An Inquisitor’s Cena di Magro – Chigi’s 1637 Lenten supper

Heritage Malta has teamed up with the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) to offer an exclusive historic Lenten supper, and a food-and-wine pairing session at the Inquisitor’s Palace in Vittoriosa.

Vatican Archives shed light on Inquisitor Fabio Chigi’s, later Pope Alexander VII, food habits for his inquisitorial days in Malta. In 1637, during his giorni di magro for Lent, Chigi is recorded having vegetable soups, fish, dried fruits, olives, oranges and wine.  These will be the main ingredients for a historically interpreted supper, presented in Chigi’s own Inquisitor’s Palace, according to an exact contemporary Lenten recipe book found at the National Library.

These were days of rigid food patterns divided between giorni di magro when no meat, eggs or dairy products could be consumed, and giorni di grasso when the latter were permissible. Giorni di magro were not only restricted for the Lent period, but was typical for every Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, Advent and the vigil of the major Catholic festivities. So meat and cheese could only be consumed on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and Catholic festivities. In their role as guardians of faith, Inquisitors were not only asked to make sure that people stick to these patterns, but they were expected to follow suit and lead by example. Luckily documents reveal what Inquisitor Fabio Chigi had for his Lenten supper in 1637, and Heritage Malta together with ITS have worked their way through documents, pots and pans to recreate this historic meal.

People on the day can expect vegetables soups, fish dishes with cod and sardines, accompanied by sides, and desserts inclusive of oranges, dried fruits, nuts and coffee – all rigorously prepared following a 1637 Lent recipe book. This will be accompanied by historical insights by Dr Noel Buttigieg and a sensory food-and-wine pairing session based on a list of wines consumed by Grand Master Francisco Ximenes.

An Inquisitor’s Cena di Magro – Chigi’s 1637 Lenten supper is an exclusive experience for a limited number of participants. The event will be held on Thursday 15th March at the Inquisitor’s Palace and starts at 7.30pm. Tickets at €35 are available from all Heritage Malta sites and museums and online through Heritage Malta members can benefit from a discounted admission of €32.