The Grandmaster's Palace was built in the 16th century as the palace of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, who ruled Malta, and was also known as the Magisterial Palace. It currently houses the Office of the President of Malta, and part of it is open to the public as a museum.
The Grandmaster's Palace was originally built in 1569, as the palace of Eustachio del Monte. It was purchased by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière in the 1570s, and was enlarged into his own residence by the architect Girolamo Cassar. It was further enlarged and embellished by successive Grand Masters, and its present configuration dates back to around the mid-18th century.
In 1800, Malta was taken over by Britain, and the island eventually became a crown colony. The Grandmaster's Palace became the official residence of the Governor of Malta, and it became known as the Governor's Palace.
The palace's Tapestry Hall became the meeting place of the Parliament of Malta in 1921, and it continued to serve as such until 1976, when the parliament moved in the former armoury, also within the palace. The House of Representatives moved out of the Grandmaster's Palace to the purpose-built Parliament House on 4 May 2015.
The Grandmaster's Palace was originally built with Mannerist characteristics typical of its architect Girolamo Cassar. Its façade is simple but severe, and is characterized by two large doorways and long wooden balconies at each corner. The balconies and doorways did not form part of the original palace, but were later additions. Apart from the two entrances in St. George's Square, there is a third entrance from Piazza Regina (Republic Square) just west of the National Library.
The palace is built around two courtyards, one of which is dominated by a statue of Neptune. The entrance to the state rooms is in the Neptune Courtyard via a spiral staircase. The ceiling of this entrance was painted by Nicolau Nasoni in 1724.
The Armoury, which houses one of the finest collections of weapons of the period of the Knights of Malta, runs the width of the back of the palace. Spears, swords, shields, heavy armour and other weapons are on display. Examples include parade armour of various Grand Masters including Jean Parisot de Valette and Alof de Wignacourt, and Dragut's own sword.
The Throne Room was built during the reign of Grandmaster Jean de la Cassière. It was used by successive Grandmasters to host ambassadors and visiting high ranking dignitaries. During the British administration it became known as the Hall of Saint Michael and Saint George after the Order of St Michael and St George which was founded in 1818 in Malta and the Ionian Islands. It is currently used for state functions held by the President of Malta.
The cycle of wall paintings decorating the upper part of the hall are the work Matteo Perez d'Aleccio and represent various episodes of the Great Siege of Malta. The coat-of-arms of Grand Master Jean de Valette on the wall recess behind the minstrels gallery was painted by Giuseppe Calì.
In 1818, the British transformed this hall by completely covering the walls with neo-classical architectural features designed by Lieutenant-Colonel George Whitmore. These were removed in the early 20th century. The minstrel's gallery is thought to have been relocated to this hall from the palace chapel which was probably its original location. Of particular interest is the original coffered ceiling and the late 18th century-style chandeliers.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick.