By using our site you agree to the use of cookies. We use them to increase the quality of this site especially for you, they help us understand your needs (help us collect statistics), help our partners deliver the right content displayed on our website. To learn more about the cookies please click here.

cookies
noimage

Auberge d’Aragon

The Auberge d’Aragon, which used to house the Knights pertaining to the langues of Aragon and Navarre, is situated in Archbishop Street on the Marsamxett Harbour side. Designed by Girolamo Cassar in 1571, it is the oldest surviving Auberge in Valletta, since it has retained its original design by Cassar, as it was not refurbished in the 18th century like the other Auberges.

History

The Auberge d’Aragon was planned and designed by Cassar soon after the laying of the foundation stone of the capital city of Valletta in 1566. It is a one-storey building, having a rectangular plan with a central courtyard surrounded by asymmetrically placed interconnecting rooms. The entrance opens to an entrance hall with a coffered barrel-vault. When compared to the other Auberges, this structure is quite simple, the only decorations on the façade being the corner rustications and the rather plain roof cornice. This could be because the present Auberge d’Aragon was never meant to be permanent – it was to be used as a temporary accommodation by the Spanish Knights, as a larger hostel was being planned closer to the centre of Valletta. In fact the building was quite small for the standards of the Order, and the Knights attached to this particular langue mostly lived in nearby properties.

When the French invaded Malta and the Knights left, the French soldiers replaced them at the Auberge as well. Later, it was the turn of the British to appropriate themselves of the building, which was requisitioned by the Quartermaster and let in portions to various tenants, as well as serving as a government printing press between 1822 and 1824.

In 1842, George Tomlinson, Lord Bishop of Gibraltar, took residence at the Auberge and changed its name to ‘Gibraltar House’. At this time, the front steps of the Auberge were removed to be replaced by a Doric portico, perhaps as an attempt to embellish the austere façade.

In 1921, the Auberge was turned into a school, and following the 1924 elections, the Auberge d’Aragon became the official seat of the Prime Minister of Malta, Sir Ugo P. Mifsud. From 1647 to 1971, four more Prime Ministers were to use this Auberge as their office, starting with Sir Paul Boffa, followed by Dr Enrico Mizzi, Dr Giorgio Borg Olivier and Mr Dom. Mintoff. It was Dr Borg Olivier who successfully negotiated sovereign Independence for the Maltese Islands, and the historic table upon which this was officially discussed is still to be found in the old refectory of the Auberge.

After Dom Mintoff moved the Office of the Prime Minister to the Auberge de Castille in 1972, Ms Agatha Barbara, who eventually became Malta’s first woman President, started using the Auberge d’Aragon as the premises for the Ministry of Education and Culture. Later, the Auberge also housed the Ministry for Economic Services, and in 2004 it became the office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Justice and Home Affairs.

As of 2013, this Auberge has become the Ministry for EU Affairs and Implementation of the Electoral Manifesto.

The Hospitaller Order of St John in Malta

The monastic hospitaller Order of the Knights of Saint John, also known as the Knights Hospitallers, was originally established in 1085 as a community of monks responsible for tending the sick at the Hospital of St. John in Jerusalem, during the crusades. They later evolved into a military order, defending crusader territory in the Holy Lands and safeguarding the perilous routes taken by medieval pilgrims. Following the conquest of the Holy Land by Islamic forces, the Order operated from Rhodes, over which it was sovereign, and later from Malta where it administered a vassal state under the Spanish viceroy of Sicily. (more)

Text: Melisande Aquilina