Welcome to Palazzo Falson
This time I’m going to take you on a tour around the oldest palazzo that’s open to public in Mdina. Parts of this building date back to the 13th century. Shall we have a look around? Let’s go!
The building from the outside is quite ordinary. Just like most Maltese houses. Nothing special from the outside but magnificent from the inside.
Let’s start with some brief history of this building. The people who built this palazzo are not exactly known due to lack of documentation from that period. However the first known owner was the Vice Admiral Michele Falsone. That’s where the name of the palazzo comes from. Mr Falsone lived here during the 16th century and he made some changes in the house in 1530.
The last owner of Palazzo Falson was Captain Olof Frederick Gollcher (1889 – 1962). He bought Palazzo Falson in 1927. O. F. Gollcher was very interested in history, archeology and the Maltese heritage. He was also a very eager collector. One can easily say that he collected simply everything. There are over 40 collections that you can admire in the palazzo ranging from ceramics, armory, art, jewellery, silver to books, rugs, furniture, archeology artifacts, fans and so much more!
O. F. Gollcher didn’t have any children. He set up a foundation before he passed away so Palazzo Falson would become a museum, as it is today. The palazzo was closed for restoration works from 2001 until 2007. Since then it’s been open to the public. Palazzo Falson is actually the oldest building that’s open to the public in Mdina. However the oldest building, only by 10 years, is Palazzo Santa Sofia, which is not open to the general public.
Here in the courtyard, you can start noticing O. F. Gollcher influence. He added this fountain, or the staircase (in the pic above) in the 20th century in the style of the original building. The Siculo-Renaissance style.
This is the oldest part of the house. The middle arch was added when the top floor was being built for extra support. When you visit Palazzo Falson, notice the ‘passage’ in the right side of the picture. The floor is much lower than the current one. This could have been the main entrance and the raised flooring is probably a result of the numerous changes done through out the years.
Here you can also appreciate a small collection of every day items. In the right display, you can notice tableware that looks oriental, as it was Chinese, but it’s not! Check it out during your visit and try and guess the origin!
One of Gollcher’s passions were weapons as you can see in the Armoury room. There is a nice collection of weapons from different areas of the world and from different periods. There are couple of particularly interesting pieces. Just to mention two I would highlight the three ‘stiletto’ daggers, which were used by men and women for everyday protection or the chastity belt.
When I first walked into the kitchen I thought that this was the place where food was prepared by the servants. However during the time of Capt. Gollcher, who was believed to be very down-to-earth, this was one of his entertaining places. Here you can see a fireplace decorated with 19th century tiles representing folkloristic figures and traditional oven.
Can you guess what are these four ‘funnily’ shaped objects on the chest of drawers (excluding the one in the middle)? These are basically ceramic pots for rabbit stew known as baqra. When you’re there notice the lids on top of the containers, which were used to insert all the ingredients. Then you just put it in the oven and wait for the magic to happen!
This is Olof Gollcher’s studio. Among many other things he did through out his life, he was also an artist. Gollcher studied art, collected art and performed art. You can admire some of his paintings when you enter his very own studio. You can probably notice all those pipes hanging on the wall, which were an integral part of an artists’ group known as Confraternita della Pipa, of which Gollcher was a member.
Don’t miss the Strongroom situated on the stairway leading to the first floor. This is just a fraction of the vast silver collection found in the Palazzo. The most significant piece is without a doubt the fine ‘nef’ (ship model) placed at the very centre. Notice the small wheels at the bottom of the ship… Can you guess what it was used for? Leave me a comment below with your guess. 🙂
When you look around the landing, you’ll notice that all the displayed items have one thing in common – the theme – everything is maritime related. There are two items in particular I would like to bring to your attention. The first one is the very unique type of Maltese wall clock, which you can see just above the globe. In the first floor you can also notice the use of wood, which was due to lack of wood only used in the richest houses.
Secondly it would be this painting (below) which is showing the ‘Swalan’, the ship which brought the first member of the Swedish Gollcher family, Olof’s Grandfather, to Malta. He owned a shipping business, which was one of the reasons why they settled in Malta. The company exists until today and it’s called the Gollcher Group.
The painting caught my attention for another reason, as the date says 3rd November 1848, exactly 139 years (on a day) before I was born!
The Small Collections Room
This watch was made in Paris around 1797 by Robert Robin and it is arguably the most remarkable item in Gollcher’s collection. Why? Well have a good look at the watch! Can you see something unusual? Yes! It’s a 10-hour clock! Why? During the French revolution, they tried to change many things, even the way we read time. In this case the clock would have 10 hours, every hour 100 minutes and every minute 100 seconds. What do you think? Would you prefer this system?
Here is Gollcher’s study which also contains a collection of engravings. Three of which are by the famous artist Albert Durer. There are also number of painted portraits of Swedish Gollcher ancestors.
The Butler’s Room
Literally next to the Study there is a flight of stairs leading up to the Butler’s room. This is where the servant would stay. A very modest space in comparison to the rest of the piano nobile.
The Sitting Room
The Sitting Room is one of the more formal rooms that can be found in the Palazzo. Full of fine pieces of furniture, great paintings, an interesting collection of European fans or Capodimonte porcelain figurines. This is why the important guests would be welcomed here.
The Dining Room
In this formal Dining Room one can admire a beautifully set table with an exquisite set of Venetian glassware (which was passed down in the family) and several silver pieces. This set up wasn’t for everyday use. Capt. Gollcher and his wife lived relatively modern life so they would usually use ‘normal’ plates and cutlery. You can also notice (just behind the candles) a Spanish traveling chest also known as ‘vergueno’ that dates back to the 16th Century.
Over 4,500 books can be found in this Library. Every month there is one book from the collection highlighted and showcased behind the glass display. There are many rare publications. If you are a researcher and interested to know more you can check their online Library Catalogue.
Olaf Gollcher and his wife weren’t actually religious. The only reason that there is a Chapel in Palazzo Falson is that it was a custom for houses of this size to have one. Interestingly enough, all the paintings and religious items still belonged to Olof Gollcher. He was just passionate collector and didn’t really care about what he was collecting. So being a man of no particular religion he still collected many religious items.
The Archeological and Documents Collection Room
This is the last room of the house. As it was previously mentioned Olof Gollcher did many things during his life and underwater archeology was one of them. He was actually one of the first ones to start underwater archeology in Malta!
Here are number of important documents displayed. The ones with the string and the stamp are official documents from Vatican. Again unrelated documents to the Palazzo, just something he enjoyed collecting.
And we are back were we started. At the Courtyard. I think it looks even better from above! Don’t you think? Palazzo Falson also has a cafe on the roof, which is currently being refurbished. However if you need to rent a space in an unusual location, you can organise a seminar or a small gathering there. You might be also pleased to hear that the Palazzo can be rented out as a wedding venue!
I tried my best to give you an informative tour through Palazzo Falson, but this was actually a very brief introduction. There is so much more to see and learn! I would highly recommend you to visit this true gem in the heart of Mdina.
If you would like to visit Palazzo Falson, it is usually done as a self-tour. You receive an audio guide at the reception and tour the palazzo in your own pace. Private tours can also be arranged for larger groups or special occasions.
Below you can find a GoogleMap with the exact location of the Palazzo. Enjoy!