VaIletta, the capital, was buiIt by Jean de la Valette, French Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, after the epic siege of 1565. It dominates, one wide sweep, the island's historic Grand Harbor - one of the finest natural ports in Europe. Within its limited boundaries is reflected some of Malta's rich heritage of archaeology, history, architecture, art and culture.
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY
The more important collections covering Maltese archaeology are housed in the Auberge de Provence, Valletta, one of the Inns of the Knights of St. John. Collections of prehistoric pottery, sculpture, statuettes,stone implements and personal ornaments recovered from the Maltese megalithic temples and other prehistoric sites are exhibited. Typical examples of tomb furniture of the Punic and Roman periods are also displayed.
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
This 18th century palace houses paintings, sculptures, furniture and other exhibits connected with the Order of St. John. Works by Domenico di Michelino, Carpaccio, Perugino, Tintoretto, Reni, Valentin, Mathias Stomer, Preti, Tiepolo, Favray and Vernet are permanently displayed. A section is specifically reserved for works by Maltese artists. Occasional exhibitions, together with concerts and lectures, are also held here. ln the monetarium a unique collection of coins and medals may be viewed by appointment. (See also "Mediterranean Congress Center").
ST JOHN'S CATHEDRAL AND MUSEUM
St. John's Co-Cathedral, formerly the Conventual Church of the Order, is historically and artistically one of the most important monuments on the island. It was built between 1573 and 1577 to the design of Gerolamo Cassar (1520-1586), chief engineer of the Order. The "Beheading of St. John", Caravaggio's masterpiece, hangs in the Oratory. The museum houses a unique collection of Flemish tapestries, siIver objects and church vestments.
PALACE OF THE GRAND MASTERS
The Magisterial Palace was completed in 1574. It contains portraits of the Grand Masters of the Order and European monarchs, much interesting furniture, and other works of art. A unique collection of Gobelin Tapestries hangs in the Tapestry Chamber and the main hall is decorated with frescoes by Perez d'Aleccio, depicting episodes from the Great Siege. The decoration on the ceiling of the corridors is by Nicolo Nasoni. Many of the State apartments are decorated with friezes depicting episodes from the history of the Order. On view are works by Ribera, Van Loo and Batoni.
The Armory of the Knights is in two halls in the Palace where arms and armour of various periods and description are displayed.
UPPER BARRAKKA GARDENS
This site commands a magnificent view of Grand Harbor.
The Manoel Theater was originally built as a Court Theater by Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena in 1731 and is one of the oldest theaters in Europe still in operation.
NATIONAL WAR MUSEUM
This museum is housed within the walls of historic Fort St. Elmo. The permanent exhibition contains an ever-increasing collection of war relics which range from Malta's heroic Gladiator aircraft, baptized "Faith", the George Cross awarded to the island for bravery by King George VI in World War II, to various weapons, uniforms and service vehicles.
MEDITERRANEAN CONGRESS CENTER
This building was originally the hospital or "Sacra Infermeria" of the Order of St. John. It was constructed in 1574 under Grand Master Jean de la Cassiere and achieved fame as one of the foremost hospitals of the period in Europe. Food was served by the Knights themselves on silver plates, specimens of which, together with ceramic pharmacy jars, may be seen at the National Museum of Fine Arts. The restoration and conversion of this edifice into a first-call conference center in 1976 won the "Europa Nostra Award" for Malta. The exhibition Hall, formerly the Great Ward of the hospital, which measures 161 meters long, is believed to be one of the longest halls in Europe. The main conference hall, seating 1,400 people was destroyed by fire in 1987 and has since been rebuilt. The excellent 40 minute audiovisual show, the Malta Experience, covering 5,000 years of Maltese history, is housed in this center.