Auberge of Castille

Public Building (Sixteenth century)
Auberge de Castille. Detail of



This Auberge is one of the most important buildings of Valletta, and since 1972 it has housed the Office of the Prime Minister. It housed the knights from the kingdom of Castille since the 1500s, served as the office of the Commission for National Property under the French, and subsequently housed military and residential and administrative functions during the British period.The 1740s façade reflects its rich history. The crescent moon which appears on the main door and in the carved decoration over the windows is a reference to the coat-of-arms of Portuguese Grand Master Pinto De Fonseca who ordered its rebuilding. The wrought-iron gate fronting the main doorway carries the initials ‘RA’ (Royal Artillery) and ‘RE’ (Royal Engineers) who were stationed here in the British period.

The first auberge was built in the 16th century. The present facade dates back to the 1740s. The original Grand Master’s Coat of Arms and bust placed just over the central window of the new facade were found to be too large and heavy. They were removed and replaced in 1766 – 1768 to avoid damaging the building fabric. In 1791, the main door was enlarged, while an arch for the main door and a large staircase in the parapet were constructed.In the 1930s the building acquired the prominence that it enjoys today, when the Duke of York avenue, nowadays known as Girolamo Cassar Avenue, was built to create a new entrance for traffic into Valletta. The new road which regrettably necessitated the removal of part of the parapet wall of the fortifications.

In 1934, the original marble bust of Grand Master Pinto was removed for better preservation and replaced by a bronze version. During the Second World War, in 1942, the area to the right of the main entrance and the ceiling of one of the front halls were damaged. These were rebuilt after the war. Restoration of the auberge’s facade took place between 2009 and 2014. The works were undertaken by the Restoration Unit of the Ministry of Resources. The restoration entailed cleaning of the stonework, re-attachment and replacement of stonework as well as the conservation of the bronze bust.

The first Auberge, appears to have had a more military character while the present Auberge was built in the flamboyant Baroque style.The façade is richly decorated with pilasters (which are said to have been built on the previous ones of the first Auberge), a recessed panel and a centrepiece projection of pleasing proportions. Five windows are found on each side of the main entrance, which according to some sources are also located on the exact place of the first Auberge. They are secured with wrought iron grilles with Pinto’s half moon emblem. On each window one also finds the abbreviation E.P (Emanuel Pinto)- a rare monogram on the buildings in Valletta. In line with the Baroque style, the new Auberge carried a higher front elevation that made it visible above the bastions.The interior consists of large halls and private rooms which surround a large courtyard. A magnificent staircase in Baroque style leads to the first floor. This staircase is attributed to the Maltese architect Andrea Belli.

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