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The Palace Armory: the main armory of a medieval Catholic military order is still housed in its original building

David Goran

Located in the capital city of Malta, Valletta, the Palace Armory is one of the world’s largest collections of arms and armor dating back to the 17th and 18th century, the time of the Knights of St John. It is still housed in its original building (the Grandmaster’s Palace) which served as the Order’s military headquarters and an administrative center for more than 200 years.

The whole arsenal was transferred to the palace in 1604 by Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt  Photo Credit

The whole arsenal was transferred to the palace in 1604 by Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt Photo Credit

Palace Armoury in the 1880s Photo Credit

Palace Armoury in the 1880s Photo Credit

Bronze cannons and mortars Photo Credit

Bronze cannons and mortars Photo Credit

In 1604, the Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt (1601-22) transferred the Order’s main arsenal to the palace in a large hall at the rear of the building and at the time, the arsenal contained enough arms and armor to equip thousands of soldiers. However, during the French occupation of Malta in 1798 and the early years of British rule, a considerable percentage of the armory was lost.

Rack displaying rapiers and swords commonly used in the 16th and 17th century Photo Credit

Rack displaying rapiers and swords commonly used in the 16th and 17th century Photo Credit

Small cannons  Photo Credit

Small cannons Photo Credit

A bronze cannon used to arm the various fortifications of Malta Photo Credit

A bronze cannon used to arm the various fortifications of Malta Photo Credit

It was officially opened as Malta’s first public museum in 1860 Photo Credit

It was officially opened as Malta’s first public museum in 1860 Photo Credit

Left – Burgonet. Photo Credit Right – Closed helmet, ca. 1530–40  Photo Credit

Left – Burgonet. Photo Credit Right – Closed helmet, ca. 1530–40 Photo Credit

Pikes. Widely used by most European infantry in the 17th centuryPhoto Credit

Pikes. Widely used by most European infantry in the 17th centuryPhoto Credit

Muskets  Photo Credit

Muskets Photo Credit

Muskets use a trigger mechanism, called a flintlock, that was developed in the mid-1500s  Photo Credit

Muskets use a trigger mechanism, called a flintlock, that was developed in the mid-1500s Photo Credit

French cavalry pistol Modèle, 1767 Photo Credit

French cavalry pistol Modèle, 1767 Photo Credit

A particular section is dedicated to the Great Siege of 1565  Photo Credit

A particular section is dedicated to the Great Siege of 1565 Photo Credit

18th century bronze 18-pounder gun hoisted from the sea at Marsaxlokk Bay in 1963 Photo Credit

18th century bronze 18-pounder gun hoisted from the sea at Marsaxlokk Bay in 1963 Photo Credit

At the beginning of the 20th Century, the Governor of Malta, Lord Grenfel, assigned the King’s Armourer Sir Francis Laking to properly classify, catalog and rearrange the remaining pieces. Today, the collection includes a large number of arms and armour used by the Knights of St. John between 1530 -1798 and captured weapons used by the Ottomans during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, when Grandmaster Jean Parisot de la Valette led the Knights in a bloody battle against an armada of around 40,000 Turks.

Read another story from us: The killer of President Garfield used a gun with an Ivory grip – it would look good in a museum after I had killed him

Among the more notable pieces in the collection, there are several personal armors owned by Grand Masters Alof de Wignacourt, Martin Garzez, and Jean-Jacques de Verdelin.

In 1975, the entire collection of 5,721 pieces was moved to the building’s ground floor, where it’s today. According to many experts from major museums, it is one of the most valuable historical monuments of European culture.