Palazzo Spinola - Valletta

 

Present owners Lombard Bank said it has conducted a number of studies to identify important features that need conservation and to trace the original plans of Spinola Palace, in Valletta.

While the bank has occupied the Republic Street wing of the palace since the early 1970s it has just acquired the wing in Frederick Street.

The bank said it was sensitive to the building's importance and would ensure the property would be maintained to a high standard with the works to be undertaken respecting its original features.

The bank has also offered to make the ground floor and courtyard of the Frederick Street wing available for cultural activities. The building incorporates various architectural features including vaulted ceilings at ground floor level, beautifully decorated stone columns surrounding the courtyard, together with a ceiling fresco by architect Nicolau Nasoni who was brought to Malta by Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena in 1723.

Palazzo Spinola in Valletta and that in St Julians belonged to Fra Giovanni Battista Spinola de Villaroel,who held several important posts in the order, and one-time ambassador of the Order of the Knights of St John to the Holy See. In 1638 he was sent as Ambassador to the Viceroy of Sicily on a very delicate mission, when France and Spain were at war, and the Spanish ministers were under the wrong impression that the religion was not maintaining strict neutrality against the French. The story goes that when a French ship was permitted to make good the damage suffered during a storm in the Grand Harbour of Valletta, and allowed to proceed to France. Several French knights, wishing to return to France (including a young knight Captain Fournier) embarked on this vessel which had the misfortune of being wrecked just off Licata in sicily. They were held by the Viceroy of Sicily and not allowed to return to Malta, it was in order to settle this matter that Bali Villaroel was sent to Sicily, in which enterprise he was highly successful. In 1644 Fra Giovanni de Villaroel, then Bali of Negraponte, was appointed General of the galleys, and in 1646 was elected to the Baliwick of Noveville. The Bali of Noveville willed that the Palace be administered by the Priory of the Conventual Church, and the rents be employed in celebration of masses and in providing dowries to poor spinsters. Record of Notary Michele Ralli 27/10/1652.

In 1660 the Palace was transferred by Prior Luca Bueno, executor of the will of Bali Villaroel, to Fra Paolo Raffaele Spinola, Bali of Lombardy (Record of Notary Michele Ralli  12/6/1660) and it remained in the possession of the Spinola family till 1780. In his disproprium, Bali Gio Batta Spinola, Admiral of the Order who died in the convent on 19th January 1737, bequethed the Palace together with seven adjoining houses to his brother, Marchese Carlo Spinola. The latter granted Spinola Palace together with the other houses on perpetual emphytheusis to Marhese Testaferrata Bonici for a yearly ground rent of Scudi 200 to be employed in pious work. (Records of Notary Giuseppe Magri 16/8/1780).

In 1922, the palace was divided into three parts, probably following a family inheritance. One third, the Republic Street wing, now houses Lombard Bank's head office; another third - the St Christopher Street wing was demolished and rebuilt as a block of apartments.

The remaining third - the Frederick Street wing - was converted into a residence and offices.

 

Houses in Valletta - Victor Denaro 1967
Sant Fournier , researches and archives 2001-2011

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