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<the auberges in valletta>

        Cassar was a big fan of corner rustications. He applied them on all his auberges – with the exception of the one of Castille. One can even make out a development in their design: Starting from plain alternating long and shorter quoins (Auberge d’Aragon, Auberge d’Auvergne), the rustications became more varied and innovative throughout the years (see, for example, the diamond shaped quoins on the Auberge d’Italie).

         Actually, there is a reason why Cassar used these rustications (or, in the case of the Auberge de Castille, the panelled pilasters) on the corners of his buildings: It was an instruction from the Order to decorate all corners in the new city of Valletta. Rustications have their roots in military architecture. In the Quattrocento they came into fashion on secular buildings in Florence, from where they became more and more fashionable in Rome and the whole south of Italy. Until the baroque, they formed a typical feature of secular architecture, and from the 16th century onwards they were mainly used for decoration of corners and openings such as windows and doors.

         When comparing Cassar’s auberges to contemporary secular architecture in Italy, it is striking that Cassar’s style is much more plain, sober and especially stricter. However, this soberness and strictness is explainable with the Order’s influences on Cassar’s building style. Until the 16th century the auberges were meant to represent the military and religious character of the Order of St. John, and Cassar was supposed to adapt his buildings to the Order’s practical requirements.

       But these attitudes were to change soon: After the Order of St. John did not have to fear further attacks by the Turks or other naval powers anymore, they spent less time with taking measures of defence, and consequently, they gave up the strict, military building style more and more. The plainness and strictness was completely abolished in the baroque when all buildings were richly decorated.

    Probably not the best example for a baroque building is the eighth auberge that was finally built in Valletta at the end of the 17th century, the Auberge de Baviere and  Angleterre. The Anglo-Bavarian langue had just formed in the late 17th century and moved into its new auberge at St. Elmo Bay in 1696. Architecturally, the auberge is not outstanding or innovative at all. Hughes even called it a “monotonous block of masonry”. Its architect is not known.

  The last auberge to be constructed and certainly the most important 18th century building is the second Auberge de Castille. The Knights of Castille and Leon must have found the original Auberge de Castille too modest and too small, so that they decided to engage the baroque architect Domenico Cachia with the design of a new and larger auberge in 1744.

Cachia must have had so much empathy for the original design that he actually orientated himself on the first Auberge de Castille when designing the current one. It is also rectangular in plan and has a central courtyard – but obviously on a bigger scale than Cassar’s auberges. Cachia also applied pilasters that divide the façade vertically. The magnificent staircase hall inside the auberge is remarkable, and the façade is probably the most successful and best balanced and proportioned architectural work in Maltese baroque.

The Valletta auberges are definitely the best representation of how Valletta has changed throughout the centuries. The modifications on Cassar’s sober auberges in the baroque changed Valletta’s military character completely – and turned the city into this unique architectural unity as it represents itself today.

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