A series of six ancient vaulted rooms forming the core of the Inquisitor's Palace in Vittoriosa, have been restored by Heritage Malta thanks to a sponsorship by the Alfred Mizzi Foundation.
The rooms go back to the sixteenth century. They were subjected to extensive conservation and upgrading works, including the manual stripping of paint and plaster layers (including extensive sections of cement rendering), the consolidation and repair of damaged stonework, and repointing with compatible materials.
This project forms part of a more extensive visitor experience enhancement programme which has entailed the conservation of six vaulted spaces that host the museum's reception area, an introductory display on the Inquisition and the fabric of the Inquisitor's Palace and a dedicated space for hands-on educational events.
A unique pre-1939 model of Birgu by Ruzar Calleja has also been conserved and placed on display as part of this project.
The newly conserved and refurbished areas are to be illuminated by an energy efficient lighting system. They have been made fully accessible for people with mobility constraints.
Erected shortly after 1530, the Inquisitor's Palace in Vittoriosa is one of the few surviving palaces used by the Roman Inquisition in Europe and South America during the early modern period.
The gradual enlargement and modification of the palace during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and subsequent alterations and mutilations to suit the varying needs of its nineteenth century tenants sculpted a multi-faceted and labyrinthine architectural gem that mirrors the history and European character of the Maltese Islands.
The Gothic quadripartite vaulted courtyard and adjoining rooms hosted the Magna Curia Castellania, or civil law courts, until the transfer of the administrative centre of the Order to Valletta in 1571. The building was subsequently handed over to the Roman Inquisition following the appointment of Mgr. Pietro Dusina as first general inquisitor and apostolic delegate of the Islands in 1574.
These vaulted spaces are of considerable relevance to the study of Malta's millennial architectural legacy and shed valuable information on the makeshift transformation of Birgu into a political and commercial hub during the early phase of the Order. Significant pre Knights' Period structural remains incorporated into the extant fabric have been uncovered as part of the conservation project.
The Alfred Mizzi Foundation was set up in 2004 for the promotion, diffusion and safeguarding of the Maltese culture and heritage. It has sponsored a number of restoration projects handled by Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna, Heritage Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa and others. It has also provided its support to philanthropic organizations such as id-Dar tal-Providenza.
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