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Main Gate Street Vittoriosa, Malta

Inquisitors Palace

Once upon a time the beseiged Catholic Church became increasingly concerned about the upsurge in the Protestant faith in Europe. They established the Roman Inquisition to ensure people kept the faith, and in 1574 dispatched an Inquisitor to Malta to take care of business on the island. He needed a base ... and this magnificent palace was it!

The Inquisitor's Palace, located in Birgu (also known as Vittoriosa and one of the Three Cities) was actually built in the 1530s as the civil law courts of the Order of St. John. It was taken over in 1574 when the first Inquisitor decided he wanted to abandon his initial base in Valletta for a ‘des res' in the country that had its own cells. He went for this magnificent property and along with his 61 successors, the Holy Office stayed in it for more than 200 years.

Today, the Inquisitor's Palace remains an architectural jewel and a must-see for history-lovers visiting Malta. It is one of the few surviving examples of a style of Roman Palace that would have been found all over Europe and South America in the early modern period.

Apart from the display areas in the tribunal room, the prison complex and the kitchen, there is a permanent exhibition on the impact of the Inquisition on Maltese society.

Back in the day it was a sinister and mysterious building. Anyone who passed through its doors was sworn to absolute secrecy about what they had encountered within.

Among the highlights to look out for is the display called ‘Passio et Resurrectio - The Passion and Resurrection of Christ' - this is an artistic church model set up for Holy Week of two life-size polychrome sculptures that are paraded in the traditional Good Friday processions and two 18th century paintings portraying Our Lady of Sorrows and Christ crucified.

The building somehow managed to survive through many World War II bombings and is the only Inquisitor's Palace open to the public in the world. Nowadays, the building is also home to the Museum of Ethnography, which focuses on the popular devotions and religious values in the Maltese culture.

Contact Information

  • Contact: David Bonello
  • Phone: +356 23954000
  • Phone: +356 21827006
  • Fax: +356 21663935

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