Relive the Sacra Infermeria through Augmented Reality
This time I would like to take you to the 17th century hospital of the Knights of St John. Reliving the Sacra Infermeria Museum is located in what is today known as the Mediterranean Conference Centre.
It’s that long building located along the sea front right in between Siege Bell War Memorial and National War Museum – Fort St. Elmo.
Why is this museum different from others? Well because when you walk in it does not look like a museum at all. Since the Mediterranean Conference Centre is used a lot for all kind of events, it wasn’t possible to set up a permanent display.
Instead, they decided to make it a truly interactive experience using augmented reality. You can choose to either borrow a museum tablet or use your personal phone. I would recommend the latter as when you take pictures they are saved directly to your phone.
We’re starting our tour at Europe’s longest hospital ward. This vast 155-metre long room with its magnificent timber ceiling is known as the Great Ward and was once the longest hospital ward in Europe.
In 1787, the various wards of the Infirmary accommodated 563 beds – a number which could be increased in times of emergency to 914. By the end of the 18th century, up to 4000 patients every year were admitted to the Sacra Infermeria with a mortality rate of 8%.
What do we know about Sacra Infermeria? It was the Order’s hospital for male patient of any class, nation or religion. Further to the curing of the sick, it was also a place in which the Order looked after the poor, widows and orphans.
The Sacra Infermeria serves as an important historical remembrance of the Order of St John’s contribution to the well-being and care for the sick, wounded and the poor.
From the Grand Harbour, the Sacra Infermeria was reached through a passage that linked the Barriera Wharf and the Sacra Infermeria. Other hospitals including the Casetta (the women’s hospital) used to stand where Evants building is now. These days it houses the Department of Citizenships and Expatriate Affairs.
By 1725, the Sacra Infermeria was already known as the largest hospital in Europe an the most avantgarde in the medical field. The Sacra Infermeria employed the highest standards of medical treatment and hygiene for its day.
One striking example was the hospital tableware on which food was served. This was actually made of silver, simply because this was practical and easy to clean.
It was looked after by the French langue, the largest and most important of all the langues within the Order. The head of the hospital was the Grand Hospitaller who actually selected the Infirmarian, the second in command officer who was in charge of the direction of the hospital.
During the French and British periods, the function of the Order’s Sacra Infermeria was changed into an exclusively military hospital.
Malta richly deserved its title, “Nurse of the Mediterranean”, offered in gratitude for the sanctuary and care it provided to thousands of servicemen injured in the First World War.
The sick and wounded poured into the islands from spring 1915, from the battlefields of Europe. Situated so near to Grand Harbour, Station Hospital was ideally placed to receive the sick and wounded.
After WWI, the British transferred the military to Mtarfa, and in 1920 the Sacra Infermeria turned into Police Headquarters. During WW2, the Sacra Infermeria was used for the entertainment of troops. It included a theatre, a cinema, boxing competitions as well as the Rediffusion Studios.
In May 1940, with World War II raging across Europe, the Infirmary building was evacuated, and closed up. The Axis area bombing campaign against the Islands kept on increasing. The old Infirmary was not spared, suffering four direct hits that destroyed various parts of the building.
The Republic Hall / Theatre has been constructed in 1970s in a place where once used to be the Main Courtyard of the Sacra Infermeria. The theatre covers the area of 728m² and can accommodate 1.400 people.
Tragically, Republic Hall was utterly destroyed by a fire in 1987. Followed by an energetic rebuilding programme quickly restored it to its former glory. The year 1989 saw the official inauguration of the newly rebuilt theatre. It has built an even more impressive reputation as an internationally acclaimed venue ever since.
While walking though Sacra Infermeria you will be able to see different historically accurate events that took place at the Knights Old Hospital through Augmented Reality. Definitely something different and more fun especially for kids and the younger generations, who usually find museums rather unexciting.
Did you know that there is even a holographic display? You will be able to meet face-to-face and interact with a digital life-size version of Grand Master de Valette himself!
Now we are at the Great Magazine Ward. Its ceiling has been richly decorated with quadripartite cross vaults and heraldic bosses at their centre points.
Reliving the Sacra Infermeria Museum is open daily from 9am till 5pm with the last entry at 4pm.
The tickets are: Adults €6, Children (5-12yo) €4, Student €4, Senior (60+) €4 and children under 5yo go for free.
For more information and to purchase the tickets, please visit: www.relivingthesacrainfermeria.com
Sacra Infermeria is hiding away a little bit. If you don’t know what you’re looking for it can be easily missed. Here is the exact location so you can find it easily.