The eight-pointed Cross is often linked to the number of Langues making up the Order of St John. Nonetheless, for most of their stay in Valletta the Knights had seven active Langues and, thereby, seven Auberges. The Langue of England died out during the 16th century. It was resuscitated in 1784 with the setting up of the Anglo-Bavarian Langue.
With a capacity of some 620 seats, the Manoel Theatre boasts of one of the most impressive interiors on the Island. The present setup, which is the result of repeated structural and embellishment interventions, is characterised by an oval-shaped auditorium, three tiers of wooden boxes decorated with gold leaf, and a trompe l-oeil ceiling.
THE ORDER OF ST.JOHN'S LANGUES
Between 1319 and 1798 the members (Knights) and possessions of the Order of St. John were organised in eight languages. Each langue had an auberge in the Convent (headquarters of the Order). The auberges hosted the members of the same langue, in particular novices. These palatial compounds also doubled up as administrative centres for the implementation of the tasks assigned to each langue. Several auberges built by the Order in Birgu and Valletta are still standing.
By the mid-12th century, the Order evolved into a military force. Nonetheless, the Hospitaller Knights never ditched their original raison d’etre. This is amply confirmed by the Sacra Infermeria in Valletta, deemed one of the leading hospitals in Early Modern Europe. It had a maximum capacity of 912 beds and boasted of a 500 feet long ward.
SAINT JOHN'S CONVENTUAL CHURCH
Sober on the outside but extravagant on the inside, St John’s Conventual Church is a world-class monument and place of worship. Its outstanding flamboyance has no parallels in the central Mediterranean. Over the centuries, the brethren invested unmeasurable resources to transform it into a fitting tribute to the greatness of their noble Order.
Remarkably sober on the outside, the expansive Magistral Palace boasts of lavishly decorated ambiences adorned with an outstanding collection of artworks. It is also home to one of the biggest collections of Early Modern arms & armour worldwide.
AUBERGE DE CASTILLE LEON ET PORTUGAL
Standing proud at the highest spot of Valletta, the Auberge de Castille, Leon et Portugal is one of Valletta’s most iconic monuments and arguably the finest building in Malta. Its sculptural frontal and side elevations dominate the fronting plaza and stand out from across the harbour. It is no coincidence that following the ousting of the Order in 1798 this building housed a succession of leading colonial offices, and was eventually adopted as the Office of the Prime Minister in 1972.
AUBERGE DE PROVENCE
Rebuilt during the mid-17th century, the 50-metre façade of the Auberge de Provence dominates Valletta’s main thoroughfare. When completed, it was deemed to be the most beautiful of the then seven auberges at Valletta. Originally, this Auberge occupied the entire block, but its chivalric inquilines were forced to sell off the rear part of their compound to generate revenue.
In August 1570 Geronimo Cassar, Laparelli’s assistant and eventual successor, was appointed on the Officio delle Case and entrusted with the crafting of the buildings of the Religion. He rose to the occasion convincingly as confirmed by the impressive list of works attributed to him, including the auberges of the respective Langues. Of these, only one survives practically intact, namely the Auberge d’Aragon. This second poster, in a series of four, casts the light on this mannerist building.
Declared a World Heritage Site in 1980, the City of Valletta comprises one of the most dense clusters of high calibre built heritage worldwide. The long list features the monumental properties built by the Order of St John, including the palatial auberges. These served as headquarters, inns and meeting places for the members of the respective Langues, namely (1) Aragon, (2) Auvergne, (3) Castille, Leon & Portugal, (4) England & Bavaria, (5) France, (6) Italy, (7) Germany and (8) Provence. Unfortunately, the ones belonging to Auvergne, France and Germany fell victim of the ravages of time.