Auberge de Castille
Welcome to Auberge de Castille, the building that currently houses the Office of the Prime Minister. It is one of the finest architectural works in Malta. Auberge de Castille opens its doors to the general public only once a year! So if you want to see it, make sure to be in Valletta during Notte Bianca (Malta’s biggest annual art and culture festival)!
This is one of seven auberges in the capital city. Auberge de Castille is situated in a prime location of Malta’s capital city. It sits at the highest point of Valletta, at Castille Place, overlooking the Grand Harbour and Floriana. Upper Barrakka Gardens and Saint James Cavalier (cultural centre) are located in close proximity of Castille.
Before I take you on a tour throughout the interiors let’s talk the exteriors for a moment. As you can see, the main entrance is accessible by a flight of steps. The doorway is surrounded by columns which support a trophy of arms and a bronze bust of Grand Master Manuel Pinto da Fonseca. Also notice that the window, which is located just above the bust, is surmounted by Pinto’s coat of arms. Lastly, the centre piece above the window, just underneath the Maltese flag, bears the coats of arms of Castile and León and of Portugal.
I’m sure, you’ve also noticed the two historic canons, which are located just in front of the entrance for decorative purposes.
This exquisitely proportioned and strictly symmetrical two-storey building was built in the Baroque style with a rectangular plan and a central courtyard. Its facade is divided into eleven bays defined by pilasters in the central bays or plain panelling in the outer bays.
The original Auberge de Castille was designed by Girolamo Cassar in the Mannerist style and built in 1573–74. This building replaced the role of Auberge de Castille et Portugal in Birgu (former capital city of Malta). This building was dismantled and completely rebuilt in the Spanish Baroque style between 1741 and 1744. The author of the new designs was Andrea Belli and the construction supervisor Domenico Cachia.
It is worth mentioning that from 1805 the Auberge was the Headquarters of the British Armed Forces in Malta. The building was badly damaged during World War II but luckily carefully restored afterwards. Auberge de Castille has been the office of the Prime Minister since 1972. It was completely restored between 2009 and 2014 with the square in front of the Castille Palace getting a face lift in 2015.
The Ambassadors Hall
This beautifully decorated hall is specifically used for ambassadors meetings. An ambassador is a diplomat who represents the interests of their home country in another country. This government representative is usually stationed at the foreign capital. The Ambassadors Hall is a room dedicated to official meetings and formal dinners of the ambassadors with the Prime Minister.
While walking through the Ambassadors Hall I’ve noticed a number of artifacts on display with great historical value. On the picture below you can see ‘Breakwater Casket’ dating back to 1903. This is a copy of the Bronze Casket that contained documents places in the ‘first stone’ of the Breakwater of the Grand Harbour.
Now we’re entering the Cabinet Hall. This is where the Prime Minister gathers all the Parliamentary Secretaries and all the Ministers. As I’ve already mentioned Auberge de Castille has been the office of the Prime Minister since 1972 holding the Cabinets meetings every Tuesday.
The Cabinet Hall also has some interesting items on display. This is for example a silver model of the Mayflower. This was the ship that transported the first English Separatists, known today as the Pilgrims, to the New World in 1620.
Prime Minister’s Office
Now, we’re stepping into Prime Minister’s Office. This has been Dr Joseph Muscat’s office since 2013. Did you know that you can contact Prime Minister directly? Honestly I never tried it, but here are his contact details if you may need them: Office of the Prime Minister, Auberge de Castille, Valletta VLT 1061, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 2200 2400.
So what do you thing when looking around? Would you like to work here? For me is probably a bit too cold and official, but again I’m not the Prime Minister. 🙂
And now, on our way out, we’re returning into the magnificent hallway. I got to admin this space turns heads. I was truly overwhelmed when I entered. Beautiful, majestic, simply mind blowing architecture inside out. Yes, there was a queue to visit Auberge de Castille that night, but totally worth the waiting time. So if you’re in Malta next year for Notte Bianca make sure to visit.
It’s hard to miss Auberge de Castille as it is one of the main attractions and among the most popular photo spots of the capital city of Malta. However, here is a map with the exact location for better orientation. I hope you enjoyed discovering what’s hiding behind that closed door. 🙂