The Inquisitor's Palace: the story of a site unique in the world

The Inquisitor's Palace

Step into the history, architecture, art of a Maltese masterpiece

The Palace
The Inquisitor’s Palace, sited in the heart of Vittoriosa, is one of the very few surviving examples of such palaces which could be found all over Europe and South America in the early modern period.

In 1992 the ethnography section was set up within the Museums Department under Dr Carmel Cassar who recruited a group of student volunteers.

The palace was chosen as the headquarters of the section and converted into an ethnographic museum focusing on the popular devotions and religious cultural values in Maltese ethnic identity.

The building
Buildings have lives in time, and those lives are interwoven with the lives of the people who use them.

Building such as the Inquisitor's Palace are modified and grow in response to the changes in the exigencies of their users and reflect them. The Inquisitor’s Palace was not built at one go.

The kitchen complex at the Inquisitor’s Palace is probably Malta’s best documented early modern kitchen.

Research into numerous 17th and 18th-century inventories reveal an impressive facility.

It is fully equipped to cater for the Inquisitor’s refined tastes and his desire to impress important guests and feed his retinue and inmates.

The inquisitors preferred to reside in the upper floors of the Piano Nobile.

This was normal practice throughout Europe, first of all for the privacy it afforded, but also because higher levels of humidity precluded the use of the ground floor area as apartments

Inquisitor Fabio Chigi, later elected as Pope Alexander VII, began to commission work soon after his arrival.

He had a garden built by demolishing some small rooms in the major courtyard, thus opening up a larger internal square.

He surrounded this garden with a high wall to block all vision from nearby houses

Gio. Battista Gori Pannellini, who purchased the house abutting the palace on its right flank, erected seven prison cells.

Three large ones on one side looked onto the street, while four smaller ones on the other side of a central corridor faced the garden.

Structural repairs and alterations following the earthquake of 1693 had to be undertaken by Tommaso Ruffo (1694-98).

He enlarged the edifice by building the upper part of the left wing of the palace – still known as the Ruffo Apartments.

The chapel was also completely refurbished in the 1720s during the tenure of office of Antonio Ruffo (1720-28)

The Camera Secreta was known as the Tribunal Room

It was the seat wherein the chancellor in the presence of the accused person and two witnesses, usually the marshal and the clerk, reads the sentence to the heretic.

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