<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
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.
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.
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
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.