Order of St. John & Russian Grand Priory Headquarters
If you’re interested in Knights of Malta (Order of St. John / Knights Hospitaller) you might want to visit the Palazzino Sapienti. Here are the International Headquarters of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller and Russian Grand Priory of Malta.
The building is open to the public and available for viewing on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9am till 2pm free of charge. All you have to do is stop by and ring the bell. You will be welcomed by Saviour who will show you around and tell you history of the building and more. The tour is around 1h.
Don’t have a chance to visit on your own? Don’t worry, I’m gonna give you a quick tour around myself.
Palazzino Sapienti is situated on St. Paul’s Street, directly opposite the University of Malta Valletta (the old Collegium Melitense). The building dates back to 1629.
Stone used for the building of the house was quarried onsite. Basically when Valletta’s underground was dug out they used the stone to build houses in the capital city.
Palazzino Sapinti was never intended to be higher than two floors. Why? Because if you look at the University building you can find remains of a sundial, which dates back to 1695. If Palazzino Sapinti would be any higher, it would create a shadow over it.
During the WWII Palazzino Sapienti was used by the British Royal Air Force for the decoding of the enemy’s aerial operations. Luckily the palazzino never received a direct bomb hit during the war.
Between the years 1945 and 1955 the building was used as a government school for the children of Valletta. This was due to reconstruction works of the the original school which was destroyed during WWII bombing.
The building was purchased in 1973 by the Russian Grand Priory of Malta and the premises house some very interesting artifacts.
Below, in the red circle, you can spot a first degree bone fragment from the Order’s patron saint Sr John the Baptist.
On the staircase leading up to the piano nobile you can see a defaced coat of arms.
Now we have entered the piano nobile. On the left hand side you can notice a copy of the famous painting by Caravaggio ‘The beheading of St John the Baptist’. The original painting is exhibited at St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta.
This library could be very interested for researchers as you can actually have a look inside these books. They can’t be borrowed home, but can be studied onsite.
This room serves as a boardroom for any important meetings that take place at Palazzino Sapienti. Ever thought of joining the Order of St. John? One cannot join the Order as one may join other charitable, philanthropic or service entities. Membership is offered strictly by invitation only.
While the obligation to prove generations of aristocratic lineage is no longer required, members are invited to join the Order because they have already demonstrated through a life of service the same commitment that the original members were required to exhibit. This would include a strong Christian faith life and devotion to the well-being of their fellow man.
Free private piano classes are also offered to underprivileged children.
Paintings donated or painted by members of the Order adorn the Throne room (picture above).
I hope you enjoyed this tour of this rather unknown place in Valletta. If you would be interested in visiting, here is the exact location.