Would you spend a night inside the Inquisition’s 17th century prison cell?

An unusual night on All Souls’ Day with a roast pork feast and traditional food

A 17th century prison cell at the Inquisitor's Palace in Birgu
A 17th century prison cell at the Inquisitor's Palace in Birgu

Are you brave enough to sleep in a 17th century prison cell at the Inquisitor’s Palace in Birgu, right on All Souls’ Day?

Heritage Malta is providing interested people with this opportunity on Friday, 2 November, during a rememberance event of popular traditions related to death, souls and life after death. And if you are less adventurous, you can still enjoy other activities, including a traditional meal of roast pork, or the Il-Ħanżira tal-Erwieħ.

This traditional meal is inspired from an old local custom related to All Souls’ Day, when the Maltese used to let a pig to roam free in the streets with a bell hanging to its neck. People would feed it and once the pig had fattened enough, it was killed, cooked, and fed to the poor.

Participants in this event can enjoy this traditional meal, which primarily consists of roasted pig. Generally, the meal will start off with the maħluta; a sweet and sour drink symbolizing the happinness and sorrow of life. There will also be toasted bread with garlic and parsley, traditionally known as ftieti tal-għaża, and kawlata (a kind of vegetable soup with pork).

This activity will be further enhanced by the discussion of Ġużi Gatt who will talk about the meaning behind the meal of Il-Ħanżira tal-Erwieħ. Dr Noel Buttigieg will be providing interesting information about il-quċċija, a recipe based on wheat which has been documented since 1575 as the coccia. In fact, the first Inquisitor and Apostolate Delegate, Pietro Dusina, mentions that this meal used to be given out in some Maltese churches on the eve of All Souls’ Day. Coccia will be served as part of the dessert, together with għadam tal-mejtin – the bone-shaped almond sweet – and coffee.

During this evening, participants can also view a selection of memorial cards from the donation given to Heritage Malta by Alfred Calleja. This collection amounts to thousands of memorial cards, some of which go back to the beginning of the 20th century.

Among the most appealing, one finds those of various personalities which come from different spheres in life. The main aim behind these memorial cards is that the living continue to remember their dead and say a prayer for their soul.

Yet besides this, such a collection is a source of information about various aspects. These include the development of this tradition along the years, both in terms of style, design and words selected, together with the etnographic facet, such as the changing hairstyles, clothes, uniforms and hobbies.

At the end of this unusual set up, those which opt to challenge the myths that have been created about the Inquisitor’s Palace, will be able to choose where to spend the night. The 17th century prison cells are among the most popular, however other eerie corners of the palace can also be selected. Participants who will be sleeping at the palace have to bring along their own sleeping equipment.

This activity will start at 7:30pm and will be in Maltese. Places are limited.

Tickets at €30 (€28 for Heritage Malta members) may be acquired from all Heritage Malta museums and sites, or online.