Architecture and urban transformations of Mdina during the reign of Grand Master Anton Manoel de Vilhena (1722-1736)

Conrad Thake

Abstract


The origins of the walled town of Mdina date back to the Roman period although its present-day physical boundaries were defined during the Arab occupation of Malta (870-c.1090). In medieval times, during the Aragonese rule (1283-1530), Mdina or the Città Notabile as it was then known, thrived and prospered as it was the main urban settlement on the island. However, during the 16th and 17th centuries when Malta was under the rule of the Order of St John, Mdina was in decline and lost its political and economic preeminence to the new ‘city of the Order’, Valletta.

This paper will consider the impact of the 1693 earthquake and the various post-earthquake reconstruction efforts of the local church which sought to consolidate its presence as the traditional Episcopal see. The reconstruction of the old medieval cathedral, a new bishop’s palace and later a Seminary building were an integral part of an architectural enterprise, which the Cathedral Chapter spearheaded with a view to enhancing its presence within the city. However in 1722, with the election of the Portuguese grandmaster António Manoel de Vilhena (r. 1722-1736), the Order of St John for the first time demonstrated a real interest in intervening within the walled town. Vilhena embarked upon an extensive urban renewal programme by re-planning the entire approach and entrance area of Mdina, building an imposing Baroque-style Magisterial palace and Corte Capitanale, together with an ornate Banca Giuratale building.  Vilhena’s urban renewal of the Mdina had the political objective of appropriating the representation of the walled town from the traditional seat of the bishop and local Università, and of transforming it into another miniature ‘city of the Order’.

 


Parole chiave


Mdina; Malta; Order of St John; Cathedral Chapter; urban space

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14633/AHR054

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Copyright (c) 2017 Conrad Thake

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ArcHistoR è una rivista open access e peer reviewed (double blind), di Storia dell’architettura e Restauro, pubblicata dall’Università Mediterraneadi Reggio Calabria. La rivista ha cadenza semestrale. È una rivista di Classe A (ANVUR) per l’Area 08 - Ingegneria civile ed Architettura, settori C1, D1, E1, E2, F1.

Comitato scientifico internazionale

Maria Dolores Antigüedad del Castillo-Olivares (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia de España), Monica Butzek (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz), Jean-François Cabestan (Université Paris 1 - Panthéon Sorbonne), Alicia Cámara Muñoz (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia de España), David Friedman (Massachussets Institute of Technology), Alexandre Gady (Université Paris-IV-Sorbonne), Jörg Garms (Universität Wien), Miles Glenndinning (Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies, University of Edinburgh), Christopher Johns (Vanderbilt University, Nashville), Mark Wilson Jones (University of Bath), Loughlin Kealy (University College Dublin), Paulo Lourenço (Department of Civil Engineering, University of Minho), David Marshall (University of Melbourne), Werner Oechslin (ETH, Zurich, Stiftung Bibliothek Werner Oechslin, Einsiedeln), José Luis Sancho (Dirección de Conservación de Bienes Histórico-Artísticos, Palacio Real, Madrid), Dmitrij O. Švidkovskij (Moscow Architectural Institute, MARCHI)

Comitato direttivo

Tommaso Manfredi (direttore responsabile), Giuseppina Scamardì (direttore editoriale), Bruno Mussari, Annunziata Maria Oteri, Francesca Passalacqua, Nino Sulfaro

 

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Laboratorio Cross. Storia dell'architettura e restauro

    

      

 ISSN 2384-8898

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.