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History of the Auserge de Castille

In the beginning, the wooden building which served as the Auberge was an improvised structure in Birgu, however in 1569 the Knights decided to create a stately Auberge in Valletta. They acquired a site, referred to as the Casa Grande in Saint Paul Street. This house was big enough to accommodate the Head of the Langue, called the Pilier, and a limited number of knights, and it served as the Auberge from 1571 to 1573, when it was decided that a bigger building was needed. The site chosen for the building which today is known as the Auberge de Castille, was 4,100 metres square and it was acquired by the Langue in 1569. The Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, a student of Francesco Laparelli, was chosen to design it. Girolamo Cassar had a matured Mannerist style, which is very evident in the pilasters between the fenestrations. The main entrance was placed on a level higher than the street level to give the place a sense of nobility and is flanked by five decorated windows on each side.

The Auberge was extensively reconstructed by the architect Andrea Belli between 1741 and 1745, during the Grand-Mastership of Manuel Pinto de Fonseca, after the Council of the Order had decided that it wanted to transform the military character of the Auberge into something more original and prestigious. The new flamboyant Baroque style was adopted. The Grand Master’s symbol of the crescent moon is frequently displayed throughout the building, while his Coat of Arms and bust are the main decorations of the central window. The Coat of Arms of the Langues of Spain and Portugal are also carved on the façade. In 1791, the main door was enlarged, and a large staircase for the parapet was constructed.

In 1798 the Knights left Malta due to the occupation of the island by the French. These also took over the Auberge de Castille, and used it as their headquarters between 1798 and 1800. In 1800, Malta was retaken by the Maltese with the assistance of Great Britain, and Malta became a British colony. The British forces established their headquarters at the Auberge de Castille in 1805. During the Second World War, the Auberge was bombed and sustained severe damage on the right side of the entrance. After the war, the damaged section was rebuilt.

In 1964, Malta became an independent state, and since 1972, the Auberge de Castille has been used as the official seat of the Prime Minister of Malta. It houses the office of the Prime Minister, from where he conducts the business of Government, and there is also a Hall where Cabinet is convened once a week. Over the years, some of the stonework crumbled or blackened, so a restoration of the Auberge started in 2009 and was completed in 2014.

The biggest and most beautiful hall in the Auberge is the Ambassador’s Hall, where the Prime Minister welcomes important guests and hosts state functions. There is also a large and picturesque courtyard where press conferences are held. This courtyard is also used for different cultural activities like concerts or exhibitions.