The State Rooms are the show piece of the Presidential Palace sited at the heart of Malta’s World Heritage Capital city of Valletta. The Palace itself was one of the first buildings in the new city of Valletta founded by Grandmaster Jean Parisot de La Vallette in 1566 a few months after the successful outcome of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. The Palace was enlarged and developed by successive Grandmasters to serve as their official residence. Later, during the British period, it served as the Governor’s Palace and was the seat of Malta’s first constitutional parliament in 1921. The palace today is the seat of the Office of the President of the Republic and the House of Parliament.
It was Grandmaster Fra Pietro del Monte who, back in the late 16th century, first commissioned the building of a Magisterial Palace that was improved upon, enlarged and embellished by his successors to reach its present structure by the mid-eighteenth century. Following the brief interlude of the French in Malta between 1798 and 1800, the Palace became the official residence of the British Colonial Governor of Malta. While it was mostly through the embellishments of the various Grandmasters that the Palace reached its current appearance and dimensions, the British Governors also contributed to the dynamic and at times rather complicated architectural history of this edifice. The damage suffered by the President’s Palace as a result of the Second World War was to no mean extent. Fortunately, the competent repair after the devastating air-raids of February and April 1942 helped to revive the prime national and stately function of the Palace. The Palace subsequently became the seat of Malta’s first Consitutional Parliament set up in 1921, Malta’s first parliament following Independence in 1964 and subsequent legislatures till this very day.
Ever since the times of the Order of St John, the palace was the seat of a collection of works of art and heritage items some of which still grace its walls. Some were purposely produced and form part of the historic fabric of the building. Others were acquired, transferred or presented at different times throughout its chequered history.
The Ambassador's Hall
This hall is utilised by the President of Malta for important state functions such as the swearing-in of new cabinet ministers and government officials. It is also used during State Visits by foreign dignitaries and the presentation of credentials by newly appointed ambassadors to Malta. The hall is known to have been used as a business room during the British colonial administration. Of particular interest are the series of paintings representing 17th and 18th century monarchs and dignitaries.
Of particular interest are the portraits of various Grandmasters of the Order of St John and furniture items that decorate The Palace corridors. The mid-nineteenth century marble flooring includes the coat of arms of distinguished Grandmasters of the Order who ruled Malta alongside national emblems and ensigns of State.
The Throne Room
The Throne Room, originally known as the Supreme Council Hall or Sala del Maggior Consiglio, was originally built during the reign of Grandmaster La Cassiere (1572-1581). It was used by successive Grandmasters to host ambassadors and high ranking dignitaries visiting the island. During the British administration it became known as the Hall of St Michael and St George after the newly-founded chivalric order for Malta and the Ionian Islands. It is currently used for state functions held by the President of Malta.
The cycle of wall paintings decorating the upper part of the hall represent salient episodes of the 1565 Great Siege of Malta and are the work of the Rome-trained painter Matteo Perez d’Aleccio (1547-1616). The coat-of-arms of Grandmaster Jean de la Valette-Parisot (1557-1568) on the wall recess behind the minstrels gallery was painted by Giuseppe Cali, Malta’s most important artist at the turn of the 20th century. In 1818, the British transformed this hall by completely covering the walls with neo-classical architectural features designed by Lieutenant-Colonel George Whitmore. These were removed in the early 20th century. The minstrel’s gallery is thought to have been relocated to this hall from the palace chapel which was probably its original location. Of particular interest is the original coffered ceiling and the late 18th century - style chandeliers.