<the auberges in valletta>
- article published in the sunday times march 25, 2001 -
Being away from their country of origin, many Knights of the Order of St.
John would probably have felt homesick without their hostels in Malta, the auberges.
Each of the eight European territories that were present in the Order - the
so-called langues – built its own auberge, which served as accommodation for
its members but also for pilgrims and visitors from its home country. Moreover,
the hostels were used for meetings, dining and other social activities.
Shortly after the Order of St.
John had arrived in Malta in 1530, each langue started to erect its auberge in
Birgu. The two French langues of Provence and Auvergne shared one building, so
that seven hostels were built in Birgu, of which only three have survived: the
Auberge de France, the Auberge d'Angleterre and the Auberge de Provence and
After the foundation of Valletta in 1566, the Order obviously had to "move" their auberges to the new city. Therefore, new hostels had to be constructed for all langues with the exception of the English one, which was forced to disband due to the Reformation of 1534. The Maltese architect Gerolamo Cassar was commissioned with the design of the seven auberges.
Each langue was responsible
for the financing of the building, and it was supposed to build the auberge in a
certain part of Valletta, namely near the section of the fortification where the
langue was responsible for the defence of the new city. At the same time, the
hostels had to have a central location.
Cassar's predecessor and
teacher, Francesco Laparelli, had already planned to build each auberge with a
piazza in front. Eventually, at least three auberges were built with an open
space in front: the Auberge d'Aragon, the Auberge d'Auvergne and the Auberge de
Castille. Whether any of the other auberges were situated on a piazza, is not
certain but shall be discussed later on.
Unfortunately, only three of
Cassar's seven auberges have survived. The German auberge was already destroyed
in 1839 to make space for the Anglican Cathedral. There is almost nothing known
about this auberge (see picture). The Auberge d'Auvergne and the Auberge de France were both
completely destroyed by German bombs during the Second World War.
the destroyed auberge d'allemagne (in the background) during the laying of the foundation of st. paul's anglican cathedral on may 20, 1839
As most auberges turned out to be too small throughout the years and because they were also meant to represent some kind of status symbol of each langue, they were all later enlarged and modified. The Auberge de Castille underwent the most extreme change - it was totally rebuilt and redesigned.
direct links to the auberges: