Verdala Palace was built in 1586 during the reign of Hugues Loubenx de Verdalle, and it now serves as the official summer residence of the President of Malta.
The site of Verdala Palace was originally occupied by a hunting lodge, which was built in the 1550s or 1560s during the reign of Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette. The lodge was built in the Boschetto, a large semi-landscaped area that was used by knights of the Order of Saint John for game hunting. The hunting lodge was expanded into a palace in 1586, during the reign of Hugues Loubenx de Verdalle. It was further embellished in the 17th and 18th centuries, during the reigns of Giovanni Paolo Lascaris and António Manoel de Vilhena.
During the French blockade of 1798–1800, the palace served as a military prison for French soldiers captured by the Maltese or British. During British rule, it became a silk factory, but it was eventually abandoned and fell into a state of disrepair. Some repairs were undertaken during the governorship of Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby, and it was fully restored by Governor Sir William Reid in the 1850s. Prior to its restoration it was a temporal minor hospital between 1915 and 1916. It subsequently became the official summer residency of the Governors of Malta. On the outbreak of World War II in 1939, works of art from the National Museum were stored at the palace for safekeeping. The palace was restored in 1982 and began to be used to host visiting heads of state.
Verdala Palace was designed by Girolamo Cassar, a Maltese architect mostly known for the design of many buildings in the capital Valletta. The palace is an example of Renaissance architecture, and its design is possibly influenced by Villa Farnese in Caprarola.
The building has a rectangular plan, with pentagonal bastion-like turrets on each corner. The building itself has two floors, while the corner turrets are about five storeys high. The entire structure is also surrounded by a stone quarried ditch. Although the turrets and ditch gave the palace the outward appearance of a fort, they were mainly symbolic, and the palace was never really intended to withstand any attack. Nonetheless, the palace was still armed with four pieces of artillery on the roof. The interior of the palace is very ornate, with frescoes on some of the ceilings.
A chapel, stables and servant quarters are located a short distance away from the palace.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.