Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica : Journal of the Malta Historical Society. 3(1961)2(1-8)

[p.1] More Houses in Valletta

Victor F. Denaro

            ST. MARK STREET

            St. Mark Street, though only a very small street, has some houses of interest.

            Over house number 6, in this street, is a tablet recording that the premises had been erected by Chev. Fra Jacques de Quiqueran Beaujeu in 1684 and donated by him to the Church of St. Barbara which belonged to the Langue of Provence. Chev. Jacques does not seem to have been the only member of his family to have taken an interest in the Provençal church, as the epitaph of Chev. Fra Antoine Honore de Quiqueran Beaujeu, who was buried here in 1769, records that he too was a benefactor of this church.

            When Canon Don Alfio d'Arena sold the Falconry (No. 102 Britannia Street) to the Lascaris Foundation in 1636, he also sold house No. 22 St. Mark Street. This is still owned by the Malta Government to this day.

            One of the persons who visited Malta during the turbulent days of the Italian Risorgimento was Adriano Lemmi (1826-1906), a friend and follower of Mazzini, Secretary to Kossuth and later Grand Master of the Italian Freemasonry. Lemmi arrived in Malta on February 5, 1852, on board the French steamship Lycurgue. On January 19 of that same year Giuseppe Mazzini had written to Emilio Sceberras informing him of Lemmi's arrival and asking him to treat him as a friend and brother.

            During his stay in Malta. Lemmi lodged at No. 49 St. Mark Street for which he paid Sc. 480 for six months' rent. [1]

            In October Lemmi was asked to leave Malta by the Superintendent of Police, owing to his political activities.

            ST. JOHN STREET

            St. John Street, once known as "Strada del Monte" and under the French as "Rue du Peuple", is surprisingly poor in houses of interest and only one is worthy of mention, the Casa Mosquet which once faced St. John's Conventual Church, and which after being badly damaged in 1942 has now been demolished to make way for the new square fronting this church. This house, together with several mezzanines and smal house', was donated to the Assembly of Conventual Chaplains by Fra Giovan Pietro Mosquet, Sub Prior of the Conventual Church and Administrator of the Chapel of our Lady of Philermos.[2] Fra Giovan Pietro Mosquet. who sang the solemn high mass on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone of the city of Valletta, donated this property [p.2] to the Conventual Chaplains, subject to the celebration of one daily mass and one mass on the anniversary of his death, for the repose of his soul and for his intentions.

            From the books of the Assembly of Conventual Chaplains we gather that the premises were rebuilt with funds of the Assembly, and among the tenants of the house we find Chev. Fra Zeferino Zerno (1705-1712) and the Prior of Catalogna, Fra Girolamo Ribas (1712-1718).[3]

            ST. LUCIA STREET

            St. Lucia Street is also extremely poor in houses of any special interest. In the days of the Order this street was named "Strada della Vittoria"; the French renamed it "Rue des Defenseurs de la Patrie".

            At the corner formed by this street with St. Ursola Street is the property of the Bagnano Commandery (Nos. 188/9 and 190 St. Lucia Street).

            The Commandery was founded by Fra Girolamo Antonio Danielli da Bagnano. Bali of Cremona, who left the usufruct of his property to his family. When the family became extinct the property passed to the Langue of Italy and was constituted into a Commandery to be enjoyed by the knights of the Italian Langue in accordance with the dispositions of Bali Danielli da Bagnano.[4]

            A fine palace in this street is the Palazzo Ferriol (No. 163 St. Lucia Street). This property originally belonged to Diego Antonio Ferriol who established a. perpetual fideicommissum in favour of his son. Dr. Michele, a judge of the Curia Gobernatoriale of Gozo.[5] The Ferriol male line became extinct and the palace passed to Vincenza Ferriol, wife of Dr. Pietro Paolo Galea.

            It is still related by the Galea family that, from the balcony of this house, Lorenzo Galea, Baron of San Marciano, gave the signal to the bellringer of St. John's Conventual Church to sound the tocsin on the disembarcation of the Napoleonic troops.

            Premises bearing numbers 155/8 in this street formed part of the Cabrera Foundation. Most of this property has been turned into flats.

            When the S.S. "Valletta" of the P. & O. Line anchored in Marsamxett Harbour in the early hours of Wednesday, March 23, 1864, Malta received the visit of yet another of the protagonists of the Italian Risorgimento, Giuseppe Garibaldi.

            On the 21st March the S.S. "Valletta" whilst on her way to Malta from Marseilles had anchored off the island of Caprera, Garibaldi's home, and had there embarked the General, his two sons, Menotti and Ricciotti, and some other persons.[6] On arriving at Malta, Garibaldi asked for permission to land and lodged at the Imperial Hotel, later St. James' Hotel (No. 184 St. Lucia Street). This building has been completely destroyed by enemy action and a cinema theatre built on its site.

            [p.3]From the newspapers[7] of the time one gets the impression that Garibaldi received a mixed reception in Malta; whilst he was received with enthusiasm by the liberal section of the population and by the English garrison and residents, several hostile demonstrations were held by another section which, extremely Catholic, saw in the leader of the Red Shirts the arch-enemy of the supreme Pontiff.

            Garibaldi was at this time still suffering from a wound which he had received at the battle of Aspromonte and was confined to his hotel during the whole of his stay in the Island . Here he was visited by Nicolo Fabrizi, who was then in Malta, and by a large number of people amongst whom were General Atherly, Sir Victor Hulton, the Baroness Angelica Testaferrata Abela, who presented the General with an address of welcome. Marquis Testaferrata Olivier, Judge Bruno, the Rev. and Mrs. Wisely and many others.

            On March 23, Menotti Garibaldi was invited to drinks at the Casino Maltese and also at the Casino della Borsa, today known as the Exchange.

            Giuseppe Garibaldi left Malta for Southampton at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 24, on board the S.S. "Ripon" also of the P. & O. Line.

            OLD THEATRE STREET

            In the early days of Valletta. Old Theatre Street was named Strada del Salvatore; the French Republican Government changed this into Rue de la Fraternité.

            House No. 37 in this street formed part of the Casa Bellott which was donated to the Conventual Chaplains by Chev. Fra Carlo Bellott, senior. This house was erected when the old building was demolished in 1745-47 and rebuilt in its present form.

            Facing the Palace Square was the entrance to the Pagery or house of the Pages of Honour of the Grand Master (No. 46 Old Theatre Street).[8] It is possible that the entrance was originally from Strait Street, but was transferred to Old Theatre Street when Grand Master Lascaris reduced the premises in Strait Street to their present form.

            After the expulsion of the Jesuits and the establishment of the University by Grand Master Pinto, it was decreed that, as from August 1, 1771, the Pages of the Grand Master were to vacate the house under review and were to reside in the Jesuit College together with their headmaster, Fra Jacques Matagne, a Chaplain of the French Langue. The Pages offered some resistance to this disposition and some of them asked and obtained permission to sleep in their old quarters. With the beginning of the new academic year matters worsened. Matagne was dismissed from his post and Fra Domenico Biancone, a Genoese, appointed in his stead. On the 10th November the Pagery was closed and the Pages forced to reside and study at the new University.

            [p.4] Old Grand Master Pinto died on January 24, 1773, and on February 28, immediately after the singing of the Te Deum for the election of the new Grand Master, the Pages again changed their quarters and returned to the old Pagery.[9]

            The Jesuit College owned the house in this street bearing number 69. This was bequeathed to the College by Romoalda Lanza.[10]

            We now come to the Manoel Theatre, the story of which has been given already by the writer in Melita Historica.[11]

            Opposite the Manoel is the house (No. 77 Old Theatre Street) which once belonged to Flaminia Ciantar and which, later, was acquired by Comm. Fra Francesco Villalonga y Zaporella, of the Langue of Aragon and Prior of Catalogna.[12]

            In 1725 the Prior donated the premises to the Assembly of Conventual Chaplains for the foundation of two daily masses to be celebrated in the Chapel of Our Lady of Philermos in the Conventual Church.

            Fra Francesco died in the Convent on August 12, 1750, and was interred in the Conventual Church.[13]

            This house has been altered considerably in recent times and here Joseph Howard, first Prime Minister of Malta under Self Government lived and died.

            The house bearing number 84 formed part of the property of Fra François Vion de Tessancourt, Prior of Champagne and later Grand Prior of France. The Grand Prior directed that after his death the property was to pass in usufruct to the knights of the house of Vion Tessancourt who might be residing in Malta. If there were no knights of the family in the Order, the Treasury was to enjoy the rents, for the time being, on condition that the property was kept in a good state of repair.

            ARCHBISHOP STREET

            The street today known as Archbishop Street was known in the days of the Order as "Strada del Popolo" and sometimes as "Strada dei Greci". The latter name was probably due to the church of the Catholic Greek Rite being situated in this street. The French renamed it "Rue des Liberateurs de la Patrie" and until recent times it was known as "Strada Vescovo".

            On the death of Caterina Scappi in 1655, the Hospital for Incurable Women or "Casetta" came into possession of house No. 144 in this street.[14] This house originally belonged to Cecilia Xiblia of Syracuse from whom it was purchased by Caterina Scappi[15] and bequeathed by her to the "Casetta".

            [p.5]Caterina Vitale owned house bearing No. 138 Archbishop Street, this, she bequeathed to the Monte della Redenzione degli Schiavi in 1618.[16] This property was totally destroyed by enemy action in 1942 and has been completely rebuilt.

            The great benefactress of the Monte di Redenzione also owned the adjacent house (No. 135 Archbishop Street). In her will, Caterina Vitale left the premises to the Monte di Redenzione stipulating, however, that they were to be enjoyed by a relative, Annica Faienza, during her lifetime. Annica died in 1660 and the house became the full property of the Monte di Redenzione.[17]

            In 1696, the house and underlying shop were given on lease for 100 years to Aloysio Hellul [18] and in 1785 they were sold by the Monte di Redenzione to Comm. Lorenzo Fontani.

            Still faintly visible on house No. 120 Archbishop Street are the arms of the Monte di Redenzione. This house originally belonged to Oliviero Pontis and his wife Gioannella and was sold by them to Fra Luca Gamier[19] for the sum of Sc. 900 which were paid as to Sc. 600 on the signing of the deed of sale and the remaining Sc. 300 on the 5th March 1653.

            Fra Luca Gamier bound the Monte di Redenzione, to which he had donated[20] the property, and Don Aloysio Fanale, to whom he had granted the life usufruct, to pay a certain sum of money yearly to Bellica, wife of Michele Casha, and to her sons Giuseppe and Francesco during their lifetime.[21]

            We now come to the property (Nos. 111/113 Archbishop Street) which was owned by Fra Jean Jacques de Verdelin. of the Langue of Provence, who was nominated Grand Commander of the Order in 1666.

            The largest of these houses Is the "Hostel de Verdelin" which is also known as the "Casa delle Colombe" from groups of doves which decorate the exterior.

            In 1662 Jean Jacques de Verdelin donated the premises to his brother, Paul, and after him to his eldest son and then to the primogenital descendants in the male line, ad infinitum, bearing the name of Verdelin. Failing these, and then those of the female line. the houses were to revert to the Religion. In the deed the donor reserved the right of revoking the donation. After the death of Jean Jacques de Verdelin, the donees were to pay a Spanish doubloon to the Religion by way of recognition. Further, the Grand Commander ordered that if there were knights of his family in the Order, the rents were then to be divided equally between the primogenito and the knights in question. Finally the donor stipulated that, on receiving the doubloon, the Order was to inspect the premises and ascertain that they were kept in a good state of repair.[22]

            On August 30, 1670, Verdelin altered his donation and ordered that on his death the houses were first to pass to his brother, Comm. Fra Jean François de Verdelin ,and then to his nephews Chev. Michel and Chev. Jean Jacques; after [p.6] the death of these the property was to pass to the persons mentioned in the first donation.[23]

            Grand Commander Jean Jacques de Verdelin was the nephew of Grand Master Hugues Lubenx de Verdalle, who, when created Cardinal by Pope Sixtus V, erected a column, at one end of the Palace Square, to commemorate the event. Time corroded this column and Ciantar relates[24] that in 1672 Verdelin affixed an inscription on the base of this monument recording that it had been repaired by him.

            Jean Jacques de Verdelin died in the Convent on April 20, 1678, at the age of 88 years and was interred in the Conventual Church.[25]

            In this same street, premises numbered 35/37 were once owned by the Villages family.[26] These seem to have been completely rebuilt during the last century.

            At the corner formed by Archbishop Street with Old Mint Street is another house (No. 53 Archbishop Street) once owned by the "Casetta" or Hospital for Incurable Women. This was bequeathed to the Casetta by Maria Cajetano who in her will[27] ordered that after the death of Carlo Gregorio and Rosa, his mother, the house was to pass to the Religion, on condition that, after deduction of maintenance expenses, the remainder was to be applied to the care of infirm Maltese women in the Hospital.

            After the death of Gregorio and Rosa the premises were administered by the Treasury, however, the rents were not applied to the infirm Maltese women as directed by the testatrix. On a petition of Comm. Fra Agostino Bargagli, administrator of the Casetta, the property was adjudged to the Hospital on December 20, 1753.

            We find that, later, the house was given on a life lease to Francesco Marantono, Engineer of the Order.[28]

            Fronting this house was the Courçelles Palace which, in the latter part of the 19th. century, was demolished by the building speculator and converted into a large block of flats.

            The palace is referred to, in the rent books of the Treasury,[29] as the house of the Balì Valence; this is possibly due to its having been occupied, at some time, by the Balì Fra Francesco de Valentia. In this same book it is also related that the Venerable Prior of Champagne, Fra François de Courçelles Rouvaij, in virtue of two deeds dated November 16, 1650, and June 14, 1651, in the Records of Notary Michele Ralli, donated the premises to his nephews in the Order, Chev. Fra Albert de Roncerolles, of the Langue of France, and the Noble Tancguy de Courçelles Rouvaij. They were to enjoy the use of the building as simple usufructuaries during their lifetime, it being stipulated that if only one of these nephews resided in the Convent he was to enjoy the whole usufruct. [p.7] After the death of these knights, the house was to go to other professed knights and novices, in the direct line, of the Rouvaij and Roncerolles families. In the case of the extinction of both families the property was then to pass to their nearest consanguineous descendants, and if there were no knights of these families, in the Order, the Treasury was to enjoy the usufruct until there were such knights.

            The knights living in the Convent were always to be preferred and, if all were absent, the usufruct was then to be divided equally among them.

            This house is also sometimes referred to as the "Casa Boniface" and this is undoubtedly due to its having been enjoyed by three brothers Boniface in 1760.[30]

            We now come to the Archiepiscopal Palace which was built on the designs of the Maltese architect, Tommaso Dingli.

            In 1622, the Bishop, Fra Baldassare Cagliares, thought of establishing his residence in Valletta and commenced the building of a palace in the new city. At first the Religion took no notice of this, thinking that the premises were destined for other purposes, however, realising in due course that the new edifice was to serve as the Bishop's residence, and pondering seriously on the matter, Grand Master Alof de Wgnacourt and the Council came to the conclusion that the Bishop's intentions interfered with the Order's jurisdiction. The Religion pretended that as Valletta had been raised from its foundation solely by the Order, this was to be exempted from any other jurisdiction or, at least, that the Bishop, who exercised the most ample jurisdiction over the whole Island, should not transplant to the new city his residence and Curia which, prior to the advent of the Religion in Malta, had been situated in the Borgo (Vittoriosa). For these reasons, wishing to impede by legal measures the building from proceeding further, an inhibition was obtained from Pope Urban VIII and the Roman Rota.

            To these pretensions the Bishop effectively countered that since the time of Paul the Apostle, the Bishop of Malta had exercised their jurisdiction over the whole Island and the building of the new city should not prejudice this in any way. Further, it was asserted that it was necessary for the Pastor to have his residence where the flock was most numerous and undoubtedly the flock was more numerous in Valletta than at Borgo. Finally, it was pointed out that as it was permissible for any person to inhabit Valletta and to build a residence therein, it would ill befit the piety of the knights if these rights were denied only to the Bishop.[31]

            After this, the controversy cooled down and the palace was built, if not completely, at least, into a comfortable habitation and here the Bishop established his residence and Curia; the prisons and criminal courts remaining at his old palace at the Borgo.

            Many tales are still related of the measures and counter measures adopted by Bishop and Order during this dispute, but, these have no serious documentation.

            [p.8] From the disproprium of Bishop Cagliares drawn up in the year 1631 we learn that the Bishop, in erecting the palace, had spent about Sc. 12,000 out of the diocesan funds and for this reason he bequeathed the premises to the Cathedral Church never to be let, lent, sold or mortgaged, but, ever to be used as the residence of the Bishop, his successors or Capitular Vicars and, should these not want to reside here, the palace was to be used as an ecclesiastical tribunal.

            An oratory dedicated to St. Joseph was built in the palace by Bishop Cagliares who directed that during mass in the oratory the celebrant was to offer prayers for the repose of his soul.

            Cagliares also ordered that, in case of siege, the Bishop or the Vicar of the Vacant See was to hand over, free of any charge, half of the whole palace to the Canons and Clergy of the Cathedral for them to live in and here celebrate the divine offices and also to preserve the jewels and ecclesiastical vestments of the Cathedral Church.[32]

            In 1730 Bishop Fra Paul Alpheran de Bussan, at his own expense, added a loggia and many amenities to the palace, however, it was left to His Grace Monsignor Michael Gonzi K.B.E., Metropolitan Archbishop of Malta, to build part of the first storey which had been left unfinished owing to the litigations between Bishop Cagliares and the Order.

            Opposite the Archiepiscopal Palace is the "Casa del Brio" (No. 56 Archbishop Street). This was bequeathed to the Jesuit College by Don Baldassare del Brio[33] who stipulated in his will that should Baron Vincenzo Viani desire to acquire the property the Jesuit Fathers were obliged to sell it to him. Availing himself of this disposition in the will, Baron Vincenzo Viani purchased the house and later sold it to the Manoel Foundation for Sc. 1,440.[34] Great improvements and modifications were made to the property by the Foundation. [35]

            Comm. Fra Domenico Cloria of the Langue of Italy, who died on the 11th April 1695, was the owner of the house, in this street, which today bears number 89. In his will Comm. Cloria left his house to the Assembly of Conventual Chaplains subject to the celebration of a certain number of masses for the repose of his soul. On his death it was found that a debt of Sc. 950 existed in favour of the Holy Office and from the accounts of the Assembly we learn that the premises were let at Sc. 65 per annum part of which were utilized to pay for the celebration of masses and the remainder for the gradual extinction of the debt.[36]


[1] MICHEL, Ersilio, Adriano, Lemmi Esule a Malta (1852), Malta Letteraria, Nuova Serie, Vol. II page 261.

[2]Cabreo Originale dei Beni Amministrati dalla Procura delle Distribuzioni, R. M. I. Treas. A. 73 fo. 34.

[3]Conti Amministrazioni Procura delle Distribuzioni R.M.L. Treas. A. 75.

[4]Liber Bullarum.R.M.L. Arch. 577 fo. 144v.

[5]Records of Notary Gio. Batta Curvisieri of 12 September 1666.

[6]LAURENZA. Vincenzo. Archivio Storica di Malta Vol.III page 143.

[7]The Malta Times & United Services Gazette, 24 March 1864.
The Observer, 24 March 1864.
L'Ordine, 24 March 1864.
Il Mediterraneo, 26 March 1864.
II Portafoglio Maltese, 26 March 1864.

[8]Registro Proprietà — Urbani — Vol. VI R.M.L. Treas. B. 149 fo. 330.

[9]LAURENZA, Vincenzo, Il Primo Rettore e i Primi Statuti, Malta Government Printing Press. 1934, pages 18 and 22.

[10]Libro Maestro dei Beni della Comp. di Gesù 1739-48 R.M.L. Treas. A. 122.

[11]DENARO, Victor F., The Manoel Theatre, Melita Historica Vol. 3 pages 1-4, Giov. Muscat & Co. Ltd.. Malta, 1960.

[12]Cabreo Assemblea Fiernalda Vol. I R.M.L. Treas. B. 297 fo. 39.

[13]CARUANA, Pietro Paolo, "Collezione dei Monumenti etc.. nella Chiesa di San Giovanni" Vol. Ill Tav. CCCXXIV.

[14]Cabreo Ospedale delle Donne, R.M.L. Treas. B. 807 fo. 9.

[15]Records of Notary Ambrosio Xiberras of the 9 November 1618.

[16]Cabreo Originatl Monte della Redenzione degli Schiavi R.M.L., Treas. B. to. 20.

[17]ibid. fo. 16.

[18]Records of Not. Baldassare de Modica of the 7 March 1696.

[19]Records of Not. Michele Ralli of the 18 January 1650.

[20]Records of Not. Michele Ralli of the 9 March 1650.

[21]Cabreo Originale Monte di Redenzione degli Schiavi R.M.L. Treas. B. 809.

[22]Records of Notary Tommaso Hagius of 15 August 1662.

[23]Libro Beni Stabili del Tesoro "B", R.M.L., Treas. A. 1 fo. 64.

[24]CIANTAR, Conte Giovannantonio, "Malta Illustrata" Lib. I. Not. I., xxix, Stamperia del Palazzo, Malta, 1772-1780.

[25]CARUANA, Pietro Paolo, op. cit., Vol. II, Tav. XIV.

[26]Libro Maestro — Beni Urbani 1829-1843 Treas. B. 132 fo. 230.

[27]Records of Not. Tommaso Vella of the 4 March 1704.

[28]Cabreo dei Beni Ospedale delle Donne Treas. B. 307 fo. 80.

[29]Libro Beni Stabili del Tesoro "B" Treas. A. I. fo. 62.

[30]Deliberazioni delta Camera del Tesoro 29. 12. 1760. A.O.M. 634 to. 31.

[31]DAL POZZO. Bartolomeo. "Historia della Sacra Religione di Malta", Vol. II, page 704, — Giovanni Bomo. Verona 1703-15.

[32]Judiciale Inventarium Bonorum Spectantium ad Mensam Episcopalem to. 83.

[33]Records of Not. Giuseppe Callus of the 20th. June 1716.

[34]Records of Not. Gaspare Domenico Chircop of 23rd. Oct. 1731.

[35]Repertorio di varie notizie compre stabili Fondazione Manoel Treas. A. 35 fo. 69.

[36]Cabreo Assemblea Fiernalda Vol. II Treas. B. 298 fo. 29.