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.