Auberge de Castille - Inner Courtyard

Auberge de Castille - Inner Courtyard

The site of the Auberge de Castille which was acquired by the knights in 1569 was to host a stately structure referred to as the Casa Grande with a frontage along St. Paul's Street. The construction cost was met through a levy imposed in 1570 on the members of this Langue. This house, which could only house the Pilier and a limited number of knights, served as the Auberge between 1571 and 1573 when the Knights of the Langue, still residing in Birgu, decided to build a larger Auberge.

The Knights tried to transform the austere military character of their city by replacing the original buildings with others in a new, flamboyant Baroque style. This manifestation of power and prestige won popular approval and the affluent sought to build their homes with the trappings of this splendid style. Designed by Domenico Cachia, who according to a public deed promised to demolish the old Auberge and rebuild it according to the designs and plans submitted, the Auberge de Castille is undoubtedly the finest work of Baroque architecture in eighteenth century Malta. The façade is rich, yet has no excessive decorations and the building especially the distribution and shape of the windows, has pleasing proportions and the main theme is the exaltation of Grand Master Pinto. The Grand Master's symbol, the crescent moon, is displayed throughout the building. The Grand Master's coat of arms is also prominently displayed on the central window of the façade.

The internal courtyard positioned centrally in the building serves the purpose of enhancing with light the interior decoration and further accentuates the theatricality of the grand staircase that the Auberge enjoys. The courtyard is accessed through a large door, from the central staircase, above which one finds a balcony. Above the balcony there is an oval window adorned with an intricate stone decoration. At the lateral centre of the arcaded courtyard there is a fountain which was relocated here from elsewhere and probably dates to the 17th century. It consists of a circular stone scalloped basin supported on an inverted trumpet-like stand the lower part of which consists of three flower stems with water jets. During the 1970's a base, a circular pond and three figures were added. Mepa scheduled the Auberge de Castille and the courtyard fountain as Grade 1 national monuments as per Government notice No. 276/08 in the Government Gazette dated March 28, 2008.Today the internal courtyard of the Auberge serves as a backdrop to a multitude of concertos and exhibitions.

A visual and photographic inspection of the site was carried out and it was noted that dirt and black curst have accumulated in areas not washed by rain, such as below the cornices and around the sculptural relief surrounding the oval window above the main entrance to the courtyard. Also there were areas where open mortar joints could be seen especially on the uppermost areas of the courtyard. Stone flaking and alveolar deterioration mechanisms were also noted especially on the balusters surrounding the courtyard. Restoration of the courtyard will start by cleaning the facades using water and stiff bristle or nylon brushes. .  For decorated or moulded areas, poulticing would be used.  These are basically wet packs applied to façade and allowed to dry there.  This results in the black deposits moving out of the stonework and passing into the poultice which is later on brushed off. Reconstitution of damaged stone where possible will be done.  Plastic repair using a hydraulic lime based mix will be used.  A fine stone dust will be added to obtain a colour as close as possible to the existing. The joints will be cleaned and any loose mortar will be removed while the mortar which is still in good condition will be retained.  A mortar similar to the one existing on the monument will then be used to point the joints.  NO CEMENT will be made use of and the mix will be composed solely of hydraulic lime, sand and stone dust.  Clay particles may be used in the mix, to bring the mix closer to that already existing. The restoration of the internal courtyard of the Auberge the Castille will, apart from enhancing the beauty of the courtyard itself which is frequently used as a venue for a multitude of cultural events, complement the extensive restoration that was done on the outside of the Auberge.  

30 day Evaluation period has expired on 06/11/2014 10:16:59!
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