Auberge de Castile et Leon, Valletta
Castile Place is named after the famous Auberge de Castille (et de Léon), one of Valletta's most magnificent buildings, the splendid facade of which dominates the square. Originally designed by Gerolamo Cassar, it was rebuilt in masterly Baroque style by Domenico Cachia for the Grand Master, Manoel Pinto de Fonseca (1741-73). Finely proportioned and strictly symmetrical, the building was badly damaged during World War II but was later carefully restored. The dominant feature of the two-story facade is the doorway, surmounted by a bust of the Grand Master, flanked by paired columns and old cannon, and approached by a grand staircase. Formerly occupied by the British military headquarters, the auberge is now the official residence of the Prime Minister.The auberge of the knights of Spain and Portugal is the capital's finest example of 18th century mature Maltese Baroque style and has a rare and grand symmetry. Situated at the highest point of the peninsula on a site originally designated for the Grand Master's Palace and partially shadowed by St James Cavalier, it was remodeled in 1741 around Cassar's far more austere original of 1574. Either Domenico Cachia or Andrea Belli handled the effervescent facade with its precise detail.Grand Master Pinto, who commissioned the building for his Iberian countrymen, reveled in the competitiveness of European monarchies. There is a portrait of him by De Favray in the Sacristy of St John's. Here, above the portal and set amid flags, weapons and accouterments, is a bust of Pinto, and over the central window is his escutcheon. The crowning decoration on top of the cornice is the arms of Castile et Leon. The two cannon date from 1756.Historically, the grand chancellor of the Order was a knight of the Castile et Leon, and the knights were to defend Ste Barbara's bastion facing the Grand Harbor.
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