The Inquisitor’s Palace in Birgu was always high up on my list of sites to visit on my recent trip to Malta. It is one of the few remaining ‘Inquisitor’s Palaces’ left in the world and charts two hundred years of the Catholic Church’s Inquisition on the island. To understand the gruesome period that was the European Inquisition we must realise that during the 15th century Protestantism was on the rise throughout Europe, to counteract what was viewed as a growing threat Pope Paul III established the Inquisition to strike fear into the heart of possible defectors and dissenters.
Originally the Inquisition in Malta operated out of Valletta under the direction of Pietro Dusina however the Inquisitor was given the Palace in Birgu by the Knights of St John in 1574. The Palace had already served as the civil law courts and due to this was already equipped with cells. Widespread Torture was commonplace during its two hundred years in use and was occupied by 62 Inquisitors sent by Rome to keep Malta staunchly Catholic. The Palace was in use by the Inquisition from 1574 until 1798 and was adapted by each Inquisitor to reflect the style of a typical Roman Palace. After the Inquisition ended the Palace was used for many different purposes, as a hospital, mess house and a refugee camp. The Palace now also hosts the museum of Ethnography.
I found the Palace fascinating, it was incredibly intense to move through its domestic halls and then come upon the Interrogation Room where the terrified victims would have stood before the Inquisition. As we moved further down into the centre of the Palace we came across the locked torture chamber and the old prison cells. The etched graffiti on the walls was particularly haunting, with curses and effigies carved in by the prisoners both male and female, one in particular that caught my eye cursed a particular prison guard ‘god damn….may his two eyes fall out’.
The Inquisitors Palace really is a must see for anyone visiting the beautiful Island of Malta.
GPS: 35.88722, 14.52277