Inquisitor's Palace - National Museum of EthnographyInquisitor's Palace - Birgu - Vittoriosa

This is located in Main Gate street on one's right as one walks in the direction of Victory Square. In a sense this consists of two museums in one. It is reputed to be one of the few surviving 'Palaces' of the Inquisition that were once widespread throughout Europe and the Roman Catholic World.  Luckily the building survived the Second World War and many original architecural features are well preserved. Indeed as the inscription alongside states, it dates back to the Norman domination when it functioned as a Court of Law. It is also a museum of Maltese identity and religious culture, with a range of artefacts pertaining to these topics..

A range of cells with original inscriptions dating back over centuries, an austere tribunal room, a chapel, and quite a sophisticated sanitation system (for its time) are very well preserved for all to see.  The Inquisitors Palace grew in a piecemeal way and this is unfortunately mirrored in the limited 'routing' of the museum, however improvements are underway. The museum also has a very well stocked museum shop run by Wirtna

One can see an online 360o view of a hall and main staircase of the Inquisitor's Palace (from VisitMalta)

Both this museum and the Maritime Museum are still somewhat Victorian in layout - with extensive labelled displays but perhaps not as educationally interactive as they could be. 

These museums also house 'ad hoc' special thematic exhibitions from time to time.


In September 2012 the Administrative Offices of Birgu Local Council moved to the Auberge de France in Hilda Tabone Street. Although this is by no means a museum it is the best conserved and restored Auberge in Birgu and has some interesting artefacts on display. 

 

Sword of La Vallette - Birgu

The Vittoriosa Parish Musem is an unpolished gem. If you wish to visit a museum exclusively about Birgu (rather than simply sited in it) and including some unique aspects specific to Birgu, then you should visit this one.

It is based in St Joseph's Oratory - an interesting religious building in itself. The museum is run by the Vittoriosa Historical and Cultural Society . It is staffed by a roster of volunteer members of the Society, and so its hours of opening are limited (usually 9.30-12 am on weekdays only), but admission is free. 

The parish museum is packed full of exhibits - and is a pageant of the history of Birgu. The exhibits cover a range of topics including the Great Siege of 1565, the Second World War, religious aspects etc. 

The prize exhibits include the hat and sword of Grandmaster Jean de la Vallette (shown in the image alongside). This sword was his everyday 'business' piece which he used during the Great Siege. However his ceremonial 'Sunday best' sword which was later gifted to him by the Holy Roman Emperor - Felipe II (Philip) of Spain was looted by a Corsican called Napoleon Bonaparte and then taken to Paris.

Photographs in the museum show the extensive damage inflicted on Birgu during the Second World War, when the majority of Birgu's buildings were destroyed, and the population suffered a great deal.  

 

Other museums:

Malta at War Museum: This provides an insight into what life in an air-raid shelter during the Second World War blitz was like. It is accessed through the little 'square' in the ravelin of the  'three gates' area at the entrance to the old city. The fortifications of the old city around the museum were dug out to provide much needed shelter, and it is an educational experience to make one's way through the shelter to see how the inhabitants lived: ate, slept, reared children and worshipped in those troubled times. The staff are very enthusiastic and committed.

It is undergoing a major refurbishment and expansion but is still open for visitors.

 

 

The fortifications:

An account of Birgu's fortifications is being developed on a separate page. The principal fortification facing the sea is Fort St Angelo. However the main entrance to the city, with its three associated gates (Advanced Gate, Couvre porte and Main Gate) is a feature well worth exploring. 

It is possible to walk along various tracts of the fortifications including the walls facing Kalkara creek which give a good view of Valletta, and the entrance to the Grand Harbour  (guarded by Fort St Elmo and Fort Ricasoli).  

The image below shows Bighi hospital viewed from the direction of Birgu. This hospital is of relatively late construction. A lift shaft was constructed extending from the level of the hospital down to a small covered jetty at sea level to permit ill or injured seamen to be transferred to the hospital above with relative speed and comfort. The entrance to the Grand Harbour is just to the left.


Bighi Hospital - Malta

 

The Birgu waterfront:

Since Birgu is a peninsula it has a long 'V' shaped waterfront with Fort St Angelo at its tip. The part of Birgu which faces Isla, also known as Senglea (the second of the 'Three Cities', after Birgu) has been developed into a yacht marina. The waterfront marina, notably the Old Treasury Building is fast developing into a picturesque dining out area, well situated close to the Maritime Museum  as well as the moorings. It includes several restaurants mentioned in a separate page

 

The main square and Collachio:

The main square and the neighbouring Collachio, where most of the Knights of St John lived and had their 'Auberges', has a late medieval feel to it - with narrow winding streets. However many buildings have suffered as a result of the Second World War and subsequent 'reconstruction'.

However interesting architectural features have survived including aspects probably dating back to Norman times. A number of wine bars (featured in a companion page) have been established in this part of Birgu.

 

Churches:

From 1530 the Hospital / Infirmary (Sacra Infermeria) of the Order of St John was on a site which later became a convent (nunnery) attached to the Church of Santa Scholastica shown in the image below.

Santa Scholastica Church - Birgu - Vittoriosa 

Other buildings and historic or architectural features:

 

Birgu - the people, the folklore and the rest:

A 'List of Historical sites, buildings and other places in Birgu'  is available on Birgu local council's website.

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