Chamber where the Inquisition tortured blasphemers in Malta free to the public

The Inquisitor’s Palace in Birgu is free to the public on Independence Day on 21 September

Take photos and participate in Wiki Loves Monuments competition at the Inquisitor’s Palace in Birgu for Independence Day on Friday, 21 September, when Heritage Malta opens the doors of this grand palazzo for free to be enjoyed by the general public.

Considered as an architectural gem, this majestic building was the official residence of Mgr Pietro Dusina, the first general inquisitor and apostolic delegate of the Maltese Islands, when he arrived in Malta in 1574. Successive inquisitors who resided in this palace, left their traces behind in the adaptations which they did to the building.

Acting as a centre of power in its days of glory, the palace still holds the sophisticated ambience of the piano nobile and the cultivated refinement of the private quarters.

The Holy Office Tribunal
The Holy Office Tribunal

On the other hand, the preserved austere setting of the Holy Office Tribunal, the prison complex and the torture chamber, reminisce a time when many shared a dark abiding fear of religious heresy. Meanwhile, the historic reconstructions of the domestic kitchen area offer a lighter note as they open a window on the cuisine customs of that period.

With the Inquisition over, similar palaces in other countries were treated with contempt and were abandoned and left to be eaten up by the ravages of time. Others ended up as victims of the anti-reactionary power which was unleashed by the French Revolution.

Thankfully, throughout its five centuries of history, the local Inquisitor’s Palace always hosted high-ranking officials which represented the main powers on the island, who therefore ensured its survival. Fate then saved this palace from the severe bombings of the area during World War II.

A visit to this building is an opportunity to explore one of the very few surviving Inquisitor’s palaces which still awaken memories of a tormented phase in the history of the Church. None such surviving palaces in the rest of the world are accessible to the public.

The Inquisitor’s Palace also hosts within it the National Museum of Ethnography which exhibits permanent displays on Malta’s religious traditions as consolidated by the Inquisition.

The Inquisitor’s Palace is one of the sites eligible for Wiki Loves Monuments, the largest photography competition in the world, taking place in Malta throughout September. Wiki Loves Monuments aims to promote and share knowledge about heritage sites across the world. Photographs of the Inquisitor's Palace, as well as other Heritage Malta sites, can be entered into the competition by visiting  Wiki Loves Monuments Malta is organised by Wikimedia Community Malta in collaboration with Spazju Kreattiv.

Guided tours of the site will commence at 10.00hrs (in the Maltese language) and at 14.00hrs (in the English language). Opening hours: 09.00 – 17.00hrs (last admission at 16.30hrs).

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