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The eponymous Verdala Palace was built by and named for Grandmaster Hugues Loubenx de Verdalle, the 52nd Grandmaster of the Order of Malta in 1586 in Buskett Gardens.
The game hunting lodge on the site surrounding the dense woodlands of Buskett was built around 1555 and used by the Knights of the Order of St John and expanded into the palace 30 or so years later. Additional building work was added in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Each corner of the two-storey palace has five-storey high towers and since 1987 has served as the official summer residence of the President of Malta.
Over the years it has served as a military prison holding French soldiers captured by the Maltese or British during the French Blockade of 1798-1800 as well as a silk factory under British rule but in the early 1800s it fell into disrepair.
After a full restoration by Governor Sir William Reid in the 1850s, it served for a short time as a temporal minor hospital and the official summer residence of the British governors until assume the same role for the President of Malta in 1987.
Since Verdala Palace is, in essence, a private home, it’s closed to the public but there are some great walks through Buskett Gardens and the local village of Siggiewi offering stunning views of the palace.
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you will have already seen the palace in a different guise – it was the set of the exterior of the mansion of Illyrio Mopatis in Pentos.
Palaces, manors and town halls in Malta
Angelokastro is a Byzantine castle on the island of Corfu. It is located at the top of the highest peak of the island"s shoreline in the northwest coast near Palaiokastritsa and built on particularly precipitous and rocky terrain. It stands 305 m on a steep cliff above the sea and surveys the City of Corfu and the mountains of mainland Greece to the southeast and a wide area of Corfu toward the northeast and northwest.
Angelokastro is one of the most important fortified complexes of Corfu. It was an acropolis which surveyed the region all the way to the southern Adriatic and presented a formidable strategic vantage point to the occupant of the castle.
Angelokastro formed a defensive triangle with the castles of Gardiki and Kassiopi, which covered Corfu"s defences to the south, northwest and northeast.
The castle never fell, despite frequent sieges and attempts at conquering it through the centuries, and played a decisive role in defending the island against pirate incursions and during three sieges of Corfu by the Ottomans, significantly contributing to their defeat.
During invasions it helped shelter the local peasant population. The villagers also fought against the invaders playing an active role in the defence of the castle.
The exact period of the building of the castle is not known, but it has often been attributed to the reigns of Michael I Komnenos and his son Michael II Komnenos. The first documentary evidence for the fortress dates to 1272, when Giordano di San Felice took possession of it for Charles of Anjou, who had seized Corfu from Manfred, King of Sicily in 1267.
From 1387 to the end of the 16th century, Angelokastro was the official capital of Corfu and the seat of the Provveditore Generale del Levante, governor of the Ionian islands and commander of the Venetian fleet, which was stationed in Corfu.
The governor of the castle (the castellan) was normally appointed by the City council of Corfu and was chosen amongst the noblemen of the island.
Angelokastro is considered one of the most imposing architectural remains in the Ionian Islands.
Am Standort des Palastes befand sich früher eine kleine Jagdhütte, die von Großmeister Jean de la Valette-Parisot zwischen 1557 und 1568 erbaut wurde. Die Jagd wurde nach der Übereignung der Insel an den Johanniterorden von diesem auf der Insel etabliert. Der jetzt Buskett Gardens genannte Bereich (italienisch: Boschetto) wurde wegen der üppigen Vegetation, die nahrungssuchendes Wild anzog, ausgewählt. Der Bach im unterhalb der Erhebung liegenden Wied il-Luq genannten Tal, eines der wenigen Vorkommen von Oberflächenwasser auf der Insel, sorgte während des größten Teils des Jahres für die Bewässerung der Gegend.
Das derzeitige Gebäude wurde von Großmeister Hugues Loubenx de Verdale im Jahre 1586 errichtet. Verdale wünschte eine Anlage, die einerseits repräsentativ und komfortabel war, andererseits auch einen gewissen Schutz bot. Der Architekt Gerolamo Cassar, der im Auftrag des Ordens zahlreiche Bauwerke auf der Insel errichtete, plante an dieser Stelle eine kleine Befestigungsanlage gegen die zu dieser Zeit noch häufigen osmanischen Überfälle auf die Insel. Am deutlichsten wird dies in der Integration eines trockenen Grabens, der die Anlage umrundet. Der beim Ausheben des Grabens gewonnene Stein diente zum Bau des Gebäudes. Großmeister Jean de Lascaris-Castellar (1636–1657) und später Großmeister Antonio Manoel de Vilhena (1722–1736) bauten die Anlage weiter aus.
Im Jahr 1800 wurde der Palast als Militärgefängnis für die Soldaten Napoleons, die sich den anglo-maltesischen Streitkräfte ergeben hatten, verwendet. Danach wurde das Gebäude für einige Zeit als Seidenfabrik genutzt und verfiel nach deren Schließung. Gouverneur Sir Frederick Ponsonby (1827–1836) begann mit der Instandsetzung des Gebäudes. Unter Gouverneur Sir William Reid (1851–1858) wurde der Palast wiederhergestellt.
Verdala Palace wurde dann wie auch San Anton Palace als Sommerresidenz der Gouverneure genutzt. Während dieser Zeit wurden weitere Veränderungen vorgenommen. Im Jahr 1939, zu Beginn des Zweiten Weltkriegs, wurde der Palast als Depot für die Sammlung des National Museum of Fine Arts verwendet.
Ab 1982 wurde Verdala Palace für offizielle Staatsempfänge genutzt. Eine neue Stromversorgung wurde installiert, die Außenwände saniert und die Einrichtungen verbessert. Im Jahr 1987 übernahm der amtierende Präsident Paul Xuereb Verdala Palace als seinen Amtssitz. Der Palast beherbergte viele bedeutende Persönlichkeiten, wie König Georg V. und Königin Mary 1912, Prinz Albert im Jahr 1913, den späteren König Georg VI. im April 1943, König Eduard VII. und Königin Alexandra, Kaiserin Maria Fjodorowna von Russland im Jahre 1909 und 1919, Kaiser Wilhelm II. in 1904, Oberst Muammar al-Gaddafi, Josip Broz Tito, Nicolae Ceaușescu und Giovanni Leone.
Verdala Palace ist derzeit die offizielle Sommerresidenz des Präsidenten von Malta. In der jüngsten Vergangenheit fanden zahlreiche Aktivitäten, wie zum Beispiel der jährliche Moon Ball im August sowie Konzerte zugunsten der Malta Community Chest, im Palast statt. Der Palast ist nicht öffentlich zugänglich.
Das Gebäude ist von italienischen Villen inspiriert, die Cassar auf seinen Studienreisen kennenlernte. Gleichzeitig erinnert es im Grundriss und den Türmen an die vom Orden auf der Insel erbauten Wehrtürme. Der Grundriss des Palastes ist nahezu quadratisch mit einer Seitenlänge von etwa 23 bzw. 28 Metern. Die Villa hat zwei Stockwerke, die an allen vier Ecken vorgelagerten Türme deren drei. Der Zugang erfolgt über eine kleine Brücke in eine nahezu quadratische Eingangshalle.
Auf die Eingangshalle folgt die rechteckige Haupthalle mit einem Tonnengewölbe. Dieser Raum diente als Speisezimmer. Links bzw. rechts der Halle befinden sich drei bzw. zwei kleinere, quadratische Räume. Der Aufgang zum zweiten Stockwerk befindet sich im Raum rechts neben der Eingangshalle. Die Haupttreppe des Palastes ist eine spiralförmige Wendeltreppe. Sie wurde ebenfalls von Cassar entworfen. Die Türme werden durch Zugänge in den Eckzimmern erschlossen.
Die Hauptfassade des Palastes ist nach Norden ausgerichtet. Neben dem Hauptportal befinden sich auf jeder Seite je zwei Fenster. Tür und Fenster sind mit einfachen Faschen im Stil der Renaissance eingefasst. Erstes und zweites Stockwerk werden optisch durch ein Fenstergesims optisch voneinander getrennt. Das zweite Stockwerk mit dem Balkon über dem Eingangsportal, den Balustraden und den dreieckigen Ziergiebeln über den Fenstern weist barocke Elemente auf und wurde später hinzugefügt.
Das Gewölbe in der Haupthalle des Verdala Palace ziert ein Wandgemälde mit der Darstellung von acht mythologischen Figuren und zwei Tugenden, die alle innerhalb einer fiktiven architektonische und pflanzliche Dekoration angeordnet sind. Das Gemälde wird auf das Ende des 16. Jahrhunderts datiert und dem florentinischen Maler Filippo Paladini (Val di Sieve, 1544 – Mazzarino, 1614) zugeschrieben, diese Zuschreibung kann jedoch derzeit nicht durch Dokumente belegt werden.
Ein genaues Studium des Bildes zeigt, dass seine Geschichte in der Tat sehr komplex ist. Mehrere umfangreiche Restaurierungen konnten nachgewiesen, die meisten bisher jedoch nicht eindeutig zugeordnet werden. Die letzte umfassende Übermalung wurde in den Jahren 1910–1912 von einem maltesischen Künstler, Giuseppe Cali (1846–1930) durchgeführt. In den späten 1930er Jahren wurde unter dem Gouverneur Sir Charles Bonham Carter das gesamte Gewölbe mir Firnis bedeckt und anschließend weiß übermalt. In den 1980er Jahren wurden Teile des Gemäldes, wie die Figur der Pallas, wiederhergestellt. Im Jahr 2003 wurde die gesamte erste Wölbung, in der Baccus und Mars dargestellt sind, freigelegt. Die Arbeiten zur Rekonstruktion des Gemäldes werden derzeit fortgesetzt.
Unmittelbar nördlich des Palastes befindet sich eine im Stil des französischen Barock erbaute Kapelle.
Die Buskett Gardens stellen das einzige geschlossene Waldgebiet der Insel dar und sind Nistplatz für viele Vogelarten. Alljährlich am 29. Juni findet in den Gardens das Mnarja-Lichterfest statt. Dieses Erntedankfest ist wahrscheinlich der Ursprung der maltesischen Fiestas, bei denen die Heiligen verehrt werden.
Der Palast diente für die erfolgreiche Serie Game of Thrones als Drehort in der ersten Staffel. Er stand für einen Palast in der fiktiven Stadt Pentos.
Verdala Palace is a palace and the official summer residence of the President of Malta, located on a hilltop overlooking the Buskett Gardens, in the city of Siġġiewi, on the main island that bears the same name as the country.
Built in 1586 by Grandmaster de Verdalle on a site that surrounds as previously stated the Gardens of Buskett, it is built on a stone ditch and was embellished by several grand-masters over the years. Between 1798 and 1800, during the time of the French blockade, the palace was used as a military prison for French soldiers that were captured by the Maltese or the British.
Later, during the British rule, it was turned into a silk factory, however it was eventually abandoned and fell into a state of disrepair. In the 1850s the Verdala Palace was fully restored by Governor Sir William Reid, and became officially the residence for the Governors of Malta.
Designed by the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar in Renaissance style, in a rectangular shape, with bastion-like turrets on each corner. There are two floors, but the corner turrets are higher than the other floors, making it visible from the towns that are located around the palace.
Surrounding the Palace, the stone quarried ditch also served as a protection for those who would have wanted to invade it, nevertheless, giving the impression as a fortress, it did not have that part in the history.
Since 1987 it has been used as an official summer residence of the President of Malta, which is closed for the public except for the annual Ball of the August moon which is held in aid of the Malta Community Chest Fund.
When entering from the main door, there is a marble bust of Cardinal Grand Master de Verdalle, and the ceiling above the ground floor is by Paladini, whose frescoes show the high points of de Verdalle’s illustrious life. When standing on top of the Verdala Palace, one can enjoy in the breathtaking views of the whole island, enjoying in the sunshine that brights up the palace all day long.
Verdala – The Hidden Palace
Picture this: a hidden palace, closed to the public, in the middle of the woods. Wouldn’t you love to explore inside? Verdala Palace is not usually open for visitors, so I was very keen to get access through this guided tour organised by FAA.
The tour was organised by Flimkien ghall-Ambjent Ahjar (FAA – which translated to ‘together for a better environment) on Sunday 15th April 2018. The FAA is a non-governmental organisation that acts as a watchdog to safeguard the environment.
This extravagant residence is mysterious from the start, with a gated entrance & driveway (currently dotted with contemporary art work). Visitors will wonder where the palace actually is as the building isn’t visible from the outside. What a lovely surprise to reach it through a stone archway, at the top of a hill looking down towards the surrounding garden and countryside.
Verdala Palace was originally a hunting lodge built around 1550 by Grandmaster de Vallette of the Order of the Knights of St. John. It was later expanded into a spectacular palace by the following grandmasters. The palace has a chequered history, it was used as a military prison during the French blockade of 1798-1800. It was also once the summer residence of British Governors and, curiously, a silk factory. It is currently the official summer residence of the President of Malta.
The palace was designed by a Maltese architect, Girolamo Cassar, who also designed many buildings in Valletta. The building is constructed in a square shape in the Renaissance architectural style. It has two floors with a tower at each corner – the Knights were big on security. The rooms are well proportioned and have high ceilings decorated with really incredible frescoes. A shallow staircase leads to the upper floor by twisting around an oval stairwell with open apertures – stunning!
Vincent, our guide was very engaging and informative, and the 90 minute tour was over in a flash. I wish I could have stayed longer to go round the garden and grounds. It will have to wait for another visit!
Verdala Palace & the Buskett gardens are only 15 minutes away by car from our accommodation in Birkirkara – book now.
Find out about upcoming events organised by the FAA by visiting their events page here.
Verdala Palace - History
The President of the Republic has three Palaces, with each one having a different function. The Palace which serves as the Office of the President, and where all official ceremonies are held, is the Palace in Valletta, a palace built in the 16th century under the Grandmastership of Jean de La Cassiere.
The President also uses San Anton Palace, which serves as the President’s residence, and also where various activities have been held for the public in the course of several Presidencies, as well as official ceremonies. The Presidency also uses Verdala Palace in Buskett, which serves as the summer residence.
To better understand the history of the three Palaces, we spoke with Heritage Malta’s Senior Curator, Emanuel Magro Conti, who looks after the three Presidential Palaces and any restoration the palaces might need from time to time. The Senior Curator exlained that the President’s Palace in St George’s Square, Valletta, besides being the President’s Office, had served as the seat of the House of Representatives up to 2015.
The Palace is enriched with, among other items, frescoes, paintings and even the armoury of the Order of the Knights. Following the French occupation in 1800, the Palace was taken over by the British administration and started serving as the Governor’s Palace. The Palace also witnessed Malta’s Constitutional developments, as Malta’s first Parliament in 1921 met within its walls, and continued meeting there until 2015.
Mr Magro Conti explained to TVM that this Palace is built on symbolism, as it is the place where the President meets with dignitaries. “When you have visitors at home, you welcome them in the hallway and afterwards, in the sitting room. Malta’s hallway is Republic Street, formerly Kingsway, and the sitting room is the whole Palace. You always welcome guests in your best area. When the President meets foreign dignitaries, this takes place in the best areas, in this case where there is a certain connection with history.”
Mr Magro Conti further explained that the frescoes recount various episodes in the history of the Maltese people, including the Great Siege and the history of the Knights of Malta.
The Ambassadors’ Hall in the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta is a very important hall, as the country’s President meets here with many ambassadors who present their credentials. Besides, the table one can see in this room is a historic table which has witnessed the signing of numerous agreements with the Heads of State of several countries.
Mr Magro Conti added that “there is a particular table used for signings by the President, the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice, a Venetian table on which these oaths have always been signed.”
Verdala Palace in Buskett serves as the summer residence. It had previously served as the Grandmaster’s residence during his hunting activities. This Palace hadbeenn built by Grandmaster Hughues Loubenx de Verdalle in 1586. According to Mr Magro Conti, the Palace is referred to as a castle, and the Grandmasters used to use it as their summer residence.
Mr Magro Conti added that “it always continued to be used as a summer residence and for hunting, and various documents attest to the presence of exotic animals in Buskett, to be hunted by the Grandmaster.”
A number of dignitaries have stayed at Verdala Palace, including King George V, Queen Mary, Prince Albert, King George VI, King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra, President Tito and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Verdala Palace is also used for activities by the Malta Community Chest Fund, including the Ball of the August Moon.
San Anton Palace, which has always served as the residence of every President of Malta, was built at the time of the knight Fra Antoine de Paule, a Frenchman from Provence who was elected Grandmaster of the Order of St John in 1623. This Palace continued to be enlarged up to the time of the British until, according to Mr Magro Conti, it is today in the shape of a cross.
The gardens of this Palace are enriched with citrus trees, and the fruit is picked once a year when in season and sold off in aid of the Malta Community Chest Fund and other charity organisations. The Three Presidential Palaces host official, social and even private functions by the Head of State.
Blog 89 23/10/2019 Verdala Palace, Malta.
Gianni, Giancinto Verdala Palace Museum of the Order of St John.
The Island of Malta is filled with history, some of it dating back to the earliest known civilisations of the Mediterranean world. For the most part, Malta has become synonymous with the Order of the Knights of St John after they moved from the island of Rhodes during the Ottoman conquests. After Valletta was established as the capital of the island, a period of architectural grandeur blossomed that can still be seen today, despite prolonged heavy bombing during WWII.
One of those architectural gems to draw crowds today, is Verdala Palace, Siġġiewi, not too far from the walled city of Mdina, a place which still retains many aristocratic homes. Adjoining this palace is the Boschetto, a small, semi-wild woodland which Grand Masters such as De Valette used as hunting grounds. Those who watch Game of Thrones may know it from Season 1, Episode 1 of Game of Thrones – “Winter Is Coming” It is the mansion of Illyrio Mopatis.
Verdala Palace was originally built as a hunting lodge in the 1550s or 1560s and was expanded into a palace in 1586, during the reign of Hugues Loubenx de Verdalle, from which it gets it’s name. It was further embellished in the 17th and 18th centuries.
FRERE HUGHES LAUBENX DE VERDALE LI.E GR.D MAITRE. (1726 portrait) Grand Master of the Order of Saint John In office 12 January 1582 – 4 May 1595. Monarch King Philip I Born 1531 Provence, France. Died 4 May 1595 Malta
During the French blockade of 1798-1800, the palace served as a military prison for French soldiers captured by the Maltese or British. During British rule, it became a silk factory, but it was eventually abandoned and fell into a state of disrepair. Some repairs were undertaken during the governorship of Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby, and it later fully restored by Governor Sir William Reid in the 1850s. Prior to its restoration it served as a minor hospital between 1915 and 1916. Verdala Palace is now the official summer residency of the Governors of Malta. On the outbreak of WWII in 1939, works of art from the National Museum were stored at the palace for safekeeping. The palace was restored in 1982 and began to be used to host visiting heads of state. Over the years, it has welcomed several distinguished guests, including Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark, King and Queen of the United Kingdom Maria Feodorovna, Empress of Russia (1909) George V and Mary of Teck, King and Queen of the United Kingdom (1912) George VI, King of the United Kingdom (1913 and 1943) Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany (1919), to name just a few.
The architect of Verdala was Girolamo Cassar (Maltese: Ġlormu Cassar, c. 1520 – c. 1592) a Maltese architect and military engineer. He was the resident engineer of the Order of St. John, and was admitted into the Order in 1569. He was involved in the construction of Valletta, initially as an assistant to Francesco Laparelli, before taking over the project himself. He designed many public, religious and private buildings in the new capital city, including Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, the Grandmaster’s Palace and the auberges. He was the father of Vittorio Cassar, another architect and engineer.
The palace is an example of Renaissance architecture and its design is possibly influenced by the Villa Farnese in Caprarola. It has a rectangular plan, with pentagonal bastion-like turrets on each corner. The building itself has two floors, while the corner turrets are about five storeys high. The entire structure is also surrounded by a stone quarried ditch. Although the turrets and ditch gave the palace the outward appearance of a fort, they were mainly symbolic, and the palace was never really intended to withstand any attack. Nonetheless, the palace was still armed with four pieces of artillery on the roof. In keeping with the design of the day, the interior of the palace is very ornate, with frescoes on some of the ceilings. A chapel, stables and servant quarters are located a short distance away from the palace
Saint Anthony’s Chapel. Verdala Palace
According to legend, Verdala Palace is supposedly haunted by the “Blue Lady”, a niece of Grand Master de Rohan. She was supposed to marry a particular suitor who she did not like, and he imprisoned her in her room in the palace. She tried to escape from a window but fell to her death. Her ghost is reportedly seen roaming the palace, wearing the same blue dress she wore when she died.
5 Stunning Castles In Malta
Malta’s unique history is reflected in its architecture. The islands’ architectural history spans millennia, resulting in one of the world’s most architecturally-diverse archipelagos.
If you enjoy castle-hunting, here are 5 stunning castles that you can visit while you’re in Malta.
Fort St Angelo – Vittoriosa
Fort St Angelo (also known as “The Castle by the Sea”) dates back to the medieval period. The Knights of St John repurposed it as a full-blown fort to defend Malta against possible invaders – with the Great Siege of 1565 being a prime example of how useful Fort St Angelo was for both the Maltese and the Knights. In the 1800s and 1900s, the Fort was used as a station for British troops. It proved so vital for their Mediterranean operations that it was referred to as a “stone ship”. Thankfully, the Fort is still in a spectacular shape and is now open for visitors.
Zammitello Palace – Mgarr
Zammitello Palace, or Castello Zammitello, is a bonafide palace on the outskirts of the picturesque village of Mgarr. The 19th-century castle was built using the Tower of London as a blueprint. Despite its fantastical splendour, the Palace hides a dark past, as its last resident – Count Francis Sant Cassia – was murdered just outside the premises in October 1988. Nowadays, Castello Zammitello is a prime wedding venue.
Tal-Virtu Castle – Rabat
Sadly, this Game of Thrones-worthy castle in Rabat is a privately-owned building. However, this doesn’t mean that visitors can’t enjoy the scenic views that this castle offers. Since Tal-Virtu Castle is situated at the top of Tal-Virtu plateau, visitors can enjoy a double dose of beauty by marveling at the picture-perfect castle itself while enjoying the spectacular countryside views.
Castello Dei Baroni – Wardija
This beautifully-restored castle in Wardija is a fitting testament to Malta’s rich history. The castle dates back to 1783 and the Knights of St John’s period in Malta. Visitors have the opportunity to experience a historical artefact, as authentic furniture pieces adorn the castle’s spacious halls and rooms, while the bedroom and Supreme Council chamber have been carefully restored and re-imagined in the architectural style of that historical period. Nowadays, the medieval reception hall serves as the perfect backdrop for weddings, gala dinners and diplomatic meetings.
Verdala Palace – Buskett Gardens, Siggiewi
The Verdala Palace is primarily known as the President of Malta’s official summer residence. However, this stunning palace is more than just that. The area initially hosted a 16-century hunting lodge, built during Grand Master La Vallette’s reign, to complement the woodland facsimile constructed by the Knights for game hunting. In 1586, de Verdalle extended the lodge and transformed it into a proper palace, with further embellishments in the 1600s and 1700s.
Verdala Palace took centre stage in the French blockade of 1798-1800, as it served as a military prison for French officers. Unfortunately, the British period saw the Palace falling into disrepair: the British converted it to a silk factory, and subsequently, a storage space for valuable art pieces during WWII. Fortunately, Governor Sir Frederick Ponsonby and Governor Sir William Reid recognised the Palace’s historical and artistic importance and sought to restore it to its former glory. In the past couple of decades, the Palace hosted dignitaries and royals from all across the globe.
Natural History Museum
The National Museum of Natural History is situated in Mdina in an eighteenth century palace, restructured by Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena, designed in Parisian Baroque style, substituting the original building of the medieval University. Vilhena Palace also served as a temporary hospital and a sanatorium throughout its history. In 1973 it was officially inaugurated as the National Museum of Natural History.
The display areas in the museum cover various topics such as Maltese Geology and Palaeontology, exotic mammals, marine fauna, insects, shells and birds and other topics like human evolution. One hall is dedicated to skeletal anatomy of vertebrates, Dioramas display the Maltese habitats comprise, among others, one dedicated to the birds of the Maltese cliff habitat (Dingli cliffs are a nice walk close by to the Point de Vue Guest House), one depicting the importance of rubble walls and one showing the diversity of animals that frequent valleys.
Another interesting display highlights the ecological importance of the islands of Filfla, Fungus Rock, St. Paul’s and Comino. The L. Mizzi Hall is dedicated to minerals. This display shows just a small part of Lewis Mizzi’s vast collection. It includes at least 850 pieces of rocks and minerals, with both raw material and worked pieces of art and jewellery.
Buskett Gardens and Verdala Palace
Buskett Gardens, forming one of the few woodland areas in Malta, are located in the fertile valley of Wied Il-Luq in Siggiewi. The 30 hectare site lies to the west of Siggiewi (Citta Ferdinand) and just east of Dingli. The Verdala Palace, an official residence of the President of Malta, stands on the edge of the Gardens.
Indigenous forests once covered Malta, but trees were cut down for shipbuilding in the era when galleons plied the Mediterranean waters and for agricultural purposes. The gardens were planted by the Knights Hospitaller as a hunting reserve. Recently, the gardens have been identified as an Important Bird Area because they support large numbers of birds, especially during the seasonal migration through the Maltese Archipelago.
Many different trees and shrubs grow in the gardens, including numerous fruit-bearing trees. One of the greenest areas in Malta, the gardens are at their best in the spring but also provide shade from the harsh mid-summer sun and offer a quiet place for a walk in the winter months. The gardens are very popular with the Maltese people, who often go for walks in the peaceful settings or enjoy a picnic in the shade of the trees. The gardens serve as a venue for the Feast of Imnarja which is celebrated on 29 June. Hundreds of people flock there the previous evening, to eat the traditional Maltese dish of rabbit stew cooked in wine, to listen to traditional folk music and singing, and to enjoy the annual agricultural show in the morning.
The Verdala Palace is perched on a hilltop adjoining and overlooking Buskett Gardens. It was built by Grand Master Verdalle in 1588 as a summer residence. The area was ideal ground for the wild game introduced by the Order. The underlying valley provided a steady source of water. Architect Gerolamo Cassar planned a fortified structure to provide defence against the Turks who struck Malta from time to time. The most prominent among the numerous features incorporated in its design was the dry ditch surrounding the Palace. Verdala Palace was used as a military prison in 1800 for Napoleon’s soldiers who had surrendered to the Anglo-Maltese forces. For some time the building also served as a silk factory after which it was abandoned and fell into disrepair. It was in Governor Sir William Reid’s (1851-1858) time that the Palace was restored to its former glory.
Verdala Palace then became the Governor’s country residence and further improvements were made by subsequent governors. In 1939, at the beginning of hostilities which led to the Second World War, Verdala Palace was used as a repository for the National Musuem of Arts. In 1982 Verdala Palace started to accommodate visiting Heads of State. The Palace hosted many distinguished dignitaries including King George V and Queen Mary in 1912, Prince Albert in 1913 and later King George VI in April 1943, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia in 1909 and 1919, Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1904, Colonel Muammar Al Gaddafi, Leader of the First September Revolution of the Libyan Arab Jamahriya, Josip Broz Tito, Former President of Yugoslavia, Nicolae Andruta Ceausescu, Former President of Romania and Giovanni Leone, Former President of Italy.
Verdala Palace is now the official summer residence of the President of Malta. In the recent past, fund raising activities, including the annual August Moon Ball and concerts in aid of the Malta Community Chest Fund, were held at the Palace.
Adapted from Wikipedia and the Verdala Palace page on the President of Malta website.