San Anton Palace

San Anton Palace (Maltese: Il-Palazz Sant’Anton) is a palace in Attard, Malta that currently serves as the official residence of the President of Malta. It was originally built in the early 17th century as a country villa for Antoine de Paule, a knight of the Order of St. John. It was expanded into a palace following de Paule’s election as Grand Master in 1623.

San Anton Palace
Il-Palazz Sant’Anton

San Anton Palace
General information
Status Intact
Type Palace
Location Attard, Malta
Coordinates

35°53′47″N14°26′48″E

Current tenants President of Malta
Named for Anthony of Padua
Construction started c. 1600
Completed c. 1625
Renovated 18th–19th centuries
Client Antoine de Paule
Owner Government of Malta
Technical details
Material Limestone

The palace was used as a residence by subsequent Grand Masters, being enlarged a number of times in the process. It was the headquarters of the rebel National Assembly during the uprising of 1798–1800, and it later became a residence for the Civil Commissioners, Governors and Governors-General of Malta. It has been the official residence of the President since the office was created in December 1974.

The palace is surrounded by the extensive San Anton Gardens, parts of which have been open to the public since 1882.

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Grand Master Antoine de Paule, who first built the palace in the early 17th century

In around 1600, Antoine de Paule, a knight of the Order of St. John from the Langue of Provence, acquired a piece of land in Attard and built a country villa. De Paule was elected Grand Master in 1623, and the villa was subsequently enlarged into a palace[1] in around 1625.[2] The palace was named San Anton after the Grand Master’s patron saint, Anthony of Padua.[3]

Coat of arms of Antoine de Paule at the palace

De Paule planned the villa on generous proportions so as to provide accommodation for his guests and for his large domestic staff which included cooks, food tasters, torch bearers, pantry boys, wig makers, a winder of the clocks, physicians, as well as a baker to make black bread for feeding his hunting dogs.[3]

Following de Paule’s death in 1636, the palace remained in use as a residence by subsequent Grand Masters of the Order, since it was closer to the capital city Valletta than the Verdala Palace. Over the years, the building was expanded from having a T-shape into a Latin cross.[1]

During the French occupation of Malta and the subsequent Maltese uprising, the palace was the meeting place of the rebel National Assembly, which first met on 11 February 1799. In 1800, the palace became the residence of the first British Civil Commissioner, AdmiralSir Alexander Ball, who died at the palace in October 1809.[4]

Courtyard at San Anton Palace

The palace subsequently became the official residence of the Governor and, later, Governor-General of Malta. Some structural changes were made during British rule, including a reduction of the height of the tower after it was hit by lightning in 1819,[5] and the addition of a balustraded walk around the main courtyard. Parts of the palace’s gardens were opened to the public in 1882.[1] San Anton has been the official residence of the President of Malta since the island became a republic in December 1974.[6]

Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was born at the palace on 25 November 1876, when her father Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was stationed in Malta as a Royal Navy officer.[7]

Queen Elizabeth II stayed at the palace during her royal visits to Malta in 1954, 1967 and 2005.[8]

The palace and its gardens were included on the Antiquities List of 1925.[9] It is now a Grade 1 national monument,[6][10] and it is also listed on the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands.[1]

Car park at San Anton Palace, with the wall that collapsed in October 2018 on the right

A 50-metre-long (160 ft) stretch of a historic wall forming part of the palace collapsed on 17 October 2018. The wall, which had been restored a few months before, collapsed into a parking area and it damaged some parked vehicles although there were no injuries. The gardens were subsequently closed to the public, and emergency works to conserve the remaining part of the wall have been undertaken. The Restoration Directorate is looking into the collapse.[11][12]

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