The imposing and splendid palace situated in Selmun, stylistically dates to the mid-18th century. The architect for this palace is unknown; however its design has been attributed to Domenico Cachia (c.1690-1761). The palace is an Italian style of a semi-fortified villa which is closely modelled, especially in its plan, to the palace at Verdala, even though the latter was built a century and a half before.
It is based on a square plan, and each corner is embellished with a bastion. These bastions however provide no defence, but are more of a symbolic nature, perhaps hinting to a noble owner.
The main facade has three doorways. The main door is adorned with a richly decorated portal and surmounted by an ornately decorated window at the first floor and topped by a bell-cote at roof level.
The 1st floor is surrounded by a balcony running all round the perimeter of the building, thus unifying the structure.1 The two secondary doorways one on each side are a later addition and are decorated with a semi-circular pediment. One of these doors led to what was once a chapel.
On the balcony door, there is an escutcheon illustrating three hills with the letter R overlaid on them. This is the emblem of the Monte della Redenzione degli Schiavi. This fund was set up by Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt (1601-1622) in 1609 with the purpose to generate funds for redemption of slaves who were either Maltese or members of the Order, who had been captured by the Muslims.
Along the years this fund became bigger and a large amount of land was bequeathed by the Order and benefactors, towards this noble deed. In 1619, Caterina Vitale donated the land where the palace stands today. The present villa was erected which was rented out to knights as a hunting lodge and the rent money contributed to this fund.
The palace was never part of Malta’s coastal defence, though a lookout post had existed in the area prior the arrival of the knights (1530).2
Author: Melanie Farrugia