Well-preserved 18th-century ruin, standing in isolation: The Devil’s Farmhouse in Malta

 
 
 
SHARE:

The Devil’s Farmhouse, also known in Maltese as “Ir-Razzett tax-Xitan”, and officially as “Ir-Razzett Tax-Xjaten” (“The Farmhouse of the Devils,” or “The Devils’ Farmhouse”), is an 18th-century farmhouse in Mellieha, Malta, built by the Order of St. John to be used as a horse stable. According to a national Maltese myth, however, the farmhouse was actually built by the devil, a tale from which it derives its historic name.

View of The Devil's Farmhouse. Source
The whole complex of the farm. Source

 

Left - One of the former entrances to the farm. Right - The arched ceiling is a late example of architecture by the Knights. Source1 Source2
Left – One of the former entrances to the farm. Right – The arched ceiling is a late example of architecture by the Knights. Source1 Source2

The farmhouse features two unconnected buildings, which may have been built during different periods and converted into farmhouses between different farmers.

Backside of the farmhouse. Source
The backside of the farmhouse. Source

 

The farmhouse stands away from urban development in isolation. Source
The farmhouse stands away from urban development in isolation. Source

 

The farmhouse as seen from L-Ghar ta' Zamberat (Ta' Zamberat's Cave). Source
Sseen from L-Ghar ta’ Zamberat (Ta’ Zamberat’s Cave). Source

The building has a simple and modest vernacular architecture, with slit windows, that function as ventilators, and waterspouts. It has no inscriptions or symbols to provide further information about its use apart from some roman numbers (i.e. I, II, III) that were inscribed when it was converted to a farmhouse. These are found on the walls and woods, and record the sale of products (different types of vegetables) of farmers with lack of education. The features of the building are good examples of Maltese traditional architecture that include roofs built with limestone slabs and animal feeding mangers. Despite the conversion to a farmhouse, the building clearly does not resemble to be originally built to be used as such, as it is not a traditional Maltese farm building. This and the position of the mangers (feed-trough) prove that the building was built for horses.

The animal's feeding quarters. Source
The animal’s feeding quarters. Source

 

Limestone slabs and wooden beams, and mangers. Source
Limestone slabs, wooden beams, and mangers. Source

At the site, within the front of the farmhouse, stand two traditional giren which are built for bird hunting. The building was used as a hunting lodge and as a horse-riding school (Cavalerizza) by the knights to keep their horses inside. Other later additions inside the building are the wooden beams that were introduced to support the limestone slabs. The farmhouse is in a dilapidated state and is in need of restoration. Some of the roofs already collapsed while other are expected to collapse unless an intervention takes place.

Roofs in a dilapidated state. Source
Roofs in a dilapidated state. Source

 

Collapsed roof. Source
Collapsed roof. Source

 

The girna at the front of the farmhouse. Source
The girna at the front of the farmhouse. Source

The farmhouse is a national monument of architectonical significance. The Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) has scheduled it as grade 1 national monument, that protects it from being demolished, altered or further developed but allowing the reconstruction of damaged parts. The building is listed as part of the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands (NICPMI).