The infamous hook in St. John Street, Valletta

Have you ever noticed this confounding metal hook located on the corner of Merchant Street and St. John Street (Triq San Gwann) in Valletta? This strange looking hook is surrounded by many legends and stories and no one really knows what was its original function.

Rumor has it that it was used to heave a large bell onto the steeple of St John’s Co-Cathedral in the eighteenth century, however that turns out to be just a myth according to Bizarre Malta.

One of the more plausible versions suggest that this hook was utilized during the period of the Order of St John’s rule to hold ropes of tied up convicted offenders waiting their public punishment.

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This podium that you can see above, is not missing a statue of a saint as you may expect. It was used for a public humiliation. This building, known as Castellania, was used as a prison and those who were sentenced to a public humiliation were tight there and had mud or rotten fruit thrown at them.

However, this was only the first ‘mild’ punishment for the sinners. There were another two levels of very brutal practices used as a punishment as well as a warning. For example the pillory was also used for public display of the criminal’s corpse after execution! If you want to know more, I highly recommend the Real Tours Malta.

The hook is fixed in the wall of Castellania right between the entrance to the cells and the pillory itself, which supports the first version of the story.

Other sources suggest that the hook could have been used in executing a form of torture. This consisted of a rope passed though a hook, tying the victim’s arms behind their back and suspending them from the wrist. This would often lead to dislocation of their shoulders causing horrible pain. Auch, I don’t even want to imagine!

I personally prefer the last version of the possible use of this hook the most. The least painful one!

This legend suggests that when Lord Nelson was in Malta in June 1803 he and his officers walked down St John’s Street when returning to their ship after attending a dinner party. When his officers spotted the hook, they challenged him to wriggle though it and that’s exactly what he did!

Image: Bizarre Malta, courtesy: Michael Cassar.

From that moment on, this large piece of metal became known as Nelson’s hook and all junior officers that came to Malta were told to do just the same if they wanted to gain quick promotion. It is said that this tradition continued talking place up to the late 1950s.

Obviously I had to try and pass though this hook myself and I got to say it wasn’t as easy as the junior office in the above picture made it look like! I don’t know how he managed to pass though it facing the hook!? Did he somehow jumped into it?

The only way I could possibly pass was going backwards. What about you? Have you ever tried to pass though this hook? Have you managed? Any other special techniques on how to get though it? Share it with us in the comments below!

And this is my happy face after good 5 mins of trying to pass though the hook. Shall I suggest my manager to award me with a quick promotion for this ‘outstanding accomplishment’? 🙂

Below is the exact location of this large piece of metal, that was removed for some strange reason in 1899, only to be reinstalled shortly after following a public outcry.