San Anton Palace is the official residence of the President of Malta, and is surrounded by both private and public gardens.
The San Anton Palace and its gardens owe their origin to the Knight Antoine de Paule, a French knight from the Langue de Provence, who was elected 54th Grand Master of the Order of St. John in 1623. As Grand Master, de Paule, who also founded Paola in 1626, acquired a sizeable plot of land near Attard and set about building a country villa which was nearer to Valletta than Verdala Palace.
He planned the villa on generous proportions so as to provide accommodation for his guests and for his large domestic staff which included cooks, food tasters, torch bearers, pantry boys, wig makers, a winder of the clocks, and physicians, as well as a baker to make black bread for feeding his hunting dogs. The Grand Master named the villa ‘Sainte Antoine’ after his patron saint, Anthony of Padua.
De Paule also provided the palace with a private chapel dedicated to the Madonna del Pilar with a vault decorated with the coats-of-arms of Grand Masters especially Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc. De Paule also designed a symmetrical plan to the garden that consisted of more orange groves in the beginning. These oranges, he sent as gifts to those he desired to honour. A mausoleum dedicated to Grand Master de Paule may be found at St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta in the Chapel of the Langue of Provence.
Successive Grand Masters were to use the place as their country-residence. After the French occupation of Malta and the Maltese rebellion, the Palace was the seat of the Maltese National Assembly from February 1799 to the departure of the French in September 1800. It was later to become the residence of the Governor and of the Governor-General of Malta. Since 1974 Sant'Anton Palace has been the Official residence of the President of Malta.
Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was born at the Palace on 25 November 1876. Victoria Melita was a granddaughter of British Monarch Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Consort, through their son the British Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, so Melita was legally a British princess in her own right.
The gardens of San Anton, part of which have been open to the public since 1882, are laid out in a formal manner, with graceful walkways, sculptures, ornamental ponds, families of ducks and swans, and a small aviary.
The gardens contain a large variety of trees and flowers from around the world, including a variety of palm trees, cypress, jacarandas, araucarias and other exotic plants, some of them over three centuries old. For many years it has been customary for visiting Heads of State to plant a tree in memory of their stay in Malta. The gardens also contain an orangery, and it was once the practice of incumbent Governors to give baskets of oranges grown in the palace gardens as gifts at Christmas time.References:
Czocha Castle is located on the Lake Leśnia, what is now the Polish part of Upper Lusatia. Czocha castle was built on gneiss rock, and its oldest part is the keep, to which housing structures were later added.
Czocha Castle began as a stronghold, on the Czech-Lusatian border. Its construction was ordered by Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, in the middle of the 13th century (1241–1247). In 1253 castle was handed over to Konrad von Wallhausen, Bishop of Meissen. In 1319 the complex became part of the dukedom of Henry I of Jawor, and after his death, it was taken over by another Silesian prince, Bolko II the Small, and his wife Agnieszka. Origin of the stone castle dates back to 1329.
In the mid-14th century, Czocha Castle was annexed by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. Then, between 1389 and 1453, it belonged to the noble families of von Dohn and von Kluks. Reinforced, the complex was besieged by the Hussites in the early 15th century, who captured it in 1427, and remained in the castle for unknown time (see Hussite Wars). In 1453, the castle was purchased by the family of von Nostitz, who owned it for 250 years, making several changes through remodelling projects in 1525 and 1611. Czocha's walls were strengthened and reinforced, which thwarted a Swedish siege of the complex during the Thirty Years War. In 1703, the castle was purchased by Jan Hartwig von Uechtritz, influential courtier of Augustus II the Strong. On August 17, 1793, the whole complex burned in a fire.
In 1909, Czocha was bought by a cigar manufacturer from Dresden, Ernst Gutschow, who ordered major remodelling, carried out by Berlin architect Bodo Ebhardt, based on a 1703 painting of the castle. Gutschow, who was close to the Russian Imperial Court and hosted several White emigres in Czocha, lived in the castle until March 1945. Upon leaving, he packed up the most valuable possessions and moved them out.
After World War II, the castle was ransacked several times, both by soldiers of the Red Army, and Polish thieves, who came to the so-called Recovered Territories from central and eastern part of the country. Pieces of furniture and other goods were stolen, and in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the castle was home to refugees from Greece. In 1952, Czocha was taken over by the Polish Army. Used as a military vacation resort, it was erased from official maps. The castle has been open to the public since September 1996 as a hotel and conference centre. The complex was featured in several movies and television series. Recently, the castle has been used as the setting of the College of Wizardry, a live action role-playing game (LARP) that takes place in their own universe and can be compared to Harry Potter.