of the relative peace at the start of his reign to strengthen the defences of Malta. In 1564 when the Order's spies at the Sublime Porte reported that an invasion was being planned  a great stone bollard was hewn from the living rock to fasten one end of the great chain stretched across the Port of Galleys to Senglea to protect the harbour.  A sea level battery of 5 guns was also constructed at this north west point to protect the boom and during the siege that followed cause to cause much damage to the Turks.

The Turkish invasion Fleet arrived off the Grand Harbour on 18th May 1565. By this time Fort St Angelo's defences consisted of St Angelo's Battery, D'Homedes Battery, La Vallette Battery, the Cavalier Battery and two batteries facing the entrance to the Grand Harbour. According to the historian of the Order Vertot the garrison of St Angelo during the siege consisted of 50 Knights and 500 soldiers and sailors. La Valette himself did most of his fighting in the Birgu using St Angelo as his headquarters and as an observation post to monitor the Turkish troop movements.

During the Siege more than 10 000 people died within four months. Those who died in the Fort were buried there because there was no access to cemeteries outside.

Fort St Elmo fell after 31 days of the assault and when the mutilated bodies of of the Knights of the Order were seen floating past St Angelo the garrison is reported to have replied by firing from their guns the heads of all their Turkish prisoners into the Turkish camps. Senglea, Birgu and Fort St Angelo held out until 8th September, 1565 when the siege was raised by the arrival of a relief force.

Crystal cross of Grand Master Fra' Jean de la Valette (1557-1568)
Crystal and gold, 16th century
Given by Pope Pius V to Valette
Engraved with , one conquers 10,000, referring to the Great Siege
(St John's Clerkenwell)

After the siege, St Angelo which had been considerably damaged was thoroughly repaired, but from then on the new city of Valletta, named in honour of the heroic Grand Master was to become the seat of the Convent and stronghold of the Order of St John. Grand Master Fra' Jean Parisot de la Valette died on 21st August 1568 at the age of 74. He lay in state in the Chapel of St Anne from the 21st August to the 25th August but was buried in the crypt of the Church of Our Lady of Victory in the new city of Valletta built by him and later moved to the crypt of the new Conventual Church of St John.

The new Grand Master Fra' Pietro del Monte concentrated all the Order's resources into building the new city of Valletta and its defences. The Convent of the Order was moved to Valletta on 8th March 1571 and it is probable that the Grand Master moved also, because he certainly ordered his Knights to do so. From this time on it is unlikely that any Grand Master ever lived  in Fort St Angelo.The Magistral Palace was probably used as the residence of the Governor of the Fort but there is no direct evidence until 1714 when the Coats-of-Arms of Governors until 1792 were painted in the hall of the Palace.However in 1581 when Grand Master de la Cassiere was deposed he was imprisoned in Fort St Angelo until  reinstated by the Pope.

The Chancery of the Order refers to a tower used as a prison for the Knights. One Claudio Gyran was sentenced to three months in the tower on 10th November 1530 for twitching the beard of a destitute Maltese. Fort St Angelo became the principal state prison of the Order of St John.

The oldest prison discovered in the Fort is the oubliete hewn out of the living rock just inside the main gate. There are many messages in Latin and carvings cut into the walls, also dates, the earliest being 1548. It seems probable from some of the messages carved that as a general rule those who were incarcerated here did not return to their previous life.

In 1681 Don Carlos de Grunenberg, engineer to the King of Spain inspected the Fort and found it in a poor state of repair. With the consent of Grand Master Fra' Gregorio Caraffa he began alterations and improvements in 1687. Besides the repairs, he added a battery facing the entrance to the Grand Harbour at sea level and he also prepared the top battery. The North West corner of the Fort still bears the name Grunenbergh Battery. With the continued encouragement of Grand Master Fra' Adrien de Wignacourt and the use of his own money the work was completed in 1690. An inscription in Latin above the Main Gate bears testimony to this.

"Under the happy auspices of Grand Master Adrien Wignacourt and by the previous consent of Grand Master Caraffa, Fort St Angelo, once a renowned temple of Juno but now a strong bulwark of Christendom, was restored by Charles Grunenberg, Knight of Devotion and Commander in the Army of the Catholic king; he contributed his talents and his money to restore to a better condition this fort, decayed by age, in the year of Salvation 1690, the first of the Magistery."

Overlooking the Fort's high entrance gate is the massive bulk of the cavalier tower, topped by St Angelo Bell, a bronze bell between two pillars dating from 1716, one of the sentry bells which was sounded by the Knights on occasions of rejoicing or as a warning of approaching danger. Inside the main gate is a barrel- vaulted guard room.

From the main gate a steeply ascending ramp leads to the first tier of batteries and continues to the Upper Fort, where there is a large parade ground, at the end of which stands the cavalier, a lofty and massive building, its summit forming a gun emplacement, its interior used as accommodation for soldiers. On this level are the remains of the tiny Church of the Nativity built by Roger of Normandy in 1090 and the oldest Christian church on the island. Another short ramp leads from the parade ground to the next battery level, and thence by a short flight of steps through a tunnel in the ramparts to the summit, where the Magistral Palace stands close to the Chapel of St Anne.

The last major work on the Fort carried out by the Order of St John was the restoration of the D'Homedes Bastion in 1769. In 1789 Fort St Angelo, along with the rest of the island's fortresses fell to Napoleon then at the height of his powers. However the French did not hold Malta for long and they surrendered to the British in 1800. The Royal Navy soon began transforming the built environment of Vittoriosa and the two creeks on either side. In 1912 Fort St Angelo was commissioned as the 'base ship' for the Mediterranean fleet. During the Second World War St Angelo became a potent symbol of Malta's heroic defiance. HMS St Angelo nearly 1000 years old with the White Ensign and Admiral' flag flying from high from the top of the ramparts symbolized the Maltese peoples resistance. After a 180 year military presence in Malta the British withdrew from St Angelo and from Malta on 31 March 1979.

An historic treaty between the Maltese government and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) reached in 1998, allowed the Knights of St John to reoccupy the upper level of the Fort including the Magistral Palace and the Chapel of St Anne. The agreement has a duration of 99 years.