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e-book copyright Stephen C Spiteri 2002

Armour y of the

Knights A Study of the Palace Armoury, its Collection, and the Military Storehouses of the Hospitaller Knights of the Order of St John

Stephen C Spiteri

Midsea Books in association with

Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna 1

Armoury of the Knights has been researched, written, and desgned by Stephen C Spiteri. Contact address: PO Box 460, Valletta CMR 01, Malta G C e-mail: ORMTFDDZ

Š Copyright Stephen C Spiteri 2003 No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the previous written permission of the author.

Armoury of the Knights was first published as The Palace Armoury - A Study of a Military Storehouse of the Knights of the Order of St John in 1999. Armoury of the Knights has been published by Midsea Books Ltd in association with Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna and printed by Gutenberg Press Ltd, Tarxien. ISBN 99932-39-33-X (hardback) ISBN 99932-39-45-3 (paperback) This book is also available on CD-ROM (PDF format) in limited edition. (ISBN 99932-648-0-6).

Other books by the same author; Discovering the Fortifications of the Knights of St. John in Malta The Knights’ Fortifications The British Fortifications Fortresses of the Cross; Hospitaller Military Architecture, 1136-1798 British Military Architecture in Malta The Fougasse; The Stone Mortar of Malta Fortresses of the Knights


‘In our halls is hung Armoury of the invincible knights of old’ William Wordsworth (1807)

For My Parents, Marlene and Joe, and my wife Marthy

Armoury of the Knights is a second, revised, and expanded edition of The Palace Armoury - A Study of a Military Storehouse of the Knights of the Order of St John first published in 1999 and sponsored by the Farsons Foundation.


Contents Introduction Foreword Preface

5 6 9

Origins of the Palace Armoury The Knights of Malta A ‘Sala d’Armi’ in the Grand Master’s Palace A Profusion of Armouries in the 18th Century The Organizational Framework Artillery Stores & Gunpowder Magazines The Development & Layout of the Palace Armoury From Armoury to Museum The Collection of Arms & Armour Selective Record of the Collection of Arms & Armour Appendix List of Weapons mentioned in the Spogli, Spropriamenti, and Wills of Hospitaller Knights Laking’s ‘Catalogue of the Armour & Arms in the Armoury of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem.’ Glossary of Arms & Armour References & Notes Bibliography


17 47 75 119 141 163 183 201 229 273

359 369 383 389 405

Introduction It was with great pleasure that I accepted to write this forward to Stephen C Spiteri’s excellent new work on the subject of the historic armouries in Malta. Being myself an aficionado of military history, albeit better versed in periods more modern than that covered by this book, I can very well appreciate the eruditeness by which it has been both researched and written. I consider myself to have been singularly privileged to witness its long and meticulous gestation. Throughout this period I have enjoyed many great hours spent in regular discourse on the subject with Spiteri. This has not only enlightened me on a subject which I was soon to realize how little I knew about; it has also made me more conscious to the uniqueness and at the same time the fragility of our national armoury collection. As is to be seen in this book, the contents of our national armoury collection, most of which is based at the Palace Armoury Museum, are indeed some of the finest examples of their kind. Many were made by the ablest of masters of the trade for the noblest and richest of their time. Contained in this massive treasure collection are great works of art that certainly compare well with any of our precious canvases by great and famous masters such as Caravaggio, Preti, and Favray. Yet, for officialdom, in particular, this collection still remains an endless source of convenient objets d’art to line up corridors and stately halls in our grand public buildings. This false practice to gothicize the interior of our public buildings transcends from our former colonial masters. It is foreign and certainly holds no historic water with us. In my opinion, this great work by Spiteri should not only serve to trace the history of this collection and document its contents for the readers to enjoy and students to better understand. It should also serve to make us aware of the great needs that exist in the long-term preservation of this great historical collection. It also ought to galvanize the will to take timely action to ascertain that this unique treasure house is guaranteed a secure future through better management and ongoing conservation.

Mario Farrugia Executive Director FWA 23.II.03



to the first edition

A considerable number of young Maltese researchers and scholars have come into the field of historical studies, giving a reassurance that the long tradition established in our country in the past will not only continue, but will be strengthened. There is so much treasure in our heritage that has not been properly studied, evaluated, and made known. So that there are still areas of research where young scholars can roam and then establish their base and specialize. Stephen Spiteri has for some time concentrated his intellectual energies on the discovery, study, and illustration of the treasures bequeathed to us by our forebears and our erstwhile rulers, in connection with our military defence. His specialization has not, however, narrowed in scope. His books about our fortifications have become to be considered classics of their kind, attracting encomiums in their review by the specialized learned journals. On the other hand he has not restricted his studies to the most spectacularly beautiful and ingenious bastions built by the Knights of Saint John around Valletta and the Three Cities. He has set his gaze on the later British Fortifications in the North of the Island and scrupulously described every redoubt, tower, and fort throughout the Island. He has even made researching pilgrimages to the fortifications erected by the Hospitallers before they came to Malta. Spiteri has also focused on the study of armour, and in particular on the Armoury. This book is a result of his labours in the closest possible position, and contains a great deal of original research into the vicissitudes of the Armoury as an institution, as well as an invaluable study of many of the individual items. Spiteri’s work has the attractive trait of not only providing material for the experts in the particular discipline, further reinforcing in this way his standing as a recognized authority, but of interesting and intriguing all ‘lay’ lovers of our history. For this study sheds light, from a certain angle but given the times and circumstances, an extremely relevant angle, on our Islands’ history and the history of the Order. The history of Malta and Gozo during the years 15301798 is perhaps unique. We were governed by a religious Order of Hospitaller\warrior knights, with a standing army and a fleet fitted out not only to defend but also to police the seas around us. We acquired one of the largest and best equipped hospital, a well nigh impregnable line of


fortifications encircling our cities, a university, and a set of custom-made ‘Municipal Laws’. We as a nation were sometimes hard put but never completely removed from some say in the running of our country; in actual fact most of the civil servants, judges, doctors, surgeons, and officers in the Army and Navy were Maltese. We acquired a permanent assemblage of young and no longer young aristocrats from all over Europe, essentially trying to find a justification for their lives in the ideal of defending from here the whole of Christendom. Some of course made a nuisance of themselves and betrayed their vows. Taking on an overall view, there is no denying the fact that we began in 1530 a history of separate and independent political existence. That we are today an independent republic governed from within, owes much to the events following 1530 and our severance from Sicily. The knights of St John fulfilled their role of guardians of Malta and Europe by donning their suits of armour and brandishing their swords and rapiers. The prowess of every individual was established in personal combat, at first on land and later mostly at sea. Their armour has, therefore, become symbolic as well as emblematic. It was not, however, merely decorative or ceremonial. The regalia in our Armoury at the Palace, but a fraction of what we must have had, and what Stephen Spiteri now discovers to have actually had, are not simply shown together as a museum collection: they are in all senses the real thing: the resource centre for the armed defence of our country in times gone by. It speaks eloquently for the fact that the Order saw in the defence of Malta the raison d’etre of their existence that the Grandmasters should have lodged the armoury within their own residential palace. Stephen Spiteri’s new opus is thus a contribution towards the better understanding of our history. It is also more. It draws attention to the state of preservation of the treasures in the Armoury. We of this generation have an obligation, to preserve, to maintain, to study, to exhibit for the purpose of education, to exhibit for interest in leisure time. The Armoury attracts not only Maltese but also visitors from abroad. Stephen Spiteri’s work is not merely a scholarly work, it calls for the attention of all the country to the duty we have towards our heritage.

Dr. Ugo Mifsud Bonnici



Preface ‘A cloister without a library is like a castle without an armoury, For the library is our armoury’ Geoffrey de Breteuil (c.1165)

In his introduction to J F Verbruggen’s The Art of Warfare in Western Europe during the Middle Ages, Matthew Bennett remarks that it is unusual in any discipline for four decades to pass by without any scholar contributing to a field of study. Had he known that a century has elapsed since Laking produced the only book ever to appear on the Palace Armoury, he would have had to rephrase his sentence. Indeed, the one critical problem that has plagued the Palace Armoury from the day it was first established as a museum way back in 1860 has been an unfamiliarity with its historical past; a situation that has condemned it to the status of a gallery of curiosities ever since. This inability to depict the Armoury beyond the common notion of a mere antiquarian collection stems primarily from an astonishing lack of historical research. Until very recently, no serious effort was ever channeled towards understanding the real significance of the Palace Armoury. Basic questions of when and how this Armoury was set up, of how it was administered and equipped with weapons, and of how it functioned and developed within the overall Hospitaller military organization were never ever raised, let alone answered. As a result, the whole corpus of knowledge on this subject remained dependent on a few isolated facts draped in much speculation and myth. Throughout the Armoury’s 140 years as a museum, there was only one attempt to make a scholarly analysis. And that was nearly a century ago when Lord Grenfell, Governor of Malta, called in Guy Francis Laking (then one of the world’s leading experts on arms and armour) to study and evaluate the collection. The lasting product of Laking’s brief intervention was his publication but this, conceived as a catalogue, was mainly concerned with the description of the most notable items in the collection and said practically nothing at all on the history of the Armoury itself. Its purely descriptive approach, based largely on stylistic comparisons, may have then been permissible in the field of study of arms and armour, but it did no justice to the historicity of the Palace Armoury. For the Armoury collection is not


simply a compilation of antiques. Rather, it is the residue of a unique sala d’armi surviving in its original building. Its value and significance, therefore, are more than just the sum of its individual parts. As such, it cannot be treated simply as a museum of weaponry and its study must range more widely than merely the minutiae of armour design and construction. Without an examination of the wider contextual issues, a study of the Armoury collection is no more than a skeleton without the flesh. The disregard for historicity is even more inexcusable when one considers that the Palace Armoury is situated only a few metres away from the archives of the Order of St John at the National Library. It is indeed bewildering that such a rich source of primary information on the Armoury was never tapped at all and, I am sorry to say, it is still being sidestepped today. This lack of scholarship in the approaches to the appreciation of the collection is perhaps best summed up in the very title which, until I drew attention to it in 1998, was used to describe the Palace Armoury, the so-called Armeria di Rispetto. This fallacy was introduced in 1969 by Czerwinski and Zygulski, two experts who were sent by UNESCO to take stock of the collection, and it has been repeated with gusto ever since. The error in the term Armeria di Rispetto as applied to the Palace Armoury is twofold. For one thing it was translated literally as meaning ‘armoury of honour’, a totally incorrect interpretation for Armeria di Rispetto, in Italian military jargon, means a reserve armoury (French: ‘de recharge’), and this was a designation which was never applied to the Palace Armoury. Indeed, in all the original documents that deal with the Order’s military storehouses, this term is only used to refer to the Falconeria, a reserve armoury established in Melita Street in 1763 by Grand Master Pinto so as to take all the obsolete weapons removed from the Palace. Secondly, the Palace Armoury was never an ‘armoury of honour’ if we take this to mean a showpiece armoury. On the contrary, it was always, first and foremost, a fully functional central depository of arms and armour di munizione - a veritable military storehouse. So how did this confusion come about? It all originated from the simple fact that the Palace Armoury also took on, very early in its existence, the aspect of an antiquarian collection owing to the very statutes of the Hospitaller Order which stipulated that the military equipment of deceased knights escheated to the Order. And this knightly equipment was, after 1658, placed on display in the Armoury together with the ordinary equipment. However, when the Armoury was despoiled of the large mass of its weapons by both the French and British authorities, all that was left behind, in the words of D’Hennezel, were the ‘decorations de la salle’ - the rich trophies of arms and armour decorating the walls together with some mannequins and cannon. And it was these residual elements that, for more than a century and a half,


came to constitute the popular perception of the Armoury. To some extent, therefore, Czerwinski and Zygulski can be excused for falling into the trap for without any historical documentation at their disposal they could not easily understand the relationship between the two aspects of the Armoury, i.e., the arsenal and the collection of antiques. The two 18th century inventory lists which I unearthed during the course of my research, however, have helped establish the true nature of that relationship, proving that the Palace Armoury was a military storehouse first and an antiquarian gallery second. And as a military storehouse the fortunes of the Palace Armoury followed very closely the unfolding of military events. One can trace a cyclical pattern with peak periods of activity and low ones of virtual neglect. The former corresponded to times of great national emergencies caused by threats of attack and invasion, wherein the military equipment was reviewed and brought up to date, frequently with the massive purchase of new arms, while the latter corresponded to periods of relative peace when regulations were slackened and little attention paid to the state of the hardware. At times thousands of newly imported weapons remained unassembled inside stores once the threat of attack had died down, only to be brought out again during the next emergency and then found to be mostly unserviceable and in need of repair. Even so, throughout this rather wasteful process, the hoarding of material in the Palace Armoury grew increasingly in volume until in the 18th century it was necessary to have not just one armoury but a whole network of armouries scattered around the towns and villages in order to service the large military set-up required for the defence of the island, one involving a force of around 18,000 men. By 1785, in firearms alone, the Order had a breathtaking accumulation of over 40,000 muskets in store. The cleaning, servicing, maintenance, and storage of the vast quantities of equipment housed in the Order’s armouries required a significant investment which at times, particularly in the last decades of the Order’s rule, became an enormous burden. A closer look at the Armoury set-up has shown it to have been continually plagued by a critical lack of armourers, a shortage of cleaning materials, and poor storage facilities, much to the detriment of the military hardware which grew increasingly unserviceable, consumed by rust, and frequently had to be written off or sold as scrap metal. In the end, the whole logistical system simply crumbled under the pressure of the lightning invasion of the French. The reports of the distribution of bad powder, unserviceable firearms, and the wrong type of ammunition to the Maltese troops that are encountered in many a chronicle of the French invasion of Malta in 1798 have generally been attributed to subversion attempts by fifth columnists. In reality these were the symptoms of an inefficient logistical set-up that had long ceased to function. I acquired an interest in the history of the Palace Armoury during my short three-year stint as acting curator of this museum. Given that neither the


few pamphlets on the subject nor any other person at the time could enlighten me on the many historical matters that intrigued me, I had no other option but to seek out the information myself. Fortunately, the many years in the pursuit of the study of military architecture had already brought me in contact with many records in the archives of the Order of St John and it was these very same documents which provided me with the key to understanding the story of the Armoury. For among the many folios in the thousands of tomes kept in the National Library are to be found original manuscripts and letters, reports, and inventories that shed an important light on the history and development of the Palace Armoury and its collection of arms and armour. Still, the progress was not easy-going for there was no clear track to follow. Frequently I had to reformulate my own ideas as new facts cropped up whilst combing through the ponderous volumes in the archives. Similarly, I was often forced to question long-held views. One such ‘truth’ that did not stand up to the new historical evidence was the notion that the Palace Armoury dated back to the establishment of the Grand Master’s Palace in the 1570s. It is now clear that the Palace Armoury was only set up in 1604 by Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt who removed it from another building in Valletta. This armoury was originally situated in Piazza San Giorgio and known as the Pubblica Armeria and, before that, in yet another building in Strada Forni. Another popular notion which had to be discarded was that the Palace Armoury was the only armoury in Valletta when actually, in the 18th century, there were at least three others and one of these, that inside St James Cavalier, was a large depository of all types of weapons, second only to that in the Palace itself – it even had trophies-of-arms hanging from its walls. Although this study brings to light many new facts about the Armoury, I have no pretensions that it manages to answer all the questions to the issues which I set out to explore. There are still many large gaps in the overall picture, given that the available archival information, although plentiful, is of a fragmentary nature. There is obviously much more work that still needs to be done, especially in other archives abroad. Hopefully, other historians will take up where I have left off. What this publication has attempted to do, however, is to provide a framework for a proper understanding of the Palace Armoury. For, as I stated earlier on, the Armoury cannot be studied in isolation, nor simply as a collecton of antiques. It must be examined within the wider aspects of a military organization engaged in a perpetual state of warfare and then viewed against the overall historical backdrop that was conditioned by financial, social, and political constraints. This book, therefore, is not about arms and armour. It is not directly concerned with the individual items, although obviously these arms are frequently used to illustrate and corroborate the assumptions made. Even though an attempt has been made in this second edition to include a sort of illustrated catalogue


and a description of some of the items in the collection in order to acquaint the reader with the nature and variety of the exhibits, the focus of this book still remains the history of the Armoury as a military department, for the study of the arms and armour of Hospitaller knights is a specialized field in its own right and one that falls outside the primary scope of this exercise. Once this is not a study about arms and armour, then, one may ask, what is it really about? I believe that, as a book, it falls more comfortably under the classification of works that deal with the administration of war. For the Palace Armoury was, first and foremost, a functional military storehouse intended to service the military arm of the Order. To this end, this study revolves around two main themes; one seeks to trace the development of the Armoury’s primary function as an arsenal, examining the regulations and practices, including its organizational and logistical aspects, while the other follows its evolution into an antiquarian collection. And as a collection, what is left today represents only but a fraction of what this historical Armoury once contained. Yet despite the breathtaking magnitude of the spoliation that was to hit it during the course of the 19th century, the collection still remains a unique and formidable one. What is really sad is that one of the greatest blows to have ever been dealt it occurred in 1975, when the armour was hastily removed from its original gallery and transferred to the ground floor halls in order to make way for a new house of parliament. For with this relocation the collection forfeited not only its claim to being one of the few armouries in the world to have survived in situ but it also lost most of its dignity into the bargain since it was literally dumped haphazardly into what were once the Palace stables, a totally inadequate and ill-equipped place for any type of museum. It is a predicament that still plagues the collection to this very day. When I was first posted to the Palace Armoury Museum in 1995, I found a collection that had been reduced to a bleak and uninspiring random dispersal of exhibits. In the three years that followed (1995-1998) I tried to give it at least the semblance of a museum, regrouping the exhibits according to typological criteria and in general creating the atmosphere of an armoury, producing the basic layout still seen today. Even so, there was a limit to what could be successfully achieved given the very limited resources available at the time. More good work has been done since then. Yet, although a marked improvement on the bleak pre-1995 arrangement, this museum is still inherently an improvised affair, the product of a motley assembly of showcases borrowed or discarded from other museums or exhibitions, the whole punctuated by makeshift facilities. Unavoidably, nothing short of a major investment in adequate display and conservation facilities, sufficient human resources and, above all, a relocation of the Armoury to its original gallery on the first floor of the Palace, can give


back this collection the prestige and historical continuity it rightfully deserves. It is hoped that Heritage Malta, the new entity created to run the national museums, will one day take up the challenge and transform the Armoury into a veritable museum and a truly educational institution. Hopefully, too, this publication will help to contribute further towards the proper understanding and appreciation of such a unique collection in order that it may no longer remain simply a gallery of curiosities.

Stephen C Spiteri

Acknowledgements I would like to thank all those who made possible both the first and second editions of this book, through all the various stages, primarily the Board of Trustees of the Farsons Foundation, especially Chev. Anthony Miceli-Farrugia KM, Chev. Joseph Sammut KM and Dr Vincent Depasquale BA LLD. Thanks also go to Chev. Roger de Giorgio BE&A, FRIBA,FRHist, KM, Dr Philip Attard Montalto KM, Maj. Frederick Cauchi Inglott and all the members of the Sacra Militia Foundation for their encouragement and unstinting support. I specially like to thank Mr Mario Farrugia, Founder and Executive Director of Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna for his backing. I am similarly indebted to Mr Anthony Pace, former Director of Museums (now Superintendent of Heritage) for his encouragement and permission to reproduce photographs of the Palace Armoury exhibits in both publications. Likewise, I am grateful to Mr Dominic Cutajar, former Curator of the Museum of Fine Arts, Mr Dennis Vella and Mrs Theresa Vella for their permission to reproduce photographs of various portraits of knights in armour and for bringing to my attention an important detailed plan of the Armoury that they discovered in their reserve collection. I am also very thankful to the staff of the National Library for their courtesy and assistance, particularly Mr Joe Schirò who was then in charge of the Book Restoration Laboratory, where I discovered important 18th century plans of the Armoury.


In preparing the research for this book I am indebted to a host of individuals who freely contributed information. In the production of the first edition I was fortunate to secure the genuine assistance of two undergraduates, Mr Robert Grixti and Ms Joanne Busuttil who helped me track down various documents. In the preparation of this new edition I am indebted to Mr Ian Eaves, former curator of the Tower Armouries and an internationally acknowledged expert in the study of arms and armour, who has kindly read the chapter describing the Armoury collection and provided important advice. I would also like to thank Mr Mario Farrugia for allowing me to use his unpublished study on the Ximenes cannon and Mr Graham Priest for supplying me with observations from his study of bayonets in the Palace Armoury. Similarly, I thank Prof. David Stone of Delaware University for his permission to include material on the Wignacourt armour which he first discovered in the course of his research on Caravaggio. I also like to thank Simon Metcalf, Senior Conservator, Victoria & Albert Museum for supplying me with information on the ‘gonne-shield’. Other information was willing volunteered by Mr Antonio Espinoza Rodriguez, Curator of the Maritime Museum, Dr Robert Attard, Mr Joe Attard, Mr Anton Catania, Mr Nathaniel Cutajar, and Mr Joe Sammut, Restorer of Armour. I am likewise very grateful to Dr Joseph A Cannataci, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Malta Centre for Restoration and Mr Robert Smith, Head of Conservation at the Royal Armouries in Leeds for their support and for giving me the opportunity to participate in the International Conference on the Conservation and Restoration of Arms and Armour held in Malta in October 2002. I am again specially indebted to Mrs Theresa Vella for her assistance in the proofreading of this document. I also like to thank Mr Kurt Bonnici and Mr John Spiteri Gingell for their technical support and assistance in matters related to computer settings and layout. Last, but not least, I thank my family, particularly my wife Marthy, my mother and father, and David and John for all their support and patience.



Origins of the Palace Armoury The Knights of Christ The story of the Palace Armoury, as perhaps inadvertently hinted at by its very name, may appear to have simply commenced with the establishment of a military storehouse within the Grand Masters’ Palace early in the 17th century. A quick glance, too, at the predominantly late 16th, 17th and 18th century contents of the collection of weapons and armour will also tend to sustain this impression. A closer look at the exhibits, however, will reveal the presence of various medieval and early 16th century items of arms and armour which do not fit into this tidy picture, but show instead that the history of this Armoury goes back much deeper in time than one is initially given to understand. For when Grand Master Wignacourt set about reorganizing the magisterial palace as a military headquarters, the Order could already look back not only upon seventy years of military activity in Malta, crowned by the victory of the Great Siege of 1565, but also, prior to its setting foot on the Island in 1530, to a long tradition of military organization and warfare. Indeed, as a fighting brotherhood, the Hospitaller Order of St John could trace back its existence to the time of the Crusades. Ever since the Hospitallers took up arms in defence of the Faith as an extension of their eleemosynary activities in the Holy Land - for they were initially a charitable institution based upon the founding of a hospital in Jerusalem - the military wing of the Order was to become an effective and feared military organization capable of fielding a significant fighting force. Together with the Templars, the Hospitallers formed one of the twin pillars of the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem and participated actively in most of the battles and sieges fought in defence of the Latin East until they were finally expelled from their last stronghold of Acre in 1291 by the Egyptian Mamelukes. They continued their struggle against the infidel from their new base on the island of Rhodes, using their puny but efficient fleet of galleys built up during their short stay on Cyprus to raid Muslim shipping and coastal settlements until, with the growing power of the Ottoman Turks, their isolated position in the Dodecanese became untenable and was finally lost to a large army led by Suleyman II in 1522, following a siege which lasted six months. By the time of the Hospitallers’ arrival in Malta, the Order of St John had long since been


moulded into a respected force with a proven and efficient military set-up geared towards a perpetual state of warfare. In truth, the form that the Order took during its early organization in the Holy Land was to prove so effective that it remained practically unaltered throughout its entire military history while its constitution, which combined the concepts of knighthood and monasticism, ensured a single-mindedness of purpose that anchored the Hospitallers in the forefront of the Christian struggle against the infidel in a kind of holy war; in the Latin East it was first the need to protect the pilgrim routes and then to hold onto the Holy Land, in Rhodes and Malta, the need to resist Ottoman westward expansionism. The heart of this war machine, like that of any other military organization with its origins deeply rooted in the medieval world, were the knights - an élite corps of feudal warriors drawn from among the noble families of Europe. But unlike their secular counterparts, the Hospitaller milites were warriors bound by religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to an organization devoted towards furthering the aims and ambitions of the church. This did not make them the less militant – on the contrary, it served to reinforce their role as the soldiers of Christ, segregating the warrior-monks from the preoccupations of dynastic concerns and enabling them to develop their military aspects to a higher degree, particularly their training and discipline. The warrior-monk owed his military prominence to his social status and to his superior training and equipment. Still, in battle the Hospitaller knights did not fight alone. The small core of military brethren was supplemented by paid troops and native levies drawn from the Orders territories. Of the six thousand men who fought in the defence of the fortresses of Birgu, Senglea, and Fort St Elmo during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, to recall a well known fact, only five hundred were knights of the Order, the rest being mainly either Maltese inhabitants or else professional Spanish troops. Actually, the Siege of 1565 limns a closing phase in chivalric warfare, since it represents the last instance where the Hospitaller knight fought out a major land battle as the armoured backbone of the Order’s fighting forces in the crusading tradition of Outremer and Rhodes. Technological advances in the late 15th and 16th centuries had struck a singularly forceful blow at the military supremacy of the heavily armoured warrior and with the introduction of firearms and the adoption of professional standing armies, efficiency in war ceased to be the attribute of the knightly class. But perhaps the most significant factor that was to influence the fighting tradition of the Hospitaller knight was not so much the technological advances in warfare as the Order’s transformation into a naval arm. The loss of Acre in 1291 meant not only the loss of the Order’s main operating base in the Holy Land but also the loss of a Christian foothold in the Latin East. With the loss of Acre the Hospitaller knight had no other option but to trade his charger for the galley in order to retain his crusading métier, going on to


fight most of his crusading battles at sea, preying on Turkish shipping from his island bases of Rhodes, and later, Malta. In all the theatres of war in which the Order established its convent, the Hospitallers followed an unremitting aggressive policy of offensive actions – the chevauchée in the Holy Land and the naval corso in Rhodes and Malta. This continual belligerence inevitably roused heavy retaliation which in turn produced a defensive reaction in the form of powerful fortifications. In effect, the Hospitallers’ survival throughout nearly six hundred years of warfare was as much a result of their daring, bravery, and fighting prowess as it was due to their unceasing efforts in strengthening and building fortifications. Their ability to hold out as long as they did, perched as they were on the border outposts of Christendom in the face of ever-growing Saracen, and later Ottoman power, was largely possible only because of their possession of formidable fortresses. Maintaining an army, a network of fortifications and outposts, and after 1291, even a fleet of galleys, demanded a good organizational framework and huge resources went into ensuring that the armed forces, garrisons, and galleys of the Order were adequately supplied with the weapons and munitions necessary for war. Whereas knights, brethren-at-arms, and mercenaries were generally expected to supply their own armour, equipment and horses, the bulk of the Hospitallers’ armies, the native levies and militia, had to be armed at the expense of the Order. The committal to equip thousands of fighting men necessitated the procurement, storage, and replenishment of vast quantities of arms and armour, and munitions – weapons and provisions which in turn had to be stored in depositories under tight central control. The Sala d’Armi in the Grand Masters’ Palace at Valletta was one such storehouse. It was the Order’s central depository of weapons from the beginning of the 1600s onwards until the knights were expelled from the Island in 1798. In effect, the Palace Armoury represented the last of a series of military storehouses that were employed for the storage of arms and armour throughout the history of the Order as a fighting institution. The presence of these arsenals is encountered throughout the entire span of the Order’s military existence although comparatively very little is known about the nature and location of the early armouries which once existed in Outremer, Rhodes, and 16th-century Malta. The need for military storehouses would have undeniably accompanied the military arm of the Order from the moment of its inception. The fact that there is hardly any documentary evidence to account for their existence throughout most of the 12th century is mainly the result of the paucity of early records for it is difficult, otherwise, to imagine how mighty fortresses such as Belvoir, Marqab, and Crac, like any other veritable stronghold of the


period, could have functioned without well- provisioned armouries. The scarcity of information, moreover, is a problem which is not restricted solely to the logistical aspect of the Order’s military set-up for, in fact, even the nature and form of the Order’s military wing throughout this initial period in its history is little understood since military activities were not mentioned in the Hospitallers’ statutes until 1182 and no Chapter General seems to have dealt with the matter until 1206.1 The gift of the castle of Bait Gibrin to the Order in 1136 is generally taken to mark the beginning of the Hospitallers’ career of soldiering. Still, not all historians agree that the Hospitaller brethren had actually taken up arms by then. Although the Order must have already had some rudimentary form of military establishment to have been entrusted with the defence of such an important stronghold, this does not necessarily mean that there existed as yet a distinct class of brethren knights; the Order may have provided garrisons for this stronghold merely by hiring mercenaries - an arrangement which was never actually discarded. Groups of militia Christi and militia evangelica, composed of lay knights, were already in existence and providing armed escorts to the pilgrims travelling on the dangerous road from Jaffa to Jerusalem as early as 1113.2 It would have been a logical step for Brother Gerard to have sought the services of these militias, possibly even of the Templars themselves, for the protection of pilgrims travelling along the insecure routes. Whatever the form of its nascent military organization, the military arm of the Order was unquestionably a fast-growing and effective one for, by 1142, the Hospitallers had received yet another six castles. On the other hand, the fact that the Order of St John was ready to donate Crac des Chevaliers to King Wladislas of Bohemia does seem to imply that there did not as yet exist a sufficiently heavy military commitment on the Hospitallers’ part to maintain these important strongholds.3 By 1157, the military wing had evidently grown considerably, allowing the Order to send a column of troops to relieve the castle of Banyas and in 1168, the Hospitallers could contribute 500 knights to the expedition sent to Egypt.4 Indeed, the use of the Cross on the clothing of the brethren sometime before 1153 evinces the Order’s evergrowing conscious participation in the crusades.5 Still, it was not until after the disastrous defeat of the Christian army by Saladin at the Battle of Hattin in 1187 that the Papacy came to formally acknowledge the need for the Order’s military role.6 Even then, it was only in 1206, at the Chapter General held in the fortress of Marqab, that the Order’s statutes were finally revised to give its military organization its first statutory authority.7 By that time, however, the Franks had lost possession of the city of Jerusalem and the Order had to re-establish its convent elsewhere. To the Hospitallers, the loss of Jerusalem meant also the loss of their hospital and headquarters – a large and vast complex of buildings adjoining the convent of St Mary of


the Latins. Although primarily intended for the service of pilgrims, this vast compound was also capable of housing 400 Hospitaller brethren-at-arms according to the German pilgrim Theoderich in 1172.8 In all probability a section of the compound would have been set aside for the storage of military supplies. It is known that the Templars, that other great military order in the Holy Land on which the military set-up of the Hospitallers was modelled, had several magazines of arms inside their own headquarters situated within the palace of Solomon on the far eastern side of the Holy City. By the 1170s, the Hospitallers had grown to rival the Templars as a military power; they held around 27 strongholds and consequently their logistical requirements would have similarly dictated comparable storage facilities. The traveller John of Wurzburg, writing in 1170,9 remarked on the heavy expenses incurred by the Order to sustain many persons in its castles instructed in all the arts of war, a considerable part of which expenses must have indubitably gone towards the servicing and provisioning of arms and armour. The first indication of the existence of a Hospitaller armoury is found in the statutes of John de Villiers, laid down at the Chapter General of 1288, held in Acre. According to these statutes, the Marshal was given the authority to appoint a brother in charge of all armour and equipment (harnois) which escheated at the death of brethren or was left behind by those who departed

Plan of the vast Hospitaller complex (inset) in the city of Jerusalem (above) showing, (1) the Church of of St Mary of the Latins, (2) the Church of St Mary Magdalen and, (3) the Church of St John (after H.J.A. Sire).


from the Outremer to return to their European estates. This brother, the statutes tell us, was to ‘set in writing what he received, and what he gives out at the command of the Marshal.’10 The appointment of a Hospitaller knight in charge of the administration and control of military equipment, a responsibility held in later centuries by the Commander of Artillery, not only provides a clear indication as to the presence of an armoury but shows that this was a centrally governed depository of arms. For Acre was the seat of the Order’s convent in the Latin East ever since it was reoccupied after the fall of Jerusalem in 1191. Acre held by far the largest of the Order’s hospitals after that of Jerusalem itself and although throughout most of the 13th century the Hospitallers’ military activities were conducted mainly from Crac and Marqab, it remained an important logistical base for the arrival of fresh recruits, supplies, and provisions from the West. The corollary of the ordinances of 1288 was that with their enactment the armoury at Acre officially became a distinct department within the Order’s military organization. Previously, the administration of all military hardware was but one of the many duties of the Marshal, the military commander of the Order. Although the Master held supreme command of all military activities, it was the Marshal who headed the Hospitallers’ military hierarchy and exercised control over such matters; a practice modelled on that of the Templar knights. The office of Marshal first appeared in 1160 but it was only during the mastership of Hugh de Revel that he was given statutory right over the disposal of military equipment of Hospitaller brethren. Previously, this prerogative may have been acquired through established practice for no other official of the Order is known to have exercised control over military hardware. Nor was it the responsibility of other officers under the direct command of the Marshal: the Gonfalonier was the standardbearer, the Commander, first recorded in 1220, was appointed by the Marshal to lead a force in his absence, the Master Esquire (magnus scutarius) was responsible for all esquires and grooms, the Constable commanded the cavalry while the Turcopolier commanded the Turcopole light cavalry. Two other officers known to have existed, the Master Sergeant and the Master Crossbowmen, were actually mercenaries for they were not allowed ‘to eat at the table of brethren.’11 It should be pointed out that these statutes were only concerned with regulating the military equipment of the Hospitaller knights and sergeants. Nowhere is there any mention of the weapons and armour required to arm the common troops. The main reason for this is that unlike the bulk of ordinary matériel, which would have been the communal property of the Order, the equipment of the military brethren was the private property of the knights and sergeants themselves and, consequently, special rules were necessary to regulate its dispensation, particularly on the death of the brethren. This distinction between the equipment of the knightly class and that of the common troops is a factor which is encountered throughout nearly


Plan of the Hospitaller quarters at Acre, showing the hospital and row of storehouses.

all of the history of the Order’s armouries, except during the 18th century when firearms became the staple weapon of the knights’ armed forces. But whilst armour was still in use, the emphasis invariably was on the arms and armour of the Hospitaller knight and it appears that these two categories of arms were stored separately. The military brethren were required to take their own complete equipment with them when they were called up for a tour of duty at the Convent. Indeed, in 1293, they were even liable to be sent back if they arrived that ‘side of the sea without equipment’,12 and if called up and prevented from going by his feudal lord, a knight was still bound to send out the equipment, horses, and money and stores that he would have taken with him. At a later date, in the early 17th century, it was even decreed that no persons were to be accepted into the Order as warriors before they could prove that they owned their own military equipment, ‘... ne ricevere si possà in lingua o priorato alcuno ... che prima non habbia havuto fede dal V. Marescialo o suo luogotenente d’haver presentate e mostrate le sue armi, cioè corsaletto overo petto, morione e archibuso fornito e spada, sotto solenne giuramento che tal’armi siano sue proprie e non prestate.’13 In the Holy Land, a knight’s equipment remained his personal property until his death or his departure from Outremer. He was not allowed to part with it for any reason; if he had to be admitted to the infirmary, he was bound by the statutes to take his harnais with him and keep it at his bedside. Where he to die in the hospital, all his equipment was put in a sack, secured with the seal of the infirmary and handed over to the Marshal.


The arms and armour of deceased knights automatically became the property of the Marshal who had the right to bestow them where he thought fit. So was the equipment which was left behind when a knight departed from the Holy Land, for the statutes decreed that no brother could take back with him saddle, equipment, or horses. This practice not only ensured a reserve stock of weapons but also constituted a source of economic wealth. For the value of military equipment was considerable; the cost of arming a brother knight in 1303 amounted to 2000 tournois of silver, that of a brother sergeant, 1500.14 All this military matériel accruing to the Order would have created a surplus of equipment that would have had to be stored separately under tight control. Indeed, no brother could demand any part of it unless exchanging it for his own and no secular person could carry or keep the keys of the houses ‘in which were contained the provisions and goods of the house.’15 More interestingly, crossbows (arbalests) which escheated to the Order were to be stored separately in the treasury.16 The social disdain for this type of powerful projectile weapon by the knightly class and the Church did not apply to its use against the Saracens, where it became a most valued tool in the struggle against Islam, as is clearly attested by the Order’s need to hoard crossbows in its coffers. A glimpse of what the late-13th and early-14th century armouries must have contained can be had from the description of those belongings which were indicated in the statutes as appertaining to the Marshal on the death of brethren-at-arms: namely all manner of saddles, darts, gonfanons, pennoncelles, Turkish arms, axes, all manner of armour and of harness for animals, longbows (arcs de bodoc), all manner of armour, swords, lances, leather cuirasses, plate armour (platines), hauberks, gipells, breastplates (soubre seignals), iron hats, darts and bascinets. For the earlier period, however, particularly the 12th century, we must rely on a description of the equipment used by the Templar knights since none exist for the Order of St John. The French Rule provides a detailed account of Templar knightly equipment of around the 12th century; heaume (helmet) and chapeau de fer, hauberks or mail-shirt with chausses de fer (protection for the legs) and other pieces of armour worn to protect the shoulders and feet, the espaliers d’armes and soliers d’armes, escu (triangular shield), two-sided sword (espée), lance, Turkish mace and dagger. Most of this type of armour was still in use a century later, so much so that in the statutes of Hugh Revel we find references to espaliers d’arms, chausses, and chapel de fer as forming part of a Hospitaller knight’s apparel.17 The size of these medieval armouries and the quantity of weapons they contained is difficult to determine in the absence of documentary evidence. The extent of the Order’s depositories in Outremer would have borne some form of direct relationship to the size of the Hospitallers’ fighting force itself,


even though, judging by later practices, these would probably have been more than abundantly provisioned. Large quantities of arms are known to have been ordered by Master John of Villiers after a large number of weapons and horses, including forty brethren, were lost at the siege of Tripoli in 1289.18 An appreciation of the size of Hospitaller armouries in the Holy Land can to some extent be gained by looking at the composition of the Order’s armies throughout the 12th and 13th centuries. By the late-12th century, the Hospitallers rivalled the Templars as a military power, having some 300 brethren-at-arms. To this figure must be added paid troops and mercenaries, vassals from the Order’s territories, native levies and militia from the coastal fortresses, and Turcopoles. Paid troops were an increasingly important component in the Order’s armies both on campaign and in garrisoning castles. Both Christian and native mercenaries were employed by the Hospitallers, and were particularly useful in manning strongholds, particularly as the Order was continually acquiring more and more castles. Many mercenaries accompanied the crusader armies and most would have found employment with the Military Orders. Of the 4,000 crossbow-men who accompanied the Fifth Crusade, nearly half are believed to have been mercenaries. There were then the native troops. Amongst these were Syrian and Armenian auxiliaries and such was their importance that both military orders came to


Left, Hospitaller knights in the early 13th century. Throughout the 12th century a black mantle was worn over the armour (middle) but this was replaced in 1248 by a black surcoat with a white cross. The sword was carried on a leather belt with the scabbard frequently worn beneath the mail. Above, a Templar knight on his charger from a mural in the Templar church at Cressacsur-Charente.

Reconstructed aerial view of the Hospitaller castle of Belvoir, showing the concentric form of defensive layout with the inner ward serving to house the knights’ quarters.

include the Turcopolier amongst their most important officers. Another source of troops for the Order came from its vassals. As the owner of vast territorial possessions, the Order, like any other feudal lord, was itself owed servitium debitum by its vassals. The acquisition of Arsuf in 1261-65, for example, provided the Hospitallers with the service of 6 knights and 21 sergeants.19 The earliest account of the size of a Hospitaller force dates to 1168 and mentions a thousand men, promised to King Almaric I for his raid on Egypt. This force comprised 500 knights and 500 turcopoles; it would seem that these were mostly mercenaries since Master Gilbert d’Assailly had to raise huge loans to finance this army. Later, during the Fifth Crusade, the Hospitallers were able to raise a force of 700 knights, presumably horsemen including sergeants and turcopoliers, and 2,000 foot, while in 1233, they provided 100 knights, 300 sergeants, and 1,500 infantry for an attack on Ba’rin. A letter written by the Order’s Master, Hugh Revel (1258-1277), however, reveals that the Hospitallers could only muster some 300 knights in the whole of Syria in 1268. The size of a Hospitaller garrison manning one of the many castles in the Latin East depended mostly on the strength, extent, and importance of the stronghold itself. Where recorded, garrison strengths were often substantial, though these were certainly mainly mercenary in composition, the proportion of fighting brethren of the Order being always very small and rarely consisting of complements of more than 40 to 60 men. When the castle of Marqab fell in 1285, for instance, there were only 25 Hospitallers out of a force of some


thousand men in that fortress.20 Of these, only a maximum of 300 troops would have constituted the castle’s permanent garrison. As far as the military orders were concerned, the presence of 20 to 30 brethren in a castle was a considerable force. At Crac des Chevaliers there were 60 knights in 1255 while at Mt Tabor, there were 40. These figures would imply that the Hospital had around a third of its knights in the East engaged in garrisoning Marqab and Crac des Chevaliers, which, considering the importance of these two castles to the Order, presents no surprise.21 The Hospitallers also devoted a large number of their brethren to the defence of coastal fortresses. Antioch, Tripoli, and Acre, being important centres, had their own convent and in these places the Order was actually responsible for manning and defending key sections of the fortifications. When Arsuf fell in 1265, about 90 Hospitaller brothers were killed or captured and later, at the siege of Tripoli in 1289, they again lost 40 of their brethren and 100 horses. This was considered so serious a toll that attempts were made to bring over reinforcements from Europe to make up for the loss. The siege of Acre saw the greatest concentration of Christians fighting in defence of any fortress in the Latin East. Contemporary chroniclers give a population of 30-40,000 of which 900 were mounted troops, knights, and sergeants (half of whom would have been Hospitaller brethren), and 12,000 foot soldiers, mainly armed folk and pilgrims.


Bottom, a romantic 19th-century illustration depicting crusaders in battle.

Apart from the central depositories of Jerusalem, and later Acre, there also appear to have been other significant armouries situated in the principal Hospitaller fortresses of Belvoir, Marqab, and Crac des Chevaliers. All these fortresses were also main administrative centres at one time or other, and were manned by sizable garrisons, thus requiring huge stocks of armaments and munitions to ensure their own defence. At Marqab, for example, which had a garrison force of around 1000 men, the knights could hoard enough supplies to sustain themselves for five years against a determined siege. Which of the many large vaulted magazines and halls still to be seen at Marqab, Crac, Belvoir, and other surviving Hospitaller strongholds actually served as these castles’ armouries will probably always remain a matter for speculation as there is nothing to indicate the use of these great interiors, except of course, for refectories and kitchens. In the Middle Ages it was common practice to store weapons inside towers though even underground vaults were used occasionally, as attested by the armeria in the Castello di Mussomeli, Villalba, Italy. It also appears that the Hospitaller weapons were hoarded within the castles’ inner wards, for these fortified cores, besides acting as secondary lines of defence during attack, also served as defensible collachia, by which the quarters of the brethren were set apart from those of the levies and mercenaries. Such an arrangement gave the Hospitaller brethren some degree of protection against a mutiny en masse and ensured direct control over the castle’s military supplies.22 The loss, in rapid succession, of Crac, Marqab, and Tripoli to Sultan Baybers in the second half of the 13th century meant that the Hospitallers lost not Crusader sword with Arabic only their most crucial fortified possessions in the Holy Land but also much inscription indicating that of their military hardware, even though on most occasions, the small it was stored in the Hospitaller contingents in the garrisons were allowed to retire with their Mameluk arsenal of horses and arms. One mangonel, for example, taken from Crac des Alexandria in 1419 Chevaliers after its capture in 1271, was employed by the Saracens at the (Metropolitan Museum of siege of Acre in 1291. Art).

In Acre, the last Christian outpost in the East, the Hospitaller knights were responsible for manning a section of the city’s walls. Together with the Templars they fought tenaciously in the city’s defence but after a monthlong siege the Christian defenders succumbed under the weight of the Mameluke attacks. The whole city with its rich buildings, merchant houses, and warehouses was set afire and demolished, and the thousands of people caught inside were either massacred or taken into slavery. Huge numbers of Frankish weapons and armour fell into Muslim hands and on occasions of victory these were sometimes ritually displayed to the public. One crusader sword in the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a blade with an Arabic inscription which indicates that it was stored in the Mameluke arsenal of Alexandria in 1419.23


An Island Kingdom in Rhodes The Hospitallers lost everything with the fall of Acre, including most of their brethren-at-arms (only seven knights managed to escape with their lives) and all their military equipment. Even the Master of the Order, John of Villiers, barely managed to escape with his life as he had to be carried away by his sergeants, badly wounded, and taken by boat to Cyprus. The magnitude of the disaster can be gauged by the fact that more than ten years later the number of fighting brethren present in the Convent at Cyprus was never greater than 80 men, a striking contrast when compared with the hundreds of knights who had garrisoned the fortresses of Latin Syria. In Cyprus, the Order set about rebuilding its military strength from scratch. It established its convent in the fortified city of Limassol on the south coast of the island where the knights already held some possessions. The years spent in Cyprus between 1291 and 1309 were characterized at first by a loss of purpose and next by a growing realization that a military role still existed if the Order could develop from a land power into a naval one. As early as 1300, and acting in conjunction with the Templars, the Hospitallers dispatched a fleet from Famagusta with a small force which raided a number of coastal villages in Egypt and Palestine. This puny seaborne raid, although a relatively unimportant excursion, was the knights’ first tentative step in the direction of what was later to establish them as the most feared Christian corsairs in the Mediterranean. In Cyprus, however, the Hospitallers were not allowed to act as they wished for the Lusignan king and his nobles were suspicious of the Order’s military powers and forbade the knights from acquiring property or arming ships without royal licence. Thus, unable to act freely as they were always accustomed to, they were soon casting around for a new territorial base they could call their own. They found it in the Byzantine island of Rhodes. With the capture of Rhodes, the Order not only secured a new home that eventually acquired the trappings of a sovereign state but also a new strategic role. At first the island was regarded as a base from where military operations could be launched for the recovery of the Holy Land but growing Turkish power led instead to a policy of resistance to Ottoman expansionism and to


A map of Rhodes showing the principal Hospitaller strongholds. Below, the fortified city of Rhodes and its harbours.

the defence of the Latin possessions in the eastern Mediterranean. The Hospitallers’ fleet of galleys, which they first developed in Cyprus, was now perfected into an efficient naval force that was to remain the Order’s chief instrument for waging war against the Infidel throughout the following centuries. The rebuilding of the Rhodian fortress clearly reflected the Order’s new maritime role. Its harbours were fortified to protect the fleet of galleys and a great arsenal was set up within its walls to cater for the needs of the naval arm. The Byzantine governor’s castrum on the little eminence overlooking the port was adopted as the Master’s residence and eventually rebuilt as a sovereign palace, while the northern half of the walled Byzantine city was turned into a collachium. Within its walls were established the conventual dwellings, the hospital, the dockyard and the military storehouses. The fortress of Rhodes was more than just a military base. It was also the administrative and economic centre of the Order’s own little kingdom in the Dodecanese. For with the capture of this formerly Byzantine outpost, itself a large mountainous country, came also a string of dependent islands; Chalki, Andimacchia, Symi, Tilos, Nysiros, Kos, Kalymnos, and Leros. Defending these territorial possessions from the continual attention of the Turks necessitated a heavy military investment. Both the numerous strongholds which controlled the Rhodian hinterland and the insular outposts, not to mention the vast enceinte of the main fortress itself, had to be constantly manned and provisioned with arms and munitions. The primary difficulty facing the knights in Rhodes, however, was that of finding enough fighting men for the defence of their territories. Before 1306, Turkish razzie and slave raiding had severely reduced the population of Rhodes and the Dodecanese islands such that the Hospitallers’ first task on taking control of the islands, was to try to repopulate them by attracting Latin settlers in return for gifts of land. For example, in 1391, the feudal lord of the Rhodian village of Lardos, Nicolino di Lippio, was obliged to furnish ‘un huomo d’arme ben montato e ben armato il quale fosse di natione Latino e non greco.’ 24 Nevertheless, the number of men who settled permanently on Rhodes remained small and this failure to attract western settlers compelled the knights to rely heavily on mercenaries. Still, some of the lesser islands and many of the secondary castles on Rhodes itself remained so poorly defended that these had to be abandoned every time a serious threat of attack materialized. As late as 1470, the Grand Master was asking the Pope to send ‘un buon numero di soldati pagati’ since most of the Order’s strongholds ‘di Difenditori Latini erano quasi vacui.’25 Throughout the 14th century the minimum force thought necessary to serve as a permanent garrison in Rhodes was of 500 cavalry and 1,000 foot soldiers. The number of military brethren in the East at that time stood between 200 and 350, though there were never really more than a 100 knights and servants-


A wall painting from the church of St Georgios Chostos in the Fortress of Philerimos, Rhodes, showing a Hospitaller knight in the late 1400s.

at-arms residing in the city at any one time. In 1340 it was proposed that the city of Rhodes itself should be defended by 50 mounted secular men-atarms, 1,000 infantry servientes in addition to the 200 Hospitaller milites, each with a squire and 2 horses, and 50 mounted Hospitaller sergeants. A later scheme proposed that the existing mercenaries be replaced by 50 Hospitaller sergeants. A good picture of the garrison strength of the Hospitaller outposts in the Dodecanese is provided by that of the island of Kos. In 1391, the Hospitaller commander of Lango (Kos), the most strategic of the Dodecanese islands after Rhodes, was expected to maintain the garrisons of four castles with 25 miles, 10 homme d’armes latins, 100 Levantine turcopoles and some 150 men and a few mercenaries from the squadra of the single galley stationed there, all paid for from the island’s


Below, two illustrations showing a Hospitaller sergeant (left) and knight (right) in the 14th century, based on the relief marble tombstone from the grave of the knight Petrus de Pymorage (left) dating to 1402, now at the Archaeological Museum in Rhodes. The knight wears a combination of full mail and plate armour. His head is protected by a pointed bascinet attached to a mail aventail. His body is protected by a mail hauberk and breastplate, covered by a closely tailored jupon which would have been decorated by his personal coat-of-arms (as hinted by the paintings in the Church of St Georgios) upon which was worn the red surcoat of the Order. Plate armour protects his limbs.

income. The garrison of St Peter’s Castle in Bodrum, on the other hand, was usually composed of 100 Latin stipendiati or socii (mercenaries) and 50 knights.26 In 1409, these stipendiati cost the treasury 6,000 florins annually. By 1520, there were 150 mercenaries and every time that formidable fortress was threatened by attack, its garrison was reinforced with contingents of soldiers, sometimes as many as 300, from Rhodes. These comparatively small garrisons were still much more than what most of the castles on Rhodes ever witnessed. Lindos, one of the strongest and most important castellanie on the island, was defended in 1522 by a small


Above, two knights of Rhodes in the 15th century wearing North Italian armour (left) and German ‘Gothic’ armour (right). Bottom right, Grand Master D’Aubusson as depicted in Caoursin (fol.33v) wearing a ‘Gothic’ harness. Above, right margin, the knight Niccolo Aringhieri from a fresco by Pinturicchio, in Siena Cathedral.

body of 12 knights and 22 mercenaries together with an ad hoc force of peasants which had gathered from the surrounding villages to seek shelter from the invading Turks. Inevitably, the Greek inhabitants were involved in the defence of the islands and some of these were formed into a body of light cavalry some 400 strong, under the command of the Turcopolier, and were frequently used to patrol the coastline and the remote rural areas. The largest military force was employed in the defence of the mother fortress. By 1466, there were 350 brethren (knights, sergeants and chaplains) residing inside the collachium at Rhodes.27 In times of greater danger the standing force of Hospitaller knights was increased, with more brethren summoned from the European commanderies. In 1470, the Prior of Capua, Frà Cencio Orsino, was despatched to the court of King Ferdinand of Naples to try and


Detail from one of the lunettes in the Castello di Issogne, in Italy, showing the manner in which weapons were stored in that castle’s ‘casa delle guardie’ during the late 15th century. Bottom, one of the many warehouses built by the knights in Rhodes for the storage of military and naval supplies imported from Europe (after Rottiers).

secure adequate reinforcements since it was considered that the garrison in Rhodes was around 1,500 men short, ‘... dimostrandogli, che per resistere à si gran potenza; erano necessarij altri mille, e cinquecento Soldati, di più di quelli, ch’in Rhodi si trovavano, trà Balestrieri, & Archibusieri’,28 while in the following year the Council ordered that the force of Hospitallers in Rhodes be increased to at least 450 ‘Religiosi d’ogni grado’.29 The last siege of 1522 saw some 600 knights and sergeants deployed on the ramparts of the city, the highest number of brethren ever assembled. The bulk of the defending army came from the urban militia, formed from amongst the civilian population, divided into separate legions representing various sections of Rhodian society. Still, in all, there were no more than 5,000 men facing a formidable Turkish army of 200,000 abundantly equipped with siege artillery. The logistical set-up necessary to feed the network of Hospitaller fortresses and outposts scattered throughout the Dodecanese centred around a wellsupplied base located within the Rhodian fortress. All existing documentary evidence points to the presence of a large depository of arms and munitions


Illustration taken from the Codex Monacensis 222 showing the manner of storage of arquebuses around 1500.

within the city, although it has yet to be determined whether this military storehouse was located inside the Grand Masters’ Palace, a veritable medieval stronghold in its own right, or within the many magazines erected inside the collachium. A direct reference to the presence of this armoury as a distinct department appears in 1459 when, as part of the hectic preparations for the defence of the island, 50,000 florins were set aside for the administration and payment of fees of the ‘soldati ordinari, bombardieri, fonditori, Turcopli, guardiani intorno all’Isola di Rodi, per l’arsenal and per l’armeria, maestri di balestre e di archibugi.’ 30 An earlier reference, dating to 1397, even speaks of the need for the drawing up of an inventory of the ‘armerie’, suggesting the presence of more than one depository of arms, though this may, most probably, be referring to the military storehouses located within the various strongholds themselves rather than to those located within the city. An English visitor to Rhodes in 1345, for instance, noticed the presence of many armourers and all the artificers necessary to a city or a royal castle.31 That the armoury in the Rhodian fortress functioned as a large centrally administered department is clearly evidenced by the arrival in Rhodes, in 1476, of a ship laden with a cargo of ‘400 corazze’, all of which had been ordered from the Venetian Republic by Grand Master d’Aubusson so as to


Top, drawing of a crossbow from a medieval statute book of the Order. Above, a typical crossbowman of the 15th century wearing a brigandine and sallet (after Voillet le Duc) similar to the ones depicted in Caoursin’s miniatures showing the siege of Rhodes in 1480, (above,right).

equip the sailors of the Order.32 Earlier in 1470, the knight Frà Nicolò Corogna was commissioned to proceed to Venice in order to purchase ‘un buco di galera’ and a ‘buona quantità di corazze, di balestre e d’altre armi.’ This was not the first time that Venetian arms reached Rhodes; earlier in 1402, the Republic was already sending ‘bombardas, ballistas et veretones’ to the knights. 33 The need to restock the armoury with quantities of arms can also be found in 1365, when, fearing reprisals after an attack on Alexandria, the Hospitallers called up 100 brethren to Rhodes, and sent for victuals, horses, and pieces of armour. Even earlier, in 1314, we find that swords were being exported to Rhodes from Puglia.34 More provisions were required in 1434, when Grand Master Antoine Fluvian wrote to the Prior of France, Frà Ugo de Sarcus and to all the other ‘priori, e commendatori, che mandar dovessero in Rodi quella maggior quantità di balestre, di virettoni e d’altri armi che possibili gli fossero.’ 35 Again in 1440, Frà Ugo di Sarcus was commissioned to purchase ‘quella maggior quantità d’armi, d’artiglieria e di salnitri’ that could be found, and sometime later Frà Perone di Monlasur, ‘Commendatore della Tronquiera’,


Typical crossbow-slits and machicolation found along the ramparts of the fortress of Rhodes.

was to sent to recruit mercenaries ‘al soldo della Religione’, and to despatch to Rhodes ‘due o tre navi grosse genovese ben armati di soldati, di balestrieri, d’artiglieria, di polvere, e di saette.’ 36 Enough provisions of weapons and munitions seem to have been kept in store to supply not only the needs of the fortress of Rhodes itself but also those of the outlying strongholds as evidenced by the following order, ‘... dovesse tenere i Castelli [di Lango] ben proveduti d’armi [e] di munitioni .’ 37 Reading through Bosio’s Storia della Religione one finds that arms and munitions were continually being sent out to resupply hard pressed garrisons stationed in the various outposts, particularly throughout the 15th and 16th


centuries. In 1495, for example, amongst the military supplies despatched to the fortress of Narangia in Kos, were ‘71 rotoli di bona polvere di bombarda’ and a large quantity of bow-string, in all ‘300 manj di filo di balistra.’ 38 Crossbows were then considered an important weapon for the defence of castles, ‘terre o fortezze’ so much so that the statutes of Grand Master Antonio Fluviano (1421-1437) specifically stressed the need for trained ‘balestreri’ to form part of Hospitaller garrisons and moreover decreed that the knights were to exercise twice a week in the use of this projectile weapon, ‘...di giochare alla balestra nella loggia o nell’ altri lochi consueti.’ 39 The garrison of St Peter’s Castle in Bodrum, for instance, which consisted of around 100 stipendiati was expected to be equipped at least with ‘due balestre per chiaschuno.’ 40

Hospitaller knights in ‘Gothic’ armour (Caoursin).

By 1475 the Rhodian armoury was apparently well stocked not only with crossbows but also with arquebuses, for the ‘siniscalco del Gran Maestro’ was instructed to distribute the necessary weapons to all those country folk who had sought refuge within the city’s ramparts and were capable of fighting as ‘archibusieri e balestrieri’.41 Around that time both large and small , firearms were becoming an increasingly important component of the Order’s military hardware. Not only did the ever-growing use of gunpowder introduce new weapons which the knights were quick to exploit in defence of their fortress but it eventually changed the shape and form of their fortifications too. In response to the growing threat posed by the increasingly destructive power of siege artillery and the explosive mine, the Hospitallers were compelled to invest huge resources into the refortification and strengthening of their major fortresses in an attempt to counter the threat of these new weapons which the Turks were quick to master and exploit, as witnessed by the fall of Constantinople. This feverish building activity was only interrupted


by the siege of 1480. Thereafter, Grand Master d’Aubusson’s prolific military works, slightly augmented and finalized by D’Amboise and Del Carretto, basically fashioned the city into the most powerful gunpowder fortress in the Mediterranean. The fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453 rendered Rhodes the easternmost Christian outpost in the heart of an ever-growing Turkish empire. Rhodes’ proximity to the Turkish mainland and the Hospitaller’s aggressive preying on Muslim shipping also meant that the Turks could not afford to ignore an island that commanded the sea route to Syria and Egypt and was

Above, main picture, North Italian sallet of around 1520 (Palace Armoury Museum) and other types of sallets of the period as would have been used in Rhodes (right margin). Right, Hospitaller man-at-arms wearing a brigandine and plackart (Caoursin).


a constant thorn in their side. By the beginning of the 16th century, Rhodes and the surrounding islands were being subjected to an increasing pressure of razzie and the Hospitallers were forced to hold their possessions in a perpetual state of readiness. After capturing Belgrade in 1521, the Turkish Sultan Suleyman turned his attention to Rhodes. This time the Turks returned with heavy artillery and some 200,000 men. The 5,000-strong army defending the city in 1522 was stretched out over some 3 km of ramparts and bulwarks, the various Tounges of the Order being each assigned a section of the enceinte to defend. This practice was introduced by Grand Master Zacosta in 1465 primarily to ensure that no part of the fortifications, especially one with such a long perimeter as Rhodes, remained undefended. It also helped to exploit the rivalry between the various nationalities within the Order to the advantage of the defenders since none of the Langues could afford to lose or abandon their posts to the enemy without some loss to the prestige and honour of their country. The backbone of the Christian army were perforce the heavily-armoured knights clad in harnesses of steel. A general call to arms in the days prior to the arrival of the Turkish armada revealed 600 military brethren ‘fra Signori della Croce, Commendatori, Cavalieri e Fra Servienti’, all armed and equipped with their personal arms and armour and donning the red sopraveste. There was also a body of 400 professional soldiers from Crete, recruited by Frà Antonio Bosio. These soldiers were equipped with their own ‘arme bianche alcuni di quale portavano spadoni da due mani (double-handed swords), alcuni archibugi e altri archi.’ The bulk of the Christian fighting force were the ‘Soldati, Marinari, & huomini delle Galere e delle Navi ...e fra loro c’erano anche molti Cittadini di Rodi,’ all armed and equipped from the Order’s armouries. 42

Right, bombard with the coat of arms of Grand Master D’Aubusson now at Les Invalides, Paris (Photograph after Schmidtchen).


Rhodes under attack in 1480 (Caoursin).



The gunpowder fortifications of Rhodes: gun-loops and bulwarks (bottom). Opposite page, scenes from the siege of Rhodes in 1480 (Caoursin).

The siege of Rhodes in 1522, however, proved to be a complete departure from the traditional form of medieval warfare. It was fought out with heavy artillery and explosive mines on an unprecedented scale. Hand-held firearms played an important part in the struggle although the armoured knight still had a large role to play in the defence of the fortress. For once inside the fortifications, the attackers soon had to abandon their unwieldy firearms with their slow rate of fire for the more conventional swords, maces, axes, and pikes, and in the ensuing melĂŠe, the heavily armoured knight held a marked advantage over the lightly armoured Janissaries and Spahis. A small number of knights, stationed in a breach and hacking away at the enemy with their heavy two-handed swords could effectively stem the tide of an


FrĂ Sabba da Castiglione, from a fresco in the church of the Commenda of Faenza, shown in armour of the early 16th century.


assault. And it was the resolution of these armed men that repeatedly kept the Turkish hordes from breaking into the city walls. Grand Master Philip Villiers de L’Isle Adam inspired a valiant chivalric defence but after six months of heavy fighting, manpower and munitions had evaporated significantly. No effective help arrived from the West and the Order was forced to surrender and accept the good terms offered by the Sultan. On the 1st of January 1523, the Hospitallers left Rhodes. The conditional surrender at Rhodes, unlike the quasi-annihilation at Acre in 1291, however, ensured a degree of continuity in the military affairs of the Order, since the knights were allowed to leave with many of their possessions and these included all the weapons that they could carry away with them. Still, much equipment had to be left behind. Rottiers, on a visit to Rhodes in the early 19th century saw a large number of what he describes, and then also depicts in his book, as lances and halberds scattered around the city’s ramparts, particularly near the Gate of St John (Koskinou), together with a number of cannon bearing the arms of the Order.43 A rich collection of 15th century Italian and German armour, comprising sallets, breastplates and backplates, originally at the Rotunda in Woolwich but later transferred to the Tower Armouries and now at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, is reputed to have been brought from Rhodes during the 19th century. A further crippling blow was dealt with the loss of the Santa Croce, one of the vessels conveying the knights and their men from Rhodes to Crete. This ship, which was carrying arms and artillery rescued from Rhodes valued at 10,000 scudi, unexpectedly foundered at the entrance to the harbour of Candia and sank with all of its cargo.44


Top, left, some of the halberds and bills seen by Rottiers in Rhodes in the 19th century. Many such weapons were then still to be found inside Koskinou Gate (top). Above, Hospitaller knight from the 15th century at St John Gate, Clerkenwell.


The Knights of Malta The Castrum Maris From Crete, the remnants of the Hospitaller force, joined by the garrisons of the castles of Bodrum, Kos, and the lesser islands made their way to Civitavecchia in the Papal states and then settled down to a temporary residence at Viterbo. The next seven years were spent casting around for a new home as Grand Master L’Isle Adam toured the courts of Europe trying to muster international support for the reconquest of Rhodes. As early as 1523 the Spanish crown had offered the island of Malta to the Order for its new base but a commission of Hospitaller knights sent to inspect the island in 1524 returned unimpressed by the arid and infertile land and the poor, rundown fortifications. The alternative options, however, were non-existent, and as the years wore on the knights were forced to reconsider Charles V’s offer. In 1530 the Order of St John took possession of Malta together with the burdensome fortress of Tripoli, a Spanish North African outpost that was included in the deal. Of the two available strongholds in Malta, the Hospitallers chose the Castrum Maris and its suburgu inside the Grand Harbour as the seat of their new convent - a logical choice dictated by the Rhodian tradition and the exigencies of a naval establishment. The knights established their military headquarters within the old sea-castle and immediately set about reorganizing it to serve their military needs. A large advance party of masons and carpenters under the command of Frà Diego Perez de Malfreire, ‘Ingeniere e Soprastante dell’opere’ arrived early in the summer of 1530 to commence repair works on the walls and buildings of the old castle. The Castellan’s residence, the only worthy building within the old castle, was chosen as the Grand Master’s abode and reconstructed into a small magistral palace. New dwellings, stores, and magazines were added to receive the knights and their equipment for the forty or so dwellings then existing within Opposite page, Grand the castrum walls were found to be wholly inadequate. Master Philippe Villiers de l’Isle Adam receiving

Like any other medieval stronghold of its age, the Castrum Maris was then the keys to the gates of equipped with its own modest armoury. This is attested by a number of the city of Mdina, documents. The earliest, dating to 1274, mentions a considerable arsenal of painting by Favray.



Cannon forged with the coat of arms of Grand Master Philippe Villiers de l’Isle Adam (St John Gate, Clerkenwell). Opposite page, the magistral palace at Fort St Angelo (Castrum Maris).

31 wooden crossbows (balistas di legno) for two-foot bolts with 10,000 bolts, 22 crossbows for one-foot bolts with 5,000 quarrels, two crossbows of horn (balistam de cornu ad tornum), an arcumbalistum, also of horn, 27 broken wooden crossbows, 33 large lances (lanceas magnas) and 27 others called lanceos gattarolos, 18 shields without livery, together with 16 barrels of pitch, and a large quantity of ‘filo cannapis filate pro faciendis cordis balistrum’ (bowstring). There were also four heavy wooden catapults (bliddam) deployed around the fort. In 1429 the sea-castle housed 35 crossbows, 158 lances and spears, and a supply of stone and metal cannon balls for eight bombards of different sizes, together with a supply of timber for siege engines. To these were proposed to be added, in 1485, 150 ‘lanzi maniski’ and 100 shields (targui).1 The state of the castle’s armament at the time of the arrival of the knights of St John is not known. Its artillery complement, however, was not impressive, especially for a fortress perched on the frontiers of Barbary, and speaks much about Malta’s real importance as a Spanish domain. According to Bosio the knights only found a ‘mezzo cannone petriero’, two ‘falconetti’ and a few bombards. A wrought iron breech-piece of a built-up gun of the port piece type, now displayed in the Palace Armoury, was long thought to have been one of the medieval bombards found by the knights in this castle. The fortress of Tripoli, by comparison, was heavily armed with some 45 pieces of artillery of various types according to a detailed inventory drawn up by the Spaniards on the handing over of the fortress to the knights in 1530.2 Tripoli, however, was an important frontline military outpost located within Muslim territory that could only be securely held by force of arms. In 1530 the Maltese islands were still geared towards a predominantly medieval form of warfare even though some attempts had been made to provide the sea-castle with a few pieces of ordnance and parts of its walls were scarped off to counter the effects of artillery.3 Indeed, a study of the local militia shows that they were still mainly armed with pikes (azagaghe) and clad in cotton armour (giubbe ... fin a mezza gamba di cotone).4 Firearms do not seem to have been in ample supply in Malta then.5 As a matter of fact, weapons in general seem to have been rather scarce. Various


late-15th century documents speak of a ‘gran mancamento d’ arme’ and the need to arm the island’s ‘quattro milia huomini’; two moors captured in Gozo by the mounted coast-guard in 1453 were sold off as slaves and the money used to purchase weapons to arm the poor of the island.6 A request by the Università of Mdina to the Viceroy of Sicily, in 1517, for the supply of ‘dugento petti, et corazzi, et di due mila rotelle, et altre tante lancie manische’, and 200 ‘scopetti e balestre’ was answered with only 80 ‘scopetti’.6a

The Order’s Gran Carracca, the Sant’Anna, had an armoury on board capable of equipping 500 men. Right, the breech-piece of a 16th-century built-up wrought-iron cannon known as a port-piece (shown in the drawing below) long thought to have been a medieval bombard and in fact was displayed as such, mounted on a reproduction wooden carriage described as Pezza Cavalca (based on a design taken from an old work entitled ‘Pratica Manuale dell’Artiglieria’ published in Milan in the year 1606). The breech-piece has a calibre of 6.5 inches. The port-piece shown below was used on ships and was designed to fire stone shot. (Palace Armoury Museum).

Is it not known what quantity and type of weapons the knights brought over with them to the castle. Surely, most equipment salvaged from Rhodes in 1523 would have accompanied the Order to Malta and must have found its way into the armouries and magazines of the Castrum Maris. Various items of arms and armour still to be found in the Palace Armoury, such as the North Italian Sallet, a Maximillian close helmet, and the remains of a brigantine, to name but a few, date to the period when the Order was still in Rhodes, and tend to bear out this process of continuity. An idea of the size of the Order’s arsenal during this early phase in its occupation of the island can perhaps be gained from the description of the Gran Carracca, the Sant’Anna. In 1535, this large sailing ship had a huge armoury capable of


Left, a ‘gonne’-shield said to be part of the gift of arms sent by King Henry VIII to the Order in 1530, but now suspected by various historians to be simply an Italian target. The ‘gonne’shield would have been used as shown in the illustration above. The gun, however, is missing from the example shown here, as is the vision grill found on some of the examples in the Royal Armouries, Leeds, suggesting that this shield may have equipping 500 men, ‘un armeria grande fornita, per armare cinquecento never have had a gun at all huomini, d’ogni sorte d’armi offensive, e difensive’,7 apart from its fifty (Palace Armoury Museum).

artillery pieces and an ‘infinito numero’ of smaller guns (esmeragli etc). This ship was a veritable floating fortress and arsenal; it is even possible that it served to house most of the Order’s equipment whilst the Knights were temporarily lodged at Viterbo. The quantity of weapons brought over by the knights, if the size of the armoury on the Sant’ Anna is anything to go by, would have undoubtedly created considerable storage difficulties inside the old castle for the Castrum Maris was not a large stronghold by contemporary standards. Its normal garrison was about 150 men. By comparison, Crac Des Chevaliers had around a 1,000; by Rhodian measures, the sea-castle was roughly equivalent to the stronghold of Paleo Pyli in Kos, one of the lesser outposts. The forty odd dwellings within the Casrum Maris are said to have been quickly occupied and more structures had to be built simply to accommodate the knights and their belongings. No wonder that by the early months of 1531, Fort St Angelo, as the castle came to be called by the knights, appeared to be overflowing with ‘arme, d’artiglieria, di munitione e di vettovaglie.’8 So haphazard were the storage arrangements that a number of slaves quartered within the castle acquired access to these supplies and even tried to take over the castle, albeit unsuccessfully. 9


Grand Master Philippe Villiers de l’Isle Adam in armour (Grand Masters’ Palace,Valletta).

A need for increased storage space to house the growing supplies of arms and armour would have surely accompanied the continuous investment in new works of fortification and the larger bodies of men required to garrison these defences. One of the first such documented consignments of arms to arrive in Malta after 1530, was the gift of 19 bronze cannon sent by King Henry VIII. It is often stated that this gift of artillery also contained a number of smaller arms such as the gonne-shield still to be seen at the Palace Armoury, though in actual fact this appears to date to around 1544. Earlier in 1528, L’Isle Adam had visited England, after his sojourn in Spain and France, to muster support for his project for the recapture of the island of Rhodes.10 King Henry VIII had then promised to provide the sum of 20,000 crowns to further the expedition against the Turks but after five years he redeemed his promise with a gift of artillery to the same value. This was not the first such gift made by an English monarch to the Order. Earlier in1498, King Henry VII had similarly sent the Hospitallers ‘alcuni pezzi bellissimi d’artiglieria - macchinis bellicus sue bombardariis defensioni Rhodi.’ 11 The concentration of weapons reached its peak at the onset of the Great Siege in 1565. By then, the Order’s position in the Grand Harbour had grown from the solitary sea-castle of 1530 to include the two fortresses of Birgu and Senglea, and Fort St Elmo. The appearance of the Turkish armada


in May 1565 did not catch the Hospitallers unprepared since Grand Master Jean de Valette had ordered preparations to be taken in hand from quite some time before. Adequate provisions of wheat, powder, and arms were secured, troops and mercenaries recruited, and the fortifications strengthened in the best possible manner. The knights had been expecting a Turkish attack ever since the Djerba crisis brought about a deterioration in the general military situation and news of a new Ottoman armada had begun to filter into the West from Spring of 1563. Writing on the defence preparations before the siege, Bosio speaks of ‘armerie’ rather than ‘armeria’,12 bearing witness to the profusion of military equipment that had accompanied the hectic military activities and suggesting too, that although the logistical setup may have still focused mainly around a central armoury inside Fort St Angelo, tactical considerations had necessitated that each of the outlying fortresses be endowed, if not with their own permanent armouries, at least with temporary magazines and storage spaces. The nightly reinforcements of the hard pressed garrison of St Elmo during the initial stages of the conflict, with munitions arms and supplies from Fort St Angelo, on the other hand, clearly shows that the main reserve of military equipment was still the prerogative of the central armoury inside the old castle. The wooden pontoon which was set up to link Birgu and Senglea was not built only to ensure that troops could be easily transferred from one position to the other as the tactical situation dictated but also to ensure an uninterrupted flow of munitions and arms from St Angelo to the beleaguered garrison in Senglea. From Fort St Angelo too went out the arms and munitions required to equip and sustain the bulk of the Order’s defensive force, the Maltese militia.


Left, the Hospitaller strongholds under attack during the Great Siege of 1565, from a print by D’Aleccio. Above, posthumous portrait of Frà Leone Strozzi who was partly responsible for the building of Fort St Elmo in 1552.

The Great Siege of 1565 Ever since the Order took over Malta, the Knights came to rely heavily for the defence of the island on the existing local militia set-up which they incorporated into their own defensive system. In 1565 more than half of the Christian force – contemporary accounts of its size vary from 6,000 (Balbi) to 8,500 (Bosio) – consisted of Maltese inhabitants, grouped into companies centred around Capelle of various villages. Many of these men were issued with firearms and crossbows. Even so, a large part of the militia were still dependent on their primitive ‘azagaghe’ and ‘giubbe’ of cotton.13 A document entitled ‘li scuppetti della Universita di Malta’, drawn up in April 1565, only shows 41 arquebuses (‘scupetta coi suoi flaschi’), a crossbow (‘balestra cu’ sua gaffa’) and nine ‘murrionj’ (morions) as being the equipment issued to the people of Mdina.14 That the knights could afford and were able to hastily muster a force of some 700 arquebusiers and risk them in an all out skirmish at an early stage in the conflict, however, shows that firearms formed a large component of the Order’s military equipment. During this period in the history of warfare, the composition of a typical European army dictated that between a third and a half of the troops would have been armed with firearms. Veritably, one finds this ratio reflected in the troops deployed in Fort St Elmo for one description speaks of how each arquebusier fought protected by two pikemen, ‘fra due picchieri armati di corsaletti ...era colloccato un archibusiero.’ 15 In all, the Order would have counted upon 2,000 to 3,000 arquebusiers. Balbi records that the numerical superiority of the Turks was offset by the Christians’ greater speed in loading and firing, because the Turks carried firelocks as long as 7, and even 9, palms, which took a long time to charge and which were not easy to aim. The knights also laid a great reliance on cannon. In St Elmo alone there were 27 artillery pieces, including heavy culverines, together with a good number of small swivel guns (esmerigli) and ‘muschetti e archebusoni da posta.’ 16 The presence of many powder magazines, and gunpowder factories at Fort St Angelo during the siege together with the arrival of 200 barrels of gunpowder sent to Malta by the Duke of Florence just prior to the arrival of the Turkish armada also confirms the knights’ heavy reliance on firearms. Tuscany was then not only noted for its importance in the manufacture of gunpowder but also for the production of cannon balls and match for arquebuses,17 two other essential munitions which were similarly hoarded in Detail from D’Aleccio’s prints showing Christian soldiers in the relief force making their way to Birgu, armed with double-handed swords. The use of such weapons was considered a special skill often meriting extra pay.


Left, a knight and arquebusier of the Order during the time of the Great Siege. The knight wears halfarmour typical of the period and bears an estoc-like rapier and circular targe. The arquebusier holds a petronel, a light type of firearm, and wears a morionburgonet for head protection. Both the knight and arquebusier wear a tight-fitting sopraveste bearing a white cross on a red field, the military ensign of the Order of St John. Grand Master Jean de Valette, however, as depicted in the fresco by D’Aleccio (below left), is wearing a more loosely flowing tabard over his gilded armour. Note the mutually supporting squadrons of pikemen and arquebusiers fighting from behind hastily improvised entrenchments at the Post of Castile.


The old windmill located to the rear of Fort St Michael, then known as the ‘Tower’, served as a depository of reserve supplies of arms and munitions during the Great Siege.

huge quantities. Throughout the siege various squads of men were specifically detailed to replenish the soldiers’ supplies of ‘polvere, palle e corda’ whilst the combatants fought at their posts. Undoubtedly the best troops fighting under the knights were the companies of professional Spanish and Italian soldiers. Many of these were hardened warriors, experienced veterans of many a campaign in Italy and North Africa. Most fought as arquebusiers or pikemen but there were also many swordsmen who specialized in the use of the double-handed broadsword, what the Spanish called the montante, or its slightly smaller hand-and-half version known as the bastard sword, two examples of which can still be seen in the Palace Armoury. These serious pieces of hardware could cut through the plate armour of the period and cleave a man in two with a single blow. Their use was considered a special skill often meriting extra pay. D’Aleccio’s frescoes and prints make frequent references to the use of these cutting weapons. In a panel depicting the battle for the Post of Castile, swords of this kind can be seen stacked behind the defenders ready for use the moment the Turks broke through the Christian lines. Most of the professional troops, unlike the militia, fought using their own personal equipment. In siege warfare, however, arms and armour were consumed at an accelerated rate and at some stage in the conflict many of the stipendiati would have had to acquire new weapons, either taken off their fallen comrades or else replaced from the Order’s armouries. A common practice employed throughout the Great Siege was that of deploying reserves of weapons along the defensive perimeter in places where they


could be easily reached by the defenders, thus ensuring an uninterrupted supply during critical moments in the struggle: ‘... molte picche e molte arme in hasta di rispetto, che a’ torno il forte s’erano messe in tutte le Poste.’18 As in Rhodes, the knights retained the practice of dividing the enceinte of their major fortifications into a number of posts, each under the responsibility of a separate langue and in each a building was chosen for the storage of supplies, what in the military jargon of the 19th century would be called expense magazines. In the fortress of Senglea, for example, an old windmill was taken over to serve the men fighting along the Post of Italy. An important weapon of which many seem to have been held in reserve inside the Order’s armoury was the crossbow. This powerful projectile weapon could match the firearm in its performance but its use in warfare had been overshadowed by the appearance of the latter. It did hold one great advantage over firearms, however, and this was that the crossbow could be used in wet conditions. Indeed, at one stage late in the Siege, when a heavy downpour prevented the defenders from using their firearms, it was only the timely issue of crossbows to the troops manning the ramparts that prevented the Turks from pressing home their assault.19 Reference to crossbows as reserve weapons can be found in the years preceding the Great Siege.20 Up to 1562 crossbows were still to form part of the armament of a galley and decrees were even issued ordering the knights to practice in the use of this weapon : ‘che i frati di nostro ordine essercitano et usino et siano forniti di diverse sorte d’armi ... che tutti i cavalieri frati e religiosi di qualunque grado o conditione si siano di qua avanti si trovino provisti et forniti et con esso portino nell’ armamento et caravane che faranno su dette galere et naviggi oltre delli archibusi et altre solite arme ancora balestre sotto pena che di ciò manchava d’esser privato d’un anno di antianita.’21 The core of the Christian force were the heavily armoured knights ‘armati di petti forti, di corsaletti, di morrioni, d’archibusi, di picche, d’alabarde, e d’altre armi.’22 By May 1565, some five hundred knights had answered the Grand Master’s summons and were present for the defence of their convent. Many others were held up in Sicily and only arrived later that summer with the reinforcements. The regulations still held that each knight was obliged to turn up for battle fully armed and armoured with his own personal equipment and clad in his red sopraveste. An interesting ritual held before the commencement of hostilities, and one also found enacted in the sieges of Rhodes, was the Mostra, where knights of the different langues fully armed and equipped congregated in front of their respective auberges to be reviewed by their commanders, all on a given day. Each knight had to swear that the arms ‘ch’indosso haveva erano sue proprie e non tolte ad imprestito da alcuno’ and a written record was kept of the knights that were present and their equipment. It appears that the purpose of this call to arms was designed to bolster morale with a splendid display of force, but more practically, to ensure that the knights were adequately equipped and armed. Indeed, in


Top, cruciform crossbow-slit on one of the box-machicoulis projecting from the parapet of Guaci Tower in the village of Naxxar. This tower was already standing at the time of the Great Siege, as shown in a detail from one of D’Aleccio’s frescoes.

1522, following such an inspection, each knight was issued with ‘due ducati correnti per far nettare le sue armi.’ 23 No such register has come to light so far for the Great Siege but a glimpse of the way such musters were recorded can be had from a similar list drawn up during the Mostra held as part of the military preparations in 1643, when the Gran Balì and the knight Frà Pietro Anselmo were ordered to draw up a rassegna of the German knights ‘nell’Albergia d’Alemagna’ where seven of the brethren were then residing. This reads as follows, 24 ‘Il Piliere. Petto, morione, moschetto, bandoliera, spada il Comm. Fra Paolo Henrico di Lizau; petto, morione, moschetto, bandoliera, spada il Comm. Fra Henrico Moritio di Wolframsdorff, essendo Capitano del casale di Zurigo, non è comparso, ma si sa che ha le sue armi come sopra Il Cav. Fra Sebastiano Conti Fuccar, si trovi infermo, ma ha mandato le sue armi, che sono: un pettoforte, morione, moschetto, con la sua bandoliera, et spada Il Cav. Fra Johan Iacumo Palant; petto, morione, moschetto, bandoliera, spada il Cav. Fra Paolo Zernitzky; petto, morione, moschetto, bandoliera, spada Il Nobile Nicolao Vladislau Luditzskj; moschetto, bandoliera e spada.’ The inspection of the other langues similarly revealed that all the fighting brethren were ‘armati conforme l’Ordine’ issued by the Grand Master and his council. The wording of the decree ordering the general muster in 1643 A company of Spanish pikemen, part of the Great Relief force, as depicted by D’Aleccio.


Detail form D’Aleccio’s frescoes showing a Hospitaller brother-atarms wearing a burgonet and wielding a halberd. (Grand

Masters’ Palace, Valletta).

follows the same formula encountered during the sieges of 1565 and 1522; ‘... si facci rassegna di tutti i fratelli che sono in convento, i quali dovranno ritrovarsi dopo pranzo nella propria Albergia con le loro armi tanto offensive quanto defensive da quali fratelli infrascritti dovranno ricevere solenne giuramento che le sudette armi sono proprie, e non imprestate, e di più faranno per nota di quelli che si ritroveranno quanto di quelli che mancheranno, e dell’armi che ciascheduno di loro tiene.’ 25 Bosio was actually able to trace the names of the knights present at the sieges through the lists drawn up during these musters. D’Aleccio’s illustrations of the Great Siege show the knights wearing half armour in typical mid-16th century fashion. A decree of 1562 bound the knights to turn up for war in ‘corsaletti, o corrace (corazze), morioni, bracciali e sopraveste.’26 These harnesses of steel, procured from the great armourproducing centres of Italy, Spain, and Germany, were often intricately patterned with etchings and religious motifs. The richest of such armour was usually gilded, indicating the rank of its wearer. In the mid-16th century this also brought with it the disadvantage of attracting enemy fire; as Balbi points out, it was because Henri de Valette (Grand Master de Valette’s nephew) ‘was dressed in rich and gilded armour that all of the Turks opened fire upon him.’ D’Aleccio’s depiction of Grand Master Jean de Valette clad in gilded armour as he rallied his troops during the assault on the post of Castile has a basis in truth and need not be simply attributed to artistic licence. In fact, Grand Master Fabrizio del Carretto, in 1516, is also recorded to have turned out for war ‘tutto armato d’armi dorate’.27 A breastplate and a backplate bearing the shield of arms of Grand Master de Valette, of Italian


manufacture circa 1560, still to be seen in the Palace Armoury, are richly decorated with three broad vertical bands of etchings and show traces of gilding. Many of the richly adorned breastplates, pauldrons, and tassets on display at the Armoury also date to around this same transitional period in the history of armour, induced by the widespread use of increasingly powerful firearms. Every effort was made to render armour bulletproof but reinforced armour inevitably became extremely heavy and restricted mobility. A reinforced burgonet on display at the Armoury weighs around 25 lbs. Even so, reinforced armour was not always a guarantee against the power of firearms; the knight Zanoguerra, we are told, was wearing reinforced Detail form D’Aleccio’s frescoes armour when he was shot dead in the battle for Senglea. So was Don Federico de Toledo whose ‘pettoforte ... a botta d’archibuso’, on being hit showing the Hospitaller garrison of Senglea in closeby a cannon ball, splintered and killed a number of soldiers standing nearby.28 quarter combat with the Turks (Grand Masters’ Palace, Valletta). Bottom right, the

Turkish assault on Fort St Elmo. Note the Janissary musketeers and other Turkish bowmen.

Yet despite the increasingly efficient use of firearms, armour remained quite relevant in siege warfare, for after the heavy artillery overtures and initial discharge of musketry, all sieges eventually boiled down to tenuous hand-tohand fighting. Nonetheless, by the same decree of 1562, the Hospitaller knight was bound to arm himself with an ‘archibuso et balestra o vero duoi archibusi.’ Evidently, although the lance and the sword, as observed by Count Erbach fresh from a visit to the Armoury, were considered to be the weapons becoming a true knight, the Order had no doubts that the wars of nations were being fought and won by the use of firearms. Indeed, throughout the siege, the Hospitaller knights fought mainly as heavily armed foot soldiers, shoulder to shoulder with the rest of their troops, wielding firearms, incendiaries, and swords as the situation dictated. Bosio tells that in the days leading to the Siege each knight was allowed to fire three musket shots in training practice, ‘... gli fecero tirare tre archibusate per ciascuno al segno bianco, ossià bersaglio, col pregio ai vincitori.’ 29


Detail form D’Aleccio’s frescoes showing the Order’s cavalry, operating from Mdina, harassing the Turkish scouting parties foraging in the hinterland for food and whatever booty they could find (Grand Master’s Palace, Valletta).

A few knights, however, did fight on horseback during the Siege. In fact, an important force deployed by the Order throughout the conflict was the cavalry, which was stationed in the old citadel of Mdina. This body of horsemen, some 280-strong, was effectively a militia force composed of those villagers rich enough to own and fit out a mare, led by 30 mounted knights and a similar number of heavily armed Maltese noblemen. The bulk of the troops, however, were armed ‘alla leggiera’. This force was successfully used to reconnoitre the enemy, harass his forces from the rear, and cut off his foraging parties, fighting more as a mounted infantry rather than a real cavalry unit, since the uneven terrain did not allow for ordered battle formations and charges. The cavalry’s crowning moment came when, under the command of the knight Frà Melchoir d’Eguares, it attacked the Turkish camp at Marsa, causing so much confusion and panic that the Turks, who were about to capture Fort St Michael, were forced to beat a retreat in order to face what they thought to be a large Christian relief force attacking them from the rear. Facing the knights and their men was a large Turkish army. Conservative estimates give a figure of some 40,000 men, well-equipped with siege artillery. One enormous basilisk was brought over from Rhodes where it had been last used in the siege of 1522. The Turks were quick to exploit the basic weakness that threatened all the defences, namely the high ground that overlooked them. Turkish engineers made good use of this land feature by setting up powerful batteries with which they hammered and softened the walls in preparation for their major assaults. The first to fall to the enemy was Fort St Elmo. The unexpected month-long siege of Fort St Elmo, however, disrupted the Turkish scheme, sapping most of their resources of men and equipment and is seen by historians as the turning point of the siege in favour


Grand Master Jean de Valette as represented by D’Aleccio (centre), Favray (right) and on his effigy inside the crypt of St John CoCathedral, Valletta, details of which are shown on the opposite page (courtesy of St John CoCathedral). Also shown above is the hilt of the sword traditionally said to have belonged to the Grand Master and now in the Birgu Parish Museum.

of the defenders. On many occasions, however, the Turkish Janissaries and Spahis came very close to breaking through the Christian lines, yet in spite of their numerical superiority, they were repeatedly repulsed by the defenders holding out amidst the battered and breached ramparts of their fortresses, from behind improvised inner lines of defence erected with the rubble and debris of the ruined walls. Much dispute has arisen over the siege tactics employed by the Turks; the decision to ignore Mdina, the failure to concentrate all their efforts on Birgu and Senglea from the very start, and their fleet’s inability to intercept the Christian reinforcements are all seen as the basic causes of the Turkish defeat. Indeed, it was the timely arrival of a 10,000strong Christian relief force that finally convinced the Turks to beat a retreat. News of the Hospitaller victory spread fast but the situation which confronted the Order as the dust of war began to settle down was not encouraging. The fortifications were in ruins, many knights had been killed or wounded, the treasury was empty, and heavy debts had been incurred. Worse, there was every prospect that the Turks might return the following year. The post-siege situation developed painfully as the Order was torn between abandoning the island or else repairing the defences and erecting a new impregnable fortress on top of the Sciberras peninsula. In terms of military equipment alone, the destruction wrought by the long months of heavy fighting must have been enormous and must have taken many years to put right especially since any process of rearmament in the years immediately



following the siege would have been severely hampered by the need to direct all available resources towards the construction of the new fortress. Again the documents fail to shed much light on this process of rearmament. We know that on 6 May 1666, Frà Francesco Borgues, Prior of Catalonia, was delegated to raise a loan in Sicily for 30,000 scudi d’oro against an interest of ten to twelve percent to a general hypothecation of the property of the Order, which sum was to be used for the purchase of arms and munitions.30 Borgues was advised not to deal with the wrong type of merchants, while a few months later, on the 3 July, another knight, Frà Geronimo Guidaccio was also detailed to acquire military supplies needed for the defence of the Island.31 Above right, detail from Pierre Mortier’s plan of Valletta showing the Turkish basilisk on the esplanade at the entrance to the city, to the rear of Porta San Giorgio. This Basilisk is last heard of in the mid-1600s when it is documented as having been placed at the Upper Barracca (top, detail from drawing by Willem Schellinkx).

Equipment and troops are recorded as having arrived in June 1566, sent by Don Garcia de Toledo. Supplies were also promised from France but none had arrived by the end of 1566. Nearly a year later the stocks of weapons acquired were still far from sufficient for on 24 July 1566, Frà Don Pietro di Luna was commissioned to proceed to Milan to secure more arms for the Order to make good those lost during the siege. The Grand Master’s letter to Frà di Luna speaks of ‘la molta necessità che tenemo de più spetie d’armi, per cagion della consumation di esse nel passato lungo assesdio dell’armata turchesca.’ Frà di Luna was ordered to purchase ‘quella quantità di Archibusi, coscialetti, corrazzine, morioni et altre specie d’arme’ necessary to equip the Order’s troops.31a Arms and munitions began to arrive from the Duke of Florence in 1567 to be followed by a large bronze gun donated by the duke of Savoy, Emanuele Filiberto, while the King of Spain was asked to help with the carriage of 40 new guns from Naples and the purchase of 200 horses. More and more help came from Venice, Ragusa, and Otranto.32 A decade later arms were


still pouring into the fortress; in 1576, one of the galleys was ordered to collect 30 swivel guns (smerigli), a few petriere and a number of ‘casse d’armi’ from Barcelona and then to proceed to Genoa to pick up ‘polvere, salnitro e armi’ which where in possession of the Order’s Ricevitore in that city. What these supplies of arms actually involved, in terms of type, quantity, and the provenance of weapons has still, however, to be determined. What is clear is that the armouries in St Angelo continued to fulfil their role as a central depository well after the Order relocated the seat of its convent to the new fortress of Valletta in 1571. For Fort St Angelo, unlike the rest of the harbour fortifications, survived the Siege practically unscathed due to its privileged position as the inner keep of the Order’s stronghold, shielded as it was by the outer ramparts of Birgu and Senglea. Apart from the accidental destruction of a powder factory, all of its buildings, including the stores and armouries, remained standing and fully functional. Balbi records that by the time of his departure from Malta more than 65,000 Turkish cast iron cannon balls had been collected and deposited at Fort St Angelo by the inhabitants in return for drinking water, showing clearly that one of the first tasks of the knights after the siege was to take stock of all military equipment.33 Entries of the type ‘picche 50 et scupetti 40 dal burgo’ confirm that equipment was still being issued from Fort St Angelo to equip the garrisons of Mdina and


Above, views and plan of the Order’s foundry in Valletta.

other outlying fortresses as late as 1568.33a Huge quantities of arms had also been captured from the Turks throughout the course of the Siege, ‘... molte finissime e belle scimitarre, e gran quantità di archibusi lavorati, e commissi d’oro, e d’argento, lunghi e lucidissimi.’ 34 It has long been considered surprising how only a few examples of Turkish arms can be found at the Palace Armoury. This argument has sometimes been used to dispute the veracity of the accounts of the Siege, especially where they deal with the size of the Turkish force. In reality, however, the reason for the scarcity of Turkish trophies is that most were actually sold for the high prices they fetched, even during the Siege itself, as Bosio tells us ‘...per trenta e quaranta scudi l’uno, subiti poi venduti furono.’35 By the rules of war, captured arms became the possession of those knights and soldiers who took them in battle. Rodrigo de Horozco, a knight of Ubeda, for example, is recorded as having killed a powerful Turkish standard bearer and having taken from him a very good Damascus blade.36 If these weapons accrued to the Order it was only by bequest or as spogli on the death of brethren as had long been established in the Order’s statutes.37 Various captured weapons also ended up decorating the auberges themselves: descriptive accounts of the German hostelry in Valletta show it to have contained fine collections of arms aside from other works of art. 38 Many captured enemy colours, presented to the Grand Master, were generally sent to be hung and displayed in the conventual church of San Lorenzo.39 Above, Turkish siege artillery shot (Palace Armoury Museum). The large stone ball was fired by a basilisk.

Few Turkish guns appear to have been left behind. A huge basilisk, too heavy to be carried back in time, was abandoned by the Turks and for many years afterwards was placed on display above Porta San Giorgio at the entrance to Valletta. Captured artillery pieces, particularly if made of bronze, were generally melted down and recast into guns of the same calibre used by the Order. The 17th century records of the Order are full of examples of this type of practice. By then the Order had its own efficient foundry in Valletta but in the 16th century this process of recasting guns was difficult to achieve locally. Indeed, one finds that after the Siege many guns of the Order were sent to Messina to be repaired and refounded; at one time a vessel, La Giorina, flying the Venetian flag was specially chartered for their transportation. Presumably, this explains why the Turkish basilisk can be traced only throughout the final years of the 16th century and then disappears in the 17th. It was seen by Michael Heberer von Bretten 40 in 1588 during his visit to Malta and is depicted in a number of late 16th century maps of Valletta, such as those produced by D’Aleccio, Thomasinus Philippus, and Pierre Mortier but does not feature in the detailed 17th century plans of Matthaus Merian (1638), suggesting that by then it may have passed through the Ferraria. Two siege artillery cannon balls belonging to one of the basilisks brought over by the Turks can be seen at the Palace Armoury, together with another six of smaller calibre.


An Armoury in Valletta The task of building a new fortress from scratch on the heights of the Sciberras peninsula was a mammoth undertaking. It was only made possible by the generous financial assistance of the Pope and other European Monarchs. The first stone of the new fortified city, designed by the Papal military engineer Capitano Francesco Laparelli, was laid down by Grand Master de Valette on the 28 March 1566 and thereafter work on the fortifications of Valletta, as the city was called, progressed steadily albeit the recurrent shortage of money, labour, and building materials. Some 4,000 workers laboured daily to fashion the rocky outcrop into a mighty ring of rock-hewn bastions and ramparts. The Grand Master’s greatest fear was the arrival of a Turkish force before the new works could be completed and, consequently, some 6,000 soldiers, sent by the Pope and Philip II, guarded the workers and halfcompleted ramparts, ready to oppose the Turks in the field should they have arrived before the fortress was made defensible. As the enceinte began to take shape there quickly arose the need for adequate barrack and storage facilities necessary to accommodate the men, their arms, and munitions. The absence of buildings within the nascent fortress presented a problem and priority was given to the construction of stores and magazines for victuals, arms, and munitions. By May 1567, magazines for the storage of gunpowder (under the command of Tommaso Chisebio) 41 and armaments were already in use though where these were actually situated is not known, possibly within the casemated interiors of some of the bastions

Detail from D’Aleccio’s plan of Valletta, first published in Rome in 1582, showing a building in Strada Forni marked ‘il Forno della Signoria et l’Armaria’ (FF).


The façade of the Pubblica Armeria, later used as the Cancelleria, overlooking Piazza San Giorgio, or Palace Square. Left, marble plaque fixed above the entrance to the building which once served as the Pubblica Armeria, commemorating the transfer of the armoury into the Grand Master’s Palace in 1604.

themselves.42 Laparelli, in his report of May 1567, indicates that some store rooms forming part of the two cavaliers were ready to be used for the storage of victuals and munitions.43 In both cavaliers, the two large rooms at ground floor were eventually to be used to house troops, arms, and ammunition. Besides providing the only available storage space within the city at this early stage, the two cavaliers, being veritable strongholds in their own right, were ideally suited to fulfil the role of barrack-cum-armouries. Indeed, throughout the 18th century, St James Cavalier served to house a very large armoury, second in importance only to the one in the grand master’s palace. It is not yet clear, however, if this role was a continuation of the function it was assigned in the early days of the fortress or whether it was acquired in the course of the 18th century as a result of the general profusion of arms. What is clear is that the cavaliers did not serve as the Order’s central depository of weapons once the city was established. There was another place which was specifically assigned to fulfil this purpose. It has generally been assumed that the Order’s central armoury was transferred by Grand Master la Cassiere directly from Fort St Angelo to the magistral palace the moment that this imposing building was completed


sometime in the 1570s. As an edifice which also served as the seat of the Order’s government, situated as it was in the heart of the new fortified city of Valletta, the Palace was well-suited to allow the knights direct central control over all their military hardware, an important formula for any autocratic government ruling over an alienated population. Establishing depositories of weapons within palatial buildings was a common enough practice; a comparable entity being the armoury in the palace of the Doge in Venice. Factually, however, this was not the case in late-16th century Valletta. Records dating to the second half of the 1500s refer repeatedly to an ‘Armeria Pubblica’ and show that this was then not located within the magistral palace. The term ‘Armeria Pubblica’ was used by the Order to refer to the central storage place for militia weapons, ‘la custodia dell’armi del pubblico.’ A good description of such a depository is given by Bosio who states that around 1566 the ‘Armeria Pubblica’ was accomodata in ‘certi Saloni (in Birgu) si che fra l’arme comprate da soladati, e le altre, che s’erano fatte venire dopo l’assedio in più volte’ and was ‘ben fornita.’ 84a By the late 1500s the ‘Armeria Pubblica’ was actually located in a building bordering Piazza San Giorgio opposite the palace itself. It was Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt who transferred the armoury from its building adjoining the Corpo di Guardia into the palace in 1604. In its stead, Wignacourt placed the chancery of the Order and the building came to be known from then onwards as the Cancelleria. A marble plaque set over the main door of the Cancelleria records the event: AN. DNI MDCIIII F. ALOFIO VIGNACOVRT M.MAGISTRO QVI INTER BELLORVM CURAS CIVILES NON OMNITTENS AD COMMODIORA LOCA QUIPPE IN PALATIUM ARMA PUBLICA ACTA CANCELLARIE HVC TRANSVLIT VELVT OPTIMO PRINCIPI AD VTRUNQ SUMMO STVDIO INCVMBENTI VT RESP. ET ARMIS DEC= RATA ET LEGIBVS SIT SEMPER ARMATA ORDO HIEROSOLYMITANVS DVM PAREM GRATIAM REFER= RE NEQVIT PERPETVAM FELICITATEM EXOPTAT(AE) Roughly translated it reads ‘To the G.M. Alof Wignacourt who, mindful both of his civil duties and his military concerns, removed to a more suitable place, that is to the Palace, the Public Armoury, and brought here the records of the Chancery. To the excellent Prince who took the greatest care that the country should be always arrayed with arms and armed with laws, the Order of Jerusalem unable to adequately express the gratitude can only wish him perpetual happiness.’ 85 The transfer of the main armoury into the Palace was only but one of the many military reforms implemented by Grand Master Wignacourt during his reign. When seen together with the reorganization of the coastal militia, involving the introduction of coastal towers, the regulation


of corsairing activities, and the refortification of the Gozo Citadel, it reveals a concern for state of the Island’s military preparedness and a need for more effective control over the military resources. For from around the turn of the century the island began once more to attract the attention of the Turks. The general alarm of 1598 caused by the sighting of over 40 enemy vessels off Capo Passero was soon to be followed by other emergencies, involving the call up of militia in 1603, 1610, 1614, 1615, 1618, 1619, 1620, and 1629. That all these fears of attack were not idle was demonstrated by the Turkish incursion of 1614, when 60 vessels under the command of Khalil Pasha put ashore 5,000 men in the then still-unguarded St Thomas Bay, ravaging some villages in the south of the island before being compelled to withdraw by the militia force sent out to confront them. Grand Master Martin Garzes (1595-1601).

Nonetheless, a careful reading of the ‘regolamenti per l’armamento’ drawn up to control corsairing activities betrays a prevalent atmosphere of abuses in the arming and provisioning of corsair vessels in the years prior to 1600. That these abuses extended in some way or other to the manner in which the ‘Armeria Pubblica’ was being run, particularly to a slack control over the issue of weapons and armour (a situation that was to manifest itself again in the 1640s) may have been one of the principal reasons why Wignacourt had the armoury transferred into the palatial compound, for by doing so he automatically restricted access to this important storehouse. The transfer from one building to another did not deprive the armoury of its title of ‘Armeria Pubblica’, a title which it retained throughout most of the 17th century, after which it became more specifically referred to as the ‘Sala d’Armi del Palazzo.’ The earliest use of the term ‘sala d’armi’ is found in the Chapter General of 1612.45 In 1715 the French military advisors could still remark that knights referred to the great hall in the Palace as ‘the armoury’.46 Little is known about the ‘Armeria Pubblica’ for that period in which it was still located outside the Palace other than that it was abundantly supplied with arms and armour, particularly arquebuses. Prior to its establishment in Piazza San Giorgio, the Armoury appears to have been housed in for a short while Strada Forni. D’Aleccio’s plan of Valletta, first published in Rome in 1582, shows a building marked ‘FF’ for which the corresponding caption reads ‘il Forno della Signoria et l’Armaria.’ The same information is repeated in the plan of Valletta made by Francesco dell’Antella and published in 1602 in Giacomo Bosio’s History of the Order of St John. This time the building marked as the Armeria (39) is, however, shown in Strada Stretta. Although published in 1602, this plan is actually based on D’Aleccio’s earlier map of Valletta and, therefore, simply repeats information not without, however, introducing various errrors of its own, as is this reference to the armoury, which at this date is known and documented as being situated in Piazza San Giorgio.


The Pubblica Armeria was amply restocked, when still located at Birgu or Fort St Angelo, by the knight Frà Giovanni Soubrian Arisat, commander of artillery in 1566. According to Bosio, Arisat was commissioned by the Council to buy any weapons off the thousands of Spanish, Italian, and German troops that were brought to Malta during the construction of the fortress of Valletta, in order to add these to other weapons bought from abroad ‘dopo l’assedio in più volte.’ Those soldiers who were inclined to ‘vender l’arme loro, come picche, e Alabarde, corsaletti, o morioni e gli archibusi; fu per minor interesso e danno loro, data questa commodita, che le dette arme a nome della Religione ricomperate furono, per il medesimo prezzo che gli erano state date.’ 46a In this way the commander of artillery was able to establish a ‘buonissima munitione, e restauro, e rimesse benissimo in Ordine l’Armeria Pubblica.’ Dal Pozzo records that in 1598 Grand Master Garzes ordered that 1,000 ‘sciopi sive archibusij’ be issued from the ‘Armeria Pubblica’ 47to be sent to arm the Papal expeditionary force in Hungary, ‘...facendo a Sua Santità libero dono.’ 48 Although at first such a gesture might tend to imply that the Order’s armoury was well equipped with weapons to enable such a donation, a closer look at the official correspondence between Grand Master Garzes and the Pope shows quite the opposite! Actually, the Order of St John was then in no position to donate any weapons at all, particularly firearms. The Order had then only ‘tre mila archibuggi ritrovati nella Armeria’ and in order to satisfy the Pope’s request its stock of weapons was reduced even further.48a After his election, Grand Master Garzes had found that the provision of weapons had been neglected (‘provisione ordinaria di mediocre quantità’) and had consequently given instructions for 4,000 muskets to be purchased

Detail from the map of Valletta made by Francesco dell’Antella, published in 1602 in Giacomo Bosio’s ‘History of the Order of St John’, showing a building in Strada Stretta (No.39) marked as the ‘Armeria’. Although this plan was published in 1602 it is actually based on D’Aleccio’s earlier map of Valletta and, therefore, still shows the layout of the city around 1582.


from Lombardy. This fresh supply of weapons, however, had not yet been purchased by the time the Pope had made his request, apparently because of some difficulties encountered in the collection of the necessary money. The building housing the Armeria Pubblica, or ‘Comune Armeria’ 49 as it was sometimes also called, was, however, not a very large structure. It is not yet clear if this edifice was purposely built as an armoury or if it was simply taken over and adapted to serve such role. Unfortunately, its present internal arrangement does not reflect its original layout, since the Cancelleria was significantly altered during the reign of Grand Master de Vilhena in the 18th century. Its façade, however, does reflect a mannerist form of architecture characteristic of the many contemporary dwellings erected in Valletta during the 16th century and does not imply any specific military function, as was the case, for example, with the Ferraria. The total floor area of the ‘Armeria Pubblica’, spread out on one floor, was smaller than that of the gallery later occupied by the armoury in the Palace and, given that by the end of the 16th century it must have come to house enough quantities of arms to equip some 7,000 men, it is possible that Wignacourt’s decision to transfer the armoury to the Palace may have also been motivated by the fact that the hoard of weapons had actually outgrown the building itself. The Armeria Pubblica also served to house personal weapons belonging to knights. Stringent regulations were issued by the Order, as early as 1568, to ensure that none of the brethren went about the city, particularly at night, armed with ‘Pistoli ne Pistoletti’ unless officially authorized or on militia duties.50 Any knight caught in possession of a weapon other than his ‘spada e pugnale’ was bound to lose two years of seniority and if caught firing a ‘scoppetta, archibuso, o balestra’ after the sounding of the ‘Ave Marie di S. Lorenzo’ was even liable to lose his habit. Such decrees as issued on the 8 May 1568 51 prohibiting the carrying of arms other than swords were primarily intended to avoid the ‘molti tumulti che tra li frati di nro. ordine qui nel convento esistenti possono nascere, massime in questo tempo nel quale molti armati di Armi illicite di notte più volte vanno per la Città.’ A similar decree prohibiting the carrying of ‘asti con rotelle, di alabardi, schioppi, spada senza fodero e altre armi’ was again issued the following year 52 and is found repeated many times in subsequent years but the situation does not seem to have improved much. A particularly violent and scandalous ‘rissa sive verius tumultu’ between various knights and Spanish mercenaries occurred in Vittoriosa in 1574 when some soldiers lost their lives in the fighting that ensued. An attempt to control the amount of weapons circulating in the cities around the Grand Harbour is met again in 1586, when Grand Master de Verdala and his council ordered that all arms were to be handed over to the commander of artillery and deposited at the public armoury in exchange for a receipt, to be collected only when the owners were leaving


the island: ‘il Gran Maestro et il V. Consiglio fecero pubblicare per tutti gli Alberghi, che niuno ardire portar adosso ne tener in casa simile sorte d’armi (Archibugi e pistole): Ma chi n’aveva dovesse consegnarle fra otto giorni al Comm. dell’Artiglieria, da cui con polize di ricevuta si sarebbero nella Pubblica Armeria conservate, per restituirle nel partir di Convento à padroni, eccetto quelli che n’havevano licenza dal Gran Maestro per servigio della Militia.’ 53 In 1597, we also find a specific reference to the prohibition of ‘smagliatori e stiletti’ and ‘pistoletti a rota’ (wheel-lock pistols).54 The regulations remained in force throughout the course of the following decade and more specific regulations concerning the type of weapons that were prohibited, unless for military use, are found in Library Manuscript 152, dating to 1605. These speak of ‘scopette manco di palmi 3 di canna, spadoni, giachhi di maglia, chianette, celade ... o dardi tanto nelle masserie, e fuori in campagnia come nel habitato, che fossero meno di palmi nove d’hasta.’ The keeping of carbines, too, was prohibited but the ‘archibuggi, moschetti e scopetti di caccia’ were allowed for hunting. By 1660 only those Maltese inhabitants obliged to keep a horse for militia duty were given licence to keep a ‘carabina non di palmi tre di canna in casa’ and then strictly for use ‘nelle funtioni e rassegne miltari.’ They were also obliged to submit the weapons to the master armour in the Palace if their weapons required maintenance. There were exceptions to the rules. however, and occasionally we read of various knights and noble persons who kept their own personal weapons in their own residences. For example, Romano Carapecchia, the renowned architect of many a baroque

Detail from D’Aleccio’s plan of Valletta, showing the Grand Master’s Palace and Piazza San Giorgio.


palace in 18th century Malta, is documented as having kept, in his Valletta residence, two pistols, a shotgun and four swords, two of which were of silver, possibly ceremonial and donated to him for his services.55 The primary function of the Pubblica Armeria, however, remained that of accommodating the military hardware. By the end of the 16th century, the Order’s armoury does not appear to have been particularly well stocked and Grand Master Garzes’ anxiety to redress this situation set in motion not only the purchase of sufficient supplies from abroad but also the total reorganization of the armoury itself, an inevitable task that fell on the shoulders of his successor.


A ‘Sala d’Armi’ in the Grand Master’s Palace A New Armoury Grand Master Wignacourt’s transfer of the Armeria Pubblica into the Palace in 1604 constitutes an important landmark in the history of this military department. For once inside the Palace, the Armoury no longer remained simply a prosaic storehouse but now also assumed the character of a showpiece reflecting the military power and glory of the Order of St John. And it is owing to this particular development that more is known about the Armoury during this phase of its history than ever before. The moment it assumed the nature of a showpiece, the Armoury quickly became a renowned local attraction, capturing the attention and imagination of many a distinguished visitor to Malta. Although still fundamentally a functional depository of weapons, it also became an instrument of propaganda exalting the Order’s heroic past and the knights’ military role as the shield of Christendom. That the Armoury had acquired this new role shortly after its transfer to the Palace is attested by Count George Albrecht of Erbach’s description following his visit to Malta in 1617.1 In his account, Erbach records how the German knights made it a point to show off the Armoury to their distinguished guests, pointing out the armour worn by various Grand Masters in battle displayed on the walls amidst portraits of the Grand Masters themselves, together with the impressive mass of arms and armour.1 This contrasts with earlier descriptions of Valletta by other visitors to the island at the time when the Armeria Pubblica was situated elsewhere, such as that by Herberer von Bretten, which does not even hint at the presence of an armoury let alone exalt its splendour.2 While that the transfer of the Armoury to the Palace was primarily motivated by military necessities of control and logistical reorganization, other considerations were of influence, not least being Wignacourt’s own personal interest in antiquarian matters. The presence of the portraits of past Grand Masters and their armour hanging amidst the thousands of munitions weapons, as recorded by Count Erbach, betrays a cult of heroic personalities in the history of the Order, one revolving around the figures of Grand Masters de Valette, L’Isle Adam and possibly even D’Aubusson, the hero of the siege


of 1480. Wignacourt’s desire to display the arms and armour of celebrated warriors in his Palace may have been inspired by his wish to imitate the renowned historic collections formed by other European sovereigns such as those at the Castle of Amboise, formed by Charles VIII of France, and others formed by Charles V of Spain and Archduke Ferdinand, Count of Tyrol.3 The latter constituted one of the greatest collections of armour of its time and a book illustrating its most important harnesses was actually published in Innsbruck in 1601, the year that Wignacourt was elected to his grandmastership. Indeed, Wignacourt’s first commission on being made Grand Master was to order a magnificent suit of armour from Milan.

Bronze bust of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt (Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta). Opposite page, Portrait of Grand Master Wignacourt shown proudly wearing the harness made for him in Milan in 1601 (Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta).

Various portraits of Wignacourt show him posing in this full suit of armour, a damascened harness still to be seen in the Palace Armoury, thereby revealing both the Grand Master’s fascination for armour at a time when its importance in warfare was diminishing and his need to portray himself as the heir of his chivalric predecessors. Actually, one of these portraits is known to have been displayed inside the Armoury itself; It was seen there by the knight St. Felix in 1785. The fact that the Grand Master is also recorded as going about his daily business partially clad in armour, even in times of peace, tends to reinforce this view.4 Count Erbach’s visit to the Palace Armoury in 1617 is important because it provides us with the first explicit glimpse of the contents of the Armoury, throwing invaluable light on the extent of the Order’s military hardware typical of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Erbach writes of ‘a formidable display of lances and halberds several rows deep, great cupboards containing swords, rapiers and daggers of every possible shape and kind’ and thousands of muskets together with a collection of fine specimens of armour and long rows of ancient firearms in a ‘variety of hue and shape, some with costly oriental ornamentations.’ According to Baron Cambrini, Erbach’s guide, the Armoury contained enough arms to equip 12,000 soldiers and ‘everything was kept in such a good order that in case of emergency at any hour 2,000 men could be made ready.’ 5 In reality, however, as revealed by the general alarm caused by the Turkish razzia of 1614, it took more than an hour for the knights to actually muster a force large enough to react to the 5,000-strong Turkish army. A small, hastily summoned cavalry detachment sent out to intercept the enemy nearly came to a disastrous end and had to wait for the arrival of the rest of the militia before re-engaging the Turks. Certainly, the Armoury more than catered for the needs of the Order’s fighting force at this period in history. With a population still hovering around the 30,000 mark, the knights could definitely not muster an army of 12,000 men. At best, the size of the Order’s armed forces would have been similar to that deployed during the 1565 siege, that is some 6,000 to 8,000 men, including the mercenaries recruited abroad. The Armoury, therefore, held a considerable reserve of weapons.




Erbach’s description of the Armoury shows that it was then already located inside a large hall occupying a whole extensive wing of the Palace - the same splendid gallery that would continue to house the Armoury well into the 20th century until its unfortunate conversion into a House of Representatives. By the end of the early half of the 17th century, that great hall, or sala grande as it was known, was not the only part of the Palace that was being used to store weapons. The Order’s documents speak also of an adjoining ‘salette’, or ‘saletta minore’ 6 which, after 1658, began to house the muskets belonging to the Lascaris foundation. An entry in the Liber Conciliarum dated 1638 describes the necessity for the Armeria Pubblica to remain ‘ben fornita’, and expressed the need for a new separate place to be found for the storage of ‘l’armi dei fratelli che moriranno.’ The distinction between knightly equipment and that required to equip the common troops, although much less apparent by the mid-17th century, was nonetheless still a relevant consideration in the armouries of the Order. The statutes had long since laid down rules for the disposition of weapons escheating from the death of brethren. Those enacted during the grandmastership of Claude de la Sengle, however, show that the equipment of deceased knights was to be retained ‘per munitione’, that is, to be considered as part of the general equipment and redistributed to the Order’s troops as necessary: ‘L’Armi di qualunque sorte offensive, o diffensive, che elle siano trovate fra le spoglie de Fra Morti nel Convento di qua dal mare appartegano al nostro comune erario: le quali si debbon condurre in luogo deputato, dove siano tenute a buona guardia per munizione, e bisogno del nostro convento, tolte via l’armi piccole come sono spade, e pugnali.’7 The swords and daggers were sold by public auction, ‘... le spade e pugnali ... si vendono al publico incanto.’ 8 A typical spoglio of arms escheating to the Order is that of the knight Giovanni Battista Montforte found in the Libro dei Contratti del Tesoro (1673-1675). According to these documents the weapons belonging to the said knight, which the Ricevitore in Naples had sent to Malta, consisted of six matchlock muskets, a breastplate, morion, two swords, and a dagger.9 The need to store the arms and armour of knights separately from the common military equipment was not dictated by particular military or even social considerations; it was mostly to ensure that the costly knightly gear was not pilfered. And indeed pilferage and maladministration were the Armoury’s most serious problems during the mid-17th century. By 1644 the situation had deteriorated so badly that the new commander of artillery, the knight Giovanni Battista Gerente, did not want to accept responsibility for the Armoury due to the considerable number of weapons that had been borrowed from it and never returned. This predicament is best described by the following extract taken from the Liber Conciliarum:10 ‘Tra le cose importanti che abbia la Religione, è la conservatione della pubblica Armeria, e quella aumentare non che vederla diminuita come al presente si trova per l’imprestiti


Top, Grand Master Wignacourt (portrait attributed to Cassarino). Above,Count George Albert of Erbach. Opposite page, the main entrance into the Palace Armoury.

Portrait of Frà Gabriele Cassar, the son of the renowned Maltese military engineer Gerolamo Cassar and brother to Vittorio. The latter followed in his father’s footsteps and was involved in a number of fortification projects, namely the building of the Gozo Citadel and a few coastal towers.

di diverse sorti d’arme con tanta facilità conviene il che si vede per l’infinità de polize esibite in questa consegna sin dall’anno 1626 trasferite da un dell’Artiglieria all’altro de quali il moderno Gerente non ha voluto incaricarsene ma solamente di quelle che sono in essere controsegnate di nuovo con diverse bolle, conforme la natura di qualsivoglia sorte di dette arme onde è necessario rimediar all’abusi di tanto pregiuditio, che procedono dal mancamento dell’armi, come per evitar la spesa che del continuo occorre per accommodarli quando si restituiscano, cioè di cascie per montar moschetti, et Archibugi Serpentine, oltre il cambiar delle canne e perdita affatto de flaschi, e bandoliere, aste di picche et alabarde e ferri inutili.’ None of the commanders formerly responsible for the Armoury, it seems, had ever bothered to retrace and collect the missing weapons. To put an end to these abuses the Council ordered that from then onwards all commanders of artillery were to be held strictly responsible for the loss of weapons and consequently made to pay for any missing equipment out of their own pocket in accordance with an established price list issued by the same Council; ‘...debbano pagar per l’arme che mancheranno il prezzo


notato,’ namely;11 (prices in scudi) Moschetti di gioia segnati con la lettera A Moschetti di gioia Turcheschi segnati con la lettera A Moschetti Milanesi novi con lettera D Moschetti segnati con lettera C Moschetti segnati con B E F Moschetti di gioia segnati con la lettera M Moschetti di gioia segnati con la lettera N et S Archibugi segnati con lettera A Archibugi segnati con lettera H Archibugi segnati con lettera O V S Picche Spontoni Libardi Ratelle fine Ratelle di Caravana

20 25 8 20 7 50 25 20 8 5 5 2 5 4 2

Furthermore, if caught selling or disposing of any weapon from the Armoury without the necessary authorization, the commander of artillery was to be liable to the payment of a fine of ‘cento scudi a’ favore del Commun Thesoro.’ More measures were introduced four years later when it was decreed that a commission of knights was to inspect the Armoury at least once or twice a year and draw up a detailed list indicating the quantity, quality and state of preservation of the weapons and armour:12 ‘... che si deputino almeno una, o’ due volte l’anno commissarij per riconoscere ocularmente la qualità e quantità di dette arme, e dopo fare con chiarezza una lista della sudetta qualità d’arme e con loro giuramento descriveranno se le havevano trovate della qualità, che devono essere.’ Unfortunately, none of these lists have ever been traced to date. Still, it does not appear that these inspections were carried out regularly as intended, for a note in one of the registers, written some 20 years later, laments that ‘poco si osserva questo decreto, e pure molto giovevole sarebbe la sua osservanza.’ 13 This remark implies gaps of many years in which no stocktaking seems to have been undertaken and hints at a possible reslackening of regulations. The only commissioner’s report on the state of the armouries known to the author is that drawn up by the knights Suriano and Riano on 19 September 1782.14 Another practice which was definitely in use by 1698 was that each time a knight was elected to the post of commander of artillery, he was to be handed a detailed inventory of all military equipment by the outgoing incumbent. Similarly, few of these inventories have survived in the National Archives. One such report, which was drawn up by the knight Frà Gio. Carlo Dampus who was ‘Com. dell’Artiglieria dalli 6 Marzo 1696 tutto il 6 Marzo 1698’, shows that Dampus failed to account for 26 matchlock muskets among many other items: ‘...Al Foglio 4: resta à dare moschetti a’ mecchio No. 26: de quali ne resta caricati in 93 scudi 2 tari alla ragione di scudi 3.7 l’uno,


essendo il prezzo stabilito in quan. Com. Tesoro come si vede nel libro degli armi.’ 15 The most comprehensive of these reports was that produced in 1785 by the knight St Felix who was first appointed to the post in 1779 (Ref. p.147). This is discussed in detail further on in this chapter. That it was customary for those in charge to pay for the missing weapons is well illustrated by an entry dated 10 April 1771 referring to a representation

Detail form a funerary monument at St John Co-catherdal, Valletta, showing early 17th-century muskets with barrels of the type shown on the following page.


Details of the breech and muzzle of a heavy early 17th-century musket barrel, one of a dozen or so still to be found at the Palace Armoury Museum. Note the letter ‘A’ engraved on the breech of the barrel. This may correspond to the entry ‘Moschetti di Gioia segnati con la lettera A’ shown on the extract from one of the Order’s documents reproduced on the opposite page.

made by the knight Don Luigi d’Almejda, ‘Maggiore delle Milizie Urbane’, asking not to be made to cover the cost of ‘tredici fucili trovati mancanti nella consegna dell’armi causante I milizioitti rimasti disertosi.’ The commander of artillery at the time, Frà Luca d’Argens, had already handed over the weapons to the commander in charge of the militia when 13 militia men deserted with their weapons and all, putting their commander in debt with the Order for the price of 13 muskets. However, the Congregation of War, having studied the matter and ascertained itself that all precautions had been taken and ‘tutta la diligenza possible’ had been shown by D’Almejda in the matter, acceded to his request. One factor which was taken into consideration whilst evaluating Almejda’s petition was that although in the past ‘gli accessori furono alter volte cio costretti (i.e. to pay up), questi però non deve esser aggravato di questo incarico, avendo avuto I primi una paga mensuale, e questi senza alcuna rimunerazzione.’ Extreme measures, such as that of prohibiting altogether the issue of weapons from the Armoury for any reason whatsoever except in cases of ‘pericolo evidente d’assedio’, may have been in force for a short while but were soon dropped in favour of more practical steps.16 One such measure introduced to control the outflow of equipment from the Armoury was the imposition of a fee on all equipment issued to the fighting brethren. The commander of artillery was to give to the Treasury a receipt of all arquebuses and muskets delivered to the caravanisti. The value of these arms was then debited ‘sopra le loro tavole (caravanisiti e Novitij)’ and when the arms were returned the entries in the registers were to be cancelled and the amount previously retained, refunded.17


In April 1665, the prices charged for the issue of equipment were established as follows; ‘Moschetto con sua forcina e bandoliera, scudi cinque, Picca scudi due e tari sei, petto a’ botte e morione scudi venti.’ 18 In December 1669 it was decreed that these items of equipment were to be charged onethird over their real value to enforce their return from those who might have taken them; ‘...caricando il terzo pur del prezo che havevano costato alla religione, acciò venghino obligati à restituirle.’ A decree of 1645, repeated again in 1659, was designed to ensure that no knight could be given a licence to leave the island unless he could present a certificate issued from the commander of artillery indicating that he had no equipment belonging to the Armoury: ‘Successi molti disordini per non restituir li Cav. nello loro partenza l’armi che hanno pigliate dalla publica armeria, Sua Emm. e V. Con. hanno commandato si facci commandamento nell’Alberge, acciochè ogni uno restituisca quelle che haveva pigliato, e che à nessuno li spedisca la licenza di partir da Convento se prima non mostrerà non haver havuto ne tener alcune delle dette arme.’ 19

Detail of marble floor in St John’s Co-cathedral showing a corslet and various arms of the early 17th century.

The same regulations held good for the novices, if not more so, since these young knights-to-be were expected to train continually with their equipment thus submitting it to a greater deal of punishment and rough handling: ‘...à chiascuno novizio si dia una picca e perdendola o rompendola si debba caricare a conto della sua soldea.’ In April 1663, for example, the young novice, the noble Giovanni Battista Peccio, was seriously injured when his musket exploded in his hand while he was ‘...con gli altri novitij stando nell’esercito dell’armi.’20 By 1652, novices were expected to train in the use of arms at least three times a week. The Chapter General of 1574 had decreed that a ‘maestro schermitore’ (master fencer) was to be permanently employed by the Order ‘con salario del tesoro’ so as to train the brethren ‘ad ogni esercito d’armi’.21 By the late 17th century efforts were being made to keep two ‘maestri d’armi con scuola aperta.’ The Order’s records have retained the name of at least one fencing master, the Italian ‘maestro di scherma Francesco Picconi’ who was employed at the Palace and entitled to a free daily ration of bread as part of his wages. In the 16th century it was also decreed that all the knights were to take part in a ‘torneo a piedi’every three months, armed with pikes and swords. They also had to train with horses, ‘correr a cavallo la quintana’ and ‘all’anello con premi di 10 scudi.’ Shooting competitions with arquebuses too were to be held every three months with a prize of 10 scudi for best markmenship. In previous centuries similar competitions were held with crossbows.22 That these military exercises were taken seriously is attested by Count Erbach’s visit to the auberges. In his account, Erbach recalls how the French knights, who took particular pride in the use of arms, often extended their military exercises beyond the prescribed hours, often prolonging them till after sunset.23 The finality of all such military training is perhaps best illustrated by this extract from a document of 1663; ‘... che si facci da tutti li novitij,


Portrait of Frà Jean de Fresnoy dated 1673 (National Museum of Fine Arts). Below, a representation of a kneeling Hospitaller knight wearing a buffcoat with his cuirassier armour.

l’esercito dell’armi prima di detta spartitione; perche quelli che non li faranno ben maneggiare, il che dovran riferire i Comm. di novitij; non siano ammessi a detta Caravana. Et a detto esercito dovran venire tutti precisamente con moschetti, quali saran dati a chi non l’avra, dall’Armeria della Religione.’ Efficiency was the key to the Order’s success in battle.


The Armoury re-arms Of all the military events that took place throughout the 17th century, the one that was to have the most profound influence on the Armoury, indeed on the whole island, was the fall of Candia in the island of Crete. The long drawn-out Turkish assault on this Venetian island had lulled the knights into a false sense of security since an attack on Malta was considered unlikely whilst the Turks were heavily engaged elsewhere. With the fall of Candia in 1669, after twenty-four years of war, the situation changed dramatically and the Order realized that an attack on Malta became a very distinct possibility. Immediately, the knights set about preparing the island to withstand the ensuing onslaught. Massive new works of fortification designed by the Italian engineer Valperga were commenced and huge supplies of arms, munitions, and victuals were purchased to augment the Order’s military equipment and prepare for a long siege. By 1669, the population of the Maltese Islands had nearly doubled in amount compared to what it had been in 1600. Consequently the Order’s militia forces had grown in size and larger quantities of military equipment were required to arm the islanders.

Portrait of Grand Master Nicholas Cotoner, the reigning sovereign who presided over the military crisis following the fall of Candia to the Turks in 1669 - an event that was to set in motion massive military preparations culminating in the construction of the monumental Cottonera enceinte. One of the pages is holding the Grand Master’s richly ornamented espadin and a circular shield, while a closed burgonet is positioned for effect on the pillar to his rear (Grand Masters’ Palace, Valletta).


Following an inspection of the weapons housed in the Palace Armoury, in July 1669, the Council of the Order was notified by its Commissioners of War and Fortification of the further need for 500 barrels ‘di tre oncie di balla ricche di ferro con le loro serpentine (matchlocks) e ferri da piantarsi’ (these were to be used as ‘moschettoni di posta o siano spinagradi’), 6,000 musket barrels, all of one calibre, ‘con le loro serpentine e ferri di forcina’ and 2,000 arquebus barrels. The moschettoni da posta were swivel-mounted rampart guns used extensively in siege warfare and were generally classified with the artillery.24 In 1658, two of these had been placed in each of the coastal watchtowers, particularly the Lascaris towers which were not designed to take heavy artillery pieces. Six such moschettoni with breech-loading mechanisms can still be seen in the Palace Armoury. The knight Don Giuseppe di Luna, Ricevitore in the Priory of Navarre, was commissioned to proceed to the arms-producing centre of San Sebastian in the Bay of Biscay (Biscaia) in order to purchase these weapons and supervise their shipment to Malta. Frà di Luna was also asked to advise the Order on the quality of the partisans, halberds and ‘pettiforti à prova di moschetto’ (bullet-proof breastplates) produced in S. Sebastian and of the price asked for 1,500 ‘ferri di partigiane e 1,500 di labarde’,25 He was also to provide similar quotations from the armaments centres of Milan and elsewhere. Many ‘Archibugi biscaini’ were already to be found in the Palace Armoury by 1669. These were frequently used to arm the ‘marinari’, or sailors, of the Order’s galleys26 while the ‘soldati delle galere’ were generally issued with ‘moschetti milanesi’ which were marked ‘con qualche segno della religione’ so that the soldiers would not be able to exchange or sell them.27 The novices too were issued with Milanese muskets. The musket was a heavier and more powerful firearm than the arquebus. It fired a large lead ball weighing around 2 ounces which could penetrate armour at more than a hundred paces. Its only defect was its weight, which required a strong man to carry it and had to be fired from a forked rest. By 1674 the Palace Armoury housed no less than 8,938 muskets, including 3,431 ‘moschetti Milanesi’ and 10,296 arquebuses.28 The muskets and arquebuses ordered from the Bay of Biscay had not yet arrived. The Armoury also housed 4,000 pikes, 550 breastplates, 4,400 helmets and 8,000 bandoliers, of which 4,000 belonged to the Lascaris Foundation. Apparently not all bandoliers were stored in the Armoury for in 1658 many were ordered to be issued ‘dalli magazini della Religione.’ 29 The Lascaris Foundation was set up in 1645 by Grand Master Lascaris in order to provide the island with arms and munitions of war. It was an opulent fund endowed mainly with immovable property, such as the territory of Budak in the Parish of Naxxar.30 In 1652 its purpose was altered to serve for the


Above, top, detail of a pair of flintlock carbines with Catalan-type stocks from the marble paving of St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta. Above, Frà Giovanni Francesco Ricasoli (Courtesy of Anton Quintano). .

Top, right, marble slab, affixed to the wall of St John Cavalier, Valletta. This was originally affixed to a row of buildings (now demolished - see bottom picture and plan) erected by Grand Master Lascaris in order to house the muskets and powder of the Foundation he established for the purchase of powder and muskets. The slab reads ‘MIGLIO SALNITRO E MOSCHETTI DELLA FONDAZIONE LASCHERA A.MDCXXXXVI’.

building and maintenance of a seventh galley by which time some 4,000 musket had been purchased and housed in a separate building, before being transferred to the Palace Armoury in 1658. The Lascaris Foundation was not the only trust set up to provide the Armoury with weapons. At least two other foundations, albeit on a humbler scale, were established by other knights for the same purpose. One had been set up by the knight Frà Francesco Lomellina in 1603, providing for the sum of 2,000 scudi to be used for the supply of ‘cento moschetti con suoi guarnimenti ogni due anni.’ The other, proposed by the knight Frà Scipio Pappafava (Papafava) in 1640, envisaged the donation of 200 barrels ‘di moschetto da fabricarsi dove, e di che qualità sarà determinato’ by the Order, which weapons, however, were to be issued from the Armoury ‘in solo bisogno d’assedio.’ 31 In 1645 Pappafava changed the terms of his offer to ‘Moschettoni di Cavaletto.’ Some money from the Manoel Foundation established by Grand Master de Vilhena seems also to have been used for the purchase of arms, for in 1785 there were 80 muskets belonging to the Manoel Foundation in store in the Falconeria. The weapons ordered from the armament centres of Biscay in 1669 had surely arrived by 1679 for a particularly detailed account of the Palace Armoury by a French traveller mentions 24,000 mousquets, 19,000 pikes, 24,000 swords, 5,000 cuirasses and 500 bulletproof breastplates in the large hall alone, together with another 6,000 muskets (with bandoliers) and 2,000 helmets in the ‘petite sale’. Apart from these, there were also 500 Turkish sabres, 2,000 ‘fers d’Aguayes’ and various shields, and other ancient weapons and armour. One item of which the Palace Armoury was in short


supply were drums. In 1669 it was considered necessary to order 40 or 50 ‘casse di tamburi da Napoli, trovandosi poche nell’Armeria.’ 32 All this equipment was then considered more than sufficient for the requirements of a siege even though, as things turned out, no attack ever materialized. However, this was no longer the case by the time of the next general emergency in 1714, when the knights once again felt seriously threatened by the possibility of a Turkish attack. The hectic defence preparations set in motion called for the further acquisition of 12,000 muskets equipped with bayonets together with a considerable supply of spare parts for firearms. Apparently many of the musket barrels ordered from the Bay of Biscay in 1669 had remained unassembled once the threat had died down. At least 2,000 unassembled barrels were still to be found in the Armoury in 1714, lacking their firing mechanisms, ‘grilli con le loro forniture’,33 which were now to be hastily imported to ensure that these weapons could be used to equip the Order’s troops. Even the Armoury itself appears to have been neglected during this period for one of the projects considered in 1715 was actually that of its reorganization, ‘...un projet pour arranger les armes dans la grande Salle du Palais que l’on appelle Armerie.’ 34 Similarly lacking were adequate quantities of cannon, mortars, gunpowder, provisions, and men. An interesting document entitled ‘Nota de munizioni di Guerra dataci dalli Commissarii della Ven. Cong. di Guerra li 24 Sett 1714’ seems to be proposing the acquisition, from Venice, of ‘Azzarini 12,000 che si ragionano a scudi 4 l’uno fanno 48,000, Grilli 2,000 che si regolano a tari

Below, copy of the front cover of a document establishing a foundation for the purchase of 100 muskets in 1603, by the knight commander Frà Francesco Lomellina (National Library of Malta).


A musketeer of the Order armed with matchlock musket and rapier, and equipped with bandolier and musket-rest, c.1660. Suspended from the bandolier were usually twelve wooden, horn or tin singleround receptacles, each holding one correct powder charge (below) . The lead musket balls were carried in a bag suspended from the belt.

10 l’uno, dodici mortari di bronzo per pietre’ from Genova, and ‘Bacchtte per Azzarini no. 25,000 a scudi 20 il miglia’ from Livorno. On this occasion, however, the King of France was approached by the Order for assistance, and Louis XIV responded by sending over 12,000 muskets, some artillery and a corps of experienced French military experts and engineers, promising also 4 battalions of French troops and 1,000 marines. The muskets were acquired on condition that they were to be returned or else a similar quantity purchased once the emergency was over: ‘ haver ottenuto 12 mila fucili con le loro baionette con l’obligo di restituirli o di comprare altre tanti.’ 35 Of the 12,000 muskets despatched from Marseilles, 4,000 ‘fucili’ came from Paris. 36 The French military advisors’ opinion of the state of the island’s preparedness to resist a drawn out siege in 1714, however, was not encouraging. Apart from the logistical problems of adequate provisions, the gravest problem facing the Order was then seen to be the very extent of the fortifications themselves, since these produced serious problems of manning. At least 8,000 men were deemed necessary by the French military engineer Charles François Mondion for the defence of the Harbour fortifications alone which by then had grown to include the monumental enceintes of Floriana, Sta Margherita and the Cottonera lines, and Fort Ricasoli, over and above the fortresses of St Angelo, St Elmo, Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Valletta. According to the Congregation of War and Fortification, another 8,500 men were believed necessary for the defence of the coastal areas in 1716. The quantities of weapons, munitions, and provisions required to sustain such a force throughout a four to five month siege were enormous, as clearly Extract from Mondion’s ‘Estat General des Garnisons, et Munitions revealed in Mondion’s lengthy report entitled ‘Estat General des Garnisons, necessaires a la Déffence de Malte.’


Left, portrait of Balì Jacques de Souvre (National Museum of Fine Arts).

et Munitions necessaires a la Déffence de Malte.’37 In firearms and small arms alone, Mondion believed that 50,000 ‘fusils de reserve’ over and above those necessary to arm a garrison of around 18,000 men,38 together with 400 ‘espingards ou arquebuzes à crocq, 4,000 gros mousquets de rempart, 50,000 bayonnets à doville (socket bayonets), 2,000 pistolets de ceinture, 20,000 épées longues et tranchantes (swords), 10,000 hallebardes, picques & spontons, 4,000 casques, pots en testés au calottes de fer and 2000 cuirasses de devant a preuve du mousquet’ (bulletproof breastplates) as


Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena (1722-1736).

well as an abundant supply of spare parts such as ‘bagettes’ (100,000), ‘platines’ (lockplates, 10,000) etc., were required to see the knights through the eventuality of a prolonged siege.39 The Order reacted as best as it could to this lengthy shopping list. In one document we find a proposal for the acquisition of a further ‘20,000 fucili di buona qualità di calibro uniforme scelti e provati con le loro baionette’ similar to the 12,000 just received, together with 200 carbines, 1,000 ‘Moschetti d’un piede e mezzo di Franci’ (of which 100 were already available), 30,000 ‘Bachette di riserva, 100 bacchette di ferro con suoi rasciatori e cavapalle’ (bullet extractors), 1,000,000 lead musket balls, 20,000 lead pistol balls and various bullet moulds for producing lead shot ‘trenta la volta.’ 40 It is doubtful how much of this equipment actually arrived, for by the time of the next general alarm in 1722, the stock of weapons was still far away from that prescribed by the French military experts, owing to the threat having subsided in the meantime. The required minimum of 40 to 60,000 muskets, twothirds of which were to be kept in reserve to replace those rendered


unserviceable in the course of a siege was a goal that was still very far from being achieved. Although a surplus of weapons was always recommendable, ‘... benchè la religione habbia più gran numero di fugili ò moschetti che d’huomini da armare, sarebbe sempre bene averne di più, per ragione che di queste armi se ne guasta ò rompe in quantità ogni giorno e che mai non si puo avere un numero d’armieri sufficienti’, 41 these huge quantities of arms cost money and the Order was already heavily committed to expensive fortification works. The years after 1715 saw the knights absorbed in upgrading the islands’ coastal and harbour fortifications leaving very few resources for the acquisition of arms and supplies.

An Armaments Deal A new threat of a Turkish attack in 1722 served to refocus the Order’s attention back on to the problem of its military equipment. Again the weapons were reviewed and inspected and breathtaking lists of all the required gear and supplies drawn up. The military reports speak the same language as those written some six years earlier, giving the impression that nothing had effectively been implemented. The Pope, for example, was asked to send the Order a quantity of ‘fucili a grillo.’42 One other interesting detail that reemerges from a study of these reports is the presence of a considerable quantity of unassembled musket barrels, but this time with the proposal to mount these in the form of multi-barrelled weapons known as ‘organs’, ‘... sarebbe bene di raccogliere le canne vecchie da fucili, o moschetti smontate per fare degli organi, attacandoli assieme sopra d’una tavola, e farli valere opportunamente.’ 43 Still, it seems little action was actually taken to bring the military hardware up to date once the Turkish threat subsided. Another 37 years had to pass before the problem of the Order’s military equipment would be tackled seriously. The whole process was set in motion in 1759 with the arrival in Malta of a certain Michel Gaudin, an agent of the arms factory of St Etienne en Forrest, with a sample of arms, ‘...varie mostre di fucili, pistole, sciabole ed altri armi.’ Gaudin’s arrival provided the Order with the opportunity to review and upgrade its weapons and introduce a much needed measure of standardization. It seems that Gaudin was actually invited over as he brought along some weapons designed on models sent from Malta, ‘... alcune [armi] formate sopra i modelli da noi inviati.’ The Manufacture Royale de Saint Etienne was then an important main source of production of French service arms. The town of Saint Etienne, capital of the Department of Loire, had a long history of association with the manufacture of arms. It was mostly sample weapons from the workshops of Freres Girard, Robert, Caress et Compagnie that Michele Gaudin had brought over with him to Malta. One of these partners, Pierre Girard, a gun-maker, was appointed Arquebusier Royal in the 18th century.44


The German knight, Frà Philipp Wilhelm Count of NesselrodeReichenstein (1677-1754) shown wearing a corslet beneath his coat with an espadin hanging from his side.

In 1759 the condition of the Order’s military equipment was definitely not a satisfactory one. Indeed, an entry in the Liber Conciliarum dated 26 August 1758 speaks of the ‘fucili delle milizie [che] sono fuori di stato di servire.’ 45 There were then many obsolete and old weapons in service, together with a large variety of firearms of different make and calibre; a situation which created numerous logistical problems and one which the knights were anxious to rectify.46 An inspection of the sale d’armi in 1761, for example, also revealed many unassembled barrels, a total of 10,328 ‘canne smontate’, of which only 2,724 were still fit for military service, the rest were just useful for drill purposes and about half had to be sold off as scrap metal.47 There was also then an inadequate amount of firearms. By the middle of the 18th century, the Order could already muster a force of some 18,000 men, of which 15,000 were local inhabitants capable of bearing arms.48 Effectively, the knights seem to have had then little more than 20,000 serviceable firearms and although the Order had been seriously considering the purchase of adequate weapons for some years nothing had actually been done.

One of the seven hundred pairs of ‘pistolets d’abordage’ bought by the Order in 1759 from the French firm Girard et Compagnie. The two photographs, far right, show details from the same pistol, revealing the manufacturer’s name on the lockplate and the eight-pointed cross marked on the breech. (Palace Armoury Museum).


The Congregation of War immediately appointed a two-man commission to examine Gaudin’s sample of arms. On careful inspection, the two commissioners, the knights Francesco Jarente and Giuseppe de Almeyda, found the sample weapons to be well made but noted the calibre of the muskets and pistols to be slightly small. The Order’s firearms at the time had calibres varying from No.21 to No.30, the greatest quantity being No.26. This was roughly equivalent to the calibre of the musket in French service. In its recommendations to the Congregation of War, the Commission stipulated that the muskets to be ordered were to be of exactly the same size and proportions as those of the contemporary French infantry musket. In 1759, the latest French military musket in service was the 1754 model. This was in effect a slightly modified version of an earlier 1728 pattern. Standardization in firearms was not introduced in the French army until 1717 when various prototypes were presented to the Council of War by the armament centres of Charleville, Maubeuge, and St Etienne. The 1717 pattern was soon replaced by the 1728 model. This weighed 4.1 kg, measured


Above, Balì Pierre-André de Suffren de Saint-Tropez. Right, portrait of Grand Master Manoel Pinto de Fonseca (1741-1773 ) by Favray, shown wearing the ‘Verdelin’ harness without the leg armour.

1.593m (barrel) and had a calibre of 17.5mm; its main feature was the muzzle bands securing the barrel to the stock instead of the pins used until then. The 1728 model was superseded by the slightlymodified 1746 and 1754 patterns of which more than 200,000 were eventually produced. The next model, known as de Stainville, was introduced in 1763.49 The St Etienne muskets ordered in 1759 were to have a black walnut stock furnished with brass, a steel baguette (ramrod) and a triangular bayonet (i.e. a bayonet with three faces). The knights also placed an order for cavalry pistols (‘pistolets d’Arcon des plus longs’) and naval pistols (the ‘Cours’, or ‘pistolets d’abordage’), which were to be decorated in brass and


have the same calibre as the muskets. The sample model of the large ‘trombons avec fourche de fer’, the ‘tromboni a cavaletto’ or heavy blunderbusses for use aboard men-of-war,50 were approved but no order was made for the hand-held version. Of the sample of sabres brought over by the agent, the Grenadier sabres produced by the Manufacture Royal d’Alsace were found to be the best. These had a brass knuckleguard and a sheath of calf-skin, ‘fodera di vitelli incollata sopra la tela e guarnita d’ottone.’ On the recommendations submitted by the Commission, a written agreement was drawn up on 18 July 1759 between the Order of St John and Michele Gaudin on behalf of Freres Girard, Robert, Caress et Compagnie. This laid down that Michel Gaudin, on behalf of the said entrepreneurs, was to supply 20,000 infantry muskets (‘vingt mille fusils de troops’), 700 pairs of ‘Pistolets d’Arcon’, 700 pairs of boarding pistols, sabres and ‘gros trombons à fourchette.’ The amount of sabres, to be produced in Strasbourg, is not stipulated, and it appears, as will be shown later on, that the order for the swords was eventually cancelled. The agreement laid down that the muskets were to be identical in size and calibre to those used by the French infantry. Each musket was to be equipped with a triangular bayonet, steel baguette and the barrel was to be of good quality iron (‘d’un fer de bonne qualité, egalement fourny de metal dans la circonference de la culasse’). Steel ramrods were thought best because those of iron rusted quickly in Malta’s humid atmosphere, while wooden ones rotted away, consumed ‘dal verme’. An inventory of firearms compiled in 1785 shows a hundred such ‘bachette d’acciaio’ in store in the Cittadella’s armoury.51 Before initiating production, the factory of St Etienne was first Above, portrait of the knight Frà Joseph d’Olivari, Grand Prior of Toulouse (1766) shown wearing a breastplate beneath his coat with his hand resting on a cuirassier close-helmet of French style with faceted bowl similar to the example shown at N52 (see catalogue). Left, two muskets with lockplates signed P Girard et Compagnie (Palace Armoury Museum).


bound to produce three complete examples, one to be kept by the entrepreneurs themselves and the other two to be sent to Balì de Brison in Marseilles, who was then to forward one of the weapons to Malta for evaluation. The factory was then bound to deliver 1,500 muskets annually to Mons. Simon, the Order’s agent at Marseilles, for the price of ‘20 livres 10 sols’ a piece. The money was to be paid at Lyon immediately on delivery of the muskets. The agreement also stipulated that a 100 pairs of ‘pistolets d’abbordage’ (boarding pistols) were to be delivered annually for seven years, to be followed then by a 100 pairs of ‘pistolets d’Arcon’ for the next seven A Grenadier trooper of the Order years. c.1761, armed with one of the 20,000 muskets manufactured at St Etienne en Forrest. Above, right, detail of lockplate and trigger guard of what appears to be an officer’s musket manufactured by P Girard et Compagnie.

Meanwhile, the Common Treasury was instructed to obtain permission from the French Court for the manufacture and export of the said arms and to seek exemption from export duties, in which case if successful, ‘1 livre 5 sols’ were to detracted from the cost of each musket. Each consignment of arms made to Balì de Brison in Marseilles was to be marked with a small eight-pointed cross after inspection by the Order’s representatives (see photograph). An advance payment of 15,000 livres was to be made to the entrepreneurs. Early in February of 1761, the knights received from Balì de Brison the first model of the musket as stipulated in the agreement. The knights Almejda and Lanscome (the latter had replaced Jurante) were commissioned to inspect it in the company of the master armourer. This musket was found to be well made, ‘fornito con tutti li requisiti’, and consequently approved. On the advice of the two commissioners, the Congregation of War also agreed to import a number of officers’ muskets ‘per l’Officiali delle milizie.’


Sabretache and wooden paper cartridge container (Palace Armoury Museum).

The first consignment of firearms, 1,500 muskets, 200 pistols and some trombons, arrived in May 1761, in time to be issued to the Maltese troops then preparing for a Turkish attack. The capture of the Sultan’s capital ship, the Corona Ottomana, in 1760 brought the knights and their island-fortress of Malta once again to the brink of war. In the end, the bloody confrontation was averted by French diplomacy, when Louis XV bought the vessel from the Order and donated it to the Turks as a sign of goodwill.52 But in 1761 all this could not be seen clearly and indeed there was a time when the Turks, intent on a vengeful reprisal, began assembling a large armada at Constantinople. The knights, in anticipation of an impending attack, set about placing the island on a war footing in a manner that was never to be emulated again throughout the 18th century. The gravity of the situation called for serious defence preparations and all throughout the summer of 1761, knights and volunteers, munitions, and weapons, poured incessantly into the island. The fortifications were inspected by military experts and armed, new defensive works commissioned, and military exercises held daily. The timely arrival of the firearms from France coincided perfectly with the hectic military preparations and surely the Grand Master and his Council must have congratulated themselves for their foresight. The batch of arms was duly inspected by the knights Lancosme and Almejda, and an expert master armourer brought over purposely from France. The inspection was carried out in the presence of the commander of artillery and his prudhomme, and a small gathering of knights who happened to be in Malta in answer to


the Order’s summons for the defence of the Convent. All firearms were found to be well-made and in good condition but there were a number of defects which needed to be corrected. The barrels, for example, were not as smooth and well polished as that of the model dispatched earlier, and the vent holes in most cases were considered too small or too high in relation to the pans. The triggers on a number of the weapons touched the trigger guards and consequently prevented the muskets from firing properly while the ramrods were not easily extractable. The commissioners also proposed a number of improvements: it was decided that the head of the ramrod was to be pear-shaped and the strap buckle was to be relocated to rear of the trigger guard. The pistols and trombons, on the other hand, were found to be without any fault whatsoever. The factory at St Etienne was duly informed of the corrections and alterations required. On 8 December 1761 Balì de Brison wrote to inform the Order that the manufacturers were demanding an increase of ‘14 sols 6 deniers’ per musket in order to implement the requested changes. However, the Commissioners only consented to accede to an increase of ‘7 sols 6 deniers’ and Balì de Brison was instructed to inform the manufacturers accordingly.53 The second consignment of arms, consisting of 1,500 muskets, a 100 pairs of pistols and 13 trombons, arrived in February 1762 aboard the Order’s ship, the San Giovanni. Again the knights Lancosme and Almejda were sent to inspect the shipment. The corrections which the Commissioners had demanded, however, had not been executed as the weapons had left France before the arrival of the Order’s letter requesting the changes. Nonetheless, the second shipment was found to be of much better quality than the first, the muskets being finished ‘avec plus d’attention.’ Aboard the same ship, the commissioners found a second batch of firearms, one consisting of 2,325 second-hand muskets with bayonets which had been bought in Marseilles by Commander Fra’ Giuseppe D’Albert on behalf of the Order. On close inspection, the majority of these ‘fusils de munition’ were found to be in surprisingly good condition, many as good as new and others requiring only minor repairs.54 In March 1762 Balì de Brison sent the knights two revised sample models and two officer’s muskets accompanied by a letter from the manufacturers in which the question of the ‘augmentation de prix’ was raised once again. The Commissioners Lanscome and Almejda were asked to review the manufacturer’s demands and after a somewhat lengthy deliberation agreed to give ‘3 sols 6 deniers’ more per musket, that is a total increase of 11 sols per weapon on the original price agreed. The third consignment of 1,500 muskets arrived sometime later in March and once again the weapons were examined and found to be in good condition, fulfilling all requirements. The fourth shipment sailed into the Grand Harbour aboard the San Giovanni in September of the following year.55 This is the last documented consignment


and thereafter no more mention is made of the arrival of weapons from St Etienne en Forrest. The knights Lancosme and Almejda were similarly summoned to inspect the shipment, in all 1,000 ‘fucili con loro baionette per ufficiali’, 1,500 ‘fucili con loro baionette da munizione’ and 100 ‘paja pistole’, but their detailed report, so meticulously prepared on all previous occasions, has not been traced. It is difficult today to ascertain if the remainder of the muskets actually arrived in Malta as the records shed no further light on the matter. However, it appears that these did arrive, for an exhaustive survey of firearms drawn up by the knight St Felix in 1785 shows that the Order had over 40,075 muskets available in 1785, of which 21,670 were service muskets ‘guarniti di ferro’, 852 officers muskets and 17,553 ‘fucili in ottone’ (brass).56 The 1759 procurement of arms appears to have been the last procurement of firearms to be made on such a large scale. To begin with, the precarious


View of a section of the Royal Armoury at the Bastille in Paris as it appeared in the mid-18th century. Note the rows of muskets stacked with their barrels pointing downwards, the breastplates and helmets hanging from the wooden beams supporting the roof and the cabinet with miniature models of cannon.

state of the Order’s finances, particularly after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 and the eventual loss of the Order’s revenues, would have prevented the knights from investing again so heavily in new weapons, more so in the absence of any pressing military objective. Malta would never again be faced with the threat of a Turkish attack. The Turkish empire too was in rapid decline and, moreover, diplomatic alliances no longer respected a Europe divided into Christian and Muslim camps. Only the Barbary corsairs still presented some minor threat, more of a nuisance really, but even this hostile activity evaporated rapidly in those final decades to deny the Order its professed task of protecting Christendom. The only other time when new firearms may have been imported in bulk was in 1778 or thereabouts, when two new regular infantry regiments were set up to stiffen the defence of the island given that the local militia regiments lacked discipline and proper training. The Regimento di Malta, whose formation was based on that of a French regiment of the line, was initially made up of 2 battalions of 600 officers and men each divided into 12 companies of Fusiliers and 2 companies of Grenadiers. The Reggimento dei Cacciatori, on the other hand was a militia infantry unit of volunteers composed of 6 infantry companies of 100 men each.57

Colonel of the ‘Reggimento di Malta’.

Initially it was intended to arm these troops with weapons taken from the Armoury and indeed an order was issued in August 1777 for the issue of 1,500 muskets of the same calibre and size for such a purpose: ‘La Ve. Congregatione ha stabilito che si prendano dalla sala d’Armi mille cinquecento fucili dello stesso calibro e misura per serviggio del Reggimento di Malta: e quando saranno questi consegnati al detto Reggimento, si riconsegnanno all’Artiglieria i fucili de quali si serve presentamente.’ 58 Again in January of the following year, the commanders of artillery and the Reggimento were asked to visit the ‘Armeria per vedere i fucili che possono servire per detto Reggimento’ and a few weeks later 400 muskets were actually issued to the troops, the muskets, however, being all cut down to the same height, ‘... si pigliano dall’armeria 400 fucili per farli tagliare all’ altezza degli altri.’ 59 At the same time the Order’s Ricevitore in Naples was asked to send ‘una mostra di fucili di munizione di quella Fabbrica (Napoli) per uso della Truppa di terra di Malta’ so that the knights could then order ‘tutto il numero che necessita per il Regimento di Malta per evitare le continue riparazioni.’ 60 And from a second document, we know that Balì Carignani was given commission (with a letter dated 2 March 1778) to purchase, as a sample, ‘un fucile di munizione da Soldato dalla Fabbrica dell’Annunziata.’ However, there is no record to show that the weapons were actually ordered and delivered. A brief entry in a late-18th century document does mention the sum of 2,708.4 scudi spent on a ‘compra d’armi.’ This, however, does not specify the type of equipment purchased and may simply be referring to cannon. Still, an entry dated 17 October 1796 in a volume entitle ‘Armi’


does mention ‘un fucile de nuovi con sua baionetta’ and a French inventory of the Palace Armoury drawn up in 1799 distinguishes between ‘fusil anciens’ and ‘fusils neuf’, implying that some new weapons had reached the armouries in the last days of the Order, unless of course, these were actually weapons which had been introduced by the French garrison itself. A letter from France dated 1 December 1791 sent by a French agent of the Order who had the occasion to examine ‘avec soin les nouvelles armes que l’Impereur a donné à ses troues’ recommended that these be adopted by the Order’s ‘Bataillon de mer’ as he believed these to have been ‘infiniment avantageus pour nous soldats Marine’. One advantage he cited was that their ‘bayonette est faite en cylindre’. By the end of the 18th century, the 1754 pattern musket would have been considered old, though by no means obsolete. In comparison, none of the muskets which equipped General Bonaparte’s Armie d’Oriente dated earlier than 1777 (the Gribeauval musket).61 This may explain why various contemporary accounts of the French invasion of Malta tend to depict the Maltese as being poorly armed with old and unserviceable guns.

Armouries in Valletta Evidently, such an ever-growing quantity of arms necessitated improved storage facilities and, in fact, throughout this period one begins to encounter the presence of more than one armoury in Valletta, together with a host of smaller magazines scattered around the various towns and villages. By 1763, there were three large depositories in the capital city aside from the Palace Armoury; one inside St James Cavalier, another at the Falconeria (established as an Armeria di Rispetto in 1763) and the third being an obscure magazine situated ‘sopra i forni.’ 62 Despite the major reorganization set in motion in 1763, the profusion of armouries did not bring about the much desired reform, for the state of the weapons stored in the armouries does not seem to have improved much. If anything, it appears to have actually deteriorated further. A report submitted to the Congregation of War by Balì Lessa Sousa in September 1769, for example, speaks of the ‘pessimo stato ove sono una gran parte d’armi, che la Sagra Religione tiene in differenti luoghi dentro l’Isola di Malta.’ 63 His account draws a very depressing picture of the military effectiveness of the Order’s firearms, and this only eight years after the major reorganization begun in 1761. Balì Sousa speaks of a total of 17,000 muskets situated in the ‘due Sale d’Armi’ of the Falconeria (now the British Legion premises in Melita Street) and St James Cavalier, all of which, we are told, were in ‘pessimo stato per la ruggine.’ 64 Another 7,000 muskets used by the 6 regiments of country militia were stored inside a number of


armouries around the various towns and villages but were likewise found by Balì Sousa to be in poor condition. The main reason for this sad state of affairs, as will be discussed in detail in the following chapter, appears to have been a critical lack of armourers. Given the vast amount of firearms, there were very few armourers in employment. In 1770 the master armourer was asking for the assistance of at least 100 slaves or forzati if he was to be seriously expected to repair the thousands of poorly conditioned firearms indicated by Balì Sousa.65 Obviously, his request was not acceded to for by 1782, the situation had deteriorated so badly that a commission of two knights calculated that it would take some 15 years just for the unconditioned muskets to be repaired. The situation does not seem to have improved much in later years either, for in June 1795, the firearms stored at Città Notabile were found to be deteriorating badly because they were not being cleaned, again, apparently, due to a lack of armourers, so much so, that a few weeks later the commander of artillery was instructed to reform the group of armourers.66 This situation, however, did not apply to the Palace Armoury. Various reports show it to have contained the best maintained arms in the whole of the island, especially when compared to the poor condition of the majority of weapons stored in the other magazines; a state of affairs obviously accruing from its privileged position inside the Magisterial Palace but also, and more importantly, because it was the only one served by full-time armourers. By then, however, the Palace Armoury had also assumed a secondary role apart from its military function as a depository of munitions weapons, that of a gallery for the display of old arms and armour. The aspect of a collection of antiquarian interest which it appears to have been given by Grand Master Wignacourt was developed further by successive Grand Masters. One of the earliest documented mention of the presence of weapons kept solely for display purposes, dates to the time of the magistracy of Ramon Despuig in 1737, and refers to the leather gun. This cannon, long thought to have either been imported from some northern country, produced at the end of the 18th century or, worse still, brought over from Rhodes, was actually constructed by a local gunsmith. A petition by Margerita Ellul reminded the Grand Master that it was one of her ancestors who had built the leather gun: ‘... Margarita, vedova di Francesco Ellul di questa Città Valletta - espone che per riguardo d’aver un suo antenato fatto il cannone di pelle che ritrovasi conservato nella sua armeria fu alli suoi antecessori, e successori concesso l’uso della mina che ritrovasi in questa città sotto il Forte Cavaliere.’ 67 It was not always that antiquarian interest prevailed in the Palace Armoury, however, for one can frequently detect a practice of shedding off obsolete items in order to make room for newer weapons. In 1640, for example, Grand Master Lascaris, on the advice of the Gran Consiglio, ordered that 500 old archibugi be removed from the Public Armoury and sold to the


Trophy-of-arms crowning the roof of the Corte Capitanale in Mdina.



populace, the money recovered from their sale to be used for the purchase of new weapons: ‘...che dalla pubblica Armeria si cavino cinquecento Archibugi, compresi quelli che gia si ritrovino fuori, e si vendono dal Conservatore Conventuale alli Vasalli, secondo a chi per polza del Senescalco sarà additato, Volendo che esse Conservatore tenghi a’ parte e separato il denaro, che proverrà dal prezzo di detti Archibuggi, per doversi impiegare in compra d’altri armi, e facendo altrimenti sià tenuto de proprio.’ 68 Another recorded instance was that of 1703, when the commander of artillery, Frà Giuseppe de Clapiers du Puget, together with his Prodomi, was instructed to draw up a list of all the ‘armi inutili’ in the Armoury. His report contained the following list of weapons: Scopette a grillo 170 Baionette 3 Archibugio 1 Moschetti a grillo 2 Mezzi moschetti 2 Moschetti a mecchio 4 Moschetti a mecchio di Francia 12 Piche di Biscaia, e Fago 52 Alabarde 5 Spontoni 21 Scarsine 5 Spade 5 Mezza spada 1 Ferri di Piche 178 Ferri di Spontoni 23 Bacchette d’Ilice (?) 2,000 Celate Veneziane 26 Grilli Vecchi 1,130 Tamburi 30 Una canna di mezzo moschetto 1 Suffioni, e Carabine a grillo 3 Pistole a grillo 6 Un brocchiere 1 As a result, Frà Puget was ordered, on the following 26 April 1703, to hand over these items to the Commissioner Frà Francesco de Damian in order that they be placed in storage in an unspecified magazine. A more drastic process of exuviation occurred in 1763 when many of the obsolete items were transferred to the Falconeria, newly established as a reserve armoury: ‘...Incarichiamo finalmente il nominato Comm. dell’Artiglieria di andare successivamente sbarazzando l’armeria di Palazzo di tutte le armi vecchie, mentre questa non deve contenere altri armi che le nuove venute gia da Francia, e che vanno successivamente venendo fino al


Opposite page, document authorizing the sale of 1,000 old or obsolete muskets from the Palace Armoury around 1763 (National Library of Malta).

compimento del partito stabilito in St Etienne en Forrest.’ 69 A unique document dating from this period, reproduced on p. 106, reveals the sale of ‘Mille Fucili’ from the Armoury, all in working order but of outdated design with their ‘azzalini a braghetta’ and ‘incassature non ... alla moderna’. Its importance lies in the fact that it describes in detail the features of at least one type of military musket in use by the Order in the early 18th century. Later in 1790, one also encounters a special commission, known as ‘delle Patrone e Bandolieri’ whose exact role, however, is not specified, but it appears that one of its duties was that of disposing of obsolete equipment of this type. By the time of the capitulation of the Order in 1798, the collection of antique weapons had become quite renowned and at least one 18th century French visitor to the Palace was so impressed by the tasteful manner in which the trophies were arranged on its walls to actually record the experience in his memoirs. Then, as now, the centrepiece of the collection was the damascened harness of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt. That collection of arms and armour, together with a few later additions, still forms the basis of the Palace Armoury Museum today, even though with the passage of time it was lamentably despoiled of many of its contents. Thanks to the survival of two detailed inventory lists it is possible today to have a better understanding of the contents of the Palace Armoury during the final phase of its existence. The earliest of the two inventories was drawn up by the knight St Felix in 1785. The other, dated 23 September 1799 and signed by D’Hennezel, French commander of artillery and engineers, was compiled during the brief French occupation of Malta. The most interesting of the two is undoubtedly that of 1785 for it provides a clearly graphic idea of the way the Palace Armoury was laid out, revealing also the presence of a portrait of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt and a small armourers’ workshop adjoining the gallery. Basically, the Armoury was informally divided into two sections with the antique arms and armour mostly displayed along the walls and the munitions weapons stacked in racks (‘gabioni’) in the centre of the long hall. The munitions weapons comprised the functional weapons necessary to equip the bulk of the Order’s troops. These consisted of the following:70 Brass-furnished muskets (‘fucili di munizione nei gabioni guarniti in ottone’) 16,112 iron-furnished muskets 1,188 Officers’ muskets 643 Carabines 491 Hand-held blunderbusses (‘Tromboni a mano’) 2 Heavy blunderbusses (‘a cavaletto’) 21 Pistols 1,050 Reserve bayonets (‘Bajonette di rispetto’) 357 Bullet moulds (‘Battipalle’) 126


In other words, there were enough weapons in the Palace Armoury to equip all the island’s urban and country militia regiments. The antique arms and armour, on the other hand, were displayed in three ways; the majority were hung along the walls in a series of twenty-four trophies-of-arms, and the rest placed either above the cornice moulding (sopra li cornicioni) that ran along the top part of the walls or else assembled in five piazze (groups) in the middle of the gallery. The items displayed above the cornice moulding consisted of the following: ‘Corsaletti sopra li travi Detti sopra li cornicioni Casche, e morioni forti in detti Picche, ed alabarde Spade alla Spagnola Rondaccie intorno i due retratti Bajonette nei cornici Pistole diverse in detti

131 123 124 123 429 11 284 242’

The trophies-of-arms were the most spectacular feature of the Palace Armoury and remained so right down to the 20th century even though by then the actual composition of the individual trophies may have changed significantly. In fact, trophies-of-arms were also displayed in the armoury at St James Cavalier as attested by the entries ‘balestre nei trofei’ and ‘pistole sulle porte’.71 A glimpse can be caught of the original atmosphere of the Palace Armoury from a number of late-19th century photographs. In 1785, the size and composition of the trophies-of-arms varied considerably as is shown on the following pages:


Extract from the inventory of the Palace Armoury drawn up in 1785.

Dietro il Sole sul ritratto Wignacourt Balestra 1 Spada alla Spagnola 1 Canonetti di Bronzo 2 Dietro il Sole sul ritratto in fondo Balestre 2 Spada alla Spagniola 1 Mortaretti di ferro per granate 2 1. Trofeo sul cornicione vicino il garnicolo Rondoccia Pistole Picche Sciabole Mezzo corsaletto 2. In Seguito Rondaccia Pistole Picche, ed alabarde Sciabole Fucile di Spoglio Mezzo corsaletto 3. In seguito nell’angolo sull’Armario Corsaletto Rondaccia Picche, ed alabarde

1 2 6 2 1

1 2 5 2 1 1

1 1 13

4. Trofeo nell’angolo tra le 2 finestre nella facciata del Ritratto Wignacourt Corsaletto 1 Pistola 1 Sciabole 3 Balestra 1 Picche 18 Mortaletto di ferro per granate 1 5. In Seguito Rondaccia di ferro Mezzocorsaletto Sciabole Spuntoni, ed alabarde

1 1 2 8

6. In seguito Rondaccia di ferro Mezzocorsaletto Sciabole Spuntoni Fucili di Spoglio

1 1 2 6 2

7. In seguito Corsaletto Rondaccia di ferro Balestra Pistola Sciabole Picche, e spuntoni

1 1 1 1 2 20

Primo Trofeo sulla piccola porta nell’ingresso Corsaletti Picche, e spuntoni Sciabole Pistole Balestre Fucili de Spoglio Canna di fucile guardareni da Cavallo Pistole in giro della porta

2 6 8 2 2 2 1 1 45

2. Trofeo in seguito Corsaletti Spuntoni Pistole Sciabole Balestre Fucile di spogli Canne de fucili guardareni da cavallo

2 6 3 10 2 1 1 1

3.Trofeo sulla porta di Palazzo Spuntoni Spade Sciabole Balestre Mezzarmatura Corsaletto Pistole

9 3 14 5 1 1 6


4. In seguito Corsaletti Spuntoni Canna di fucile Pistole Fucili di Spoglio Balestre Sciabole Guardareni da Cavallo

2 6 1 3 2 2 10 1

5. In seguito Corsaletti Spuntoni Canna di fucile Pistole Fucile de Spoglio Balestre Sciabole guardareni da cavallo

2 6 1 2 2 2 11 1

6. Trofeo in seguito Corsaletto Spuntoni canna di fucile pistola Sciabole

1 6 1 1 2

7. Intorno al quadro in fondo, e sulla guadarbrobe) Corsaletti Canonetti di ferro Mortaretto di ferro per granate Spuntoni Pistole canne di fucilio Fucili di Spogli Spadone Rondaccia Mezzarmatura Sciabole Balestra 8. In seguito Corsaletti Pistole Sciabole Fucili di Spoglio Canna di fucile Spuntoni

2 2 1 20 5 9(?) 2 1 1 1 3 1

2 4 7 2 1 6

Fucili di Spoglio guardareni di Cavallo Pistole in giro della porta Balestra Mortaretti di ferro per granate

5 1 40 1 4

9.Trofeo in seguito Corsaletti Sciabole Pistole Fucili di spoglio Spuntoni Canna di fucile guardareni da cavallo

2 10 9 2 6 1 1

10. In seguito Corsaletti Pistole Balestre Sciabole Fucili di spoglio spuntoni Canna di fucile guardareni da cavallo

2 2 2 12 2 6 1 1

11. Trofeo sulla porta del balcone Mezzarmatura 1 Corsaletto 1 Pistole 6 Balestre 3 Fucili di Spoglio 4 Sciabole 21 Spada alla Spagnola 1 Guardareni da cavallo 1 Cocchiara di rame 1 Spuntoni 9 Testale da Cavallo 1 12. Trofeo in seguito Corsaletti Balestre Pistole Cocchiara di rame Sciabole Fucile di Spoglio Guardareni da Cavallo Canna Spuntoni

2 2 3 1 9 1 1 1 6

13. In seguito Corsaletti Pistole Balestre Sciabole Fucili di Spoglio Guardareni da Cavallo Mortaretti di ferro Canna Spuntoni

2 3 2 10 2 1 4 1 6

14. In seguito Corsaletto Pistole Fucili di Spoglio Sciabole Spada alla Spagnola Guardareni da Cavallo Balestra Canna Spuntoni

1 4 2 6 1 1 1 1 6

15. Trofeo intorno al quadro dell’Emo. Wignacourt Mezzarmature Spadone Fucili di Spoglio Pistole Pugnali Spade alla Spagnola Sciabole Balestre Rondaccie di rame (Turkish shields?) Canne della gioja Testali da Cavallo Spuntoni fiacchi fatti a maglia guardareni da cavallo arco di legno con sua freccia 16. Trofeo in seguito Corsaletto Fucili di Spoglio Pistole Balestra Sciabole Canne Spuntoni Mortaretti di ferro per granate


2 1 3 11 3 4 11 5 4 4 2 13 2 1 1

1 2 4 1 6 2 6 4

17. Trofeo Sotto il ritratto Wignacourt Armature 3 mezzarmature 2 Spuntoni 44 Canne della goija 9 Spingardi 2 Balestra 1 Rondaccie 2 Cannonetti di Bronzo 3 Mortaletto di Bronzo 1 Spade alla Spagnola 3 Fucili di Spoglio 2 Carabina di Scarto 1

The arms and armour grouped in piazze in the centre of the hall, in a manner which is not yet clearly understood, were arranged as follows: Prima Piazza in faccia ai gabiani della piccola porta Armature 4 Spade alla Spagnola 4 Balestre 2 Sciabole 2 Spuntoni 16 2da. Piazza Armature Balestre Sciabole Spuntoni

Hospitaller knight of the early 1700s wearing the ubiquitous red sopraveste during military and carovana duties.

3za. Piazza Armature Spadoni Spade alla Spagnola Balestre Sciabole Spingardi Spuntoni Mortaretti di ferro per granate Cannonetto di bronzo scolpito

4a. Piazza Armature Spuntoni Balestre Sciabole 5. Piazza Armature Spade alla Spagnola Balestre Sciabole Spuntoni Cannone di quoiro Cannonetti di bronzo Cannonetto di ferro cannonetti di piombo con anima di ferro mortaretti di bronzo

8 4 4 40

12(?) 4 8 4 4 4 32

8 40 4 4

4 4 2 2 16 1 5 1 2 2

4 1

Various other items were then to be found at the entrance to the Armoury and in the armourers’ workshop situated in a room adjoining the gallery itself : Nell’Ingresso ed ove puliscono le armi Armature mezzarmatura Corsaletti cannonetto di bronzo mortaletto di ferro per granate Petti e schinati forti Alabarda Rondaccie di ferro Spada alla Spagnola Pistole Sciabole di scarto

2 1 203 1 1 18 1 2 1 78 40

Judging by the above inventory, today’s collection in the Armoury , although still a substantial one, is only a pale shadow of what it was in 1785. Most


tragic has been the loss of a large number of suits of armour. That many of these were richly decorated is made evident by the few remaining pauldrons and tassets that once formed part of these harnesses. Still, any attempt to compare the above list with the surviving display would present various difficulties since the present collection is in reality a combination of the remains of the munitions weapons, the ‘dècorations de la Salle d’armes’, and many other items which came from the other armouries of the Order as a result of their dissolution in the post-1798 period. Thus, to give a few examples, the above list gives no account of the hundreds of 17th-century powder flasks to be found in the present collection and mentions only two of three mail vests. Similarly, there is no mention of the Venetian schiavona, now housed in the Armoury. This, together with twelve other such swords, is found listed in the inventory of St James Cavalier, similarly drawn up by the knight St Felix in 1785. By the mid-18th century the armoury in St James Cavalier was as important a military depot as the Palace Armoury itself, housing thousands of weapons and armour of the same type as those found in the Palace, besides morions, corselets, swords, pikes, halberds, muskets, pistols, all placed inside four large, adjoining vaulted magazines. How many of these items ended up in the Palace Armoury will probably always remain an open question. The 1785 list gives some interesting details about the contents of the Armoury. One curious item long since lost was a singular wooden bow and arrow, ‘arco di legno con sua freccia’, possibly a relic of the Great Siege, when wooden bows were still in use, particularly by the Turks. The inventory also reveals the presence of the Grand Master’s own private collection of 40 hunting muskets, which were then being temporarily deposited in the Armoury. Many of the richly decorated fowling pieces which can still be seen on display appear to have formed part of the Grand Master’s collection, although it is difficult to distinguish these from the other ‘fucili di spoglio’ mentioned in the list. Hunting pieces constitute the greater percentage of the muskets still to be found in the Armoury, very few service firearms having actually survived. Other weapons belonging to Grand Master De Rohan (‘ricevuti in deposito sotto il di 6 Maggio 1785’) consisted of 64 ‘Fucili di munizione guarniti in rame’ and another 10 ‘guarniti in ferro’, 21 ‘Pistole diverse’, a ‘Trombone piccolo’, 80 ‘Lame di Sciabole’ and a single ‘Lama di Spada’. Surprisingly, there is no specific mention of the Turkish firearms. Probably these were included under the term ‘fucili di spoglio’ for Turkish muskets are mentioned in the French inventory of 1799. Moreover, their presence in the Armoury is revealed by another source, because in 1796 a ‘fucile turco guarnito in argento e avorio’ was submitted to the armourers’ workshop for restoration. The entry ‘ronadaccie di rame’ most probably also refers to the four Turkish brass shields.


The second inventory, that drawn up by the French commander of artillery and engineers gives us a glimpse of the Palace Armoury in September 1799.72 At that time, neither the Palace nor the Armoury were any longer in the hands of the Order of St John. More than a year had already passed since Napoleon’s troops had invaded, defeated, and expelled the knights from the Maltese islands. The Grand Master’s Palace had become the seat of the local French government and the military headquarters for the 3,000-strong force under the command of General Vaubois. By September of 1799, however, the French troops had been blocked-up within the Grand Harbour fortifications for over twelve months, ever since the Maltese rural population had risen up in rebellion. Still, General Vaubois and his men were not particularly worried. They were protected by formidable fortifications and were well armed and equipped. Apart from their own arms, the French could also count upon the thousands of weapons captured from the knights. The Order’s armouries, as shown by D’Hennezel’s lists were still stocked with all types of weapons. The Palace Armoury in particular had changed little in the meantime. It still contained all its decorative trophies and thousands of weapons as shown in the inventory reproduced on the following pages. Salle d’armes du Palais il C’est Crocire’ au ratelier marque’ AA fusils anciens modeles a celui marque’ AB (ancien modele) à nettoyer a’ la marque AC a l’Etiquete le AD fusils à nettoyer (anciens modeles) a la marque AE fusils à nettoyer anciens modeles a’ l’etiquette AF fusils à nettoyer au ratelier AG gros tromblons au ratelier marque AH fusils (an. mod.) à nettoyer tromblons en cuivre Sous l’etiquette AI fusils netoyer (anciens modeles) dans la salle de reparation fusils anciens modeles - même garniture en fer dans la meme salle tromblon de fer de differents grandeurs au ratelier AL fusils (nouveaux models) sous l’etiquette AM fusils neuf AN, AO les deux rateliers contiennent ensemble fusils neufs AP, AQ contenant entreux fusils (nouveau modèle) au ratelier AR carabine plus fusils bronzé garnis en cuivre (compris 50 fusils bronzes lesquel sont dans la Salle d’armes l on nettoyer) au ratelier AS fusils neuf AT, AV fusils de chapes fusils neuf AX, fusils neuf


80 94 96 194 257 79 21 33 5 133

103 24 458 620 919 1138 489 153 444 77 848 380

AZ fusils neuf BA, fusils neuf BB fusils neuf BC fusils neuf BD fusils neuf BE fusils court garnis en cuivre BF fusils court garnis en cuirve BG fusils neuf BH fusils neuf BK au ratelier fusils neuf BM ditto BO ditto BQ ditto BS ditto BT Tromblon en fer BV fusils neuf E au ratelier e, à la gauche de la garderobe fusils neuf F au dessus de l’armoire située pris la garde robe fusils de chevalier anciens modele L au dessus de l’armoire marq.BX fusils de chevalier (an. mod.) M audessus de l’armoire BZ fusils de chevalier (nouv. mod.) N fusils garnis en fer (anc. mod.) O fusils garnis en fer (anc. mod.) P fusils ancien mod. garn. en fer Q fusils ancien mod. garn. en fer R fusil (modèle francais) S fusils (modèle francais) T ancien fusils U ancien fusils X fusils ancien modèle AR fusils de chape AS Mousquetons garnis en fer tromblons en cuivre dans l’armoire marq. BX pistolets garnis en cuivre dans l’armoire marq. BZ pistolets (dont 39 garnis en fer) armoire située pres la garderobe pistolets (dont 27 garnis en fer) sur les cotes des rateliers et au dessus des deux portes de la face pistolets garnis en cuivre

578 266 427 450 615 128 249 108 204 324 218 219 319 223 229 245 213 27 26 18 58 137 61 92 270 180 95 94 101 30 24 37 236 257 287 285

Decorations de la Salle d’armes Sous le titre doit être compris les objets refermes dans la garderobe trophes & dans la garde robe: fusils turc 4 fusils Espagnols 6 ditto à roue 2 ditto à mèche 1 fusil double 1 fusils Romains 3 fusils de chapes 52 Carabine francais 3


Portrait of Balì Jacques François de Chambrai (1687-1756).

Carabine almandes (allemande) Carabine Venitiene (Venitienne) paires de pistolets dont deux garnis en cuivre tromblons dont 2 Espagnoles et une Venitienne sabres turcs sabres d’abordages sabre portant pistolet poignard Bayonnettes masser (?) d’armes a’ tête doreé hacher d’arme pics à Mèche

3 1 20 3 6 1 1 1 3 2 1 4

à chaque bout de la Salle se trouvant un tableau surmonté chacun d’un Soleil au dessus de fênetres principales et les deux portes d’entrée quatorze trophés placès symetriquement deux cents cinquante cinq (255) cuirasses distribués autour de la Salle sur deux rangs, le 1r. portant sur la corniche et le segond [second] au dessus entre les deux ranges de Cuirasses 114 pairs de pistolets croisés 114 cornes d’amorce 220 Epées 418 Bayonnettes 284 Piques en fer 123 piques en fer placées autour de la Salle au dessus du 4e rangs de fusils 932 articles suplementaires un canon de six (ce canon est en bois - recouvert de cuivre)avec son affut dix petit pieces en bronzes sur leurs affut dont quatre de une livre de bale deux de 12 ounces et quatre de une 1/2 liv quatre autres en fer de une demi livre deux en plomb de 1/2 liv. quatre canons de rempart dix huit petites Eprouvettes en fer du calibre de six 73 de autres en cuivre du calibre de trois trent neuf armures en fer completes dont trois sont bronzés et dorés quatorze bronzés seulement et vingt deux en fer poli dans la 1r caisse placé sous les fenêtres de la salle d’armes du palais sabres d’abordage 34 2e caisse ditto 82 3e caisse plaque de bouche en cuivre 158 sous garde de pistolets 96 4e caisse lames de sabres neuves 23 longues Epees 39 6e caisse canons de tromblons en cuivre 26 7e caisses bayonettes 710 8e bayonnettes dont 104 ont leur fourreau 286 9e Bayonnettes 1,062 10e Capucine du bas 245 Embouchoirs 156 13e caisse porte Baguettes a’ quive 185


porte baguette rond Capucine du Milieu Balon de pistolet sousgarde de pistolet vieux hausse 16e caisse tête de baguette en fer hallebardes Poignard

178 300 196 188 36 118 8 1

Of particular interest are the double-barrelled musket, the ‘fusils espagnols’, a single matchlock arquebus and a ‘sabre portant pistolet’ (combination weapon - sword with gun) all of which are still to be found in the collection. However, what is most important about this detailed inventory is that it helps dispel the myth that the French carried away most of the items from the Palace Armoury for it clearly shows that the Armoury was still amply stocked with thousands of weapons during the blockade. True, the number of firearms had fallen down from 18,643 (in 1785) to 12,253, a thirty-four percent drop, but this was nothing compared with the virtual disappearance of all the Order’s firearms in the following fifty years or so. The only documented instance where weapons are believed to have been removed from the Palace Armoury during the French occupation was when, according to Lt Vivion, a quantity of pistols, muskets, and swords were transferred on board l’Athenien in June 1799.74 D’Hennezel’s inventory, however, was compiled three months after this event, and so the hoard of weapons shipped out on l’ Athenien does not change the overall picture.

Extract from the French inventory of the Palace Armoury drawn up in 1799.


Nonetheless, Napoleon does seem to have carried off with him a number of the Order’s firearms for D’Hennezel’s detailed lists show that in 1799 there were 24,000 muskets in store in all the armouries together as compared to the 40,000 firearms recorded in 1785. Although a number of other muskets are known to have been housed in the village armouries at the time of the Maltese insurrection in September 1798, what we know of the insurgents indicates that these would not have amounted to more than a few hundred weapons. Consequently this leaves a hefty load which, unless shipped off to Egypt on the ‘L’Orient’, is otherwise unaccounted for. The dramatic events which occurred in 1798 represented the last time that weapons were issued from the Palace Armoury, indeed from all of the knight’s armouries, in order to equip Maltese troops. In the panic and chaos that accompanied Napoleon’s lightning invasion, many of the militia troops abandoned both their positions and their arms and, with the rapid surrender of the Order, all the equipment quickly fell into French hands. What arrangements were made for the disposition of the captured material is not known. How many of the weapons issued to arm the 15,000 strong force of the country and urban militias eventually found their way back to the armouries or were otherwise commandeered for shipment to Egypt will probably always remain a matter for speculation. What is known is that the French retained most of the armouries that were originally employed by the Order. Of all these military storehouses, however, it was only the Palace Armoury which was to survive into the following century, undoubtedly, due to its privileged position inside the Palace of the Grand Masters.


A Profusion of Armouries in the 18th Century The Main Armouries The massive procurement of arms which accompanied the 18th century necessitated a greater storage arrangement than could possibly be provided by the Palace Armoury alone. One of the first steps taken to solve this problem was that of clearing the Palace Armoury of all obsolete and useless weapons in order to make room for the new supplies that were arriving from France. Earlier in September 1763, the commissioner of works, Don Garcia Xarava and the Order’s engineer, Balì de Tignè, together with some master-masons were ordered to inspect the two magazines of the Falconeria with a view to converting them for use as an ‘armeria di rispetto’, i.e., a reserve armoury, so as to house all the older weapons: ‘...che li nominati fucili accommodati e rimontati si conservino nell’armeria della falconeria che dovrà da ora in avanti servire per armeria di Rispetto tanto per cambiare o somministrare le armi che giornalmente potranno occorrere per il servizio delle piazze, e delle squadre, quanto per cambiare quelle che si possino rompere o guastare nelle armerie della Notabile, Vittoriosa, Senglea, Cospicua e della Campagna.’ 1 Particular attention was taken to render the building damp-proof, ‘che l’ umido non si possa penetrare’, and once completed, the Falconeria received all the old weapons from the Palace Armoury and a number of old unassembled barrels then in store inside the two magazines ‘sopra i forni’.2 At that time both the Falconeria and these two magazines were being used for the storage of unassembled musket barrels: ‘...che da lungo tempo come inutili si conservano nei Magazzini sopra i forni ed in quelli della Falconeria.’ 3 The two ‘magazini sopra i forni’ formed part of a group of six magazines situated in old Bakery Street which were under the control of the commander of artillery and used for the storage of military supplies such as ‘meccio, salnitro’ and iron cannon balls.4 It appears that the Falconeria, located at the bottom of Melita Street and today occupied by the premises of the British Legion, had long been earmarked to serve as a reserve armoury (‘da gran tempo a ciò destinati’) and continued to serve as such until the last days of the Order’s stay in Malta. It is specifically mentioned in 1782, when a portion of its equipment, together with that of the Palace Armoury were the only properly conditioned weapons to be


found in the whole of Malta. St Felix’s inventory shows the Falconeria as containing the following equipment in 1785:5 Fucili guarniti in ferro, e bajonette 6,444 detti in rame e bajonetta 99 Pistole diverse 767 Sciabole 36 Spade 708 Picche ed Alabarde 884 Petti e Schinati Forti 152 Corsaletti 64 Fucili guarniti in rame spettanti alla Fondazione Manoel 80 Another 219 ‘fucili de Cavalieri, 4 corsaletti and 42 buttafuori’ were housed in the ‘sala del Sig. Commandate’, adjoining the Falconeria itself. 6 Sometime after 1763 an armoury was set up in St James Cavalier. This Cavalier, as noted earlier, had served as a makeshift storehouse during the early stages of the fortification of the Valletta peninsula but it only began to feature as an official armoury from around 1769, when it is reported by Balì Sousa as consisting of ‘due Sale d’Armi’ with around 8,000 ‘fucili’ all of which were consumed by rust, ‘totalmente in cattivo stato.’7 By 1785, it had become an important artillery storehouse containing cannon, powder, and ‘ceppi’. Then, at least five of the six magazines inside it housed small arms, including 6,765 muskets, nearly all with bayonets, of which 567 were ‘fucili buccanieri’, 1,192 ‘muschettoni’, 122 pistols, 19 ‘spingardi’ and 3,814 unassembled barrels, together with 431 swords,

The magazines of the Falconeria in Melita Street, once the Order’s Armeria di Rispetto (reserve armoury), established in 1763 so as to house the old weapons removed from the Palace Armoury.


of which 12 were Venetian Schiavone,8 and a quantity of sword blades. There was also a considerable quantity of armour, namely reinforced breast and back plates, ‘petti e schinati forti’, and some ‘corsaletti’, 3,900 pikes, spontoons, and halberds and 860 partisans, together with shields and daggers. This explains why St James Cavalier was taken over by the Maltese rebels during the illfated rebellion of the priests in 1776.9 Their intention was definitely to lay hands on a huge supply of weapons in order to equip a national uprising. Apparently the older weapons were displayed in trophies or hung along the walls in a manner similar to the Palace Armoury, as the entries ‘balestre nei trofei’ seem to suggest.10 A number of pistols were also displayed above the doors. Various antique items were to be found in St James Cavalier, for apart from the crossbows already mentioned there were a number of fucili and ‘spade di spoglio, rondaccie’ and, most interestingly, 167 ‘Celate Veneziane’,Venetian salades. Another considerable hoard of weapons was stocked inside a magazine situated in the nearby St John Cavalier. This magazine, which was located off the ramp leading up to the roof of that cavalier

Sectional elevation and interior view of the armoury in St James Cavalier, Valletta, which was used to house the weapons of the country militia regiments.


Plan of a section of Mdina dating to the 1600s showing the building which housed the town’s ‘Armeria antica’ (inset).

(‘magazzino nella salita’), contained 1,625 ‘fucili in ferro e bajonette’, another 654 without bayonets, 1,202 ‘fucili in ottone’ of which 256 were without bayonets, 24 ‘Petti e Schinati forti’ and 4,031 ‘Mattoni o siano Bricche’ (bricks, for the nearby furnaces of the Ferreria).11 The other principal armouries existing throughout the 18th century could be found at Mdina, the Citadel in Gozo, Birgu, Senglea, and Cottonera. The oldest of these was the armoury of Città Notabile. Until 1728, the armoury at Mdina was found in a house adjoining the city’s archives situated along Strada Reale, today Villegaignon Street. In 17th century plans of the city, this house is marked as ‘Armeria antica’, suggesting that it had served such a purpose for a number of centuries, at least since the end of the mid-15th century. Arms storage seems to have been a problem in Mdina during that period as in 1454 each inhabitant of the city was asked by the Università to keep a mail-coat at home until a proper armoury was built.12 The city council was still deliberating where to locate the military storehouse in 1461, and although a new armoury was then proposed to be built in the old tower near the gate, this project does not seem to have materialized because in 1516 there again appeared new proposals for the construction of storehouses for arms and munitions.13 Most of the medieval military equipment necessary for the defence of Mdina was then procured from Sicily, although Genoese and Catalan merchants of arms are also mentioned.14 The medieval records speak of ‘curaczi’ (breastlates) ‘mantillecti’ (mail-coats), ‘lanzi’ (lances), ‘targueckti’ (shields) and ‘balisti’ (cross-bows).15 There was also heavier hardware such as ‘bombardi, spingardi’ and ‘balistri’ (catapults). Thes artillery would have been permanently deployed on top of the few wall-towers rather than kept inside the armouries. In the absence of bastions and proper gun-platforms, there would have been very few places along the enceinte from where cannon could have been fired


effectively, and these would have been the towers. In fact, one of the knights’ first interventions on taking over the defence of the city was the addition of two adequate artillery bastions. The Mdina armoury actually provides a tangible insight into the amount and forms of weapon issued to arm the inhabitants of the town at the time of the Great Siege in 1565. As already mentioned, from a document entitled ‘li scuppetti della Università di Malta’, drawn up in April 1565, we see that 41 ‘scupetti and their powder flasks, a crossbow (‘balestra cu’ sua gaffa’) and nine morions were issued from this armoury to equip the people of Mdina.14 Considerable reference to the Mdina armoury is also encountered in the documents relating to the immediate post-siege period. In 1568, for example, the Università paid for the construction of ‘dui banchi di li arcabusi’ and again in 1594 ‘per tre serraticci che han servuto per li scaffi della armeria’, the storage arrangement however not having been fully settled for in the following year another ‘sedici serraticci’ were purchased ‘per li scaffi et armarioi della armeria’. In the late 1580s it had also ordered various ‘rastelli delli archibusi delli soldati.’ During this time the armoury seems to have been kept well stocked with ‘fiaschi archibugi michio alabarde, piche et coffi’ many of the items having been brought, from the main armoury from Valletta, an exercise which involved payment to the various ‘burdnari per haver portato li detti armi’, including a certain Matheo Bugeja who was paid for having brought from ‘ la Valetta li archibusi et archi’. Interestingly, much of this activity was taking place between 1598 and 1604, the year in which the main armoury was being reorganized and established inside the palace by Grand Master Wignacourt. The Università took considerable interest in the good maintenance and repair of the weapons under its charge, as various extracts from the town’s accounts attest. In 1574, for example, Mro Leonardo de Alban and Mro Vincenzo


Above, building in Villegaignon Street which housed the new armoury as rebuilt by Petruzzo Debono in 1734. Below, plan of the Magistral Palace in Mdina, showing the small hall that once housed a small armoury.

Close-up of the trophyof-arms above the doorway into the hall which once served as the armoury of the Magistral Palace in Mdina.

Lestech(?) were paid slightly less than two oncie ‘per inconciare certi archibusj di posta et alter cose’, as was Orlando Zarb ‘mro d’ascia’ for the ‘manifattura di octo cascie di archibusetti da posta et uno piccolo’. Other sums were disbursed by the Università treasury for the ‘facturi di rascaturi 21 di scupetta et una serpentina per tari dui in tutto’, ‘per factura di bacchetti vinti tre a Mro Battista una serpentina, munitioni’, ‘per guarnire le armi, per comprar trenta armi’, ‘al ferraro p[er] haver fatto un bottone di ferro che servi per forma p[er] li balli delli archibusi di porta’ (1594), and ‘per dodici caxi con loro bachetti per dudici archibusi 8 scudi’ (1598). In 1588, the town jurats also commissioned the cleric ‘fra Mariano Casha per aver accomodato li armi et haver fatto il gioico della aqua et altri travagli.’ The building housing the ‘Armeria antica’ in Mdina was demolished in 1727 and replaced by a new municipal palace, the Banca Giuratale, flanking St Paul Square.16 The weapons were removed from the old armoury and transferred to a ‘magazzino grande’ where they remained until the end of December 1728, when Alessandro Tonna was then commissioned to remove the ‘azzarini, balle et altro dall’Armeria vecchia alla nuova.’17 The building chosen to serve as the new armoury was located opposite Palazzo Testaferrata, in Villegaignon Street. In 1734, however, it was decreed that this building be pulled down and replaced by a new armoury designed by Pietro Debono: ‘...ordinato che si debba sfabbricare e rifabricare l’armeria secondo il disegno fatto dal capo maestro Pietro Debono e che il denaro perciò bisognevole si pigli dalla massa di co’detta Università.’ 18 Pietro Debono was one of the capomastri who worked closely with the resident French military engineer Charles Francois Mondion in the rebuilding of Mdina during the reign of Grand Master de Vilhena


Front, sectional elevation, and plan for a new armoury proposed to be built in Mdina around 1720 (National Library of Malta).

and was involved in the construction of many prominent buildings, including the Magistral Palace.19 The design of this new armoury, like that of its large cousin in the Grand Master’s Palace, was based on a large first floor hall. The lower rooms in the building were designed to serve as shops.20 The practice of placing armouries on the upper floors of buildings, encountered also in the armouries at Valletta, Vilhena Palace and Birgu, was primarily intended to counter the problem of rising damp. A display of trophies-of-arms carved in stone can be seen crowning the façade of the Corte Capitanale. This building, which opened onto the courtyard of the old palace built by Grand Master L’Isle Adam, formed part of the newly built Vilhena Palace complex designed by Mondion in the 1720s. One of the


Above, plan and view from the south of the building housing the sala d’armi at Birgu. Right, detail of the trophy-of-arms crowning the entrance into the Birgu sala d’armi. The equipment represented in the trophy-ofarms (corslets, muskets and polearms) is typical of the early half of the 1600s.

rooms once forming part of L’Isle Adam’s old palace was actually converted by Mondion into an armoury. This room, which has two entrances, each surmounted by a trophy-of-arms has unfortunately lost its roof and most of the exterior wall overlooking Saqqajja. Although quite a spacious hall, it is known to have contained only a few arms in 1785, namely 40 brass-furnished muskets with bayonets, 40 halberds, a ‘Picca per il Capitano della Verga’ and two ‘casse per tamburi.’ 21 The main armoury in Mdina, on the other hand, was much better equipped as the following list clearly reveals: 22 Fucili in ferro, e bajonetta Padrone da Soldato Pistole

600 904 25


Detail of the trophyof-arms crowning the doorway leading into the armoury at Birgu.

Padrone d’Officiali Golere Picche, Spontoni ed alabarde Mirioni leggieri (morions) Bacchette di ferro

46 5 75 39 24

The Sala d’Armi of Birgu was situated in the ‘Palazzo dell Abadia o sià del Governatore.’ 23 This was originally a bare, isolated utilitarian structure all at ground floor level with a door in each of its four sides to facilitate the rapid issue of equipment. The first floor was added later, possibly around 1636, as attested by the date inscribed on one of the doors of the great hall. A ponderous trophy-of-arms bearing the coat-of-arms of Grand Master Cotoner would suggest that some intervention was undertaken also during his magistracy. By the early decades of the 18th century it was this upper hall, the ‘gran salone’, which was being used for the storage of arms. The lower magazine was then being employed to house the ‘grosso legname della Fortificatione.’24 The six rooms adjoining this armoury on each side were used to house invalids and ‘meritevoli’: ‘... sei camere per ogni lato distribuite in parte con decreto à persone benemeriti, parte a soldati invalidi di St Elmo et altre quattro in servitori d’habitazion al Capo Mro. d’ Artiglieria del Borgo.’ 25 The 1785 inventory does not mention any military equipment in store inside the Birgu armoury. Nor is there any record of weapons being stored in the armouries of Senglea and Cottonera around that time. Apparently these last two storehouses, the precise location of which has yet to be established, were no longer in use by then. That Birgu, Senglea, and Bormola had their own separate armouries is attested by an entry in the minutes of the Congregation of War dated 1762, empowering the ‘governatori delle tre città Vittoriosa, Senglea e Burmola’ to forward their receipts for the costs involved in the ‘cura e custodia delle sale d’armi’ to the


Seneschal for reimbursement from the Comun Tesoro. In that year Birgu also acquired a second armoury. The Congregatione delle Navi had requested, and received, from the Congregation of War ‘un magazino no.385 spettanti alle Fortificationi per servire di sala d’armi di dette navi’. Many of the forts surrounding the harbour area, though not all, had their own armouries, althouh none of these were classified as armerie but simply as magazines utilized for the storage of arms. In 1785, only Fort St Angelo and Fort Ricasoli had their own supplies of small arms. The former had 547 muskets, 26 pistols, 53 polearms, 4 spingardi and 1 drum in ‘consegna del Sergente’ whilst the latter held 205 muskets and 47 polearms.26 The statutes of the Order also decreed that Greek ships visiting the Grand Harbour had to deposit their arms at Fort St Angelo. Neither Fort St Elmo, nor Fort Chambrai, nor Fort Manoel are mentioned as having any deposits of small arms in 1785. However, as late as December 1783, Fort Manoel is known to have had a resident armourer and a small armoury which was housed in one of the rooms adjoining the Commander’s quarters.27 The 80 ‘Fucili guarniti in rame spettanti alla Fondazione Manoel’, then in store at the Falconeria, may originally have been kept at Fort Manoel. This fort was built with bombproof barracks that could accommodate some 500 men. Fort St Elmo, on the other hand, had a barracks capable of billeting 200 soldiers of the Regiment of Grand Master’s Guards after its Above, the armoury of Fort Ricasoli reconstruction of 1727-1730. Generally, it was only in times of emergency that was housed inside the Governor’s residence. This building, which stood some of these forts were supplied with small arms as can be seen from the over the main gate, served also as a militia regulations of 1758 which made provisions for the issue of ‘casse con gatehouse. It was demolished during fucili e cartucci’ to those ‘castelli’ outside Valletta.28 At Fort Ricasoli, built in the Second World War after it was hit 1670-1698, the armoury was housed inside the gatehouse which itself also by a bomb. served as the governor’s residence. Opposite page, extract from a Hospitaller document recording the state of the armoury in the Gozo citadel around 1650.

An Armoury in Gozo The Cittadella too had its own armoury. Being the military and administrative centre of the island of Gozo, and effectively the Order’s most distant outpost from Valletta, this fortress was generally kept well-equipped and garrisoned, and frequently reinforced in times of greater danger. For a long time after the arrival of the knights in 1530 the Gran Castello, as it was then known, retained its medieval defences, notwithstanding the fact that it was violently sacked and ravaged during the infamous razzia of 1551. It was only in the early decades of the 17th century that the old castle was rebuilt and fitted out for the gunpowder era with bastions, curtains, cavaliers, and outerworks, together with stores, magazines, and a new armoury. Once these modifications were completed, the Order believed that the Castello was rendered defensible. However, this was not an opinion that was shared by the majority of the engineers who were to inspect Gozo’s defences in subsequent years, for the fortress’ principal weakness lay inherent in its landlocked position dominated by adjoining heights. Severe criticism of the Castello’s ability to withstand a siege eventually led to its evacuation during the general alarm of 1645. All heavy equipment was then




One of the barrel-vaulted casemates situated beneath St John Cavalier said to have served as the Cittadella’s armoury. Opposite page, list showing the strength of the local militia in Malta around the beginning of the 18th century (National Library of Malta).

withdrawn to Malta while the citadel itself was mined for destruction to prevent it from serving as a Turkish base.29 Fortunately, the Turkish armada never appeared as it was destined for the island of Crete. That the Order could derive very little military advantage from the possession of this fortress during the closing decades of the 17th century is also attested by a description of the miserly contents of the Cittadella’s armoury. This storehouse then contained only 163 ‘Moschetti di diverse calibro’ the larger part of which were considered ‘inutili’, in all 10 ‘Moschettoni da posta, 230 Archibusi con le sue casse fradice ed del tutto inutili’, 101 pikes and ‘mezze picche, 68 Alabarde e partisane’, 32 swords ‘senza foderi ‘and 172 bandoliers - an impoverished arsenal by any standards.30 Indeed a marginal note added to the same report stresses the fact that the arquebuses then forming the bulk of the citadel’s armament were an inferior weapon to the Turkish muskets: ‘L’archibugio è un arma troppo svantaggiosa a combatter contro il turco il quale si serve di Moschetti di gran portata.’ The pikes, too, were seen to be of little use in the defence of a fortress: ‘è molto più atto ad offendere il nemico lo spontone che la picca, essendo questa propria di applicarsi contro le cavallaria, e non à difesa delle trinciere e parapetti.’ This was not the case, however, prior to the general citation of 1645, when the Gozo citadel was well provisioned and armed, ‘Prima del ultima citatione vi era l’artiglieria tutta di bronzo, e l’armeria ben provista, e di buoni armi, ma in quel occasione furono levate le cose buone.’31 Even so, the Gozo garrison was never a large force. At the time that the report quoted earlier was written down there were only a sergeant, 9 soldiers, a capo mastro dell’artilieria, 4 bombardieri et un aiutante, and 100 militia men recruited to keep watch day and night around the castle and the other watch-


posts scattered around the island.32 The island’s inhabitants were grouped into three squadrons - a cavalry detachment of 70 horses, a company of 250 musketeers and another of 400 ‘persone armate parte di moschetti, e parte di spontoni e fionde.’ 33 By 1701, there were still little more than a thousand men available for the defence of the island. The cavalry force was actually smaller, consisting of just 64 mounted troops divided into two squadrons, each under the command of a turcopolier and armed with ‘spontoni, e alcuni di loro di carabina.’34 There were also a company of 76 musketeers, an infantry regiment of 434 soldiers and a ‘stuolo’ of 479 men detailed for guard duty around the island.35 The infantry regiment was divided into four ‘squadre’ each ‘sotto una istessa bandiera’, and the men armed with ‘spada, moschetto, bandoliera e tal anche di forcina.’ 36 The men detailed to perform watch duty were expected to reinforce the garrisons of the coastal towers at night. In late 17th century Gozo, an important element in the defence of the island comprised a string of quite powerful towers scattered around the coastline. These were designed to serve as lookout posts, artillery platforms, and rallying points for the militia in case of attack. Between them, the six towers held 77 muskets, 22 ‘muschettoni da posta’ and 83 spontoons and halberds, a considerable quantity of arms when compared to the equipment kept inside the citadel.37 By the end of the 1720s, the coastal defences had been expanded to include a Below, the manner of deployment of the country larger network of batteries, redoubts, and entrenchments covering nearly all militia regiments as the bays and inlets. As the century progressed and increasing emphasis was established by regulations laid on coastal defences, the landlocked citadel came to be seen more and more in 1716. as obsolete until finally a new fortress was built at Ras-et-tafal in 1749. Despite


Frontispiece of the regulations for the deployment and service of the country militia regiments published in 1761.

the erection of Fort Chambrai, the old citadel never really lost its role since for one thing, the new fortress failed to attract settlers. The importance of the Cittadella as a military and administrative headquarters throughout the 18th century can be seen mirrored in its well-supplied armoury. By 1785, this had come to contain 1,466 ‘fucili guarniti in ferro e bajonetta, 100 pistole guarniti in rame, 20 mezzespade, 87 picche, spontoni ed alabarde’, 12 ‘tamburi’, 1,000 granate di ferro’ and 100 ‘bacchette d’acciaio (steel ramrods) per fucili.’38 On the other hand, Fort Chambrai had no armoury whatsoever and only 18 guns when compared to the 39 cannon deployed along the old citadel’s ramparts.


The Village Armouries Throughout the 18th century many thousands of weapons were required to equip the country militia units. Grand Master De Redin’s plan to forge the islanders into a corps of 4,000 musketeers never reached the high standard that had been envisaged but by 1716, the eight rural regiments, totalling 3,095 men, had been reformed into six units under the overall command of the Senescalco, or Captain General, who held the rank of a Balì, and were brigaded into the Northern and Southern Brigades.39 Each regiment was made up of a number of ‘Bandiere’, in turn composed of a number of companies. A number of small villages, such as Attard, Balzan, Mosta, and Siggiewi, did not have enough men to form their own separate regiment and therefore had to attach their respective companies to the nearest regiment.

The frontispiece of the regulations issued for the deployment and service of the newly formed Regimento di Malta published in 1777.


These troops wore no uniform and were each equipped simply with a musket, bayonet, and a small number of cartridges held in a canvas bag. In 1769, according to Balì Sousa, there were 7,000 muskets set aside for use by the six regiments of country militia. Most of these arms were kept in small village ‘sale d’armi’ scattered about the island but this practice seems to have been abandoned some time around 1769 and thereafter the buildings were only used temporarily since the weapons were returned to the central depositories once the shipping season was over. This new procedure appears to have followed from Balì Lessa Sousa’s recommendations; ‘... sarebbe bene di non conservare le sale d’armi di Campagna, che per una occasione premurosa, e dare semplicemente in tempo d’estate gli armi necessari per la custodia del Paese.’40 This was definitely the practice by 1770, when the commander of artillery was ordered to hastily remove the weapons from the armoury at Zejtun so that the building could be returned to its owner, ‘... ritirare tutti gli armi e attrezzi ...del più presto sarà possible per consegnare le chiavi al padrone.’ 41 It is attested again by the following entry in the minutes of the Congregation of War and Fortification for 1795: ‘... che non si consegnano alla milizia che nei giorni di parata o d’esercizio, ritirando l’armi subito terminata la funzione; e che qualora saranno ritirate l’armi dei casali, si ritiranno parimento quelle della Notabile per essere custodite nella Valletta nei luoghi consegnati.’ 42 By 1792 it was the ‘colonelli delle milizie’ themselves who were encharged with establishing ‘per ogni regimento un Armeria dove si conservassero gli armi e da dove tanto per gli esercizi che per ogni altra occassione si prendessero.’ Some of these armouries were in fact nothing more than hastily converted private residences, or parts thereof, such as those of Zurrieq, belonging to

Main façade of the building which once served as the armoury in the village of Zurrieq.


Giovanni Francesco Cutajar and of Bormola, property of Debertis, who was the ‘Ajutante maggiore’ of Bormola. In 1793, the Congregation of War and Fortification petitioned the Grand Master in order to bestow ‘la mezza croce’ on Debertis for his services, particularly for having ‘prestato gratis un luogo della sua casa per l’Armeria, ed a proprie spese ha fabbricato una camera per il corpo di guardia di detta Armeria.’ 43 Cutajar, too, had similarly ‘prestato gratis una sua casa nel Zurrico per Armeria di quel Regimento’ but in November 1793 he requested that it be given back to him for his own personal use.44 Consequently, it was agreed to rent the house of the colonel of the Zurrieq regiment instead: ‘... si è deliberato di prendere in affitto per armeria la casa in cui abita l’attuale Signor Colonello nel Zurrico.’ Earlier in 1762, the house of Lorenzo Farrugia had been chosen to serve as the armoury, after the ordinary commissioner of fortifications and the resident engineer were both ordered to go to Zurrieq ‘per fare le misure e stime d’un luogo di case quale’ dovrà servire per Sala d’armi di detto Casale.’ 45 In another document we read of the sum of 1,334 scudi payable to the priest Don Pietro Paolo Farrugia for ‘un porzione d’un luogo di case posto in casal Zurrico preso per uso dell’Armi delle milizie.’ Provisions were also made for the establishment of a number of temporary

The Qormi armoury, now used as a police station.


reserve depositories of arms in various rural places in the north was well as in the south of the island. The militia regulations of 1761 mention Torre Falca, St Paul tower, Qrejten tower, St Julian tower and Torre Rossa (Fort St Agatha, Mellieha), St Lucian Tower, St Thomas Tower, and the old church of St Gregory as the official ‘magazzini di Deposito per la distributione della polvere ed armi.’46

Colonel and trooper of the Regiment of Cacciatori (green jacket with white trimmings), based on the painting by Zimelli,above. Above, left, an 18th-century representation of the Cacciatori regiment in action repelling the Turkish raid of 1614.


These were to hold 100 muskets each, except that of St Lucian which was to have 300 muskets. Apart from the muskets, their bayonets, and ramrods, these depositories were also to be stocked with adequate supplies of ‘scartocci’ (cartridges) and ‘pietre di fucili.’ Being situated in remote places, the ‘depositi’ had to be ‘serrati e ben custoditi dalle sentinelle’ and each was placed under the command of a knight who was assisted by a ‘uomo di penna’ whose job it was to take note of the issue of weapons and supplies.47 Earlier in August 1758, and citing the regulations of 1740, the Congregation of War enabled the commander of artillery to construct wooden boxes large enough to contain 4,000 ‘cartucci’ in order that these could be transported ‘al rendevus d’ogni Reggimento.’

Figurines representing the various types of troops in the armed forces of the Order in the late 18th century (St John Gate, Clerkenwell).

The state of the armouries outside Valletta was to prove a constant source of worry for the Order, since these places were poorly maintained and guarded. The bad state of the equipment in the village armouries was primarily due to the fact that the weapons were hardly ever serviced and cleaned, but also because they were frequently being shifted from one place to another owing to makeshift storage arrangements, since buildings had to be vacated to satisfy other uses. For example, in 1778, we find that the magazines which served as armouries for the urban militia were emptied and returned to the Università in order to help cut down on the expenses incurred in rents.48 Theft, too, was a problem. In 1795 it was decided to remove the firearms from Città Notabile to Valletta because it was discovered that there was a considerable haemorrhage of weapons from the armouries there. 49 Indeed, in October 1795, the Congregation of War ordered an inquiry to discover why there were many militia firearms, stored in the towns and villages, unaccounted for. A few weeks earlier, all the militia firearms had been numbered, possibly in preparation for such an investigation, ‘Si e’ordinato che si numerino I fucili di campagna affinche non si meschino l’armi d’un reggimento con quelli d’un altro.’50 It was not only the village armouries which suffered from the loss of weapons. The central armouries too were likewise plagued by the loss of military equipment, particularly that leased out to the many corsairs who operated under the Order’s flag. These weapons, handed out on payment of a stipulated fee, had to be returned after an agreed period, in default of which a fine equivalent to the value of the weapons had to be paid to the Comun Tesoro. A typical armamento of an average-sized corsair vessel, such as that belonging to Capitano Leopaldo Desira (May 1782),51 consisted of 40 muskets (at 4 scudi each), 20 blunderbusses (10 scudi each), 30 pistols (2.6 scudi each), 40 bayonets, 50 sabres (4 scudi each), 60 partizans and 12 spontoons all leased out for 797.8 scudi, a hefty sum that shows the high stakes involved in corsairing activity. In practice, however, the regulations were not strictly enforced although half-hearted attempts were occasionally made to collect unreturned weapons left ‘in mano de Cavalieri o particulari’, and the money collected from fines used ‘alla compra d’altri armi.’ 52 In 1797, such were the ‘perdite accadute ai corsari nello scorso anno’ that the number of firearms to be leased out was set at only 500 muskets, 200 pistols and 50 tromboni.53


Keeping track of issued weapons was not an easy task and various control mechanisms were introduced. The loss of weapons was, in most instances, taken very seriously. In 1722, for example, a magisterial inquiry was held to find out why four muskets had gone missing during the course of military ‘esercizij’ held in Gozo, wherein ‘cinque cento azzarini’ from Malta had been distributd to the Gozitans. From the investigations carried out it transpired that ‘Quattro soldati non havessero restituto li azzarini ed essendo successivamente ricercati per la dovuta restitutione uno disse d’averlo consegnato per essere accomodato all’armiere dei vasselli che all’ora si ritrova in dett’Isola et in fatti ess’armiere conoscendo il suo torto ha gia riconsegnato il suo azzarino diverso però da quelli di questa S Religion e l’atri tre asseriscono d’haver roconsegnati in detta marina del migiarro.’ The three culprits were imprisoned but it was eventually the Notaro who was made to reimburse their loss, having been assigned the responsibility of overseeing the weapons On the other hand, we find that an order for the payment of ‘tredici fucili trovati mancanti nella consegna dell’armi causante I miliziotti rimasti disertosi’, in 1771, was dropped when it was ascertained that the ‘Maggiore delle Milizie Urbane’, the knight Frà Don Luigi d’Almejda, had acted diligently and was not to blame for the incident. This ruling smacks of favouritism when one realizes that earlier in 1766 the ‘Maggiore della Milizia’ was officially encharged with the responsibility for ‘tutte l’armi di detta Milizia’ once issued from the armouries in order to equip the rural troops. He was in turn encharged with distributing the weapons to the respective ‘capitani delle Campagnie quali capitani restano incaricati de loro respettivi armi’. The recovery, rather than the issue, of the 4,000 or so firearms issued each year in order to equip the country and urban militia regiments, was evidently not an easy nor straightforward task. One enterprising individual, a certain Antonio Rodriguez , approached the Order with a proposal for undertaking the necessary work, obviously for a fee. An evaluation of his ‘memoriale per la distribuzion dell’Armi’ to Grand Master de Vilhena makes very interesting reading as it sheds important light on the manner in which the weapons were distributed to the country and city folk in the period before the system of village armouries was actually adopted in later years. Apparently at that time each person issued with a firearm was bound to pay a small sum of money as a guarantee for the proper care of his weapon. Antonio Rodriguez, therefore, proposed to spend 16 days a year going round the towns and villages ‘per esigere dalla gente che si e provista con l’armi tari uno per ciascuno al mese’. Given that the large part of the inhabitants were not so eager to comply (‘la maggior parte della gente non sara cosi pronta a comparire per il pagamento’) he recommended that a further four days would be needed to go around the countryside in order to track down the absentee debtors. All this in exchange for a percentage cut on the money collected.


The Order’s officials were not very enthusiastic about the apparent ease, and the short period of time which Rodriguez had estimated for the completion of such an undertaking, given that the operator would also have to make allowances for the collection of the weapons ‘di quelli che moiono e che abbino esenzione per l’eta avanzata.’ Furthermore, it was estimated that such an undertaking would require an additional annual expenditure of 66 scudi to cover the cost of the ‘scrivano che assiste’ (18 scudi), ‘sedici calessi e mantenimento dell esattore, scrivano, e aiutante per esigere dalla campagna per ogni anno sedici giorni’ (24 scudi) and ‘per la gente che si manda in giro delli casali per li falliti’ (24 scudi). For these expenses Rodriguez was offered ‘cinque percento del denaro che andera esigendo del prezzo dell’armi, senza che possa pretendere niente altro’. It is not known, however, if this scheme proved profitable and for how long it was operated, or if it ever was introduced. The Order’s documents make no further mention of such methods. The role that the secondary military storehouses played in the dramatic events of 1798 has not been well documented by the chroniclers of those dramatic days. The Order’s records stop short of this ordeal. The dramatic events of those few momentous days left very little time for adequate record keeping. Presumably, most of the weapons necessary to arm the 15,000 strong militia would have already been issued from the Palace Armoury by the time of the arrival of the French fleet in June. Most of the weapons would probably also have been distributed to the village armouries and the special depositories in accordance with the Order’s established practice following the commencement of the shipping season. At least one temporary deposit of weapons and munitions is known to have been set up along the road from Zebbug to Qalet Marku in the manner established by the Regolamenti for the deployment of the country militia.54 One village armoury, that of Zebbug, is known to have still held firearms when the insurrection broke out against the French in September 1798. Stanislaw L’Hoste, the president of the Zebbug municipality, was in fact killed by the Maltese peasants when he refused to hand over the keys to said armoury.55 A group of peasants under the direction of Notary Saver Zarb also managed to ransack a small armoury situated in San Anton Palace but this probably consisted mainly of hunting pieces.56 Even so, the number of weapons available in the countryside was not large. One document only mentions 300 muskets and 500 fowling pieces as being the equipment available to the Maltese rebels at the outbreak of hostilities.57 The bulk of the muskets and munitions that later served to arm the Maltese inhabitants was eventually supplied by their British and Portuguese allies.


The Organizational Framework The Commander of Artillery Ensuring that the military storehouses were kept well-equipped and supplied with sufficient weapons necessary to arm the knights and their men, difficult as this effort may have been at certain times, was only but part of the perennial task facing the Order. Seeing that all this equipment was administered properly and regularly serviced so as to guarantee that the knights’ war machine functioned efficiently in times of war was another. In the early days of the Order the control and administration of all military hardware fell directly under the responsibility of the Marshal, who was the Hospitallers’ military commander. By the closing decades of the 13th century it was necessary for the marshal to delegate the administration of the armouries to a subordinate knight and the statutes of the Order were amended accordingly. This arrangement held good throughout most of the Rhodian period but with the appearance of firearms, the responsibility for the armouries became gradually that of the commander of artillery. It is not clear when this transformation actually took place for the title of commander of artillery only begins to appear in Malta.1 As late as the military preparations of 1471, one finds two knights being appointed super Arteliaria,2 suggesting that no such specific command had been established by then, while during the emergency of 1475, it was the Seneschal who was instructed to distribute the arquebuses and crossbows from the armouries to the country folk who had sought refuge within the city’s ramparts. It is only with the statutes of Grand Master de la Sengle that we have the first mention of the commander of artillery as the person in charge of the armoury. The post of commander of artillery, always occupied by a senior knight, became an important position in the military hierarchy of the Order once cannon and firearms began to constitute a crucial component of the defensive armament of fortresses and galleys. Many an illustrious knight occupied this position through the centuries, such as Jean Jacques de Verdelin, Giuseppe de Demandolx and St. Tropé, though only one of those who are known to have held this post appears to have ever made it to the magistracy, Frà Hugues Loubenx de Verdala. Commanders of artillery were nominated by the grand commander subject to the approval of the Grand Master and his council and generally served for a period of two years although a few, such as Frà Renato de Gras Preville (172125), Frà Giovanbatista Durand Sartoux (1755-61) and Frà Luca d’Argence


Detail from frescoe panel at Verdala Palace showing FrĂ Hugues Loubens de Verdale (later Grand Master) when he was serving as commander of artillery in 1561. Pages 143,145 & 149 show official lists naming the knights who held the position of commander of artillery from 1595 to 1779.

(1767-77) served for longer periods and at least one, the knight Verdelin was appointed twice, first in the year 1631 and then in 1637. Commanders of artillery were required to sit on the Congregation of Fortification, and after 1660, the Congregation of War and Fortification, an important permanent commission which had oversight of everything connected with the defence of the island: fortifications, artillery, firearms, munitions, armouries, troops, militia, and the provision of victuals and fresh water. Inevitably, as the commanders in charge of the armouries, they were subject to the rulings of this congregation; the order for all militia muskets to be numbered, mentioned earlier on, to name but one typical example, was issued by this congregation in its sitting of 20 June 1795. Moreover, important matters dealing with the procurement of new arms and the manner of their distribution were issues which were decided at a higher level than that of the commander of artillery, generally involving the council of the Order after deliberations of the congregation of war and fortification, following inspections and reports by special commissions of knights appointed ad hoc. Thus, the decision as to what types and quantities of arms were to be procured from the arms manufacturing centre of St Etienne en Forrest in 1759 was based on the report prepared by the two commissioners Francesco Jarente and Giuseppe de Almeyda. The commander of artillery was only consulted for his opinion.




It would appear that the knights had the custom of having the coats of arms of the commanders of artillery displayed inside the Armoury, either painted on wooden shields or on the walls. Blanche Lintorn Simmons, in the late 1800s, could still see several of these and identified one of them as belonging to Frà Jean Baptiste Durand Sartoux, commander from 12 June 1775 to August 1761. She also noted a wooden shield with the arms of Frà Henri de Robin Beauregard, commander from 23 September 1739 to September 1743. In today’s administrative jargon, the commander of artillery would have been the executive manager of the armouries, his role being mainly to oversee that the weapons were adequately stored, duly issued and returned, and repaired when necessary, a role clearly spelt out in a document of 1762, ‘...Il Commandante dell’ Artiglieria havera la cura di pulire gl’armi, e sale d’armi de regimenti di Campagna, e per la loro custodia, e spese d’armieri et altro.’ The records show, however, that this duty was not always one which was diligently carried out. Repeated references to periods of slackened control over the issue and recuperation of weapons and a disregard for the state of repair of the military equipment stand witness to a not-so-efficient military depatment. The latter can more readily be saddled on the overall state of inadequate resources available in the armoury setup, particularly throughout the 18th century, rather than a reflection of negligence on the part of artillery commanders. Exceptionally lacking then was the presence of armourers, the skilled workers who repaired, cleaned, and arranged the weapons in the Armoury. By definition the word armourer refers both to a manufacturer of arms and to an official in charge of the storehouses where military equipment was kept. In the context of the military organization of the Order of St John the term is used to refer to the latter, but also in his capacity to repair and service equipment. There is no documented evidence to show that there were ever any armourers in the service of the Order who were employed specifically to manufacture military equipment. A few cottage industries for the production of swords did exist in Malta, and possibly even Rhodes. Dal Pozzo records an incident which occurred in 1601 between the knight Frà Don Francesco Pontoisa and an ‘Artigiano Spadaro della Valletta’,3 and the 18th century records speak of the sword-maker Carlo Labruna,4 while a few items of arms and armour to be seen at the Palace Armoury also point to a local reassembly, adaptation, and cannibilization of equipment. There were instances, however, when firearms were assembled locally with parts procured from abroad. The bulk of arms and armour, however, was purchased from the leading arms manufacturing centres of Europe. The Order spared no expenses in acquiring the best weapons available on the market when it was necessary to do so as it similarly spared no effort in building the best fortifications that could be designed by the leading military engineers of their time. References to armourers are indeed rare, especially for the early periods of the Order’s history. Their presence was noted in the city of Rhodes by an


Portrait of FrĂ Jean Jacques de Verdelin, commander of artillery, and, consequently, in charge of the armouries during the years 1631-33 and 1637-39. In 1638, Verdelin was placed at the head of a 200-strong infantry force which was dispatched to Gozo to reinforce the garrison of the Cittadella after a number of Algerian vessels were sighted off the island (Palace Armoury Museum).


English visitor in 1345 but it is only in the 18th century that their names begin to feature in the Order’s records.5 At that stage, however, the Order’s armouries were experiencing an acute shortage of armourers particularly as a direct result of the massive procurement of arms that accompanied the gargantuan military preparations of the 18th century. A situation that was aggravated further by the inadequate storage facilities and the peculiar local climatic conditions so unconducive for the preservation of steel. This predicament first comes to light in 1769 with the report of Balì Lessa Sousa which speaks of some 24,000 muskets ‘in pessimo stato per la ruggine’, a large number of which were ‘totalmente inservibili’, particularly those issued to the militia. 6 The same situation is echoed in a later report by two commissioners, the knights Frà Francesco Riano and Frà Antonio Suriano, drawn up in 1782. This commission was appalled to find that, with the exception of the firearms stored in the Sala di Palazzo and a portion of those in the Armeria della Falconeria, the remainder of the military hardware was in a ruinous state, mostly consumed by rust: ‘ rimanente è in pessimo stato, ed in necessità d’una forte riparazione, e fuor di modo rugginite, di modo tale, che ci ha impedito di fare la dovuta diligenza, se trovarsi le canne di dentro pulite, ed in caso di poter servire.’7 They were quick to point out that the real cause of the problem lay in the fact that the weapons had not been cleaned and serviced for a very long time due to an acute lack of armourers and an insufficient supply of cleaning materials. The two commissioners calculated that it would have then taken some 15 years for the few armourers in employment to repair all the unconditioned weapons which were indicated in an attached list shown below: ‘...Il numero delle armi, che potrebbe accommodarsi ascende a tredici mila, ottocento e quattro, quantità in vero, che à proporzione delli pochi Maestri Armieri, che si ritrovano nell’Isola non basterebbe il tempo di quindici anni per riparale, quando che detti Maestri non facessero altro travaglio, e la spesa sarebbe considerevole.’ Fucili buoni con loro bajonette per accomodarsi di scarto Schioppi di caccia per accomodarsi di scarto Muschettoni per accomodarsi Buccanieri per accomodarsi Suffioni per accomodarsi di scarto Scopacoverti in buon stato

Bajonette buone 26,752 di scarto 10,508 1374 2,977 Canne di diversi generi 44 buone 32 1388 76 di scarto 1,636



284 133

Spade buone per accomodarsi Spadoni

777 150 42


Sciabole buone di scarto

113 57 93


Spingardi buoni Carabine buoni Pistole buone per accomodarsi di scarto

29 491 1836 914 349

Spadoni alla Spagnola buoni di scarto Lame di diverse qualità buone di scarto

581 5 384 31

Such was the gravity of the situation that there were even proposals to ship the weapons in bulk to one of the large manufacturing centres abroad where they could be cleaned and repaired much quicker; ‘Onde a nostro giudizio stimiamo a proposito di mandar le su cennate armi in una delle Grandi Officine fuori di quest’ Isola ove con il vantaggio de giochi d’acqua con la quantità proporzionata de Maestri, ed in conseguenza con minor spesa, e con sollecitudine questa S. R. Potra averle in buono stato.’ The term ‘giochi d’aqua’ may be referring to the use of acid baths (aquafortis) or some rudimentary form of electrolysis. This same type of practice was already being employed at Mdina in 1588, albeit on a smaller scale, when Marino Casha is reported to have received payment from the Università for having ‘accomodato li armi et aver fatto il gioco dell’acqua.’ At best, the Order’s armourers could only be expected to repair one musket a day given the terrible state in which most of the weapons had been reduce to, ‘al più rettare un fucile per giorno della qualità cosi rugginita’. Only when one realizes that there were literally just a handful of armourers does one begin to appreciate the sense of alarm expressed in the commissioners’ report. Indeed, a register of the stipendiati of the Order for the year 1762 reveals only three armourers in employment - a certain Pietro Darmanin, who was head armourer or ‘Capo Maestro Armiere’, with an annual salary of 120 scudi, Paolo Cauchi, ‘Sotto Armiere’, with a salary of 84 scudi and Michele Calì , ‘ajutante de Armiere’, with a salary of 84 scudi. Another ‘sott’armiere’ known to have worked in the armoury was Giuseppe Xicluna. He was, however, sacked from his job in 1738. These men were all employed at the Palace.8 It was the head armourer who was effectively in control of the armouries, reporting directly to the commander of artillery. All persons employed in the Armoury were ‘assolutamente subordinati’ to the ‘Capo Maesro Armiere della Religione, od al suo primo lavorante allorche egli sià occupato alla sala d’armi od altrove, ed il capo Mro. Armiere renderà esatto conto delli lavori, e del profitto che i giovani fanno nell’arte adrittura al Comm. dell’Artiglieria proibendo a qualunque altra subalterna persona dell’artiglieria d’ingerirsene volando che il solo capo mro. abbia tutta l’autorità nel suo Magazzino sotto posta però sempre al Comm. dell’Artiglieria dal quale, e non d’altri deve ricevere gli ordini.’ 9 The Capo Mastro Armiere was usually a master craftsman, expert in the repair and construction of arms, principally firearms.



Portrait of a knight commander of the Regiment of Cacciatori (Palace Armoury Museum). Bottom, the six regiments of country militia had no uniform and comprised largely a mass of peasants.


Far left, an 18th-century hanger with brass hilt, similar to those that would have been made by Carlo Labruna in his local workshop (Palace Armoury Museum). Left, sword possibly the product of repair works by the Order’s armourers – the brass hilt, minus the knuckle-bow, is that of a British hanger of c.1700, while the blade came from a larger cutting weapon.

At least one Capo Maestro Armiere, Carlo Labruna, was a local sword manufacturer before he was employed by the Order.10 His is an interesting story. Prior to 1759, Labruna had entered into an agreement with the Order to produce a quantity of ‘schiable’ (sabres) in his local workshop.11 The arrival of the arms merchant Michele Gaudin with his sample of grenadier sabres produced by the Manufacture Royal d’Alsace, however, threatened to put him out of business since he could never aspire to match the price and quantities offered by the French firm. So he asked the commander of artillery to intervene on his behalf. In his relazione, the knight Durand testified to the superior quality of Labruna’s swords stating that these were ‘più perfette e di miglior tempra di quelle venute da Francia.’ 12 Consequently, it was decided to give the contract to Labruna on condition that he produced sabres of the same model as those received from France with their brass knuckleguards and a ‘fodera di vitelli incollata sopra la tela e guarnita d’ottone’, and that any judged faulty were to be returned to him to be remade at his own expense. This may explain why, contrary to the case of the muskets and pistols ordered from France, there is no specific contract for the purchase of sabres, nor are any recorded to have ever arrived from France.13 Still, Labruna’s sword manufacturing business does not appear to have been particularly successful for in May 1772 he applied for the vacant post of master armourer. There were two other contestants for the position, namely Carlo Cauchi and Nicola Catania.14 In July, they were all made to sit for a practical examination to try out their abilities and the commander of artillery, the knight D’Argens, was asked to supervise the test. On the appointed day, Labruna did not attend as he was ill, but was nonetheless still allowed to carry out the test at


Right, detail of the breech of a musket barrel showing the carved inscription Me=PATzi= n10 together with an eight-pointed cross . Another musket has ‘no 285’ carved on the barrel (opposite page Palace Armoury Museum).

home, obviously in the presence of the commander. The tasks they were each asked to perform consisted of the construction and decoration of a lockplate and its fitting onto a wooden musket stock: ‘...facendoli separamente fare una platina intieramente nuova, e bulmata, e portare la montatura del suo ceppo intagliato, e filettato secondo l’arte allo uso moderno, e tutti li ornamenti tanto di un fucile da guerra, che da caccia.’ 15 A three-men commission, composed of the knights La Villatte, La Pata and D’Argens himself, was appointed to review the results. All three applicants proved to be expert armourers but it was eventually ‘il Donato Carlo Lubrana’ who was chosen for the job. Frequently, however, the Capo Maestro Armiere was a foreigner. In the year 1763, a Frenchmen by the name of Giovanni Enarmes, engaged by Commander Grieux in France, was appointed to the position, while earlier in 1761 an expert Maitre Armurier was purposely brought over from France to evaluate the newly arrived weapons from St Etienne en Forest.16 Giovanni Enarmes served for more than a decade, well into 1772, and for a few years he was even assisted by four French ‘lavoranti’. He was succeeded by Labruna who went on to serve for less than two years, for in 1773 Nicola Catania, one of the three contestants for the post in 1772, was appointed in his stead. The records show that he was still in employment in 1792 but not after; so was Carlo Cauchi who in the meantime had made it to Sotto Armiere. The documents also reveal the presence of a second Capo Maestro Armiere during the years 1786-1792. His name was Valentino Grech and in most probability it was he, together with Carlo Cauchi, who oversaw the last distribution of arms from the Palace Armoury during the French invasion of 1798 for both were still employed in such a capacity late in 1797.17


Under the master armourer came the regular armourers and a small unskilled labour force of forzati and slaves who were expected to perform the donkey work, such as scraping off rust and polishing weapons. A report of 1763 speaks of the ‘Artisti, Lavoranti, Garzoni, Figlioli e gente di Catena che ...lavorano in tutte le armerie della Religione.’18 The ‘artisti’ were the skilled craftsmen who decorated weapons. The lavoranti were also skilled labourers working for pay. Some were foreigners, such as the four ‘lavoranti armieri Francesi fatti venire per rimettere in stato conveniente queste varie sue armerie.’ These Frenchmen, in fact, were very skilled craftsmen much sought after ‘per i lavori fini.’ The ablest of these, by the name of Prevò, was eventually proposed for the post of ‘primo lavorante’ in order to supervise the work of the other labourers and the slaves: ‘...che abbia autorità d’invigilare sopra i schiavi, per che questi non perdino il tempo, come anche non maltrattino quelle armi dateli a ripulire, con cattivo lavoro.’ 19 The skilled craftsmen were also expected to teach the apprentices, ‘...communichi (la loro arte) ne loro allievi.’ This Prevò may have been the Armiere Giacomo Peron (Armiere) mentioned in another document, who died sometime before 1719 and whose place was taken over by Carlo Farrugia, an assembler of muskets. Encouraged by his brother’s success, Giuseppe Farrugia petitioned the Grand Master in order to be allowed to ‘subentrate a servire per compagno di detto suo fratello’. The knights Suriano and Riano reveal that it was also the practice to employ a number of ‘persone invalide’(invalids) to clean weapons. These were soldiers who had served on the galleys and had been wounded and disabled in one of the many sea-battles.20A good description of what was expected of an armourer is given by Commander de Rossellon Chattes in 1716 in his recommendation for promotion of sotto armiere Carlo Farrugia to armourer with a salary of 10 scudi a month on condition that Farrugia was to perform ‘tutti i lavori che bisognano per dett’ Armeria, di montar fucili et altro ... anche di far stelle di canoni e cocci per l’Artiglieria tanto di bronzo come di ferro, e stigli per dett’


A sawn-off service musket converted into a carbine; apparently this was known as a fucile buccaniere or mezzo fucile and was used on board galleys and sailing ships-of- the-line. Below, a forzato and a slave as representated on the sepulchral monument of Grand Master Pinto inside St John’s Co-cathedral.

opera, come pure d’accomodare tutti gl’armi delle galere.’ Chattes was then particularly anxious not to lose the services of Farrugia given that the work in the Armoury had increased considerably with the recent arrival of ‘tredici milia e più fucili.’ Farrugia had petitioned for an increase in his daily wage of 10 tari given that the pressure of work was preventing him from running his own business.19a The forzati were men condemned by local tribunals to serve a sentence performing public works and were in their majority foreigners. The more unlucky ones generally ended up on the rowing benches of galleys. 21 Early in 1716, there were five French ‘Armieri Forzati’ working in the Palace Armoury under strict surveillance.22 In 1770 the master armourer asked for the assistance of at least a hundred ‘forzati’, or ‘gente di ciurma’as he also calls them, if he was seriously to be expected to repair the thousands of poorly conditioned firearms indicated by Balì Sousa in his report: ‘... almeno di cento forzati di più ogni qualvolta questa Ven. Congregatione sarebbe del sentimento di voler le armi in buon stato: almeno di cento persone di ciurma per accomodare, e pulire tutte le armi che sono in quest’Armeria quali presentemente si trovino in pessimo stato, e di trascurare su tal particolare sarà di grandissimo danno a Sacra Religione, stanteche se si tralascia più tempo si renderanno del tutto inservibili.’ 23 In 1769 the number of forzati employed in the cleaning of arms just barely managed to cater for the requirements of the Palace Armoury and those of the ‘squadra delle galere e de vasselli.’ 24 Slaves too, surprisingly, were made to work in the Armoury, although under supervision. Given the strict regulations prohibiting slaves from carrying arms (‘mannare o’ altre armi’) or even approaching the ramparts particularly where these were armed with artillery, under pain of 100 lashes, it is indeed strange to find that they were then given access to such an important storehouse. Evidently, this was an arrangement necessitated by the lack of resources.25 That it was a risky arrangement can perhaps be best illustrated by the slave conspiracy of


1748. Although this rebellion was nipped in the bud, many slaves revealed under torture that their plan was to take over the Palace Armoury with which they were well acquainted. Indeed, one slave blacksmith by the name of Halil was even detailed to force open the door of the Armoury after overcoming the few palace guards.26 Even so, this incident did not prevent the Order from continuing the practice of employing slaves although, as happened in 1761, the Armoury, and the whole Palace risked going up in flames had not a stable lad noticed smoke coming out of the Armoury after a Turkish slave,27 detailed to work there, had left his lighted pipe on some gun-wadding. The slave got ‘cento bastonate’ for his carelessness but there were still four slaves working at the Armoury in 1766, and their work was considered important enough to necessitate their retention during a cost-cutting exercise which foresaw the sale of all superfluous local slaves who were to be sent to Sicily and the continent.28 The schiavi working in the Armoury were sent back under escort to the slave prison every evening but the prison wardens could not always guarantee that same slaves were sent back to work at the Amoury on the following day.29 This obviously was a serious handicap since the armourers had frequently to waste their time teaching the newly arrived slaves how to handle and clean the weapons. An attempt was made to rectify the situation but apparently to little avail:30 ‘...Pare che il Ven. Comun Tesoro non possa dispensarsi d’ordinare agli aggozini della Prigione di rimandar tutti giorni medesimi schiavi destinati al servizio di questa ufficina per repulire le armi.’ Effectively, the Palace Armoury was the main place where armourers were employed throughout the 17th and most of the 18th centuries. There were, nonetheless, instances where armourers were engaged outside the Armoury. For example, the Order’s fighting ships, particularly the large men-of-war, were each equipped with their own small armouries and armourers. In 1796, the crew of the Nave San Giovanni contained an armourer who had a salary of 7.6 scudi a month. So did the Santa Zaccaria. The Gozo armoury, too, had a resident Maestro Armiere; the last one recorded to have occupied this post was Michele Cauchi who was first engaged in 1786 and was still in employment late in 1797. Possibly he was still serving in this capacity in 1798 when the Cittadella surrendered to the French. In 1769 there was a proposal for an armourer to be deployed in each of the village armouries; ‘Se però ...lasciare le armi come sono al presente, è necessario assolutamente di nominare un Armiere ad ogni Sala di Campagna, li quali saranno pagati da chi giudichera l. Em. Sig. Gran Maestro.’ 31 This exercise would have necessitated the employment of at least six armourers and it is not clear if it was ever implemented to cover all the armouries. A number of armourers, however, do seem to have been employed for this purpose, for in September 1795, the commander of artillery was ordered by the Congregation of War and Fortification to reform the ‘armieri di campagnia.’ 32 In 1777, it was also proposed to deploy ‘un armiere al quartiere’ of the Reggimento di Malta. One armourer known to have been deployed to a village armoury was Michele Balzan. He was stationed at the Qormi armoury


but was exiled from the island in June 1797 for his part in the conspiracy led by Mikiel Anton Vassalli after he was charged and convicted for the theft of gunpowder and arms from the said armoury. In the investigations that followed his arrest, armourers Nicola Catania, Carlo Cauchi, and Giuseppe Bonanno testified that Balzan had failed to account for all but 50 of the muskets under his charge and when the cistern in the Qormi armoury was emptied and searched, it was found to contain a considerable amount of equipment, including 133 bayonets.32a Some of these armourers also performed secondary duties, like for example, Pietro Monpalao Apap who was ‘Armiere e munitionere salariato’ at the Mdina armoury in 1726.33 He was assisted in his duties by Armiere Giuseppe Farrugia and Tomaso Tagliana who was engaged occasionally to clean weapons. Still, the overall number would not have been high. In 1722 it was reported that there were only ‘dodici o quindici di tal mestiere’ available in the whole of Malta and Gozo.34 The Order’s military planners then believed that at least ‘Venti Maestri armieri con circa ottanta lavoranti’ were necessary in the event of a siege, together with a further 6 ‘spadari colli stigli necessari alla loro arte, per riparare il bisogno delle sciabole, spade, baionette, e tutte sorte d’arme bianche.’ 35 Mondion, earlier in 1715, was even more ambitious and called for at least a hundred ‘Maitres Armuriers’ as he believed ‘on ne peut trop avoir ceuxci, pour reparer tous les fusils et mousquets qui se gastent tous les jours’.36 An important part of the Palace Armoury was the armourers’ workshop, the so-called ‘Ufficina dell’Armeria’, which was situated in a room adjoining the main gallery.37 This workshop was under the control of the master armourer and was generally well-equipped with tools, spare parts, and with the necessary supplies of cleaning materials. The knights Suriano and Riano tell us that the principal materials then used to clean the weapons were ‘oglio’ and ‘smeriglio’, oil and emery.38 The oil was applied as a coating to prevent the weapons from rusting. All the 6 armourers in charge of the armouries ‘dei sei regimenti di campagnqa’ were issued with ‘ l’olio necessario per la pulitura, e mantenimento degli armi’. The armourer employed at Fort Manoel, for instance, was supplied with two scudi worth of ‘oglio che da alle armi di quell’ armeria’ every semester, a recurring expense which was covered by the funds of the Manoel Foundation.39 Emery is a coarse variety of corundum powder, used for the polishing of metal. Cleaning weapons with emery was still the method being employed at the Palace Armoury in 1969 as attested by Zygulski and Czerwinski. In essence, this abrasive method of cleaning armour in still that being used in the Armoury today, the emery cloth having been simply substituted by fine steel-wool wire. Emery and oil were in short supply at the Armoury in 1782, and the two commissioners reported that as a consequence hardly any were then being applied. The armorers were specifically instructed not to use too much emery as this was very abrasive and could damage and consume the metal unless applied with care, and to this end they were taught to apply it mixed with oil, ‘... Dovendo pulir l’armi averta di non impiegar troppo smeriglio intorno a quelle


perche col smeriglio in breve tempo si consumano, ma praticarlo a ragione con l’oglio per mantenerle ben pulite.’ It seems that due to the scarcity of emery in these latter years, recourse was made to a cheaper substitute – sand. Although none is actually documented in use in the Armoury workshop, the soldiers of the Reggimento the Malta, after 1776, were to be issued with ‘terra di Tripoli secca’ (dry Tripolitan sand) for cleaning and polishing their weapons. The sand was to be dissolved in vinegar ‘in modo che sia alquanto densa’ and then applied with a brush and rubbed over with ‘un pezzo di panno’, the final luster being achieved with the application of ‘lo spirito di vino col corno di cervo’. The regulations for the distribution of equipment for use aboard the Order’s men-of-war reveal that the armourers in charge of the quay-side magazine housing these vessels’ weapons were expected to set aside at least one day a week for the cleaning of equipment, ‘... un giorno alla settimana non ad altro che alla politura di essi accioche siano sempre mantenute in buon stato.’ The weapons were usually taken from the Armoury and stored temporarily inside a quay-side magazine before being shipped aboard their respective vessel prior to the departure of the caravane. Presumably, the weapons in the Armoury itself were subjected to the same frequency of treatment. Various stocks of spare parts for the repair and maintenance of weapons were kept in the Armoury workshop. Amongst these one finds ‘guarnimenti d’ottone per fucili, detti per pistole’ and many other ‘pezze per cambiare per fucili, moschetti e pistoli.’ The following list, drawn up in 1714, gives an idea of the items to be found in an 18th-century armoury of the Order:40 viti di platine (screws for the lockplates) viti che servono per il legname viti per il legname delli guardamani viti per cani di fucili batterie d’azzarini limate anelli per tenere il focile in banda anelli chiamati porta bacchetta che si attaccano alla cassa del fucile noci d’azzarino sbozzate grilli viti grosse per il fondo delle canne cani e altrettante batterie per pistoli cani e altrettante batterie per moschetti chiavi di moschetti barre o siano false chiave viti piatti nella testa parafouche Plaque de Couche porta viti misure d’acciaio per fabbricare molli

Added to these were the armourers’ outils du metier. In 1785, one of the magazines at the Falconeria was used to store an abundant reserve of the tools destined for use in the Armoury workshop and from St Felix’s inventory of


its contents one can form a good picture of how the ufficina was then furnished:41 morse di ferro morsette a mano martelli tenaglie diverse Rascadori per pulire banchi per lavorare sopra serre mantice con suo cavalletto Ascie di mano Mastravite Frise Coltelli per ceppi Ciane diverse Mannaje diverse Brocche Pistoni per lo smeriglio Archi per li trapani Torno per fare noci di grilli Spini per fare fascie Cocchiare per lignejar piombo forbici diversi scorbia saldatori Tagliatori di ferro Trapani montaballestre squerra di ferro

26 14 50 30 54 18 4 1 2 18 5 17 11 4 2 2 5 1 11 2 2 1 2 2 33 2 1

An important detail which is encountered in the 1782 commissioners’ report on the Armoury is that the majority of the Order’s weapons did not have any special markings indicating that they were its property, ‘ quanto al bollo non abbiamo ritrovato verun per ragione che non vi è l’uso, che s’imprima nelle armi di questa Sacra Religione.’ 42 That it was not the practice to stamp the equipment with special markings is indeed attested by the weapons which can still be seen at the Armoury today, although a very small number of items do carry marks. On the other hand, it appears that in later years, many of the military firearms were eventually numbered and some still reveal large crudelymade numerals carved out on the barrels. As a rule the armourers worked for a salary but this was not always the arrangement, particularly in the later half of the 18th century. One document of 1769 speaks of armourers paid ‘a giornata’ and at times the work was given out on contract.43 In 1714, for example, Maestri Giacomo Perun and Carlo Farrugia were contracted to assemble a hundred muskets with the gun parts


issued from the Armoury and magazines:44 ‘... essendo tenuta congregatione si diede a partito la fattura di 100 fucili a Mro. Giacomo Perun, Mro. Carlo Farrugia secondo la mostra che gli si diede dalla V. Cong. con l’intervento del Sign. Comm. dell’ Artiglieria per la somma di tari otto l’uno, e la V. Cong le fornisce il legname segato e le guarnimenti, non havendo a fornire altro che le viti, la sottosparatura e qualche tenune a chi li manchera, alle canne bisogna tagliare il gocone e metter la grana al suo luogo essendo canne di moschetto.’ Again in 1715 it was proposed to gather all the available armourers and have them concentrate solely on the assembly of muskets; ‘ ...esser chiamati tutti l’armieri per impiegarli dentro uno o più magazzini per montare fucili, moschetti et altre armi e metterli tutti in buon stato e farli travagliare non solo i giorni di lavoro ma anche i giorni di festa.’ 45 In 1729 the armourer at Mdina was paid 12 scudi 10 tari for having laid out in good order all the ‘armi militari della Città’ after these were relocated to a new building. In general, however, there does not appear to have been an established method of remuneration related to the specific duties which armourers were expected to perform. This situation was at times to be the cause of much dispute between the armourers themselves. One particularly contentious individual was Michele Calì, an ‘aiutante dell’Armeria’, who was daily at loggerheads with his superiors over the issue of payment and wrote various petitions to the Grand Master beseeching him to intercede on his behalf. Eventually, it was agreed to concede Michele Calì an increase of one scudo a month on condition that he was not to ask for further compensation. This arrangement does not appear to have been much to his liking, for shortly afterwards, after more than 15 years of service in the Armoury, Calì applied to be given the vacant post of ‘guardiano nelli forni della Religione.’ 46 In 1777, the salary of an armiere was established at ‘scudi 5 al mese.’ Another interesting petition is that of Carlo Farrugia submitted to Grand Master Perellos in 1715. This armourer had been first engaged in a casual capacity in 1711 and retained ‘in servitio dell’armeria senza verun assegnamento di soldo ma con il sussidio di tari sei il giorno’. Due to the heavy increase in the workload, particularly after the arrival of a large number of weapons, ‘di più dell’ ordinario di tredici mila e più fucili’, he was retained in service and eventually lost ‘il travaglio di sua bottega’. Given that his capabilities were favourably commented upon by the commander of artillery, the knight Rosellon Chattes, when asked for his views (‘ritovasi in tutto prattichissimo’), Farrugia was assigned an increase of ‘scudi dieci al mese’ on condition that he was also to assemble muskets and ‘accomadare tutti gl’armi delle galere’. The new regulations of 1763 did away with the daily payments except in the case of two or three lavoranti and ‘qualche giovane principiante’, establishing instead a scale of payments related to specific jobs.47 These regulations were drawn up at the time when the Order set about reorganizing its armouries and decided to assemble many of the ‘canne smontate’ hoarded at the Falconeria.


The master armourer was required to keep a record of all works carried out at the Armoury and no payment could be effected unless approved by him. Interestingly, the lavoranti were also permitted to accept commissions from knights and other individuals provided they first obtained the approval of the commander of artillery, the money being deposited in a safe box and duly distributed every 6 months; ‘Permettiamo, che possino accomodare e far di nuovo Fucili, Pistole etc, che dalli nostri Religiosi e d’altri particolari verranno commissionati con la intelligenza però, e permesso dell’ Comm. dell’Artiglieria, ed il prezzo che si riceverà da dette manifatture dovrà depositarsi in una cassa chiusa a chiave e d’ello che supone in detta cassa dovra tenerne un conto il Comm. dell’Artiglieria,ed in forma di giornale il corrispondente conto il Mastro Armiere, ed ogni sei mesi si aprirà per dare quelche compete a chi ha avuto parte alli lavori.’ The rates at which the assemblage of weapons was to be charged were fixed in the following manner;48 per un ceppo di azzarino per cavaliere per un ceppo di un spingardo per un ceppo di azzarino per soldato per un ceppo di scopacoverta per un ceppo di pistola per cavaliere per un ceppo di pistola per soldato giunte di azzarino giunte di pistole per un cane per una batteria per la sparatura per la balestra per la molletta della batteria per la molletta della sparatura per il focone per la macella per il vitone del cane per i viti piccoli per la culata per il tenone per il coccio per la fascia per la fascia d’abasso per il guardamano per un portaviti per la piancia della sparatura per la sparatura per un fodero di sciabola per un fodero di spada per un fodero di baionetta

1 scudo 3 tari 1 scudo 3 tari 10 tari 10 tari 7 tari 10 grani 6 tari 1 tari 10 grani 15 grani 2 tari 10 grani 2 tari 1 tari 10 grani 2 tari 1 tari 15 grani 1 tari 2 tari 10 grani 15 grani 5 grani 3 tari 10 grani 10 grani 12 grani 1 tari 10 grani 2 tari 8 grani 8 grani 6 grani 1 tari 10 grani 10 grani 8 grani

The same type of payment system, ‘lavorare per il prezzo’, was also proposed to be adopted when the knights were considering employing an armourer in the barracks of the Reggimento di Malta in 1777. The congregation of war and


Drawing by Zimelli showing a Commander of Artillery in the 1700s (National Library of Malta).


fortification then asked the commanders of the Regimento and the artillery to agree on and fix the ‘prezzi delle manufatture’. 49 The armourers at the Palace Armoury were also responsible for arranging and looking after the trophies-of-arms on display in the Sala Grande. That the antique weapons were well cared for is evidenced by the good condition many of the items themselves. This is also attested by the records; a Turkish tufenk (musket), ‘guarnito in argento e avorio’ is known to have been restored in the armourers’ workshop as late as 1796.50 The armourers’ workshop, however, does not appear to have been the only place were weapons were repaired and restored. At times, it seems that this type of work was also carried out at the Ferraria, for in 1720, five wagon-loads of azzarini from the Mdina armoury were sent there for repairs.51 The resident armourer of Fort Manoel, too, was able to repair weapons in his own workshop. In August 1872, for example, he was paid 4 scudi to manufacture ‘due ceppi di fucili’. In September he was paid another ‘2 scudi per aver fatto un ceppo nuovo di fucile’ and in April 1783, another ‘4.2 scudi per accommodare diversi fucili di quella armeria.’ 52 For all the inherent problems in the workings of the armoury setup, considerable sums of money were expanded on the repair of weapons. The records show that around 1,300 scudi were spent on the ‘riparationi delle armi’ between the years 1782 and 1786, a sum equivalent to the cost of construction of a coastal battery with its blockhouse. The largest amount, 528.8.8 scudi, was expanded in 1784 and was employed, amongst other things, to cover the ‘spese per tagliare 500 fucili ricevuti dall’Artiglieria, ed accommodare le padrone ed i centuri. ’53 Nonetheless, expenditure on the repair of weapons dropped dramatically in the final years of the Order’s rule in Malta. The accounts show that 76.8.10 scudi were spent on repairs in the financial year 1795-1796 and only 47 scudi in 1796-1797. Annual expenditure on armouries in general, in 1795, amounted to 1,175.5.5. scudi, roughly 3.3% of the Order’s total military budget for that year. In 1773, the ‘spese per le diverse Armerie della Città Vittoriosa, Senglea, Bormola e Casali’ amounted to only 153.2.10 scudi, showing clearly that the bulk of the expenses mostly went to cover the main armouries in Valletta. These ‘spese delle sale d’armi del Regimenti’ were paid directly from the treasury. A considerable sum of 150 scudi was spent in 1767 in connection with works carried out at the Palace Armoury. This was paid to the knight Rene Jacques de Tigné, the commissioner of fortifications, for having undertaken and supervised various works in the Armoury. Balì de Tigné was a competent military engineer and indeed for many years served in this capacity as the Order’s resident military engineer. It is not clear what works he actually carried out in the Armoury, but the sum of 150 scudi suggests that these were significant and may have also included some structural alterations, possibly even the construction of the baroque portal at the main entrance to the main gallery.


Artillery Stores & Gunpowder Magazines Manufacture & Storage of Gunpowder Gunpowder played an important role in the history of the Order from the moment it began to power projectile weapons strong enough to influence the outcome of warfare and military affairs. Learning quickly from the lessons of the Turkish siege of Constantinople of 1453, the knights of St John were early in exploiting the potential of gunpowder-operated artillery in both attack and defence. By the early 15th century the words bombarda and bombardieri1 became common entries in the Order’s records, revealing an ever-increasing reliance on the new technology. This development is also physically attested in the surviving remains of the military architecture of the period, in the towers with gun-loops, in the embrasures and in countermines built from the reign of Grand Master Fluviano onwards. Inevitably, the procurement, manufacture, and storage of gunpowder became an important function in the affairs of the Order and special officials had to be appointed to administer both the munitions that worked the new artillery and the guns themselves. Heading the new department, by the early 16th century, was the commander of artillery who, in time, came also to assume responsibility for the armouries, as already described earlier in this book. Specific references to the title of ‘Commander of Artillery’ only begin to appear early in the 16th century. At the end of the 15th century it was more common to find ‘commissarii’ encharged with ‘visitandas pulverers et munitions artillierum.’2 In 1491, for instance, we find the knight Frà Iohanne Danalon elected ‘deputato ad custodiam artilleriae’ while in 1502, Frà Franciscus Blacars was made ‘Praceceptor artillariae, Probi hominess artilleriae.’3 Mention of the election of ‘probihomines’ tends to imply that the system of having a commander of artillery assisted by two prudhommes had already been formulated by the early 16th century. Employed within this setup were also a number of bombardiers necessary to work the artillery and a few capomastri in charge of the production and storage of gunpowder. Most of these, judging by the records, were Latin rather than Greek. An Italian, Petrus


de la Mota, for example, is listed as ‘peritus (expert) in ‘arte ballistica’ and the use of ‘artillariae grossae’ whilst a list of bombardiers employed on guard duty at Fort St Nicholas in 1516 gives only European names;5 ‘Mastro Janorum (?) de la court Mro. piere gachet Mastro guilielmo molo Mastro noro de villa francha Mastro guiliemo danops (?) Mastro gangum (?) lo borgognon’ As with its armouries, the Order also adopted a centralized system of artillery and powder magazines within the fortress of Rhodes and this in turn fed a large number of outlying strongholds and outposts. Among the supplies being shipped to the island of Kos and St Peter Castle at Bodrum in 1470, for example, were ‘salis nitri rafinati et cantaria ferri’ and a ‘quintale plumbi’.5 Enties such as ‘Rotoli …di bona polvere di bombarda’, ‘Rotoli … di fino salnitro’, and ‘unum carratellum salisnitri et unum sulfitris’ show that gunpowder was imported both as a ready-made product and in the form of raw materials to be manufactured on the island.6 During the early years of the Order’s stay in Malta, the knights hastily transformed the Castrum Maris into a self-contained martial complex. Armouries, magazines, and even powder factories were set up within its walls. As early as 1530 one already encounters a ‘commissario pro emenda salpetra’ to be followed by a string of knights elected to oversee the administration of artillery and munitions, the prudhommes under the commander of artillery; ‘Frà George de S. Iohanne et Hieronymus Avogardo probi hominess machinarium bellicorum’; ‘Frà Johannes Centeno electus probus homo artillariae’ (1552); ‘Frà Alfons’us Correa (probus homo tormentorium bellicorum sive artillariae’ (1554); ‘Gerardus de La Tour’, who was removed from his post of ‘capitanei tormentum bellicorum’ in 1555 and condemned ‘ad quarantenam propter rixam’; ‘Iacobus Francisco Guasco prob. ballistrum incendiarum’ (1557).7 The task of mounting ‘i pezzi d’artiglieria nei loro posti nella nuova città (Vittoriosa) e nella Senglea … per rispetto dell’Armamento Turchesco,’ in 1568, was entrusted to Frà ‘Franciscus Gozon detto Melac, Balì di Manisca’. 8 There were two methods by which the Order obtained its gunpowder, importing it ready-made or else producing it locally from imported ingredients. Both practices were resorted to in Rhodes and Malta. As with the acquisition of arms and armour, the Order obtained its stocks of gunpowder from a wide variety of sources. In times of serious emergencies caused by threat of invasion, frantic efforts were made to acquire vast stocks of powder from any readilyavailable source. Perhaps the most celebrated instance of the importation of powder is the recorded arrival of 200 barrels sent to Malta by the Duke of Florence just prior to the arrival of the Turkish armada in 1565. Another is


The ‘Moline de la Polvere’ in Valletta (inset), as represented in D’Aleccio’s plan in the second half of the 16th century.

the arrival in Malta during the reign of Grand Master Pinto in 1761 of ‘quattro bastimenti carichi di polvere, bombe alcuni cannoni, mortari di bronzo e due detti volgarmente obusier, caricate parte in Marsiglia parte in Tolone’ during the crisis caused by the capture of the Corona Ottomana.9 Earlier in 1669, following fall of Candia to the Turks, commission was given to the ricevitore Tarascone to buy ‘mille cantara di polvere’.10 By 1793, however, the Order’s war machine had grown so much that requests for powder were then of the magnitude of 4,000 quintali ‘polvere di mina’ and 6,000 quintali ‘polvere di cannone’.11 That the Order imported gunpowder from a large variety of sources is well documented by the archival records. The names of individual producers are often mentioned. In 1679, for example, a contract was given out to ‘Michele Puglielmi, Francese, per la fabrica di polvere’. Mention is also frequently made of ‘Polvere di Francia’, ‘Polvere di Genova fina’ and ‘Polvere d’Olanda’, the latter conveyed to Malta ‘con … vassello da Amsterdam fra altre munitioni ordinate’. When the urgency and threat of war were far less pressing, however, it often proved cheaper to produce gunpowder locally than to import it from abroad, particularly given the large and continual demand for it by the Order’s armed forces. The first gunpowder factory was established inside Fort St Angelo but no descriptions of this edifice are known. Early gunpowder-making facilities did not have sophisticated plant. Relatively small quantities were then made by hand with pestles and mortars. At the most these edifices contained a few small mills driven by beasts of burden. From the investigations made following the explosion of the powder factory at Fort St Angelo during the early stages


of the Great Siege, it appears that the production depended mostly on manual labour. This can be deduced from the fact that commissioners were made to investigate why so many people, particularly civilians had such a free access to the factory.12 Gunpowder is made from a mixture of three basic ingredients, saltpeter (salnitro - potassium nitrate), charcoal, and sulphur. None of the ingredients could be found locally, not even charcoal, for even trees were scarce on the island - everything had to be imported. In 1775, Antonio Pace ‘fu mandato in Torino per appredare’ the necessary ‘carbone ed il salnitro.’13 The Lascaris Foundation, set up in 1645, was established to provide, among many other things, for the ‘compra di miglio salnitro.’ 14 The production process involved the mixing together of the three components, the powder being processed and refined to produce various grades of gunpowder. The local factories were capable of producing various grades of quality of gunpowder. The ‘Polvere di Malta fina’, for example, came in two varieties ‘con lustro’ and ‘senza lustro’. The Order was also aware of the importance of not keeping too much powder in store but of hoarding instead the materials required for producing it, ‘… quello che più comple alla Religione e il tener i materiali da farne il polvere, perche queste non si guastano’. 15 When the knights transferred their headquarters from Birgu to the new fortress of Valletta in 1571, they took with them all the important military establishments. A ‘luogo dove si fa la polvere’ was eventually established in the lower part of the city, in the vicinity of the slaves’ prison on the site of the present Cottonera block. That this was not an ideal location is attested by the fact that when the Valletta powder factory accidentally blew up on 12 September 1634, it killed 22 people and seriously damaged the nearby Jesuits College and church. The Order’s records show that by 1665 the knights were still looking for ‘un luogo fuori della città per raffinar la polvere’.16 In that same year, however, the congregation of war, determined to resolve the situation, instructed the resident military engineer, Mederico Blondel, to draw up plans for a ‘casa accomodata per fare e raffinare la polvere’ which was to be built ‘nella floriana dalla parte che riguarda il porto di Marsamscetto’. The new polverista was duly erected and was already producing powder by 1667. The building appears to have consisted of a cruciform structure enclosed within a high-walled rectangular enclosure. It was equipped with ‘tre molini’ used for the production of ‘zolfo e salnitro’, probably of the type driven by beasts of burden. By the early 18th century it was also served by a number of magazines or ‘mine’ situated in the vicinity, one of which was known as ‘dell’Eremita’ and another ‘del Tessitore’. Soon after the construction of then nearby casemated curtain in the 1720s, the master-in-charge of the polverista, Giovan Francesco Bieziro proposed the utilization of the ‘trogli nuovamente fabbricati’ for the production of gunpowder. By the beginning of the 18th century, the polverista had became a prominent landmark, and is


Plan of the gunpowder factory (frequently called the Polverista) erected at the rear of the Bastion of Provence in Floriana in the area that later came to be known as the Ospizio by the middle of the 17th century. This edifice was designed by the Order’s resident engineer Mederico Blondel.

seen on many of the plans and views of Floriana. This is hardly surprising, for it was then practically one of the largest buildings within a still largely barren enclosure formed by Floriani’s ramparts. It appears that this edifice continued to function in such a capacity until the early 1720s, for the building was then incorporated into a larger complex known as the ‘Casa di Carita’, later the ‘Ospizio’, established on the same site by Grand Master Vilhena as a place to welcome sick old men and women. Apparently, by then, a number of local entrepreneurs had taken over the production of gunpowder for the Order. Indeed, in 1775, it was suggested that ‘il Casino che altrevolte era de P.P. Gesuiti nella Marsa’ could serve, with some alterations by the Balì de Tigné, as a ‘luogo proprio’ for the production of powder by a certain Antonio Pace. Polveriste The storage of the powder, too, was a risky undertaking that required adequate and safe spaces free from the risks of fire and bombardment, and adequately protected against spoilage from dampness or rain water. The powder magazines had also to be located away from built up areas for safety reasons. In the 16th and 17th centuries there were no established forms of structures specifically designed to serve solely as magazines. Any ordinary available building, preferably dry, could be put to use as a powder magazine if the


Detail from a marble trophy-ofarms showing the muzzle of a cannon and its loading equipment - a cucchiara (powder bucket shovel) and refolatore (rammer).

need arose. This is perhaps best illustrated by the Order’s practice of storing gunpowder inside the echaugettes (‘guardioli’) scattered around the bastions. However, the ‘Commotione che fece in tutta questa città l’incendio di certa polvere conservata in una guardiola di uno de rivellini congiunti alla contrascarpa di essa città colpita dal fulmine’ in 1662 did not deter the commissioners of war from once again proposing the same use for the other ‘quattro garrote’ (guerites) to be found around the walls of Valletta.17 Even so, it also dawned on them that it was important not to store all ‘polvere di rispetto’ in one area and so a commission of knights was encharged to inspect ‘la polvere, e dove stia, e conservarla divisa, et in luoghi, dove non debba tenersi da un solo accidente una ruina irreparabile.’ As a result of these investigations, it was recommended that apart from the four echaugettes situated on the Valletta counterguards (fortificatione del Marchese St Angelo) another six new magazines were to be constructed to enable an overall capacity of 600 cantara of gunpowder, judged ‘necessaria per riserva’. The commissioners were then also of the opinion that the quantity of gunpowder inside the magazine of Fort St Elmo (apparently situated within the cavalier) was to be reduced to only 8 cantara and those inside Fort St Angelo, in ‘ciascheduno delli due magazeni superiori’, only 10, although ‘nel fosso’ there was to continue to be retained ‘tutta quella quantità che serve per le galere et altro maneggio quotidiano.’ The estimated cost of the repairs to the guardiola damaged by lightning (‘la garrita voltata dalla polvere’) was 700 scudi whilst another 300 scudi were required to construct the other stores.


Plan and 19th-century view of the gunpowder magazine à la Vauban erected on Capuchin bastion, Floriana by Grand Master Pinto. The polverista is enclosed by a high wall, or garde-de-feu, a kind of security fence designed to prevent unauthorized persons from approaching too close to the magazine.

The arrival of French military engineers to Malta in the early 1700s brought with it the introduction of purposely built powder magazines. Designed ‘à la Vauban’, these new edifices were fitted with ‘blind’ ventilation shafts known as ‘sfiatatori’, lateral reinforcements in the form of counterforts and gabled roofs. The new magazines were built on raised floors and were designed to be damp-proof . They were also fitted with controlled access points to make entry into magazines more difficult for unauthorized personnel. The first to be built on such a pattern were the two ‘polveriste’ at Fort Manoel, followed by others at Floriana, Vendôme bastion (Valletta), St John Cavalier and a small oval example, without counterforts, at Fort Chambrai. One set of plans drawn up by the French engineers shows a large ‘magazino a polvere coperto alla leggera’ and capable of housing 2,340 barrels proposed to be set up on St Clement bastion along the Cottonera Lines. This was to be, however, a considerably larger structure intended as a central depository of


Right, plan of a ‘magazeno a prova di bomba’ built into Vendôme bastion, Valletta, near Fort St Elmo (now the War Museum). Below, plan of the polverista built inside St John Cavalier, Valletta (National Library of Malta).

gunpowder, intentionally situated far away from the built-up urban areas. Eventually, two such magazines were constructed along the Cottonera Lines, one on St Nicholas bastion and the other on St Louis bastion.18 By 1758 all the supply of the Order’s gunpowder, aside from that for naval use, is recorded as being stored at Cottonera. A commission set up to review the situation, however, recommended that the powder at Cottonera was situated too far away to be of any use in an emergency, ‘in luogo da non poter servire in caso improviso’ and advised instead that more use be made of ‘il Magazeno del Forte Manoel, che é alla prova di bomba sotto un custodia sicura e più a portata della Città Valletta che quei della Cottonera.’ It was also agreed to stock up ‘i magazeni a polvere dei rivellini de Porta Reale nei quali si trovano tutti li vantaggi [e] … communicazione della citta’ while those within the city, on the other hand, particularly inside the cavaliers were to be left empty ‘a causa del pericolo’.


Proposed plan and sectional elevation of a large gunpowder magazine ‘coperto alla leggiera’ designed to be built on St Clement bastion along the Cottonera enceinte, with a storage capacity of 2,340 barrels of gunpowder (National Library of Malta).

Occasionally, unlikely places such as vaulted communications passages, casemates, or countermine tunnels were also put to use as improvised gunpowder stores (“expense magazines” in later 19th century terminology). In 1758, for example, the tunnel or ‘mina’ no. 582 ‘alla dritta della mezzaluna inanti Porta Reale’ (St Magdaleine Ravelin) was conceded to the ‘Aiutante della milizia Alberto Gatt per ponere la polvere.’19 Powder magazines were inspected regularly by the commander of artillery or his subordinates to ensure they remained capable of adequately housing gunpowder in good conditions. That this was not always so is best illustrated


Proposed plan and sectional elevation of a large magazine ‘coperto alla leggiera’ designed to be built on St Clement bastion, Cottonera lines, with a storage capacity of 2,340 barrels of gunpowder.

by the recorded visit of the resident military engineer Blondel to the powder magazine of the citadel in Gozo, shortly after the earthquake of 1693.20 Blondel found that the roof (terrazzo) of the powder magazine had caved in, ‘essendo stata tre anni sono, sfrondata da alcune pietre, cascati sopra, durante un grosso temporale di pioggia.’ Evidently with each rainfall the interior of the magazine flooded up (‘s’allago dentro’) and because the room was ‘sempre chiuso con più porte l’una avanti l’altra, e senza fenestre, ne’ respiro veruno’ the internal conditions had remained damp to the detriment of the powder. As a result of this ‘il suo tavolato, l’infodera de muri, et i barili’ became covered in mould (‘si muffano’) and the powder mostly rotted away.


This page, the polverista of Fort Chambrai, Gozo, built in the 1750s by the Order’s resident military engineer, Marandon. The magazine is isolated by a garde-de-feu and set aside on the bastion farthermost from the land front approaches. Note the raised floor (a dampproofing device) and the ‘sfiatatori’ or ‘blind’ ventilation openings. (National Library of Malta).


Opposite page, table describing the various pieces of equipment used in the operation of naval guns, taken from a manuscript manual of the Order’s navy (National Library of Malta).

Blondel immediately ordered the repair of the broken flagstones but also recommended that the roof be covered with an added layer of packed earth to ensure better water proofing, ‘… battere in terrazzo con al quanto di turba il suo costiglietto dandogli pendio grande all’infuori, per deviarne l’acqua piovane.’ He also ordered the uprooting and removal of all the ‘malve et alter herbe grandi’ which had taken root on the roof of the magazine. As an added measure to ensure the drying of the gunpowder, Blondel advised that the barrels were be taken out daily from inside the magazine, for at least a whole week, and left to dry in the sun, ‘… uscirne fuori i barili in tempo del sol lione, e tenerli esposti al sole, con guardia competente de bombardieri stessi, nell’hore del giorno più calde; lasciando in tanto le porte del magazzino spalancate, e cio per una settimana, o più, secondo sara giudicato.’ It seems that the same lassitude which had crept into the administration of the armouries by the mid-18th century had also found its way into the running of the gunpowder magazines. The situation appears to have grown so intolerable by 1756 that an official inquiry was held to investigate the many abuses that had crept in, particularly the clandestine ‘ma libero traffico delle Polveri della Religione con pericolo grandissimo delle Città, e del Porto, con interesse gravissimo del Com Tesoro’ and to examine how both locals and foreigners (‘non ostante le …ordinanze de bandi’) had acquired ‘la facolta di acquistare tal genere di munizione in pregiudizio del Governo per farne un uso pernicioso.’ On investigation, it transpired that large quantities of powder were being pilfered from the magazines of the galleys or exchanged for one of inferior. These magazines were situated inside D’Homedes bastion at Fort St Angelo, and their keys left in the hands of the ‘Capi Mastri Artiglieri’ who together with their dependents had managed to acquire unrestricted access to the place; ‘… che secondo le occorrenze cavano da se stessi o per mezzi delle loro mogli, figli e dipendenti in tutte le ore del giorno .. ritengono in poter loro le chiavi di detto magazeno.’ Worse still, this magazine was situated beneath another in which was conserved a much larger quantity of powder serving the squadron of the ship-of-the-lines. If these irregularities were not serious enough, other worrying abuses were uncovered. Particularly disconcerting was the ‘libertà che anno i bastimenti d’introdurre in questo dominio la polvere, parte della quale si rispone in Castel St Angelo per diposito volontario de Capitani, altra si riserva in luoghi incogniti al Governo ma certamente nelle case di questa città, o Magazzeni delle Marine.’ That powder was illegally kept inside private houses is best illustrated by the tragic explosion, on the night of 24 June 1756, in Valletta when a large tenement house near the Auberge de Castille and Leon blew up killing many residents. The cause of the tragedy was a certain Rev. Giovanni Mifsud, nicknamed ‘ta suffarelli’, an amateur fireworks manufacturer who operated from his room with utter disregard for the safety of others.21



After 1756, however the keeping of gunpowder was strictly prohibited ‘in casa propria, ne altrove’ except for ‘una piccolo quantità corrispondente all’uso di un cacciatore.’ To this end fixed places were established in Valletta, Gozo, and ‘in tre luoghi di questa Isola, cioe nella Città Notabile, in Casal Lia e nella Gudia’ where ‘tre persone stabilite con autorita’ could legally sell gunpowder in small quantities and solely for hunting purposes. These distributors, in turn, were only authorized to purchase their own stocks from officially approved sources. The report drawn up on this occasion was to lead towards a series of new ‘Regolamenti per la Custodia della Polvere’ that were designed, above all to ensure great central control over gunpowder resources and reduce ‘la facilità di vendere la polvere, di cambiarla ed alterarla.’ Immediately ‘lo stile non autorizato di ritenere i capi Mastri la chiave della Sta Barbara’ was to end and a stricter regime implemented. In all the fortifications, there were to be only two keys to the powder stores one of which was to be held by the ‘Governatore o suo luogotente’ and the other by the ‘Capomastro del castello’ after a record was made of the ‘esatto conto delli scartucci presi’ Curiously, the 800 scudi worth of powder found missing from the magazines in St Angelo were to be detracted from the salary of the Capo Mastro di St Angelo (‘fu sequestrate la meta del suo salario ma potra non estingere, per quanto sara lunga la di lui vita’ intieramente il debito sudetto’). In other times he would surely have found himself rowing the oars of the Order’s galleys! The primary outcome of the new regulations was the construction of a new ‘magazzeno Generale per le Polveri delle Marine’. This was erected on the ‘Punta di Ras Kanzir …sotto il Corradino … assai comodoso per imbarcare e sbarcare le polveri delle due squadre … immune di più per la vantaggiosa

Plan of a typical 18thcentury warehouse erected outside Valletta’s ramparts, along the harbour quay. Although intended for the storage of ordinary merchandise, these stores were sometimes illegally used to house gunpowder by many a merchant much to the disdain of the Order and a disregard for public safety regulations (National Library of Malta).


A plan showing a shell-store situated on one of the bastions of Valletta during the 1700s (National Library of Malta). Note the entry ‘E’, Marmitte. These were marble shot, examples of which can still be seen in the Palace Armoury Museum.

sua situazione di poter cagionare con un disgraziato incendio alcun danno alla città e al porto’. The interior of the magazine was divided into separate compartments (‘riparimenti’) set aside for the storage of different vessels. The keys to the external doors of the establishment were to be deposited in the treasury ‘lasciando alli Capi Maestri delle Galere la Chiave del riparimento corrispondente alla rispettiva galera.’ Special commissioners were appointed to register the quantity and quality of powder whenever deposited or removed. Frequently, gunpowder magazines were guarded round the clock. Some were fitted with guardhouses, or corpi di guardia, such as the ‘Polverista di Rocca Tagliata’ (Cottonera) whose guardhouse stood ‘a canto della gran


The powder magazine built by Grand Master Pinto in the inner reaches of the Grand Harbour at Ras Hanzir in 1756.

polverista’. A corporal and three soldiers from this post were also detailed ‘al piccolo corpo di guardia d’abasso, avanti la porta della Cortina di detta Roccatagliata.’22

Artillery Stores Inside the magazines the powder was generally kept in wooden barrels stacked horizontally in rows on wooden skids, known as ‘tavolate’. The walls were sometimes screened off (‘infoderate’) to help reduce the rising damp. Frequently, powder charges were packed into ‘cartucci di pargamena’ ready for use while those destined for musketry were loaded in paper cartridges and kept in boxes.23 During the reign of Grand Master Ximenes, Maestro Onorato Zarb was commissioned to manufacture ‘11,000 scartucci senza palla’ for the use of the regiment of Grand Master’s Guards. The other munitions held in artillery stores and minutely accounted for were generally cannon shot, of iron and stone, bombs, grenades and ‘sacchetti di mitraglia.’ Frequently, cannon shot was stacked in pyramids next to guns of corresponding caliber. A lack of ‘palle di pietra’ in the galley arsenals in 1570, for example, was followed by a request to the Mdina jurats from the commander of artillery asking for stone shot to be taken from the ‘monicione dela cita’ where there was a great quantity in store.24 The list below, drawn up in the 1790s, gives the recommended quantities of munitions that were to be kept in store in preparation of a siege. palle di libri 24, palle di libri 4, palle di libri 2, legna di ceppi per 900 ceppi bombi di pollici 12, bombi di pollici 8,

12,000 20,000 20,000 11,000 12,000


Plan for a proposed powder magazine at Mgarr harbour in Gozo (National Library of Malta).


per gli obus di pollici 8, granate di lib 6, granate di lib 3, granate a mano

8,000 26,000 3,000 8,000

One entry also mentions a ‘provista di granate di cartone per servizio delle galere’. Added to these were vast quantities of paper cartridges. These were kept in wooden boxes and distributed to the various outlying fortresses and depositories prior to military exercises or defence preparations so that they could be then handed out to the troops. In November 1770, for example, written instructions were issued for the distribution of 1,200 cartridges to the Vittoriosa militia, 1,000 to Senglea and 5,000 to Cospicua while the commander of Fort Ricasoli was asked to determine if he had an adequate provision in his magazines to supply his ‘guarnigione ordinaria’ together with a further 300 men to be sent there in case of emergency. View of the magazine built by the British authorities on the salient of St Peter Bastion, Mdina around 1893 for the storage of gunpowder. Until then, the city’s gunpowder had been stored in a room above the main gate.

All sorts of materials connected with the working of artillery were stored and accounted for. Artillery magazines are generally shown as housing bars of iron (‘un fascio di ferro quadrato per le petriere fatte di nuovo’), lead, ‘meccio’, wood (for carriages) and stone shot.25 Fuse chord was rolled up in balls (‘ballone di meccio’). Among the interesting items encountered in the artillery stores were various ‘stromenti geometrici’ to measure ‘le portate delli tiri’ and wooden ‘ruote’ to seal off the powder chambers of fougasses.26 Strict regulations were also issued for the breaking up of old and consumed gun carriages and the disposal of their wooden components as attested by the following decree of 1554: ‘Dispozioni redatte in lingua Italiana, intorno alla a rimonzione di ceppi rotti o di legname inutili dell’artiglieria , ... che … per levar et remuover alcuni abusi hanno ordinato et espresso probito che da qua avanti il de l’artilleria non possa rompere o disfar ceppo o rota de l’artillaria ne altro legname se non in presentia delli prodhomi et trovandosi detti ceppi rotti e legnami fargili et inutili per servire che nessuno de detti com.ri o prodhomi le possa appropriare ma siano riservati in beneficio della religione et questo medesimo s’intenda del del arsenale et altri officiali.’ Evidently, then more than now, wood was a scarce and costly resource that was in much demand.

Plan of the musketry gallery on the outerworks of Floriana showing a small triangle-shaped powder store within the musketry spur.


Plan of the artillery quarters situated on Sta Barbara bastion, Valletta.


In 1779 one finds the ‘capi maestri dell’Artiglieria e del Legname’ touring the fortifications of Gozo to inspect the state of the gun carriages (‘ceppi dei cannoni’). There then followed, a year later, a general inspection of the carriages by the commander of artillery himself and from these reports it transpires that most of the guns on the coastal batteries were mounted on ‘ceppi di marina’ or sea-pattern truck carriages, some of which were fitted with ‘ruote a raja’. Among the measures which were taken perennially to protect the carriages from the destructive effects of the elements was that of coating them with ‘olio di lino’. At times the carriages seem to have also been coated with ‘pece’ and ‘chitrame’ (tar) but this practice was eventually discouraged in the later decades of the 18th century. The guns themselves were not seen solely as weapons but also as a valuable source of material, particularly if made of bronze. The commander of artillery was frequently required to inspect the state of the cannon and set aside those declared unserviceable. These were then either sold off to the public, possibly even for the making of bells (in the case of bronze weapons), or else sent to the Order’s foundry for melting and recasting into new guns.27 This was frequently the faith of captured Turkish ordnance. In 1657, for example, a special commission was set up to cast new guns from the ‘cannoni di bronzo presi nella battaglia delli Dardanelli.28 Of the 73 captured guns, only 17 were of a calibre that could used by the knights, the rest being ‘terziate, cioe cannoni, mezzi cannoni, bastardi, sagri e falconetti’ which were not considered ‘buoni al servitio della Religione.’ The combined mass of metal from these Detail from a photograph showing a depot for gun-carriages situated on the captured weapons was considered to weigh around 820 cantara and was outerworks of the Floriana lines during to be used to produce 12 ‘masfelti (field guns) di 8 libre di palle di peso the early British period. cantare 8 per chiascheduno che sono proportionate e comodi al servitio della Religione.’ Similar instances are recorded in 1667 (cannoni delli depredate nell’anno 1636) and in 1663 for which exercise special kilns (‘forni’) were ordered to be constructed.29 Mattoni (bricks) for use in such furnaces are known to have been stored nearby inside St John Cavalier in 1785. Orders for the refounding of ‘cannoni inutili’ can be traced back to 1574, when for example Mro Pasino was dispatched to Mdina to inspect the artillery of the old town and ‘rompere quelle di meno importanza ... per fondere certi pezzi per la galera capitana’.


The Development & Layout of the Palace Armoury

The Armoury Layout in the 17th and 18th Centuries Count Erbach’s description of his tour of the Grand Master’s Palace in 1617 reveals that the Armoury was then already located inside the large gallery which continued to house it well into the 20th century. Owing to the absence of documentary evidence it is still not yet clear whether this hall formed part of the original building designed by Gerolamo Cassar nor whether it was purposely built to house an armoury. Depictions of the Grand Master’s Palace in late 16th-century plans of Valletta, such as that by Matthaus Merian, distinctly show the Palace with no upper storey along Strada San Giacomo (Merchants Street). What is evident, however, is that the large sala d’armi bears no direct relationship to the rest of the building. Its floor level, for instance, rests on a considerably higher plane than that of the adjoining palatial rooms while the most spacious and important halls in the Palace, including the council chamber, are of much humbler proportions. Given the fact that it was Grand Master Wignacourt who introduced the Armoury into the Palace, then it is most unlikely that the great hall antedates his election by any significant number of years. Unfortunately no plans or descriptions of the internal layout of this section of the Palace prior to 1600 have so far turned up to shed some light on the matter. Nor is there yet any record of such works having been undertaken in the Palace during this period. A plan of the Palace Armoury found in the National Library of Malta shows that right until the early 18th century the spatial relationship between the Armoury and the Palace was much different from that with which we are familiar with today. Initially, the entrance into the Armoury was directly from the upper courtyard through a ‘corpo di guardia’ and up a flight of steps. The layout of the Palace itself at that time appears still to have centred around one courtyard, with no central block. A plan of the Palace in an early 17th century map of Valleta drawn by the knight Giovanni Battista Vertoa actually shows the internal open enclosure divided into a colonaded courtyard and a smaller garden, the two only separated by a thin wall. Internally, the Armoury was not linked to the Palace. According to the historian Agius de Soldanis, it was Grand Master Pinto who established this link, ‘lo


Detail from the map of Valletta made by Francesco dell’Antella, published in 1602 in Giacomo Bosio’s History of the Order of St John, showing the Palace of the Grand Masters (No.29). Below, engraving showing Piazza San Giorgio with the corpo di guardia opposite the Palace (Courtesy of Dr A. Ganado).

uni con la Armeria.’1 This work seems to have been left in the hands of Balì Rene Jacques de Tigné, the commissioner of fortifications, for in 1767, he was paid 150 scudi for having supervised the works ‘per rimettere detta Armeria (la Sala d’armi della Città Valletta).’ It is not yet fully clear, however, what the works mentioned in this entry of the Libro delle Spese actually comprised but the sum of 150 scudi (practically a year’s wages) suggests that these were not insignificant. Nor is it certain, either, if this entry is actually referring to the Palace Armoury and not to one of the other secondary armouries in Valletta, such as the Falconeria or St James Cavalier. The title of Sala d’Armi della Città Valletta is an ambiguous one, and has not been encountered in other documents. If this title really does refer to the Palace Armoury then it could explain when the new baroque portal at the main entrance to the gallery was actually constructed. Some historians,


however, ascribe the design of this portal to the Italian architect Romano Carapecchia, albeit on stylistic grounds alone.2 One undated description of the interior of the Palace, judged to have been written between 1722 and 1735, does seem to already indicate the presence of an entrance to the Armoury from the adjoining corridor and may thus discount Balì de Tigné’s involvement.3 Still, the portal retains the original wooden doors with cresentshaped brass knockers, leaving little doubt as to the fact that the Armeria owed its new look to Grand Master Pinto de Fonseca, who reigned between 1743 and 1773. So does the large painted escutcheon bearing his arms on the ceiling immediately above the portal, which can only have been executed at a time when Carapecchia had long since gone. Of an elaborate baroque design with fluted pilasters and ionic capitals surmounted by an entablature and scrolled pediment, the portal bears a niche with the bust of Flaminio Balbiani, Grand Prior of Italy. The niche is inscribed with the year 1663, thus clearly belonging to some earlier arrangement. It may have actually surmounted the old original entrance into the Armoury when this was still approached through the corpo di guardia from the courtyard. The connection between Balbiani and the Armoury has yet to be discovered. Possibly he may have personally financed some major works in the storehouse or paid for a purchase of arms, deeds which would have surely earned him a just recognition for his munificence. When completed, the improved Armoury layout did not involve many drastic changes other than the erection of the new triumphal entrance and its direct link to the interior of the Palace. There was no other apparent change in the

Piazza San Giorgio, showing the fountain, Verdala’s column, the corpo di guardia and the cancellaria.



This page, early 18th-century plan showing the overall layout of the Palace Armoury as reorganuzed by the French military mission in 1715. Note that the main entrance into the Armoury was approached through a flight of steps directly from the courtyard. Access into the Armoury, however, was controlled by a ‘corpo di guardia’ located in a small room within the courtyard. The plan also shows a small spiral staircase leading up onto the roof of the armoury, the adjoining ‘saletta minore’ (Sala Lascaris) which housed the arms of the Lascaris Foundation, and a flight of steps leading out onto a terrace overlooking the inner courtyard. Note also that there were four armament racks running along the length of the gallery and other racks fixed onto the walls. The cross-section of the gallery shown left shows the manner in which the wooden racks held various tiers of weapons stacked above oneanother. This sectional drawing also shows the barrelvaulted roof of the ground-floor stables situated below the Armoury (Illust. National Library of Malta).


The original 17th-century main entrance into the Armoury via the Sala Lascaris. This door was blocked up and the flight of steps leading to it removed when the British opened the new entrance into the Armoury from the upper courtyard. One can still make out a boxed frame above the door. This once held an escutcheon or commemorative plaque.

design of the great hall itself. The corpo di guardia at the base of the steps leading from the courtyard seems to have been removed but not so the flight of steps itself, which continued to feature in many later 18th century plans of the Palace, even after the construction of the clock-tower. The Armoury did not even lose the small spiral stairs (garigor) situated in the north corner of the hall, which gave access to the roof. Some of the windows, however, were apparently walled up to enable a balcony to be positioned directly above the ground floor portal opening onto Merchant’s street and in line with the main entrance into the Armoury. As a military storehouse, there were very few technical structural features which distinguished the Palace Armoury, or any type of armoury for that matter, from other ordinary buildings. There are many examples quoted earlier in this book where normal houses occupied by the populace were employed to serve as village armouries without undergoing any alterations whatsoever, except, in one case, where there was the addition of an adjoining room to act as a corpo di guardia. The only common requisite, given the local climatic conditions, was for the equipment to be stored on the upper floors of buildings where rising damp was less of a threat to the preservation of weapons. This practice of placing armouries on the upper floors, however, was also dictated by the conventions employed by architects in the design of Baroque palaces. Romano Carapecchia, for example, points this out quite clearly in his ‘Compendio Architettonico.’4


Manuscript plan of the ground floor level of the Palace of the Grand Masters. The Cavallerizza (stables) on the left side of the plan, now houses the Palace Armoury Museum. The stone decorations of the portals leading to the former stables were carved by Maestro Giovanni Puglisi, a talented buonavoglia who was eventually condemned to death in 1760. Bottom picture, the main 18th-century portal into the Palace Armoury.


Row of arms and armour displayed above cornice moulding Trophies-of-arms; their composition varied considerably Four rows of wooden musketry racks (gabioni) for the storage of armaments; these had several shelves with firearms; polearms were stacked horizontally on the uppermost shelves Halberds, pikes, and partizans stacked in rows against the wall; these extended all around the gallery and are said to have been several rows deep before being replaced by musketry racks in the 1700s

General Layout of the Palace Armoury as it would during the 18th Century

Main entrance into the Armoury

Armourers’ Workshop

The ‘Saletta Minore’ mentioned in the documents and originally set up to house the firearms of the Lascaris Foundation (Sala Lascaris); this hall was converted into a grand staircase during the 19th century

ury rmo A ace Pal

○ ○

Entrance to ‘Cavallerizza’


The gateway on Merchants Street with balcony opening from inside the Palace Armoury gallery. Far right, close-up of the balcony surround showing a blocked-up window from an earlier façade configuration.

The larger the interior space, the more weapons that could be hoarded. This rendered the Palace Armoury, with its vast uninterrupted gallery spanning the whole width of the palatial building along Strada San Giacomo (Merchants Street), foremost amongst those halls that were chosen to serve as military storehouses. In 1714, French military advisors visiting the island remarked that the knights had the habit of referring to the ‘salle d’arms’ in the Palace as ‘the Armoury’. The word ‘armoury’ or ‘armeria’, although used to define places where arms were kept, was also used to refer to an armourer’s workshop. In Malta, armouries were, strictly speaking, simply ‘sale d’armi’ set aside for the storage of arms. For a long while during the 20th century, the Palace Armoury was described incorrectly as an ‘Armeria di Rispetto’, a title apparently introduced by Czerwinski and Zygulski, two experts who were sent by UNESCO to take stock of the collection in 1969. Armeria di Rispetto, however, means a reserve armoury, a designation which was never applied to the Palace Armoury. Czerwinski and Zygulski made the error of translating the term literally into ‘armoury of honour’, influenced by the notion, then widely held, that the role of the Palace Armoury had always been solely one of a central showpiece. Giuseppe Grassi, in his Dizionario Militare Italiano, published in Naples in 1835, states that the word rispetto was used ‘talvolta dagli scrittori militari in luogo di riserva, parlando di quelle cose che si conservano per porre ad un bisogno in luogo d’altre simile guaste o fuori d’uso e dicesi anche de cavalli e delle bestie da tiro. I Francesi in


molti casi adoperano la voce recharge come parlando di ruote e d’altri attrezzi - Es. Armeria di Rispetto.’5 As a matter of fact, in all the original documents that have been unearthed to-date which deal with the Order’s military storehouses, the title ‘Armeria di Rispetto’ is only encountered once, and then only to refer to the Falconeria in Melita Street which was established as a reserve armoury in 1763 so as to house the older weapons removed from the palace armoury, ‘...che li nominati fucili accommodati e rimontati si conservino nell’armeria della falconeria che dovrà da ora in avanti servire per armeria di Rispetto.’

View of the Palace Armoury showing the columns introduced by the British.

For most of the early half of the 17th century, the Palace Armoury continued to be referred to as the ‘Pubblica Armeria’. This title, as already mentioned earlier in this book, was originally applied to the Armoury situated in the building that later came to be known as the Cancelleria. This designation was also applied to the Order’s armoury when it was still stationed at Fort St Angelo, and Birgu, though not in Rhodes. The first references to it are given by Bosio who states that immediately after the siege Frà Giovanni de Soubiran Arisat, commander of artillery, ‘rimesse benissimo in ordine l’Armeria pubblica accomodata in certi saloni si che fra l’arme comperate da soldati, e l’altre, che s’erano fatte venire dopo l’assedio in piu’ volte: la sudetta armeria si trova cosi ben fornita, e cosi politamente tenuta, e ben conservata, che tutti i forestieri poi ch’in Malta capitavano l’andavano a vedere, come cosa notabile.’ Once in Valletta, the armoury was set up in a number of places prior to its establishment in Piazza San Giorgio. The earliest record is for a magazine in Strada Forni, next to the Order’s bakery.6 This store continued to figure on the books of the artillery department well into the 18th century.

Detail from a ground floor plan of the Palace showing the Sala Lascaris and the flight of steps which gave access directly from the courtyard.


The Sala Lascaris The great hall, or ‘sala grande’ as it was known, was not the only part of the Palace to be used as an armoury. The records reveal an adjoining ‘salette’, or ‘saletta minore’ which was in use throughout most of the 17th century but seems to have been no longer in use throughout the following century. It is best described in a French account of 1679 as ‘un supplément de la grande, où dans un pareil ordre se voyent encore 6,000 Mousquet, autant de bandouilliers, deux mille casques & autant de cuirasses.’ 7 Its precise location is not revealed by the documents though this may have been the small hall approached by a flight of steps from the ‘corpo di guardia’ later converted into the grand staircase leading up to the Armoury during the British administration. As a matter of fact, one 18th century plan of the Palace shows this hall marked as ‘Sala Lascaris’. This title is explained by an entry in a document of 1658, wherein it was decreed that the muskets belonging to the Lascaris Foundation were to be transferred to a ‘Saletta Piccola, che sta congiunta con la sala grande delle armi’ inside the Palace. Until then, the muskets of the Lascaris Foundation were being housed in a building adjoining the ‘Casa della Zecca’ next to St John Cavalier.8 The ‘saletta a’ parte’ mentioned in the document was in fact none other than the small hall adjoining the Armoury, as revealed by another entry in the Order’s archives: ‘che li moschetti della fondatione Lascara accioche restino meglio conservati, si passino alla Saletta Piccola, che sta congiunta con la sala grande delle armi, e che li Vendi. esecutori della stessa fondatione, habbiano le chiave della detta saletta.’9 Another possible clue to the foundation of the ‘saletta minore’ may well be an earlier entry in the Liber

Detail from plan of the Grand Masters’ Palace showing the ‘Officina’, or Armoury workshop, marked as the ‘camere dell’ armiere.’


The Venetian Armoury in Candia, Crete, in the 17th century.

Conciliarum dated 1638 which, while mentioning the necessity for the Armeria Pubblica to remain ‘ben fornita’, also expressed the need for a new separate place to be found for the storage of ‘l’armi dei fratelli che moriranno.’10 Adjoining the main hall was a small armourers’ workshop, the so-called ‘Ufficina dell’Armeria’ mentioned earlier. This workshop was situated in a small room and housed a number of armourers and labourers. It was generally well-equipped with all the outils du metier to allow the armourers not only to clean and service weapons but also to assemble muskets, pistols, and swords. Directly beneath the Armoury, and occupying roughly the same area, stood the Palace stables. These two barrel-vaulted halls, separated by the gateway opening onto Merchants Street, used to house the carriages and their horses, together with the horses of the Grand Master’s Guards. By the mid-18th century the Palace ‘cavallerizza’, as the stables were called, had enough stalls to accommodate 106 horses. The doorways leading into the stables were decorated with pilasters and carved motifs, the decoration of which was the work of an expert Neapolitan stone carver and buonavoglia by the name of Maestro Giovanni Puglisi who was eventually hanged, drawn and quartered after having been found guilty of murdering a fellow buonavoglia. 11 Around the mid-1700s there were 69 horses stabled in the cavallerizza of which 50 were ‘cavalli di sella’, and 2 ‘di carozza, 7 muli di sella and 8 muli


di carozza.’ The remainder of the Grand Master’s horses were stabled at a farmhouse in Marsa. There were at that time some 57 men employed to look after the stables and coaches, including a ‘Scrivano di Cavalli’ by the name of Onorato Tour and 17 slaves working as ‘sellari, ferrari and scupatori.’ The Palace also housed a number of carriages for use by the Grand Master and other senior members of his household. Frequently, these were also placed at the disposal of visiting foreign dignitaries. One such carriage can still be seen at the Palace Armoury Museum. Grand Master Pinto’s carriage itself is said to have been drawn by 6 horses and fell under the responsibility of the Grand Ecuyer or Master Equerry. There was then a ‘Maestro di Carrozze’, a ‘Cocchiere Maggiore’, and two ‘Cochieri’ assigned to the Palace coaches. The Storage of Arms and Armour The only basic requirement for any sala d’armi were the racks or cupboards required for the storage of arms. Documents reveal that wooden racks, referred to as ‘gabioni’, occupied a large part of the gallery but no detailed description of these has been found for the 17th century, or earlier, other than that each held a large quantity of weapons, whether firearms, swords, or polearms. Some of these were like cupboards, ‘armoires’, or ‘rastelli’. In 1773, for example, the resident armourer at Fort Manoel was paid for having built an ‘armadio per le armi’ for the garrison of Qala Lembi battery. A description of such an armario and its contents is found in the house of a knight of the Order towards the end of the 18th century. This ‘armario inverniciato giallo color di noce’ contained ‘quattro schioppi, due pistoni, un schezzetto, quattro pistole con suoi fondi, con suoi guarda fondi, con galloncino d’argento.’12 The Italian knight Frà Constantino Chigi Monrari, on the other hand perferred to store his weapons on ‘rastelli’, and owned two ‘rastelli da schioppo a quattro luoghi’ and another two ‘rastelli piccoli da pistole ... ingessato di legno bianco’ similarly a ‘quattro luoghi.’13 Another ‘armario o sia rastello da schioppi a cinque ordini’ is recorded in one of the buildings at the commandery of Viterbo.14 During the 18th century there were four rows of armament racks running nearly all along the length of the Palace sala d’armi, interrupted by two passages into three unequal sections, together with other racks fixed onto the walls. The cross-section of the gallery shown in an 18th century French plan reveals that the wooden racks called ‘rateliers’ (‘gabioni’ or ‘rastelli’ in other documents) were some 4 metres high and held 4 tiers of muskets placed vertically with the triggers facing inwards. The racks were divided into a number of equal units some 1.5 metres wide, each holding 220 muskets, 110 on each side, 27 muskets on the uppermost rows and 28 on the lower ones. The racks had both rounded and square sides as can be seen in the illustrations on the following pages. Most of the polearms were stacked


Plan of the left wing of the Palace stables, showing the wooden partitions for horses. Above, an 18th-century carriage decorated in the style usually associated with the period of the French monarch Louis XVI. Painted on the sides and rear of the cabin are the remains of allegories representing La Republique. These were painted over the arms of the Grand Master when the French took over the Palace.

Right, ‘Plan et Disposition de la Salle d’Armes du Pallais pour l’arangement de 25000 fusils et autres armes’ showing the new arrangement introduced into the Armoury by French military engineers in 1715. (Courtesy of the National Museum of Fine Arts). Below, detail from the above plan showing a sectional elevation of the Armoury with the four rows of the wooden racks for the storage of firearms. These racks were over 2 cannes (4m) high.

horizontally on the uppermost shelves while others were placed in rows along the walls of the gallery. Various suits of armour were stacked up at the extremities of the racks for effect (‘extremité termines par un homme armé’). These racks were designed by the French military engineers in 1715 and were built to accommodate 25,000 muskets (‘Plan et Disposition de la Salle d’Armes du Palais pour l’arangement de 25,000 fusils et autres armes’). An early 19th-century plan of the Armoury made during the British administration still shows these four rows of racks, but by that time they had been cut up into four amply-spaced smaller sections. Descriptions of the


Details from the ‘Plan et Disposition de la Salle d’Armes du Pallais pour l’arangement de 25,000 fusils et autres armes’ showing the manner of storage of munition firearms in wooden racks called rasteliers or gabioni. Each rack was 4 metres high and held four tiers of vertically arranged muskets topped by horizontally stacked staff-weapons. In all, there were 82 units arranged in four rows, each holding some 220 muskets together with another 30 one-sided racks of two tiers fixed to the walls (Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts).


General layout of a typical rack introduced into the Palace Armoury by the French military engineers during the reorganization of 1715.

Upper wooden shelf designed to take staff-weapons (pikes, spontoons, partizans etc.,) stacked on top of each other in the form of a pyramid

Wooden brackets (‘gabioni’ - 4 tiers) Each unit rack, around 1.5 metres long, was designed to hold 220 muskets, 110 on each side with the uppermost rows having 27 muskets each and the lowermost 28 muskets each.

Butt-rests (wooden shelving - 4 tiers)

Wooden trunks or ‘cascie’ for the storage of muskets, pistols, swords, and other military equipment Antique corslets and helmets placed for decorative purposes on the floor at the foot of the rack

type of racks employed in the Armoury in the course of the 17th century, prior to 1715, have not come to light. Given that the systematic arrangment of the Armoury in 1715 was one of the tasks assigned to the French military mission by Grand Master Perellos, it would seem that the earlier disposition of equipment in the Armoury may have been largely chaotic and in need of reorganization. Many other weapons seem to have been simply kept in wooden boxes, ‘cascie’, possibly the same boxes they were first packed in when delivered to Malta from the armament factories abroad, although at times ‘cascie’ are known to have been assembled in the Armoury itself. For example, one finds mention of a quantity of ‘legname per incastrature delle armi’ in store in the Armoury during the 1760s.


An interesting system employed in the storage of weapons is revealed in the regulations for the distribution of equipment for use aboard the Order’s menof-war. These weapons were taken from the Armoury and stored temporarily in a quay-side magazine before being shipped aboard their respective vessel. The documents reveal that once inside the magazine all the weapons were arranged in four separate standing piles, referred to as ‘castelli in forma di trofei’, one for each vessel. An armourer was employed to care for this temporary armoury and keep the equipment in good order ready for use.


One of the trophies-of-arms displayed along the walls of the gallery in the Palace Armoury in the late 19th century. It contained halberds, rapiers, backplates, corslets, cabassets, powder-flasks, vambraces, couters, pauldrons, sword blades, painted wooden shields and two sabretaches. In the foreground are two rampart guns (spingardi). At one end of the gallery was displayed the armour and portrait of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt, on top of which stood an effigy of the Sun, the symbol of Mars, god of war (Above).

Early 19th-century plan of the Palace Armoury. The four rows of racks have been cut up into four smaller sections. The plan also shows what appear to be two rows of columns running along the centre of the gallery, with a circular arrangement in the centre of the hall.

Storage provisions in the secondary armouries, particularly the village armouries, appear to have constituted a much cruder undertaking, with the firearms sometimes just laid out on wooden shelves. In 1728-29, for example, the armourer of the Mdina armoury purchased 6 ‘tavole rosse Veneziane’ from the nearby hospital and 3 ‘serratizzi bianchi’ for such a purpose. This rudimentary practice can even be traced earlier to the 16th century when in 1595, ‘sedici serraticci’ were bought by the Università to be utilized ‘per li scaffi et armario della armeria’ of Mdina. Occasionally, however, there are references to ‘rastelli delli archibugi delli soldati’ but it seems that more often than not most of the muskets held in the secondary armouries were simply stacked upright against the walls, resulting in the widespread rusting which so alarmed the commissioners during the general inspections of 1769 and 1782. Inside the Palace Armoury attention was also given to the display of the old antique arms and armour. These were displayed in three ways. The majority were hung along the walls in a series of 24 trophies-of-arms, and the rest placed either above the cornice moulding (sopra li cornicioni) that ran along the top part of the walls, or else assembled in five ‘piazze’ (groups) in the middle of the gallery. A number of helmets and morions were nailed to the large wooden beams that supported the roof of the gallery. The trophiesof-arms decorating the walls were enclosed within painted panels in the manner that can still be seen in a number of late 19th-century photographs. The size and composition of the trophies-of-arms varied considerably as has already been explained earlier in the book. The practice of displaying the antique items alongside the munitions armour appears to have been only introduced in the latter half of the 17th century for by 1658, the ‘armi dei fratelli che moriranno’ were still being stored apart inside the adjoining ‘saletta minore’ (Sala Lascaris). Various small cannon, the leather gun, a number of grenade-throwing mortars and suits of armour were displayed in groups, called ‘piazze’, in various parts of gallery. Erbach’s account of the Armoury in 1617 reveals that the centre of the gallery was then occupied by ‘various portraits of Grand Masters, with the armour they had worn in battle hanging up between the pictures.’ Presumably these were hanging from the walls of the gallery and not on some form of wooden panelling of the type that was later set up by Laking when he reorganized the display. At one end of the Armoury were displayed the armour and portrait of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt surrounded by a copious trophy-of-arms. Directly on top of these, apparently hanging from the wooden ceiling, stood a large effigy of the sun, the symbol of Mars, god of war (‘il Sole sul ritratto Wignacourt’). This feature has not survived but it is shown on various sketches of the Armoury dating from the early 1800s, such as that by Owen Stanley (see previous page).


From Armoury to Museum Half a century of Spoliation With the surrender of the French forces in 1800, the Palace Armoury entered a new phase of its history. The 19th century was to prove a period of dramatic change, however, and by the first half of the century the Armoury and the rest of the Order’s military storehouses were despoiled of the larger part of their contents. What was left would come to represent but a fraction of what these storehouses originally possessed. Traditionally, the main cause for this predicament has been repeatedly attributed to the rapacious sacking that accompanied the French invasion, but as has been clearly shown earlier, most of the Order’s military equipment was still in Malta when the French garrison left the island in 1800. The blame for this spoliation must, therefore, lie elsewhere. In 1903 Sir Guy Francis Laking wrote that a ‘worse fate was in store for the Armoury under the British occupation’ than the previous short French stay. Indeed, the early decades of the 19th century witnessed a slow but unrelenting pilferage, with a significant part of the items going to enrich many a museum abroad, the rest ending up as souvenirs in private collections. In his introduction to Arthur Richard Dufty’s European Armour in the Tower of London (1968), William Reid boasts how ‘quantities of Italian munitions armour of the late sixteenth century and early seventeenth century brought from Malta’ in 1826 and 1846 made the then Tower Armouries an important centre for the study of this type of armour. One of the few recorded cases of the many items removed from the Armoury Sir Thomas Maitland was a sword which was sent to King George IV by General Pigot in 1821.1 The Board of Ordinance was particularly anxious to have the whole of the armour transferred from the palace to the armoury in the Tower of London. That it failed to do so was mainly to the credit of the Governor, Sir Thomas Maitland (1813-1824) who realized the unpopularity of such a move and its political consequences, and set about with great diplomacy to dissuade the Colonial Office from undertaking such a task that ‘could not fail to wound in the highest degree the feelings and prejudices of the Maltese.’2 In his correspondence with the Colonial Office, Maitland even tried to play down the importance of the exhibits in the Armoury, stating that he ‘doubted whether there were any objects in the Armoury of sufficient worth or interest


The Palace Armoury around 1850. The rows of muskets along the walls of the gallery are British weapons. These were eventually removed to the drill hall set up in Vendôme bastion. Originally, the knights’ service muskets were kept in racks in the centre of the gallery and along the walls.

in England to induce His Majesty’s Government to exercise a Power’ which would have had such an undesirable effect on the Maltese.3 In spite of all the protestations several important pieces of arms and armour were in fact taken to London. Their removal from the Armoury appears to have raised considerable ‘feelings of regret’ among the Maltese for in 1835, some of the armour was sent back to Malta packed in eight wooden cases on board the British merchant brig Rhoda.4 A number of bronze cannon were also returned and placed in front of public buildings on the initiative of Governor Sir John Lintorn Simmons during the 1880s. Yet there were to be other official attempts to remove items from the Armoury. One documented instance refers to some articles which were sent to England by order of the Secretary of State during the governorship


of Sir Patrick Stuart in 1846. Fortunately, however, what would have proved to be a devastating attempt to reduce the Armoury never materialized. In 1857 the British Government decided to remove the most notable items to England for better safekeeping and dispatched Sir Charles Robinson to make the necessary arrangements. Sir Charles, however, was called to Rome before he had the time to arrive in Malta and the matter was forgotten.5 The loss of items was not the only problem. Official vandalism, too, was another detrimental factor: the siege armour of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt, for example, still bears bullet marks from musket shots said to have been fired at it to test its force of resistance ‘from a distance of sixty yards.’6 The haemorrhage would have continued unabated and would have been much worse were it not for the propitious endeavours of three Governors; Sir William Reid, Sir Gaspar Le Marchant and Lord Grenfell. The first two were instrumental in redefining the Armoury and establishing the importance of the collection, the third, Lord Grenfell, contributed greatly towards its reorganization and classification by entrusting the task into the expert hands of the king’s armourer, Sir Guy Francis Laking. The present day Armoury still owes many of its qualities to the efforts of these men. It is interesting to note that the movement to rehabilitate the Armoury from the 1850s onwards coincided with a growing international interest in the formation of Above, from top, Sir William Reid and Sir Gaspar Le collections of arms and armour. The Russian State Armoury in Moscow, for Marchant. example, was rebuilt in the years 1844-51 and the renowned Stibbert Museum in Florence was set up by Frederick Stibbert between 1860 and the first years of the 20th century.

The Birth of a Museum It was Sir William Reid who began the process of rehabilitation by clearing the Armoury of the British weapons which had been grafted onto the old collection. For the greater part of the first half of the 19th century the British continued to use the Armoury as a functional depository for their own firearms, the antique weapons being set aside to make way for the British ones. Until then, the Armoury was under the charge of the Ordnance Department and it was only in May 1853 that it was transferred to the civil government and as a result no less than 9,000 muskets, 1,000 pistols, 1,000 swords and 2,500 pikes were handed over, although some antique items were retained by the army.7 Sir Reid had the British weapons removed from the Armoury and transferred to the old powder magazine inside Vendôme bastion, near Fort St Elmo, which was then converted for the purpose into an armoury and drill hall in 1853-5.8 These firearms are clearly depicted in Von Brockdorff’s watercolour drawing of the Armoury dated to around 1850. George Percy Badger in his book ‘Description of Malta and


Gozo’, first published in 1838, records that the ‘principal musketry was manufactured in the Tower of London, and placed here by the English Government, when that of the Order was removed.’ The number of regular arms then present is recorded as being 19,555 muskets and bayonets and 1,000 pistols.9 Descriptions of the Armoury during the first half of the 19th century are few, and that given by Badger is the most informative. It states that in 1838 there were some ‘30,000 boarding pikes; 90 complete coats of armour for mounted knights and 450 cuirasses, casques, and gauntlets for infantry’ still to be seen in the gallery. The armour was arranged along the upper part of the room in regular order, with painted shields portraying the white cross of the order on a red field. The armour for the ‘mounted cavaliers and men-atarms’ was varnished, or painted black. Complete suits were placed upright on stands, and posted up along the rows of muskets at certain distances from each other, ‘looking like so many sentinels, and giving a very sombre appearance to the whole room.’ At one end of the room stood ‘a complete coat of black armour standing about seven feet high, and three and a half feet wide, its helmet alone weighing thirty-seven pounds.’ There was also an open case in which could be seen ‘many curious specimens’ of musketry, pistols, swords, daggers, etc., and at the extremity of the room was a complete armour of the Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt, above which was a painting of the same, armed cap-a-pie, a copy from another painting which was then in the dining room. Several parts of the walls were covered with many ‘curious specimens of ancient warlike implements ... crossbows, maces, coats of nail, javelins, battle-axes, and various other instruments of bloodshed and death.’ 10 Sir William Reid also initiated the construction of a new monumental entrance to the Armoury, as evidenced by the following extracts reproduced from the Blue Book:11 Constructing Staircase leading to Armoury Constructing Staircase leading to Armoury Repairing Palace Constructing Staircase leading to Armoury Repairing Palace Constructing Staircase leading to Armoury

£150 (from 1855 revenue) December, 1854 in progress £400 (from 1856 revenue) December, 1854 in progress £87 (from 1856 revenue) October, 1856 in progress £725 (from 1857 revenue) December, 1854 in progress £87 (from 1857 revenue) October, 1856 finished £725 (from 1857 revenue) December, 1854 finished

The construction of the monumental staircase, later utilized to provide public access into the Armoury, together with the removal of the British weapons, reveals that Sir Reid was already thinking on the lines of establishing the Armoury as sort of public attraction or museum. Although Sir Gaspar Le Marchant (governor of Malta from 1858 to 1864) is popularly accredited


Above, plan of the new armoury and drill hall set up in Vendôme bastion in the 1850s to help take the weapons removed from the Palace Armoury. This structure, left, was originally a Vauban-type ‘polverista’ and currently houses the War Museum.


The staircase leading to the new public entrance into the Palace Armoury as built in the 1850s.

with the reorganization of the Palace Armoury, since most of the work was carried out during his tenure of office, it is evident that this process was not begun by him. Furthermore, it was the Superintendent of Works, in his letter of the 20 December 1858, who actually brought the matter of the poor state of the Armoury to the attention of the governor and requested his intervention:12 ‘I have the honour to request you will bring to the notice of His Excellency the Governor, the present very unsatisfactory state of that portion of the ancient armoury which is at present in the Armoury at the Palace, and which is being entirely ruined by rust. In executing the recent directions of His Excellency the Governor, of fitting up the Palace Corridors with a portion of the extra armours, I found the same in such a rusty state, that but a few years more would have left no traces of the armoury of the distinguished Order of St John of Jerusalem, which Order, until the close of the last century, governed these islands, and I consider it therefore my duty to report that the rough restoration of the remaining armour, and the rearrangement of the armoury, will be the only means of saving the same from utter ruin and of preserving a memory of the past glories of these islands - a memory that much can be dear to the inhabitants and an object of great historical interest to strangers. I cannot estimate the exact expense of such a work, but I trust that the same may be done and completed in a satisfactory manner for the sum of Three Hundred Pounds.’ Clearly, Le Marchant was initially only interested in decorating the Palace corridors rather than restoring the Armoury. But fortunately the governor, himself an amateur connoisseur of antiquities, proved to be more than sympathetic to the idea. Under his own personal direction the arms were restored and rearranged. The system of trophies and panoplies was retained


and developed further. Wooden mannequins were built to take the suits of armour and many papier-maché round shields were made to decorate the hall with emblems of the langues and the coats-of-arms of Grand Masters, while ornamental iron chandeliers were introduced to light up the large gallery. Le Marchant also went ahead with the restoration of the rest of the Palace, even repaving the corridors with the ‘best Carraro Marbles’, a job which was executed by Giuseppe Darmanin and Sons for the sum of £1,100.13 The rehabilitation seems to have been over by 1860, from then onwards the gallery was opened to the public on a regular basis. Extracts from the Weekly Returns of Civil Works and Repairs give an idea of the way the restoration works progressed in 1859. 14 24/6/1858 23/12/1858 30/12/1858 5/1/1859 15/1/1859

Old Armoury in Palace Old Armoury in Palace Old Armoury in Palace Old Armoury in Palace Old Armoury in Palace

Cleaning the Armour Cleaning the Armour Cleaning the Armour Cleaning the Armour Cleaning the Armour

In Progress In Progress In Progress In Progress In Progress

20/1/1859 27/1/1859 3/2/1859 10/2/1859 17/2/1859 24/2/1859

Old Armoury in Palace Old Armoury in Palace Old Armoury in Palace Old Armoury in Palace Old Armoury in Palace Old Armoury in Palace

In Progress In Progress In Progress In Progress In Progress


Old Armoury in Palace

Cleaning the Armour Cleaning the Armour Cleaning the Armour Cleaning the Armour Cleaning the Armour Cleaning and Fixing Suits of Armour Cleaning and Fixing Suits of Armour

In Progress


Old Armoury in Palace

Re-Arranging the Armoury

In Progress

In Progress

Subsequently a sum of £60 was allotted each year for the cleaning of the armours. By whom such restoration and cleaning works were undertaken is not indicated. An interesting account describing the extent of the rehabilitation works is encountered in a Memorandum attached to the ‘Blue Book’ of 1860, which reads as follows:15 ‘Much has been done in effecting improvements in [the] Palace; in 1859 the Council of the Government voted a sum of One thousand Pounds for the laying down the corridors in marble; this work is in course of execution … the exterior of this Palace presents no features of architectural interest ... but by planting the two courtyards attached to it … it has been much improved and lightened externally. In the Palace is situated the beautiful Armoury of the Knights of St John; up to 1858 the armour of the Knights had been permitted gradually to fall into disorder and decay, and the Saloon extending the whole length of the building to become an Exhibition Room for Fine Arts, rather than being entirely devoted to its original purpose of an Armoury of the Order; within the past two years, however, the armour of the Knights has been completely rescued from decay. There are now 75 complete suits of armour with their respective shields and coats-of-arms, arranged in chronological and historical order in


Right, front page of the Malta Government Gazette showing the regulations concerning the Palace Armoury. Below, one of the mannequins introduced during the 1860s (Palace Armoury Museum).

the Armoury, besides fifty in the Corridors, representing the history of the Order of St John in Malta. Four relics of great historical interest have been recovered from oblivion, and placed in prominent positions in this Armoury; they are: The original Act of Donation of the Islands of Malta and Gozo, and of the Fortress of Tripoli, to the Order of St John by Charles V. March 23rd, 1530. The original Bull of Paschal II receiving under his protection the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. A.D. 1113. The Sword and Dress of Dragut (sic), Pasha of Tripoli, Commander in Chief of the Turkish Army, killed in the place where now is Fort TignÊ in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. The Trumpet on which was sounded the retreat, on the final departure of the Order from Rhodes , December, 1522 (sic). This relic was very carefully preserved by the Grand Masters. The Public had no opportunity of seeing these, previous to the restoration of the Armoury.’


The Palace Armoury in the pre-Laking period.


View of the Palace Armoury in the pre-Laking period. Above, the suit of armour of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt and one of the many mannequins fitted with a wooden shield. With its opening to the public, the Palace Armoury became one of the first

museums in Malta. In 1894 a Government Notice was published laying down rules for licensed guides, who were not to exceed 50 in number. They were to be furnished with ‘a ribbon band, to be worn on the cap bearing the words “Guide No. .,” the licences being issued only to men of good character, who could speak and read English or Italian. The entrance charge was fixed at ‘ 2/- or 1/-’ depending on the length of the visit, but this was fixed at sixpence in 1895, the tickets acquired only through the turnstile at the gate in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Courtyard. By 1895, the itinerary came to include also the Tapestry Room, except when this was closed due to the sittings of council of government. The hall of the Armoury, however, continued to serve as a venue for many a banquet and also as an examination hall, thereby frequently disrupting the visitors’ timetable.16


The Palace Armoury in the pre-Laking period; note the painting ‘Death of Dragut’ by Calì behind the figure in armour.


The Palace Armoury in the pre-Laking period; note the Turkish battleaxe in the glass case and the suit of armour of a Japanese Samurai warrior in the background at the foot of the trophy-of-arms. The latter was a contemporary acquisition. Note also the stand with maiolica vases and that the crossbows still retain their bowstring.


An important addition to the Armoury was the erection of a number of columns placed down the centre of the gallery. These were installed to help support the roof which was considered unsafe. The cast-iron columns remained in place until 1900 when they were in turn pronounced unsafe and replaced by a new flat roof composed of steel girders for the cost of some £2,600. The installation of 6 Davis single-globe lamps introduced electric light into the Armoury at the cost of £42. When these works were over in March 1902, the Superintendent of Works was asked to take steps to cause a preliminary inventory of the articles to be compiled.17 The ‘question of a regularly classified and scientifically arranged Inventory was to be considered later by an expert armourer.’17 Subsequently, Lord Grenfell informed the Superintendent of Public Works Lord Grenfell (above) and that he had made enquiries and was hoping to succeeded in getting the Sir Guy Francis Laking services of the King’s Armourer, Mr Guy Laking, who was then considered (below). one of the best authorities in Europe on arms and armour :18 ‘If it can be arranged, the King (who I have approached on the subject through his Secretary) will give him leave for the month of October - at the end of that month he has to be back in the Armoury at Windsor Castle. The expense would be about 100 Pounds. It would be well worth it and we might get an illustrated Catalogue which I feel sure if circulated would draw the tourists to our Island.” Mr Gatt replied that the arrangements ‘so wisely made by Lord Grenfell of having this work done by an able man as Mr. Guy Laking (HM’s the King’s Armourer) should be carried out without delay’ and that the sum required for this service should be defrayed out of the balance on the vote for the renewal of the roof of the Armoury since the rearrangement of the Armoury, he concluded, ‘could be considered as a consequence of that work.’ Laking arrived shortly afterwards at the beginning of October 1902 and was already at work in the Armoury on the 7th October. The Armoury was kept closed to the public all the week except on Saturdays in order that Laking could carry on his task uninterrupted. On 14 October 1902 the Daily Malta Chronicle reported that ‘Mr Laking, son of Sir Francis Laking, Surgeon to His Majesty the King, is at present the guest of Lord Grenfell. Mr Laking himself holds the honourable and important position of Armourer to King Edward VII. Lord Grenfell has inspired him with an interest in our Armoury in the Ancient Palace of the Grand Masters; and Mr Laking has very kindly consented to catalogue and arrange to the very best advantage all the Knightly treasures which we possess. The Public will be gratified to hear that so skilful a hand is going to lend itself to the embellishing of the Palace Armoury.’ 19 Although still in his thirties, Laking held the ancient office of Keeper of the King’s Armoury in the Royal household. He was then considered to be one of the best authorities in Europe on ancient and medieval arms and armour.


Above, a 19th-century print showing the Armoury in the ‘Ancient Palace of the Knights’ around the latter half of the 1800s.

He had been entrusted with cataloguing various important armouries and collections in Britain and published numerous learned articles in art reviews. He was also on the staff of Christie’s, a position he held until his death at the early age of 44 and his opinion on antique works of art, as well as furniture, porcelain and tapestry was widely sought.20 A month after his arrival in Malta, Laking was already on his way back to England. An article in the Daily Malta Chronicle of 5 November, 1902 announced that Mr Laking had ‘ ... left on Tuesday by the Carola.’ In the short space of just one month Laking had worked hard to rearrange the collection. This, we are told, was ‘a labour of love by the King’s Armourer.’ After a scrupulous selection, in the process of which he was able to identify and group together items which belonged to the same harnesses but which until then had been scattered all over the gallery, he chose nearly 500 items of arms and armour and placed them in the middle of the gallery, hanging on


Typical views of the Armoury around 1880, showing the rows of columns supporting the big wooden screens. Others he placed in showcases. The rest were returned roof.

to the vast panoplies on the walls as they were before. He then displayed a number of portraits of Grand Masters on the wooden screens amongst the armour, giving the collection, in the words of Cerwinski and Zygulski, a ‘strong historical accent.’ 21 Laking’s exposition was a more pleasing arrangement than that which had existed before his arrival, which dated back to the late 1850s. The removal of the columns had left the Armoury quite bare, even though they were not an original feature. In Hospitaller times the whole hall would have been occupied by racks and so would have been far from empty. Laking’s clever use of the wooden screen in the centre of the gallery, although criticized by Czerwinski and Zygulski as being his cardinal sin,22 was, on the contrary, a well-orchestrated attempt to create a climax of colour, shape, and form in an otherwise large empty volume of space bordered by a repetitive fabric of


Plan of the Palace Armoury drawn up by the Superintendent of Works as part of the first inventory exercise undertaken just prior to the arrival of Guy Francis Laking in 1902. This plan was then passed on to Laking (National Archives, Rabat). The figures represent the free-standing exhibits and cabinets. The plan lacks a key to the figures. Some of the exhibits can be identified : 1 to 67, 87, & 88 are mannequins in armour;100 - Suit of armour of Grand Master Wignacourt; 71 - Leather gun; 85 central ‘piazza’ with small cannon, 80 - musket rack; 69-70, 97-98 cabinets

with pieces of armour

drab items of service arms and armour. Laking’s lack of enthusiasm for the common and repetitive munitions armour devoid of artistic value can be felt both in his treatment of the exposition and in his writings on the Armoury. For example, reacting to the fact that the collection, albeit still a substantial one, was only a pale shadow of what it was once, Laking hoped that ‘what was lost to the collection in the past were only duplicates of the commoner sorts of arms’ hanging in profusion on the walls of the gallery. Laking left behind him a short report, promising to send a fuller account later on. His recommendations were basically that all painted armour was to be cleaned and the varnished ones retained, while extreme care was to be taken not to mix up the armour again. The method used by Laking for the removal of the coating of black paint found on many of the pieces was by boiling the armour.23 This task was still being performed by the resident armourer in August 1903. Laking believed that the sole armourer then in employment was too old for the job, so he suggested that a young assistant be employed while an officer of the type of Captain Galizia (who had assisted Laking) be placed in charge. The Governor concurred with Laking’s views


Rows of mannequins arrayed along the length of the gallery around 1880.


The Palace Armoury as rearranged by Laking, showing the large wooden screen erected in the centre of the gallery (Palace Armoury Museum). Of interest is the shield shown on the tabletop in the uppermost picture. This is no longer to be found in the Armoury.


View of the Palace Armoury as it appeared during the inter-war period. Note the presence of German torpedoes, machine-guns and howitzers from the First World War. From this stage onwards the Palace Armoury became a sort of war museum housing items that had no direct relation to the historical Armoury itself.

and sought to implement the recommendations as soon as possible. He had a vote of £30 inserted in the General Estimate for 1903 for this service. The Governor had no objection to Captain Galizia taking charge of the inventory and the general arrangement of the Armoury but decided that all works required in the building should be left in the hands of Bonavia, who was the official in charge of the Palace. The Armoury was reopened by 15 November 1902 and five days later the Daily Malta Chronicle reported that the Armoury appeared to be ‘much larger than before its rearrangement.’ Laking’s other contribution, and definitely longer lasting, was his publication of a catalogue of the Palace Armoury. Nearly a century later, it is still the only existing publication on the collection. It was written after his return back to England from the notes and observation he had made during his visit together with the information he had collected. The 50-page publication lists and describes in varying degrees of detail, ranging from single line entries to whole pages, 464 of the most notable pieces of arms and armour in the collection, supplying where possible, the provenance and date of manufacture of the armour, and sometimes the name of the makers. His short stay, however, did not allow him to delve deeply into the historical records and this comes out clearly in his brief introductory chapter in which he sought to trace out the history of the Armoury. It is evident that he had to rely for most of his historical data on the few snippets of information passed onto him by Monsignor A. Mifsud, ‘the learned Librarian of the Public Library and the Record Office of Valletta’ whom he officially thanks in the introduction to the catalogue, even though he ventures to speak of his own ‘researches among the annals of the Order.’ Had he done so, he would have come up with more facts about the Armoury.


Above, frontispiece to two of Laking’s publications. Right, more views of the Armoury and the corridor outside leading to it (bottom picture) in the inter-war period. Note the two mail vests affixed to the wall on either side of the doorway (bottom picture).


The Palace Armoury catalogue was not Laking’s first. The catalogue of the arms and armour of the Wallace Collection, written when he was still 22 years old, was then considered a milestone on the road of research into the subject. This was followed soon after by the publication of his catalogue of the armoury of Windsor Castle, and a spate of researched articles. His last publication, produced after his visit to Malta, was his masterful A Record of European Arms and Armour through Seven Centuries which, sadly enough, he did not live to see completed. Laking was the first, and as things turned out, the only one, to attempt to introduce a proper sense of artistic, technical, and historical classification into the Armoury in the course of the 20th century. In both his publication and rearrangement of the Armoury, he set out to demolish various myths perpetuated by the haphazard arrangements introduced by Le Marchant and, to use the words of E. Sammut, ‘other utterly fantastic appellations that were the stock-in-trade of various illiterate guides.’24 The sword and dress of Dragut, ‘Pasha of Tripoli, Commander in Chief of the Turkish Army, killed in the place where now is Fort Tigné in the Great Siege of Malta; in 1565’ and the trumpet on which was ‘sounded the retreat, on the final departure of the Order from Rhodes, December, 1522,’ were some of the “highlights” in the Armoury before Laking’s arrival. The trumpet, as Laking clearly showed, had been produced in Nuremberg by Daniel Kodisch around 1670. Little wonder that at the turn of the century Lord Grenfell remarked that the Armoury was more confusing than helpful to students and to the general public. Four hundred copies of Laking’s catalogue publication, printed in England, were purchased for sale in Malta at the price of six shillings each. Apparently, Laking had failed to show the publishers the various photographs which were to be reproduced in the publication and this led to a last minute change in the format of the book, a change which the Punch office in London was quick to inform the governor resulted in ‘a large extra cost to us …on the other hand the book …will gain an added dignity and importance …not to be overlooked in a publication of its kind.’25 Inevitably, the selling price was pushed up. All the copies, published by Messrs Bradbury, Agnew & Co., six of which were ‘specially bound in leather,’ were printed by February 1903, and the books were dispatched to Malta in three tin-lined cases aboard the steamer Malacca, which sailed on 7 March. A month later, on 11 April 1903, the Daily Malta Chronicle informed its readers that copies of the ‘Illustrated Catalogue of the Armour and Arms in the Palace Armoury, by Mr G. F. Laking, M.V.O; F.S.A, Keeper of the King’s Armoury,’ were on sale at the Government’s Printing Office for the price of 6s 6d each.29 The 6 leather-bound copies, together with 17 normal copies, were retained by the governor.26 There were two interesting sequels to Laking’s visit. The first involved the 68 year old armourer who Laking suggested should retire.27 Giovanni Pace


Below, original design for the production of mahogany cases built in 1910 for the display of the suits of armour of Grand Masters Wignacourt and Garzes. Later, three others were built to contain the Verdelin, Pompeo della Cesa and Cuirassier harnesses now all displayed in a single showcase in the right gallery. Bottom right, proposed design for the production of glass cases for the display of armour designed to replace Laking’s wooden screens in the centre of the gallery. Right, the Palace Armoury in the early 1950s.

was somewhat irked by Laking’s comments and refused to retire on the grounds that he did not feel incapacitated. He had been employed as armourer since 1877. This forced the government to seek instructions on the matter. The second involved Laking’s alleged evasion in paying up a bill of £21.28 When Laking arrived in Malta, he was placed in communication by the Public Works Department with Walter Vella of 96 Strada St Giovanni, Valletta for making out photographs of certain pieces of armour for insertion in the catalogue. When Laking left Malta the photographs were still incomplete,


and Vella delivered them to Laking through the Department. Vella’s bill too was sent to Laking but several letters requesting him to settle the bill were however never acknowledged. Finally the Governor was asked to approach Laking in order to settle this account.29 The Malta Armoury & the Post-War Period Most of the recommendations made by Laking were adopted and his arrangement of the Armoury remained practically unaltered until the outbreak of the Second World War. The only development that occurred was the introduction of various German weapons such as machine guns, torpedoes, and howitzers from the First World War. From around that time onwards the Palace Armoury became a sort of War Museum housing items that had no direct relation to the historical Armoury itself - including a Gladiator biplane introduced after the Second World War. This process was eventually brought to an end in the 1970s when all these items were removed to a newly set up War Museum in Fort St Elmo. At the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, all the contents of the Armoury collection were removed for safe keeping to the basement vaults of the Grand Master’s Palace and to the Inquisitor’s Palace in Girgenti. One side of the gallery was actually damaged by an explosion of several bombs and the south wall of the Armoury had to be demolished and rebuilt after the war. When the collection was returned to the Palace it took another five years to clean and restore before the Armoury was opened to the public. The wooden screens installed by Laking were, however, not reintroduced and most of the items were placed in showcases, a considerable number of which were later replaced by others imported purposely from England in 1957. At that time there were no more than two armourers working in the Armoury, labouring without the provision of a proper workshop. Two small rooms used for the preparation of refreshments whenever balls and other entertainments were held at the Palace were sometimes temporarily used for the cleaning of the arms and armour.


Below, plan of the Palace Armoury showing the supper tables which were frequently put up in ‘entertainments’, a practice which was only discontinued when the Museums Department took over the running of the gallery.

Two views of the Palace Armoury being set up again in the post-war period. Note the armourers at work polishing breastplates and pauldrons, and the Gladiator aircraft in the background of the upper photograph. Bottom, the Palace Armoury in the post-war period, as it remained until it was removed to the Palace stables in 1975.


Two views of the Palace Armoury as set up in the Palace stables after 1975.

After the War, the Malta Armoury, as it was generally called, and its contents were placed under the custody of the Museums Department. Despite the severely limited resources every effort was made to keep the collection as presentable as possible. Still, the situation was far from satisfactory and in 1969 the Maltese government sought UNESCO assistance. Two experts by the name of Cerwinski and Zygulski were sent over to help take stock of the situation and study the conservation problems. They prepared a detailed report and set out a general strategy for the reorganization of the collection and rearrangement of the display. Unfortunately none of their recommendations were ever implemented. Worse still, less than five years later, the whole Armoury was hastily dismantled and transferred to the ground


The photographs on these two pages show aspects of the collection that were re-arranged in the years 1995-1998. Above, Turkish armour as displayed before 1995 and, right, after 1995.

floor palace stables in order to make way for a new House of Representatives. With this relocation, the collection forfeited its claim to being one of the few armouries in the world to have survived in situ. Not only, but the haphazard manner in which the collection was set up again in what has proved to be a totally inadequate and ill-equipped place for any museum has actually led towards a marked deterioration in many of the exhibits, particularly the


The Palace Armoury Museum The Palace Armoury was transferred from its original setting on the first floor in 1975 and was set up again inside two large vaulted halls that were once the Palace stables (Cavallerizza). The exhibition was rearranged in the manner displayed in this diagram in the years 1995-1998.

Crossbows Trophies-of-arms are displayed high up on the walls


Leather Gun

Muskets Flintlock Pistols


Display of miniature brass cannon, small mortars, iron and stone shot and a swivel gun

Muskets & carbines Showcase with suits of armour, and collection of various types of rapiers and polearms

Fountain with coat-of-arms of Grand Master Perellos

Suits of armour (GM Wignacourt, Garzes,

& others) Morions and cabassets


Breastplates and backplates





Close helmets

Breastplates and backplates Mail vest and remains of brigandine Morions and cabassets

Showcase containing Turkish arms and armour Curatorial office


trophies-of-arms displayed on the walls, given that the two halls are plagued by a dampness problem. Furthermore, the limited space could not allow for the introduction of basic museum facilities.

The historic visit of H.E. The Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, FrĂ Andrew Bertie to the Palace Armoury in 1996. The Grand Master was accompanied around the Armoury by His Excellency Dr Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, President of Malta, and the author, then Acting Curator of the Palace Armoury.

Although various efforts were made to redress this situation in these last few years, such as the introduction of new showcases and the grouping of exhibits according to typological and historical criteria in an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of an arsenal, together with the inclusion of a foyer to help unify the layout, the Armoury today still remains beset by a critical lack of adequate curatorial, administrative, conservational and storage facilities, and educational and interpretational amenities. Any visitor to the Armoury can quickly sense that the Palace Armoury has now reached a crucial stage in its long existence. It either receives the much needed resources that go to make a real museum or else it is left in the damp limbo that it has occupied for the past thirty years, continuing to slowly spoil away. Laking’s Catalogue has shown that the Armoury has a singular combination of exhibits, some of which are unique in their own right. This book has set out to show that the Palace Armoury certainly has a long and interesting history. What it now deserves is a guaranteed future.


The Collection of Arms & Armour

In spite of the ravages and depredations of the French and British rules, together with the misguided decisions of our own times, the Palace Armoury still ranks as one of the most important collections of arms and armour to be found anywhere in the world. Above all else, its uniqueness arises from the fact that it is not simply a modern collection of armour as can be found in most military museums around the world but rather because it is the residue of a veritable armoury surviving, if not strictly speaking in situ, definitely inside the same building which has housed it for the past 400 years. Even then, it is not any armoury, but the armoury of the Hospitaller knights of the Order of St John, one of the most renowned and heroic military institutions of all time with a warring tradition dating back to the Crusades. Still, as such collections go, the Palace Armoury is not especially remarkable for the antiquity of its specimens nor for the presence of rich objets d’arts, for fine as much of the armour undoubtedly is, and ‘superb as a few of the suits and separate pieces are, a vast quantity is of a type too often duplicated to be of any particular artistic merit’. Its particular appeal is seen to lie in the quantity and rich variety of weapons and armour it contains, and the way these document the development of warfare and the armourer’s art throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. In many ways it is perhaps most comparable, albeit on a much smaller scale, to the Provincial Armoury (the Landeszeughaus) situated in the centre of the city of Graz; this armoury was built by the Dukes of Styria in 1642-45 to house all the armaments of the Styrian troops, accumulated there primarily during the period when Austria, as part of the Habsburg empire, fought to defend itself against the attacks of the Ottoman Turks. The Landeszeughaus Graz, as it is known today, is similarly one of the very few early modern armouries inside a Renaissance palace still in existence and contains some 32,000 pieces of weapons and armour. At the beginning of the 20th century Laking valued the Palace Armoury collection at between £18,000 and £24,000, ranking it lower than the smaller yet much finer Spitzer collection which had then just been sold off in Paris in 1895 for the sum of £40,000, but comparable to the


Londesborough collection sold at Christie’s in 1888 for £18,513. Today its value is said to work out to around one million Maltese liri. A large portion of this sum is accounted for in the magnificent suit of armour made for Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt, without doubt the centrepiece of the display ever since the Armoury began to assume the character of an antiquarian collection back in the 17th century (fig. C2/ Laking 380). With its rich and lavish decoration, gold damascening and engraving, excellent workmanship and elegance of form, the Wignacourt harness is considered to be one of the finest early 17th-century suits of armour in existence. It is a full harness complete with close helmet, greaves, poleyns, sabatons, target, reinforcing plate for left shoulder and even a shaffron for horse. The breastplate originally had a lance-rest, now missing. The armour is richly decorated with longitudinal bands deeply engraved and gilded, crossed at regular distances by straps passing at right angles between the longitudinals, fashioned in outline to the segment of a circle, and giving, according to Laking, an overall scale-like appearance. These narrow straps form, to cite Laking, a ‘field of the finest gold azzimina damascening inlaid with the arabesque scrollwork, and introducing at intervals fleur-de-lys, engraved and gilt. The ground-work upon which the gold is applied was originally deeply blued, and the surface punched to field, matted with small circles. The spaces between this trellis-like ornamentation are occupied with trophies of various arms, musical panoplies, fruit, flowers and in places galleys manned by oars.’ In the centre of the breastplate is engraved the gilded figure of a Hospitaller knight below which is a fleur-de-lys while the coat-of-arms of Grand Master Wignacourt is engraved on an accompanying circular shield. Laking dated the harness to between 1610 and 1620 and attributed it to the workshop of the Milanese armourer Geronimo Spacini. Modern research, although confirming that it was manufactured in Milan, has revealed that this armour was ordered soon after Wignacourt’s election to his magistracy in 1601 and had arrived in Malta sometime late in 1602. Consequently it is of a much earlier make than that assumed by Laking. Grand Master Wignacourt first expressed his desire to acquire a splendid harness in a letter to the knight Quartieri dated 16 February 1601, less than a week after his election to the magistracy. Wignacourt was particularly eager to procure his armour from Milan where, in his opinion, they made ‘bellissime e buonissime armature.’1 To this end, the knight Zunica was despatched from Malta with a pattern containing the Grand Master’s measurements (‘misure d’arme per la mia persona’) for the production of ‘una armatura per nostra persona, che ci armi dal capo fino a’ piedi, la quale desideriamo non solo sia de fine e perfetta tempra, ma di vistosa e bella mastria, con tutti quelli adornamenti d’oro … leggiera, nobile e forte.’ Above all, the armour had to be ‘degnia d’esser vista’, in other words, a showpiece. The word


‘leggiera’ is very important here, for it leaves no doubt as to which of the two existing Wignacourt armours is being referred to. One can therefore safely dismiss the heavy siege armour from consideration. One can similarly dismiss the so-called ‘Verdelin’ armour, likewise found in the Palace Armoury collection and featured in the Louvre portrait, for this harness is of a style that dates to the 1580s and, moreover, was tailored for a significantly larger man. Wignacourt’s new armour was not to be solely a parade armour, as often erroneously stated, for the Grand Master’s clear instructions stressed that it had to be equally useful in battle, since the Maltese islands were then once again experiencing renewed Turkish hostilities. Even so, Wignacourt was particularly anxious to receive the armour before the feast of St John, presumably, so that he could don it whilst parading around the streets of Valletta during that important festive occasion.2 His optimism, however, was soon to be frustrated by a series of long delays. To begin with, the Order’s ricevitore in Genova, Torriglia, had still not received ‘la mostra’ from Malta by June of that year and when the armour was finally ready, it proved more difficult than anticipated to find a galley to transport it to Malta. From the available correspondence it appears that the harness was produced and completed in a relatively short span of time, perhaps even bought off the peg and then specially decorated with Wignacourt’s arms, for on 17 August 1601 Frà Francesco Lomellino was already in a position to inform the Grand Master that the armour had reached Genoa from Milan in two cases, ‘una piccola, et una grande’. The letters speak of ‘due casse dentro alle quale e un armatura e due armetti che si sono fatti fabricare a Milano’, thereby demonstrating that the harness was accompanied by a second helmet, possibly a burgonet, which unfortunately has not survived. In November the two cases just missed the ‘passaggio delle galere … di ritorno in Sicilia’. From Genoa they were to be shipped either to Messina or Palermo and from there to Malta aboard one of the Order’s galleys. In a letter dated 22 May 1602, Torriglia informed the Grand Master that the armour had been shipped aboard the ‘Nave Sta Maria … padroneggiata da Vincenzo di Marino Raguseo’. Concern was expressed in Malta for the proper handling of the precious cargo in order that ‘non possino patire particolarmente di humidità’ but when the two boxes finally arrived on the island on one of the Order’s galleys, the armour was found not only to be untouched by rust but ‘molto ben conditionata.’3 Unfortunately the documents fail to reveal one important detail, namely the identity of the master armourer, or the bottega which produced the harness. Hopefully further research in Italian archives may unearth this information.


Similarly unique is the siege armour for foot combat of Grand Master Wignacourt (fig. D4/ Laking 414-420). This heavy siege armour, when still complete, must have weighed some 50 kg, making it one of the heaviest suits of its kind to be found in Europe. Today it comprises a pettoforte and backplate, gorget, a single tasset, a single spaudler, a helmet, and shield.4 Laking assembled it together from pieces scattered all over the gallery, some of which, we are told, were painted black. The decoration is relatively simple and plain, consisting of a border of a continuous escalloped band with each segment of the circle finishing in a trefoil. The design was originally gilded, the remaining exposed surface being originally blued but subsequently polished to a brightened surface at some later stage. Engraved on the left side of the breastplate, as though hanging from the neck by a chain, is a large oval medallion chiselled with the arms of Alof de Wignacourt (fig. D6). On the breastplate and backplate are three musket ball dents, possibly bulletproof marks. This was a test often resorted to in the 17th century, especially on heavy-duty siege armour that was intended for battle. On the other hand, these bullet marks could also be an unfortunate example of 19th-century official vandalism. The heavy helmet is in the form of a medieval chapel-de-fer of the 15th century (fig. D1/ Laking 419). Upon the side of the skull piece is engraved a fleur-de-lys, an emblazonment found in the coat of arms of the Wignacourt family. The provenance of this armour is unknown and may be of Flemish manufacture. 5 Another beautiful, highly ornate armour is the Pompeo della Cesa half armour (fig. A5/ Laking 91). Of all the armours in the Palace this is, perhaps, visually the most striking. It is a Milanese corsaletto da piede, or half-armour for foot combat, traditionally thought, albeit erroneously, to have been worn by the hero of the Great Siege of 1565, Grand Master Jean de Valette. In 1903 Guy Francis Laking, then involved in the rearrangement of the Palace Armoury, noted that this highly decorated corazza was inscribed on the breastplate with a small oval cartouche in which was the word ‘POMPE.’ He failed to recognize, however, that this was the signature or ‘trade mark’ of the famous armourer, Pompeo della Cesa, a leading armourer working in Milan in the second half of the 16th century and, as a result, dated it mistakenly to the period 1557-1568. The renowned Italian scholar of arms and armour, Lionello Boccia, states that Pompeo della Cesa was ‘l’artefice piu importante che operò a Milano’ during the latter half of the 16th century and claims that this talented artisan was actually from Brescia.6 Milan was then under imperial Spanish control and Pompeo rose to become the city’s most important armourer. He was active from 1565 until the very end of the 16th century, attaining responsibility as ‘armarolo di corte’ in Milan and producing a number of richly etched and gilded armours for the leading men of his day, the Savoia, the Farnese and the Gonzaga. Pompeo also oversaw the production of munitions arms and armour to equip Imperial troops in


Lombardy. Today there are said to be some 37 armours and corslets which bear his signature, and many other pieces are attributed to him, or to his workshop, on stylistic grounds. Laking also noted a few pieces from a second harness similar to the Pompeo armour. Karren Watts claims that most of this ‘Chevron’ Pompeo armour has now been found scattered around other collections, namely in Sandringham (Royal Collection) and the Chicago Art Institute.7 The traditional attribution of the Pompeo armour to de Valette’s ownership has long been dropped by modern scholars of arms and armour. Although Pompeo della Cesa’s period of activity overlaps with the Grand Master’s reign (1557-1568), the style of the armour itself is datable to the 1580s. Consequently, the armour could not have had any possible connection with the renowned founder of Città Humilissima. Consisting of a breastplate of peascod form, backplate, bracciali (vambraces) with pauldrons, short tassets, gauntlets, gorget, and cabasset helmet, the armour is ‘heavily decorated with bands enriched with aqua fortis engraving upon a gilded ground separated from one another by narrower bands reserved in brightened surfaces. The decoration of the bands alternates between oval medallions of classic deities joined by knotted ornaments and trophies of weapons and armour. In the centre of the breastplate is an oval panel inscribed ‘POMPE’ and on the backplate a medallion with the subject of ‘Mutius Scaevola before Lars Porsenna.’ The etched decoration is of a style executed a trofei, i.e., with trophies-of-arms and known in antiquarian jargon as ‘Pisan’ but which was actually Lombard. The armourers of Milan and Brescia had adopted it by the mid-1570s. For many the Cesa harness, although exquisite in decoration, actually reflects the decadence of the armourer’s art at the end of the 16th century. Its scarselle, or tassets, for example, although purporting to be of eleven lames, are in reality fiancali embossed from a single plate, after the fashion of the 1580s.8 Accompanying the corsaletto is a cabasset and a ‘brocchiere’ or ‘rotella munita al centro du un brocco, o punta’, a shield for corsaletti da piede typical of Milanese production in the last quarter of the 1500s (fig. A2/ Laking 140). The shield itself is not signed and is very similar to another such brocchiere on display at the Museo Civico Medievale in Bologna. Undoubtedly the most interesting feature of the Pompeo della Cesa corsaletto are the pauldrons, embossed in low relief and chased with lions’ heads (fig. A4). These leonine features may have been the real reason why the ownership of this armour was for long attributed to de Valette, for the coat of arms of the de Valette family features both a griffon and a rampant lion. In practice the presence of leonine pauldrons on the Pompeo della Cesa armour bears little relation to heraldry. The portrayal of lion heads on armour, perhaps because of the Herculean association of the lion, was a decorative device used by renaissance


Funerary marble bust of Grand Master Luis Mendes de Vasconcellos (1622-1623) showing the leonine pauldrons (Crypt of St John Co-cathedral, Valletta).

armourers when producing harnesses all’ antica or alla Romana. This type of armour design, based on classical ornamentation, was intended to evoke heroic virtues through the use of antique iconography and forms. Produced mainly for monarchs and princes, parade armours all’antica were intended to endow their wearers with ‘an aura of power and virtue’ in imitation of the ‘heroes of ancient Roman history and mythology.’9 Among the best examples of armour all’antica are those produced by the most celebrated and innovative armourer of Milan, Filippo Negroli.10 Among the best surviving examples of harnesses all’ antica with leonine pauldrons are those of the Roman armours of Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol, (Hofjagd und Rüstkammer des Kunsthistorischen Museums, Vienna), those of the Duke of Urbino (Real Armeria, Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid) and the so-called lion armours at Musée de l’Armée, Paris and the Royal Armouries, Leeds. A pair of pauldrons similar to these, where the lions’ faces bear menacing expressions with furrowed brows, open mouths revealing fangs, and thick manes with long curly locks, is to be found, surprisingly, on the marble funerary bust of Grand Master Luis Mendez de Vasconcellos in the crypt of St John’s Co-Cathedral. This Portuguese Grand Master whose brief reign lasted only a few months was immortalized in white Carrera marble wearing heroic armour all’antica. Were not the marble leonine pauldrons carved out in such high relief, it would be very tempting to think that Grand Master Vasconcellos was actually being portrayed wearing the Pompeo della Cesa armour. That the fashion for portrayal in heroic armour was still in vogue in the first two decades of the 17th century, at the time of Vasconcellos’ brief reign, is attested by a portrait of a knight in lion armour at the National Museum of Art in Bucharest, dated to around 1620.11 Vasconcellos’ ownership of this suit of armour is not a hypothesis to be dismissed outright. The della Cesa armour could well have been acquired by his predecessor, Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt, the man who established the Armoury inside the Palace and apparently a collector of armour himself. In all probability the della Cesa armour was already in the Palace Armoury at the time of Vasconcello’s election and may have served as a model, or inspiration, for the sculptor of the Grand Master’s funerary bust. As it is, however, any real understanding of the provenance, ownership, and history of this interesting armour can only be gained through further research. Another important harness which was already to be found in the Armoury during the reign of Grand Master Wignacourt is the so-called Verdelin suit of armour, a full harness, similarly termed alla Pisana, of Italian workmanship and fashion dating to around 1580 (fig. B3/ Laking 139). Indeed, Wignacourt himself is portrayed, in a celebrated painting by Caravaggio, posing in this harness and accompanied by his page.12 When compared to the other Wignacourt armour, however, the Verdelin harness


is found to be of considerably larger proportions. Evidently, the latter was tailored for a much bigger man than Wignacourt himself and may have simply served as a model for the artist. Actually, its popularity with portrait painters is evidenced by the fact that it features again in at least two other paintings, those of the knight commander of artillery, Frà Jacques de Verdelin and, much later, that of Grand Master Pinto de Fonseca. Laking based his observations on stylistic grounds alone when he suggested that the Verdelin harness may have been produced in the workshop of the Milanese armourer Lucio Picinino. Modern scholars, however, see little resemblence between this armour and the identifiable works of this armaiolo.13 Today the harness comprises a close helmet, breastplate, backplate, tassets, cuisses, poleyns, greaves and gauntlets. The breastplate is of peascod form and decorated with broad bands and circular panels etched with Romanesque heads, trophies-of-arms, strap and scrollwork, all fire-gilt upon a white or brightened plate. A folding lance-rest, and a pair of asymmetrical pauldrons show it to have been designed for use on horseback. There is also a falling-buff which in turn suggests that the armour was accompanied by a matching burgonet that unfortunately has not survived. The last of the handful of complete suits of armour dating to the 16th century is one said to have belonged to Grand Master Martin Garzes. Although there is no documentation or other evidence to support this claim, it is not unlikely that this armour could have been his property, for this three-quarter harness dates to the third quarter of the 16th century. It is thought to be of possibly German manufacture and Laking suspected that it could have been produced in the workshop of the German armourer Sigmund Wolf of Landshut around 1560 (fig. C1/ Laking 369). The attribution of the armour to Wolf, who died in 1555, is unsound. Ian Eaves believes it bears greater resemblance to the work of a Landshut master who stamped his work with the letter ‘W’, a mark now known to have been used by Wolfgang Großschedel (recorded 1517-62) and his son Franz (died 1580). This would make it the only example of a complete harness at the Armoury that can be dated to the time of the Great Siege. That it was not used during that conflict, however, is evident from its good condition. Very few armours actually survived that conflict undamaged for in a letter to Frà Don Pietro di Luna, written in July 1566, Grand Master Jean de Valette complains of the ‘gran consummation di esse [armour] nel passato longo assedio dell’armata Turchesca’ and, as a result, a commission was given for the purchase of new armours from Milan with which to stock up the depleted armoury. Such was the scarcity of good equipment after the Siege that the commander of artillery, the knight Arisat, was instructed to purchase any available armour and weapons directly off the many thousands of mercenaries, adventurers, and forestieri employed in garrisoning the fortress of Valletta who were willing to part with their equipment on leaving the island.


Complete with close helmet, breastplate and backplate, tassets, gauntlets, and full arms, the Garzes harness is decorated with wide radiating and deeply etched and gilded bands and borders. The bands are, in Laking’s words, ‘filled with duplicated annular panels, each finishing in the outline of a dolphin, joined tail to mouth, in the centre of each is a rosette.’ These are bordered on either side by narrow bands of conventional scrollwork; the intervening space between being ‘minutely granulated’ and found in 1903, ‘to be filled with black pigment’ that was later removed. The tassets, too, appear to have been tampered with, probably during the 19th century, when a number of plates were added to them, while the knee-pieces had their lower edges cut away and permanently riveted to the underlying plates. Even so, according to Laking, this harness remained ‘the finest suit from the armourers’ art to be encountered in the collection. That the Armoury once contained many other ornate 16th century harnesses is attested by the survival of many disparate breastplates, backplates, pauldrons, couters. Still, Baron von Neipperg, visiting the Armoury in 1617, was not much impressed by the quality of armour on display and remarked that the Grand Masters must have surely worn ‘more costly armour than this’. The knight Cambrini immediately replied that ‘never in war, and rarely even for show in times of peace’ was it ever the practice for Hospitallers to indulge in such finery, and the Order, particularly its rulers, was only interested in procuring equipment that was effective and ‘thoroughly good’, while the pieces of handsome armours then on display were ‘always the present of some foreign sovereign or potentate.’ He then went on to show off a beautifullywrought helmet, with gold embossing on the visor, reciting the legend that this was actually given by Suleyman II to L’Isle Adam out of his respect for the latter’s bravery at the Siege of Rhodes.14 That pragmatism and humility were certainly not always the case, however, has already been revealed by Wignacourt’s letters cited earlier on. Most of the armour, with the exception of that displayed in the Palace corridors and staterooms, is today found in the right hall of the Armoury Museum. The larger number of breastplates have been housed in two showcases. Figs. K7, K8 and K9 show three proto-peascod, or deepbellied, style of breastplate of Italian make c.1565-70, largely devoid of decoration except for large medallions etched on the medial ridge. Many others bear no decoration whatsoever (fig. K10) as they constituted that part of the equipment known as munitions armour. The most interesting of the mid 16th-century armours, primarily for its historical connotations, is the cuirass for foot combat of Grand Master Jean de Valette (fig. K21). The breastplate and backplate are decorated with three bands of etched decoration composed of vertically aligned grotesque animals, humanoid figures, and symmetrical foliage, the central band of which contains a panel with St John the Baptist holding a lamb and the inscription ECCE AGNUS DEI and the heraldic arms of Jean de Valette. The


breastplate has a medial ridge and is articulated at the waist with a single upward overlapping lame. The backplate is similarly articulated at the collar and waist. This armour dates to 1558-1568. A corsaletto da piede with breastplate of the flattened bombé form without a medial ridge, and with accompanying backplate can be seen in figs. K1 and K2. This is constructed in one with the gorget and articulated waist. In addition to the main plate there are two lames forming the gorget and three upward overlapping lames with scalloped edges articulating the waist, with one other serving as the skirt. It also has a gusset lame at each armpit. The cuirass has no applied ornamentation and can be dated to c.1540. Another bombé form of breastplate is fig. K4. This is also dated to 1540 and is constructed in one with articulated waist made from two upward-overlapping lames and one other serving as the skirt. The neck and armpits have roped edges and the cuirass has no applied ornamentation. Similarly fitted with articulated waist are two breastplates of a corsaletto da piede type dating to around 1555 (figs. K3 & K5). The first has two upward-overlapping lames with scalloped edges articulating the waist and one other serving as the skirt. The breastplate has a medial ridge and a gusset lame at each scalloped armpit. The neck and armpit lames have a roped border. The breastplate has no etched decoration but bears two rounded medallions below the neckline. A similar, but ornamented, specimen is a corsaletto da cavallo of around 1560 (fig. K6). This has a single upward-overlapping lame articulating the waist, two holes for a missing lance-rest below the right armpit, and roped neckline and armpits. Its etched decoration is deployed in three equally spaced bands separated by bright blank areas. The central band bears an effigy of the Virgin and Child just below two embossed medallions beneath the neckline. The same style of decoration is continued on the accompanying backplate which also bears, however, a grotesque nude winged female on the central band instead of the religious motif depicted on the front of the armour. Two other backplates decorated in the same mannerist/grotesque style are shown in figs. K14 and K15. The former has an effigy of a crucified Christ set in a mandorla surrounded by the words CERTABO ET NON TIMEBO – IN NOMINE TUO SEMPER (fig. K18). The latter (fig. K20) has an interesting decoration, set out in bands separated by plain undecorated areas, wherein the motifs are set out one above the other in clear divisions and repeated all over the armour. Laking described it as ‘etched with bands composed of groups of cupids upholding canopies and supporting the cognizance of the Manfredi family of Faenza.’15 In her discussion of the cognizance (clasped hands) motifs, Karen Watts believes this feature to be a figurative expression emblematic Three mid 16th-century breastplates, of human qualities rather than of heraldic allusions.16 after Laking.

Among the most noteworthy of the corslets are two combined breastplates and backplates of North Italian make dating to around 1580, fashioned in the form of a civilian doublet of the latter half of the16th century complete


with buttons and all (figs. K11 & K13). The breastplates are of semiglobose shape with laminated splints at the base, laminated gussets at the sides, and laminated gorget at the neck. Down the front of one of these is etched a narrow band, winding at the top, with figures of amorini and dolphins, whilst in the centre above is a circular medallion containing a representation of the Virgin Mary and Child in the style of Giovanni Bellini. The whole of the etching was formerly gilded. The other (fig. K13) is decorated with bands containing trophies-of-arms between which are bands of clear areas separated by narrower bands of floral decorations. The laminated gussets at the sides are also bordered with a band of trophies while the armpits of the main plate are bordered with a band of chained decoration. A similar type of Italian cuirass, closing in the middle and dated to 1580, can be found in the armoury of the Dukes of Burgundy in the Koninklijk Museum, Brussels. Morions, Burgonets & Falling-Buffs In use with 16th-century body armours were various types of helmets. The most popular of these was a form of head protection known as the morion. This was an open-faced helmet well suited for the warm Mediterranean climate and, although offering little protection to the face, was preferred to the uncomfortable close-helmet, even by high-ranking officers. The plainer form of this type of helmet was the cabasset, or Spanish morion, with its pear-shaped skull terminating in a small pointed stalk, and a virtually flat and narrow pointed brim reinforced by a roped edge (fig. N28). Simple in form, the cabasset was an effective head protection and large numbers were produced in the armour centres of Europe, especially Northern Italy, in order to equip whole armies of foot soldiers. Hundreds of such plain munition morions, used by the Order’s troops and militia, can be seen lining the walls, corridors, and window surrounds of the Palace corridors and its armoury. All, however, have lost the cheek-pieces which gave some protection to the otherwise exposed face, though most still retain the brass rosettes along the base of the skull which held the leather lining inside the helmet in place. Officers and knights wore more richly ornate examples, frequently decorated in the same style of their accompanying garniture. The small number of officers’ helmets on display are mostly decorated with large etched medallions or vertical bands of strap work. Fig. N26 has an etched medallion enveloping a rampant lion, the heraldic emblem of the north Italian city of Brescia. Above the lion is the double-armed holy cross of Brescia’s Cathedral and to the sides are the protectors of that city, SS Faustino and Giovita, evidence that this helmet was produced in Brescia around 1570. Brescia was then the largest armour-producing centre in Italy after Milan but by the 15th century it had already been subjugated by Venice and, as a result, became the main supplier of armour employed in Venetian service.17


On display next to these are Spanish morions with swept brims, a variation of the Spanish morion with the brim curving gracefully in highly pronounced up-swept peaks at the front and back. The peaked or pointed morions are the more abundant form to be encountered in the collection. The majority are decorated with multiple, narrow vertical bands of etched trophies (fig. N27), others with all-over strapwork interlace enclosing trophies-of-arms in French fashion. The most ostentatious of the morions are the Italian or comb morions, the morioni tondi, with their highly pronounced central comb normally roped along the crest. Figs. N21 and N22 are comb morions produced in Brescia around 1580. These can be so dated by their shape and the copious style of decoration that completely covers their surfaces with floral motifs and trophies. Fig. N22 has a leaf-shaped plume-holder fixed to the base of the skull by rivets. Its whole surface is etched with bands of acanthus foliage, introducing figures of griffens and other mythological figures. Around the base of the skullpiece is a series of brass-headed rivets that formerly retained the padded lining in position. The second major form of helmet was the burgonet, also a light openface helmet, developed in Burgundy and worn mainly by the infantry. It also became quite popular with light cavalry units and was in use throughout most of the 16th century, particularly from 1520 to the early 1600s. It is the style of helmet which features most prominently in Matteo Perez d’Aleccio’s depictions of the Great Siege in the Sala del Gran Consiglio of the Palace. Even Grand Master Jean de Valette is depicted wearing one in the battle for the Post of Castile. The burgonet was basically a rounded helmet with peaked-brow, upright combed-skull furnished with hinged cheek-pieces and neckguard. Later versions were often fashioned from two interlocking halves, hammered together along the comb. The larger part of the burgonets in the collection are of the plain type used to equip the common soldiers and only a few are actually decorated. One typical example of the plain type, dating to 1570-1590 and produced in central Italy, has a pronounced comb and cheek-pieces perforated with eleven round ventilation holes set in a circle (fig. N30). Another example is a variation known as the burgonet-morion (burgonetta aguzza - fig. N33) which had a skull similar to that of a cabasset ending in a stalk with pointed peak. Two unique examples of burgonets are of the reinforced kind. One, weighing around 11.5 kg, minus its cheek-pieces, was practically bulletproof and designed primarily for sappers (fig. N31). It has a plain surface devoid of any ornamentation except for a roped edge along the peak, the neckguard, and the brim of the comb. The other is complete with cheek-pieces and pivoting peak, has a tubular plume-holder on the upper rear end of the comb and is almost completely covered with crudely etched, naïve designs of trees, foliage, and figurines on the cheek-pieces (fig. N32).


A fine example of an officer’s burgonet is shown in fig. N34. This is now nearly devoid of ornamentation except for a large grotesque escutcheon etched on the centre of the comb. The skull, however, bears traces of etched decoration that seems to have been completely rubbed off through vigorous cleaning. Another distinctive variation, of a more rounded classical form, is in fig. N35, dating to around the mid-16th century (fig. N35). This too seems to have once had etched ornamentation and lacks its guanciali. Embossed on the upper part of the skull are two rounded medallions, now plain. A finely ornamented specimen, currently displayed with falling buff that does not belong to it, is decorated with three broad bands of etched floral motifs on the skull and a continuous band on the comb (fig. N36). Its cheek-pieces are missing. The buff, a chin-shaped defence for the lower face incorporating a gorget plate, was frequently worn with the burgonet to convert this headpiece into a close helmet. Several examples of falling-buffs can be found in the collection. They are so-called because they were made from several lames held in place by springs that could be released to fall and thus expose the face. Most are of Italian make and date to the second half of the 16th century. Figs. N56 and N58 show falling-buffs with upper lames fitted with ocularia. The buff belonging to the Verdelin garniture, on the other hand, has no such feature, the vision slit being formed by the space between the buff itself and the peak of the burgonet (fig. N59). The collection also contains a number of plain casques,18 open-faced helmets similar to the burgonet but lacking the combs and cheek-pieces. Cuirassier Armour The larger part of the surviving armour to be found in the Palace Armoury dates to the 17th century. This was the only period in the history of the Armoury when functional armour was stored within its walls. Thereafter, armour gave way to firearms and its presence in the Armoury became solely a decorative one. The larger part of the 17th century armour is of the type generally known as cuirassier armour. The cuirassiers were a type of heavily-armoured cavalrymen, frequently armed with long pistols and carbines, who were developed as a distinct fighting arm during the first half of the 1600s, relying for their effect on both the shock of their charge as well as on their fire-power. They appear to have originated in Germany where they replaced the lancers but eventually the difficulty of fighting in heavy armour, especially when forced to dismount, together with their lack of success as a military arm, soon outweighed the few advantages offered by such units. As a result, cuirassier units were shortlived. Indeed their use as fighting arm in the Order’s military forces is highly debatable, especially given the restricted nature of the local terrain, where a cavalry unit could not be deployed in mass formations but had to serve mainly as a mounted infantry.


A typical cuirassier armour, best illustrated in Bingham’s Tactics of Aelian, (1616), consisted of a close helmet with attached gorget-plates, breastplate, and backplate, mostly hidden by large pauldrons, arm defences, gauntlets, large lobster-like tassets reaching down to the knees, and a garde-de-rein or culet which protected the lower back when on horseback. The finest surviving example of a cuirassier armour in the Palace collection is one of probably French make dating to around 1625 (fig. G3/ Laking 186). This comprises a close helmet, gorget, breastplate, and backplate, large laminated tassets and a full garde-de-rein. This is the only laminar culet to be found in the collection. The remainder of the garde-de-reins, all displayed on their own accord on wooden panels, are made from overlapping scales. The harness was originally of brilliantly blued steel and decorated with simple gilded radiating bands with incised lines and punched ornamentation alternating with plain reserved surfaces. Various plates of the suit are gilded with forms resembling fleur-de-lys. The tassets and gard-de-rein rest on the wide flanges of the breast and backplates respectively and are secured in place by bolts and wing-nuts (figs. G1 & G2). As in most cuirassier armour of the period, the harness ends at the knees since protection for the lower legs and feet was usually provided by leather riding-boots. The helmet, with attached gorget-plates, is a closehelmet with vertical ventilation slits on the visor. The Palace collection contains a rich variety of helmets which were worn by cuirassiers during this period. The most common are the closehelmets or field pieces with acutely pointed visors and upper-bevors. These two component parts of the helmet, designed to protect the face, could be raised together or separately, the upper-bevor being generally secured in place by a swivel hook. Another type of cuirassier’s headpiece had a pivoted peak and visor consisting of vertical bars instead of the visor and upper bevor (figs. N53 & N54). Others have a falling-buff or bevor protecting the face and a pivoting peak. Various examples were designed to accept reinforcing plates attached to bolts in order to render them bulletproof (figs. N40 & N45). The most intriguing type of helmet is the Savoyard, so called because it was worn by troops from Savoy, although it possibly originated in the Low Countries. 10d. Such helemets are also called ‘Todenkopf’ because of their visors pierced with eye, nose, and mouth holes in a manner reminiscent of skulls, with peaks arched over each eye. The Palace collection contains many variations of such helmets, some of which are truly odd in shape and form. The last type of 17th century helmets to be found in the collection are a number of heavy bulletproof burgonets with hinged cheek-pieces and pivoting peaks. Each cheek-piece has a section of gorget-plates attached which, when closed, were secured together frontally by means of a swivel hook. Some of these helmets were also


designed to accept reinforcing plates making them even heavier. The tremendous weight of such helmets suggests that they were designed primarily for use by sappers and military engineers in siege warfare. A few may have actually seen service during some of the many Hospitaller raids on Turkish fortresses in the Morea such as at Coron, for example, when the Turkish fortress was captured after sappers in the Hospitaller raiding party blew off its main gate with petards.19 One such helmet, with reinforced skull, has studded cheek-pieces which evidently formed part of another helmet and may have been put together in local workshops (fig. N39). A very good specimen, weighing some 17.5 kg and dating to around 1640, is mounted on a bulky laminar harness which does not belong to it. This large harness was evidently made to fit a tall man of ‘ungainly proportions’ (fig. M4). It consists of a large splinted breastplate with corresponding backplate, complete with arms, pauldrons, tassets, and poleyns reaching down to the knee. It is free from any ornamentation save for a narrow roped border. There are also two other laminar breastplates, and a backplate, of a type known as anime and dating from the late 16th century (figs. K16 & K17). Heavy brass studding was a decorative feature of armour produced during this period. By the early 17th century, brass-capped iron rivets, originally used to secure the leather lining along the edges of armour and the joins of articulated lames, were frequently displayed in the form of small circles on the faces of pauldrons, couters, and helmets, simply for aesthetic purposes (fig. L11). Another ornamental feature, found on the remains of a few surviving pieces of cuirassier armour, are articulated lames with finely scalloped edges (fig. L9). The Palace collection contains a second fine cuirassier harness of French make, dating to around 1630 (fig. F2). This is complete to the knee, except for the helmet which does not belong. It has full pauldrons and long, laminated tassets finishing in poleyns. The breastplate is heavily decorated with etched radiating bands containing designs of trophies of various Romanesque arms alternating with a continuous band of acanthus leaves. The pauldrons, coudres, and poleyns are engraved with large detached trophies-of-arms. In Laking’s view the decoration was executed in a manner usually associated with the French school of engraving during the reign of Louis XIII. Laking also noted a reinforced breastplate belonging to this harness which was displayed with the other breastplates. The head-piece now accompanying the armour is of the close-helmet type with pivoting gorget, upper-bevor, and visor, and is of French make, c.1630 (fig. N52). This helmet has a faceted bowl surmounted by a large pointed comb. A similar head-piece is depicted in the portrait of the French knight Joseph d’Olivari, Grand Prior of Toulouse (see page 95).


The larger part of the surviving cuirassier harnesses in the collection are of the very plain, undecorated type, many having been put together from pieces which do not exactly fit (figs. M1, M2 & M3). These can be found on display throughout the Armoury and the Palace corridors upstairs. Those on display in the museum have their long tassets attached to the breastplates by leather straps. Some still retain the folding lance-rest on the right side of the breast plate, but a large part have lost this feature. A considerable number of long tassets are also displayed among the trophiesof-arms decorating the walls. This was already the case during the 18th and 19th centuries. Obviously, these plain suits once formed part of the munition armour held in stock inside the Armoury throughout most of the 17th century. An important component of 17th century armies were the pikemen and musketeers. By then, musketeers had shed all their armour but the pikemen, still involved in close-quarter fighting, retained various elements of armour. The pikemen’s armour consisted primarily of a helmet, gorget, cuirass, and tassets. Pikemens’ breastplates of the period usually had strong medial ridges and low neck-lines to accommodate gorgets, together with deep flanges at the bottom to support the attachment of tassets. The waistline of such armour was generally high as a result of being in line with the high waist of civilian fashion of the period. The backplates and breastplates were held together by straps at the shoulders and waist. The shoulder straps, covered in small metal plates and permanently riveted to the backplate, were generally secured to the breastplates by means of two mushroom-headed rivets, one on each side of the petto. A few such breastplates, minus the straps, can be seen at the Armoury (fig. K31). The tassets were usually large and consisted of single plates decorated with simulated lames and brass rivets. No such examples however have survived at the Armoury. The gorgets consisted of two plates which pivoted together on the left hand side and were fastened by means of a combination of keyhole slots and mushroom-headed studs placed on the right. These were often very plain and devoid of decoration. Some were decorated with brass-capped iron rivets along the edges and neck and were designed to be worn alone over a buff-coat as can be seen in the portrait of Frà Gabriele Cassar (fig. J4 ). The increasing effectiveness of firearms meant that most armour worn on the field of battle had to be significantly strengthened if it was to serve any purpose whatsoever. The heavier the armour, the more unwieldy and impractical it became for the wearer. One way of dealing with this disadvantage was by having normal armour which could then be reinforced with added plates as and when required. A number of such reinforced breastplates, with heavy detachable bulletproof plackarts, can still be seen on display. These heavy plackarts were secured to the breastplate by a combination of keyhole slots and mushroom-headed studs, and swivel hooks. One such breastplate with attachments for a reinforcing


plate has a deeply engraved, or chiselled, crucifix shown as though suspended from the neck by a chain (figs. K24 & K25). Laking ascribed it to possibly Maltese workmanship, dating it to around 1660 (Laking 143) but there is no documented evidence, however, to hint any manufacture of plate armour in Malta. Indeed, all evidence points to its importation in bulk from abroad. Laking’s assumption therefore remains unsubstantiated. This breastplate, damaged along the lower end of the medial ridge, however, may have been repaired locally. The collection also contains a number of rather plain and crude pettiforti, heavy bulletproof breast plates indented with musket ball punch-marks, some with as many as four hits (figs. K30, K32, & K33). The most interesting of these is the one bearing an embossed heart crudely inscribed with a cross and the letters IN MF SS, placed as though hanging from the neck by a strap (figs. K29 & K30).

Antique arms and armour

The North Italian Sallet during the late 19th century, painted black and mounted on a mannequin with a suit of armour that does not match.

Although most of the collection dates to the late-16th, 17th and 18th centuries, there are various pieces of arms and armour which belong to the earlier half of the 1500s and some even to the late middle ages. The most archaic of these are two small portions from a brigandine (fig. I1). This was a jacket-type, laminar body armour composed of small iron plates, covered with linen and crimson velvet, and attached to one another by brass rivets. The remains at the Armoury appear to be of Italian manufacture, which Laking dated to around 1530, though these may prove to be of a much earlier date. This specimen was said to be part of the dress of Dragut Rais, Pasha of Tripoli, Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish army, killed at the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. Given that Dragut was not buried in Malta, it is difficult to understand how his personal armour ended up in Hospitaller hands. The collection also contains three mail vests (figs. I3 & I4) probably dating from the early 16th century. Mail armour is made of hundreds of small interlinked steel rings. A mail shirt with long sleeves, reaching down to the knees is currently displayed with the Turkish armour. One of the vests has three brass rosettes on the front arranged in a broad V, suggesting Turkish origin. Belonging to the Rhodian period of Hospitaller history is a North Italian sallet, or celata, of around 1520.20 This helmet is considered to be the most important possession in the Palace Armoury collection (figs. N1 – N3). Back in 1903, Laking discovered it on one of the mannequins, covered in several coats of black paint. This sallet has a finely moulded crown finishing in a cable, the front portion of which is stiffened by a


reinforcing plate. The vision slit, or ocularium, is actually formed by the gap between the top of the visor, itself of bellows-form, and the lower edge of the reinforcing plate. Its visor is in one piece, embossed with four deeply-concave transverse flutes, the uppermost of which is drawn outwards to form a ridge below the ocularium. The flutes are pierced by ten breathing holes (four small horizontal slits and a circular hole on each side). The back of the skull is curved out to form a neck-guard, the whole of the edging being turned under a blunted edge. The crown still retains traces of delicate etching. A very similar helmet, but with articulated neckguard can be seen in the Wallace Collection (no.A72) while comparable visors are to be found in the Royal Armouries collection (iv.439, 440). The harness that would have been worn with such a headpiece would have also come from Milan, then the leading production centre for Italian armour. This would have been of a plain, rounded and predominantly functional and robust design, consisting mainly of a globular breastplate and fitted with tassets, large pauldrons, couters, and gauntlets, and leg defences bearing winged poleyns. Whilst Italian armour of the 15th century had a graceful, rounded appearance, contemporary German armour adopted a sharper, spikey look echoing the pleating of civilian garb. From around the middle of the 15th century, German armour adopted a style of ridged and cusped plates that later came to be termed ‘Gothic’. Many pieces from such armours, said to have been recovered from Rhodes in the 19th century, can be viewed at the Royal Armouries, Leeds, and St John Gate, Clerkenwell, but only a sole remnant from a possibly Hospitaller armour of the period is to be seen in the Palace collection. This is a singular couter, or elbow guard (fig. L5) from a post-Gothic harness of possibly Italian or Flemish make. It is symmetrically shaped along a pronounced medial ridge (roped in the centre) and has a heart-shaped wing and an elbow point decorated with a star. Two rivets at centre of the couter, on either side of the medial ridge were probably secured to narrow articulated lames. Possibly from the time of Grand Master D’Aubusson and his successors in Rhodes, is a gorget, crudely converted from a fine Italian breastplate of the early 16th century (fig. J3 - Laking 146). Across its top, but now almost ground and polished away, is a broad band of linear etching with a composition of saints in the manner, according to Laking, of Tommaso Fineguerra and some of the earlier Florentine engravers. Of undeniably German make and inspiration is a close helmet fashioned in Maximilian style (figs. N4 & N5). Developed out of the older Gothic style, and so-named after Emperor Maximilian, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, this style of armour (largely introduced during his reign) adopted a characteristic pattern of fluting of close-set ribs (initially quite sparse)


that not only gave strength and a glancing surface to armour but also rendered it beautiful. Dating to around 1520, the Maximilian close helmet found in the Palace collection has a fluted crown and sharp pointed visor of bellows form. The visor has a continuous vision slit and 12 horizontal slits (6 on each side) for breathing. The bellows-form visor and bevor pivoted on the same point. The original pivot hole on one side of the visor was damaged and a new hole fitted, giving the visor a slightly upward displacement to the left. Dated to around 1540, is a close helmet with roped comb. It is described by Laking as being of English make, but is most probably Flemish or French (figs. N6 & N7). The visor is pierced with a continuous ocularium with the lower edge forged out into a roped ridge. The helmet has a pivoting upper bevor (mezail) but lacks the chin-piece, rendering it incomplete. Fixed on the right side of the visor is a lifting peg. This helmet has a distinctive prow-shaped profile. A similar form of helmet, although considerably more ornamented, is to be found in the Museo Civico delle Armi Marzoli in Brescia (MMB 319, E 34). This is dated to 1520-30 and is described as being a French-style field helmet produced in Milan. Early 16th century leg and feet defences are scantily represented. The few on display comprise a heavy pair of steel sabatons formed from large articulated lames (fig. H6) with open heel and securing-straps of the type to be seen on the feet of Grand Master Jean de Valette’s funeral effigy in the crypt of St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta. Another pair is attached to finely moulded greaves, and has a flat, spreading bear-paw form with radiating fluting at the end. The borders are decorated with narrow bands of etched acanthus leaves, all gilded, the remaining surface being russeted. Laking dated these to around 1525 and attributed them to the Italian school of Missaglia (fig. N17a). Although definitely of North Italian manufacture, and dating to around 1510-1520, there is no reason, however, to attribute them specifically to the Missaglia workshop.

Swords Edged weapons make up a significant part of the collection. The Armoury boasts a very rich collection of swept-hilt rapiers, or as they are referred to in documents, ‘spade alla spagnola’. The rapier is a long and slender, double-edged single-handed sword, designed mainly for the thrust. Rapiers first appeared in the mid-16th century and evolved from the practice of hooking the forefinger over the quillon and around the ricasso for better blade control, with the various branches of the guard designed to protect different parts of the hand. Rapiers, however, reflect the diminishing influence of the sword on the field of battle and its increasing popularity as an article of fashion. Reference to the ‘espada ropera’ (dress sword) are first mentioned in Spanish documents of around 1575.


The earliest example in Malta, found not in the Armoury but at the Birgu Parish Museum, is an estoc-type rapier said to have belonged to Grand Master Jean de Vallette, the hero of the Great Siege. This sword is of the cruciform type with double side rings and straight flat quillons (see p. 60). It is devoid of any decoration and as such may have not belonged to the Grand Master at all. Given the dignity of his station, the Grand Master would probably have carried a much finer weapon such as that to be seen hanging from the belt of the renowned Italian warrior, Stefano Sciarra Colonna in his portrait by Angelo Bronzino (1540). A similar though slightly lighter, and later, sword is to be found in the Palace collection (fig. Q1). This has a narrower blade, shorter quillions and circular pommel, while the lower ring guard is fitted with a plate. The larger part of the rapier collection consists of the common tworinged (fig. Q6) and three-ringed (fig. Q5) Italian rapiers. These have hilts with double- and triple-ring foreguard defences complemented by three- and four-bar inner guards, arms, straight quillions swelling at the outer ends, knuckle guards joined by a branch to the upper-most rings, tapered cylindrical pommels with button tops, and grips of twisted steel wire to allow for a firm grip. The rapier blades vary in length between 3 to 4 feet, are of diamond section, with double-edged blade, having single fuller on each side. Stamped on the ricasso are usually the maker’s marks, and frequently the eight-pointed cross of the Order (fig. Q8). One example (Laking No. 210), has the blade inscribed “ ME FECIT SOLINGEN.’ Many have Toledo blades although Toledo inscriptions are known to have been spuriously applied by contemporary Soligen makers. A Spanish knight recorded to have owned one such rapier with a Toledo blade (‘una espada de C’inta con guarnicion ordinaria’) was Frà Don Diego de Mier who died in 1697. Other, though less abundant, forms of swept-hilt rapiers to be found in the Armoury are the so-called ‘skeleton rapiers’, also of Italian make, so-called because of the manner of construction of the hilt with all the front and rear guard bars (some are made with as many as seven rings), arranged in the form of a rib cage and fitted with round-shaped front and rear guards, straight quillons, wirebound grips and walnut-shaped pommels (fig. Q4). The most exquisitely decorated of the swept-hilt rapiers in the collection is an Italian sword of around 1590, having a long stiff blade of diamond-shaped section, with an armourer’s mark on the recasso, an oviform and hollow pommel, and a russeted surface, in places gilded, and incrusted with silver spiral scrolls. The centres of the principal ornaments had oval cartouches originally enriched with gold plaquette medallions, now missing (fig. Q11).Frà Emmanuele de Silva, who died in 1725, is recorded as having owned ‘una spada alla portughese’. The collection also retains a few examples of cup-hilt rapiers. These gave the greatest protection to the hand and were the type most favoured by the Spaniards. One such sword has a cup-hilt with overturned edge


for catching the point of the adversary’s rapier, the interior of the cup having an additional pierced plate, known as the guardapolvo. The blade is of flattened hexagonal section and is of Italian make, dating to around 1660 (figs. Q3 & Q7). Another fine example has a deep cup-hilt guard with spirally fluted upper-ridge, and two bands of pierced and chiselled floral decorations, one along the upper edge and the other near the ricasso. Its knuckle guard and quillions, one of which is broken off, have spiral fluting with button termination (fig. Q9).

Sword which Emperor Philip II of Spain presented to Grand Master Jean de Valette in recognition for his service to Christendom following the successful defence of Malta against the Turks in 1565 (after Laking).

Frequently used with the rapier was the main gauche, or left hand dagger. Many ‘schools of fence’ which proliferated in Europe during this period taught a type of sword play that made use of the two weapons in combination. The sword-and-dagger form of combat, however, gradually fell into disfavour in most of Europe by the end of the 17th century and was practically abandoned by 1700, except in Spain where it persisted in use up to the late 1700s. The left-hand dagger would often match the rapier in styling, such as the ‘spada e pugnale d’argento’ belonging to the rich knight Frà Giovanni Luigi di Crillon who died in 1711. Only one example of a main gauche dagger survives in the Palace collection (fig. Q10). This is of Spanish make, dating to around 1660, with a simple cruciform-hilt, knuckle-bow, and a well-tempered, high carbon, stiff straight steel blade with notches near the ricasso to ‘catch’ or disrupt the opponents blade. Entries in the Order’s records for spada e pugnale can be found in the spropriamento of Frà Ferando Bracco and the Prior of Navarre ( d. 1692 – un pugnale, un stiletto). Undeniably the most famous sword and dagger combination in the annals of the Order is the bejewelled sword which Emperor Philip II of Spain presented to Grand Master Jean de Valette in recognition for his service to Christendom following the successful defence of Malta against the Turks in 1565. This sword, and accompanying dagger, however, were never kept inside the Armoury but inside the more heavily guarded rooms of the treasury, in another part of the Grand Masters’ Palace known as the tower, where the treasures of the Order, diamonds, relics, and ornaments, were securely housed. We are told that the two keys to this repository were held by the Grand Master and the Grand Conservator. Removed from the Palace by Napoleon and sent to France in 1798, (he is said to have remarked ‘Let them keep the hand (of St John) whilst helping himself to the sword and dagger), this sword is now to be found in the Louvre. In Laking’s time it was displayed in the Bibliotheque National in Paris where it was known as the ‘Epée de la Religion.’ This sword, with gold hilt, is enriched with translucent enamels and richly set with jewels. An interesting description of this sword is found in a brief entry entitled ‘Notitia della Spada mandata al Gran Maestro Valletta l’Anno 1566’. The document reveals that the ‘spada e pugnale con li fornimenti tutti


d’oro’ were also accompanied by ‘una cintura tutta d’oro parimente guarnita di eccellentissimo valore e di grandissimo prezzo.’ The sword was inscribed with the phrase ‘Plus Quam Valor Valette Valet.’21 The weapon was conveyed to Malta by the knight Frà Roderico Maldonato who had been dispatched by the Grand Master soon after the departure of the Turkish fleet in order to convey the news of the defeat of the Turkish army to the Spanish court. It became the custom, on the Feast of the Nativity of the blessed Virgin (8 September), and in commemoration of the Great Siege (‘il-Vittorja’), to parade this sword through the streets of Valletta and for the Grand Masters to unsheathe and brandish it aloft during the reading of the gospel. Evolving from the rapier during the late 17th century, and eventually replacing it altogether during the 18th century in Europe as the principal dress-sword, was the espadin or smallsword. Only in Spain did the rapier persist in use for a while longer, although the Order’s records show that even Spanish knights were not impartial to adopting the smallsword by the late 17th century, as can be attested from the spogli of Frà Francisco de Torres (died 1644 - ‘dos espadines zuarnicodos de plata’), Frà Don Joseph de Villanel (died 1729 – ‘un espadin con guarnicion de plata’), Don Cristoval de Blanes (‘un espadin con guarnicion de plata’), and Frà Don Joacchin de Bustamante (‘un espadin de plata’), to mention but a few examples. The espadin, as its name implies, was a much smaller and lighter sword than the rapier. A transitional rapier from this period (c.1640) with shallow basket hilt and downward curved quillons (fig. Q18) best illustrates how the rapier was evolving into a smaller sword. By the end of the 17th century a typical smallsword was usually characterized by a guard, metal shell, quillions and knuckle-bow. Nearly all the spogli of late 17th and 18th century knights contain references to espadines, mostly in silver or gilded brass, and some knights possessed more than one example. Yet surprisingly, and possibly because these swords were frequently sold by auction, only two smallswords survive in the collection. One of these, missing its quillions and knuckle-bow, has brass double-shell guard and pommel (fig. Q15). The usefulness of these weapons as personal sidearms is perhaps best illustrated by an incident on the night of 17 January 1759 when an Italian knight Corio and a fellow-knight managed to defend themselves with their smallswords against a gang of armed thieves who assailed them in the streets of Valletta as they were returning to their lodgings. Corio was grieviously wounded in the face but managed to hold off his assailants until the timely arrival of the city patrol. The Order’s records reveal that many of the knights’ smallswords were highly ornate weapons with blades decorated either in silver (espadin de plata) or gilded silver (espadin de plata dorada). A description of Grand Master Pinto’s visit to Mdina for the ceremony of the installation


of Bishop Rull describes him as carrying a smallsword with a solid gold handle. Frederick Ryan, in his book ‘The House of the Temple’, mentions an interesting episode during the defence preparations of 1798 wherein Grand Master Hompesch, whilst on a tour of inspection of the island defences, was so pleased with the arrangements that he ‘spoke of presenting his silver sword, which as commander-in-chief he had worn during his tour, to ‘Capo Maestro’ Montagna.’ 22 One of the last Hospitallers to have parted with his smallsword in Malta was Frà Nicholas Vittorio de Vachon Belmont, who died in 1807, and whose ‘spadino con guardia d’argento’ was sold off for the price of 15 scudi. The most impressive of all the swords in the collection are the two wellpreserved specimens of hand-and-half broadswords known as ‘bastard’ swords (fig. Q13). These were a slightly smaller version of the doublehanded broadsword, which the Spanish called the montante, a serious piece of hardware used mainly in siege warfare that could cut clean through the plate armour of the period, cleaving a man in two with a single blow. Its use was considered a special skill often meriting extra pay. D’Aleccio’s frescoes and prints frequently show to these cutting weapons. In a panel depicting the battle for the Post of Castile, such swords are shown stacked behind the defenders ready for use the moment the Turks broke through the Christian lines. The blades of the two swords in the collection are inscribed ‘IN TE DOMINE SPERAVIT’ and ‘ESPOIR EN DIEU - ANTOI MEFEI’ respectively.

Plate illustration from Laking’s ‘Catalogue...’ showing the sword-gun, rapiers, and Venetian schiavona.

Another business-like weapon on display is a Venetian schiavona (fig. Q12). This type of sword, originally used by Dalmatian troops in Venetian service (Schiavoni), carries a cage-like basket hilt of narrow metal bars and has a broad, straight double-edged blade. The pommel is of cast bronze and resembles a lion’s head, possibly alluding to the lion of St Mark, the symbol of Venice. Introduced in the second half of the 16th century, schiavonas continued in use until the end of the 1700s, by which time they had adopted more complex hilts than their earlier counterparts. The schiavona combined the full hand protection of a deep basket hiltguard with a very efficient blade that allowed both cutting and thrusting. Enterprising Venetian traders exported the weapon all over Europe where it became a favourite heavy cavalry sword in many European armies. St Felix’s inventory of the Armoury drawn up in 1785 does not include such swords, but twelve schiavonas are found listed in the inventory of St James Cavalier, similarly drawn up in 1785. The sole example present in the Armoury must have formed part of the St James Cavalier hoard and would have ended up in the Palace after 1800, when the secondary storehouses were dismantled. The walls of the Armoury and the corridors of the state rooms contain a number of hangers. The larger part of these are brass-hilted sabres of the type shown in fig. Q16. One strange exhibit is a sword made up from


the parts of two different swords, possibly the product of repair works by the Order’s armourers although it may also date to a much later period (fig. Q17). The brass hilt of this sword, minus the knuckle-bow, was taken from a British hanger of around 1700, similar to those fitted out by Thomas Hollier when he worked for the Board of Ordnance after 1715, an example of which can be found at the Royal Armouries. The blade came from a larger double-edged cutting sword. Another type of sword frequently found listed in various spropriamenti is a ‘longue espée de caravane avec garde de fer et la poignee d’argent.’ Surely one of the most intriguing exhibits on display is the combination sword-gun of German-make dating to around the late 16th century (fig. Q14). Laking described it as a hunting sword with blade of falchion shape, the back of which was forged in a way so as to form a pistol barrel. At the hilt is attached a wheel-lock mechanism for discharging the weapon, the trigger being released by a pin on the opposite side of the blade. The pommel is of falcon-head shape with a single knuckle guard, a solid sheet, single quillon and single pas-d’ane; the whole surface is now of brightened steel but originally was, again according to Laking, etched with rich strapwork in the Saxon school fashion. A similar sword can be seen in the armoury of the palace of the Doge in Venice.23 A ‘sabre portant pistolet’ is actually recorded as being in the Armoury in 1799 and this same weapon, now on display, may have belonged to the Italian knight Frà Francesco Cavallo who is recorded as having owned ‘un paro di pistole con spada’ when he died in Malta in the early years of the 18th century. Staff-Weapons The Palace Armoury contains a rich collection of staff-weapons. Basically these were blades mounted on long poles, and mostly useful for their defensive value, particularly in the defence of ramparts and walls – undoubtedly simple tools with which the Order could quickly arm its militia in the event of a siege. Originally there were thousands of these edged weapons lining the walls of the gallery but now only a few hundred survive. The majority of the staff-weapons are spontoons, halberds, and partisans together with, though to lesser degree, a variety of other types and forms. The halberd (sometimes spelled halbard) is a flat axe with a long spike at the front. There are two other variations on this standard form, the Austrian halberd, with its finer, longer spike and axe-blade in the shape of a crescent, the blade concave-edged and curving inwards, and the German halberd, with its knife-like spike and a small axe with concave blade, the arc of which is a half-circle. All three forms have a small hook on the back side of the axe-blade. Most of the halberds in the Palace collection are of the type shown in fig. P13, made in central Italy around the end of the 1500s.


The partisan, or partigiana, is a double-edged knife blade with two hooked bits sticking out at the base of the blade and pointing forward (fig. P11). The larger types are sometimes called langue-de-boeuf or langdebeve as it was called in England (fig. 11). Laking listed many early 18th century English partisans among the collection. A variation of the partisan is the sergentina which, as its names implies, was a weapon indicating rank and looks like a combination of a partisan and halberd. An example of this type to be found in the Armoury is decorated with three golden pears, attesting to the fact that it was made for officers in the employ of Grand Master Perellos (fig. P1). The spontoon, another type of staff-weapon, has a short blade with two bits on each side. In the time of Grand Master Pinto, a ‘Compagnia dei Spontonieri’ was established ‘al servizio delle Batterie’ of the Valletta fortifications during the military exercise and defence preparations of 1758. The bill has a wide cutting blade, similar to a scythe blade. There is then the gisarme, also called ronca, which is similar to the bill but has a small spike at front of the blade (figs. P4 & P6). The fauchard, too, is also similar to the bill except that it has a long spike or fork added to the back of the blade, designed to catch an opponent’s blade (fig. P5). The ranseur or corsesca, on the other hand, has a fork-type blade, the centre prong twice the length of the outer two prongs. The outer two prongs curve slightly outwards and are in fact pointed blades (fig. P10). The spectum, or brandistocco, has a trident-shaped head. Grand Master La Cassiere is recorded to have been equipped with one of these when he undertook a tour of inspection of the fortifications of Valletta at the head of a troop of knights in 1574. Numerous pike heads can be found in many of the mural trophies in the Armoury and Palace corridors. These short, sharp spearheads were originally fixed to very long (12-18feet) poles. Late 16th- and 17thcentury pikemen worked in tandem with musketeer formation, mainly to protect the latter whilst they were reloading. The staff-weapons that were kept in the Armoury were part of the general military hardware. There are a few recorded instances, however, where one finds such weapons forming part of the personal property of individual knights. Amongst those recorded to have owned their own personal alabarda are Frà Francesco Bonaventura24 and Frà Charles d’Ormesson, who actually had two.25 In most cases, however, those discovered in the possession of knights were usually found to have been borrowed from the central armoury. Muslim Arms and Armour Muslim armour is rather sparingly represented in the Armoury collection, a curious state of affairs given the presence in Malta of so many Turkish


warriors during the Great Siege of 1565 and the other many skirmishes between Hospitaller and Turkish vessels throughout the Mediterranean. Even in the time of the Order, the inventories of the Armoury reveal that the storehouse was markedly lacking in Turkish items. An important element of the Palace Armoury sword collection are the Muslim swords, presumably prizes of war captured during the Great Siege of 1565 or during the many sea-battles fought between the Order’s galleys and Turkish and North African corsairs. Various Turkish swords are encountered in the spogli of individual knights, frequently referred to as ‘chimitarre’. Amongst these one finds Frà Giacomo Maria Cupelli’s (‘Due cimitarre’), Frà Angeli Marone’s (‘Una cimittara turchisca co’lo fodero’) and Frà Lorenzo de Vecchij’s (1677 - ‘un moschetto, et una scimittara turchesca’). The larger part of these swords comprise curved Arab sabres, or scimitars, known as sajf or nimcha, with back-edged blades and distinctive pommels. The distinction between these two types of related swords is very loosely applied. The majority are of the North African and Middle East type of sajf, devoid of decoration although one particular example, dating to the early 17th century, has a highly decorated hilt of engraved silver and brass with the grip overlaid with tortoise-shell and coral (fig. S1). The nimchas are a Moroccon variety of the sajf, having a less curved blade. Their hilts, as in the sajf, adopt the classical three down-curving quillons and knuckle guard, but usually also have a protecting ring (fig. S12). Many of the sajf and nimcha blades are of good quality steel and most bear distinctive maker’s marks which indicate a European origin, possibly of Hungarian or Styrian make (figs. S16 & S19). The serrated demilune marks were adopted as an indication of quality from the mid-16th century onwards in the Styrian production centre of Weiz from where huge quantities were exported to Hungary.26 Among this category of Ottoman swords are two plain, and one ornate, kilic, or kilij, the latter complete with its scabbard. The kilic is the traditional Ottoman sabre in use from the early 17th century onwards and had a blade with double-edged point. The two plain kilij have a wooden hilt of the karabela type dating to the 16th century, bearing a distinctive ‘eagle-head’ shape at the end and a simple steel cross-guard. The more ornate example, on the other hand, has a broader blade, an ivory hilt with a short, downward-curved silver cross guard, with largely missing quillions (fig. S10). Its scabbard, which is the only sword sheath to be found in the Armoury, is made of wood, covered with light brown felt and mounted with big silver locket and chape. This dates from the late 16th century (figs. S11& S12). There is then a small yataghan dagger (fig. S3). This example, with its typically down-curving blade with reinforced spine is probably from the West Balkans. It lacks ornamentation and has a hilt formed from two plain ivory grips bolted on either side of a


Detail from D’Aleccio’s painting of a Turkish soldier showing a dagger tucked in his belt.

central tang. The Italian knight Frà Constantino Chigi Monrari is recorded to have owned ‘tre coltelli turchi con stucco di pelle nera manicati di osso bianco.’27 Other fascinating Muslim edged-weapons in the collection are two highly ornate Turkish maces, or topuz, weapons which also served, in their highly decorated form, as officers’ battons, indicating the rank of their holders. The head and pommel of one of these maces is made of gilded silver engraved with a cone-shaped panel of floral ornaments and bears the Turkish silver mark (fig. S4). The haft is of dark wood. The collection also boasts a Nachakh, a form of battle-axe, of the type depicted by Perez d’Aleccio hanging from the belt of a Turkish janissary in one of the Great Siege frescos. The head of this example is roughly triangular in form and is of bright steel while the wooden haft is plated with silver, stamped to represent shagreen (fig. S21). There is a small number of circular breastplates, backplates, and shoulder plates from armours belonging to the Sipahi type of Anatolian warrior employed mainly as light cavalry in Turkish armies. The Sipahi (or Spahi) was roughly the counterpart of a medieval European knight, his status similarly dependent on the size of his military fief, called timar in Turkish which, however, was not inheritable. Some 6,000 Sipahis are recorded to have formed part of the Turkish force in 1565 where they fought mainly as infantry arm in the siege warfare. The main components of Sipahi armour are the shishak, char-aina and zirh. The shishak, a Slavic term of Turkic origin, is a pointed conical helmet with cheek pieces, a neck guard, and a fixed peak with an adjustable nasal guard secured by a staple and spring catch or wing (fig. O1). Its characteristic shape evolved in the Islamic world, the early examples coming from the l3th century Seljuk Turkish dynasty in Anatolia. Its popularity then spread throughout the Ottoman Empire from where it was subsequently adopted in neighbouring Hungary, Poland, Russia, and western Europe, where it was called Zischagge. An example of a Polish Zischagge or lobster-tailed helmet, dating to around 1660, with a fluted skull-piece, an umbril in front through which once passed a nasal guard but with missing cheek-pieces, is displayed in the same showcase (fig. N38). The char-aina, a type of body armour widely used between the l5th and l8th centuries in Turkey, Persia, India, and Russia, consists of four plates hung from the shoulders on straps and connected to one another by straps and buckles (figs. O2 & O3). These plates were not very big and often left exposed as much of the wearer’s protective underclothing as they covered. They were slightly convex to fit the body and were cut away near the armpits to allow for freedom of movement. A large round plate worn in the centre of the breast was flanked by several rectangular or


triangular ones. The back was constructed in the same way. The Turkish char-aina (a Persian word, meaning four mirrors) was sometimes covered in velvet and was worn over a mail tunic, the zirh. The latter is a mail body armour extending down to the knees and worn over a quilted caftan. The sole example to be found in the Armoury collection is very heavy, formed from thousands of interlocking metal rings, each ring being riveted and usually having four others linked to it. Shields The Armoury holds a variety of 16th century shields. The earliest of these is what has been termed the ‘gonne’ shield dating to around 1520 (fig. V1). This is said to have been part of the gift of arms sent by King Henry VIII to the Order in 1530. Earlier in 1528, L’Isle Adam had visited England, after his sojourn in Spain and France, to muster support for his project for the recapture of the island of Rhodes. King Henry VIII had then promised to provide the sum of 20,000 crowns towards the expedition against the Turks but after five years he redeemed his promise with a gift of artillery to the same value, including 19 bronze cannon, and supposedly, a number of ‘gonne’ shields. We now know, however, that Henry VIII was only introduced to this invention in 1544, when a series of 68 such shields are recorded as having been produced and placed in the Tower of London for use by the king’s personnal bodyguard, possibly based on a model provided by the Italian Giovanni Battista da Ravenna. Consequently this shield could have not formed part of the gift of artillery received in 1530. Nor does it seem that the Maltese example, though similar to some of Henry’s gun-shields, ever possessed a central ‘gonne’. The surviving examples in the Royal Armouries show that these were originally Italian targets that had been converted into gun shields, after a crude vision hole had been cut into one of the plates to enable a degree of aiming. This feature is missing on the Maltese ‘gonne shield’, rendering it little more than a steel-faced Italian target, convex in form, ‘composed of the central steel nimbus and a border of twelve plates, each fashioned to the segment of a circle, and having in their centre an embossed ridge - all laid down upon oak foundations, their joints concealed by applied framing of brass.’ The hole in the centre may not have served to pass a short barrel of a breechloading match-lock gun, as long thought to be. The larger part of the shields are of the brocchiere type for foot combat, mostly of Milanese make and dating from around 1580 to 1600. In contemporary documents they are referred to as ‘rondacchie’ or ‘rotelle’ while Laking calls them ‘targets’. These types of shields were designed specifically for use with corsaletti da piede and the simpler versions were used on the battlefield, particularly by the spadacini


(swordsmen) who skirmished with enemy troops in the initial stages of a battle. One of these shields (fig. R1) of Milanese School c.1580-1600, has a slightly convex centre with a flat border finishing in roping. It is etched with five bands radiating star-like from the centre between which are cartouches containing the emblematic female figure of Justice. Another, of convex form finishing in an acute salient centre, has oblong and circular panels running along the border, etched with various trophiesof-arms. In the centre are twelve petal-shaped panels containing a similar ornament. Of possibly French makeand dating to 1570, is a circular shield (Laking, 295) that is slightly convex in the centre, etched with six radiating bands of various trophies-of-arms and with vases and scrollwork between the fan-shaped compartments. A second French circular shield is etched with fan-shaped panels alternately containing festoons of laurel ornaments, bucrania, and drapery (Laking 230). Surely one of the most beautifully decorated is the brocchiere accompanying the Pompeo della Cesa harness (fig. A1). This shield is not signed but its manner of decoration is typical of Milanese production that is frequently attributed to Pompeo. A very similar shield, with alternating narrow and wide bands radiating from the centre, and with oval cartouches set inside the narrower bands, is found in the Museo Civico Medievale di Bologna (No.148) but Lionello Boccia states that this decoration ‘non trova corrispondenza in alcune delle opera note di Pompeo’. A shield with comparable decoration, likewise of Milanese design was recently removed from the Fine Arts Museum in Valletta and transferred to the Armoury (fig. R5 - Laking 370). The brocchiere of the Wignacourt garniture, too, is a highly embellished example of Milanese production of 1601. It is engraved and gilded and encrusted with the arms of the Wignacourt family, surmounted by a coronet. Of plainer design and decoration are two circular shields (figs. R4 and R2). The latter is slightly concave, and decorated with raised petal-shaped panels, and a cabled extreme border. Laking dated it to 1625 but was uncertain as to its Italian manufacture. Another (Laking 29), also without decoration but with a roped border and dated to 1630, has four screw rivets forming the inside attachment of the arm-straps. More business-like in their appearance are the reinforced bulletproof brocchiere weighing 12 kg, belonging to Wignacourt’s siege armour (fig. D2), an oval reinforced buckler (fig. R5), and a kite-shaped, possibly locally-produced, sappers shield made of two parts with a horizontal vision slit (fig. R7). The Armoury also boasts four circular convex shields of copper gilt, possibly dating to the period of the invasion of Malta by the Turks in 1565 (fig. O4). D’Aleccio’s illustrations of the Great Siege, however, show the Turkish infantry equipped with the pointed Hungarian-type shield, a rare example of which can be found in the armoury of the castle of


Cherburg (CH S270).28 In D’Aleccio’s frescoes such shields are shown decorated with the double-sword of the Prophet. The kalkan or circular Turkish shields in the Palace collection have a gilded surface engraved with carnation-like flowers, cone-shaped panels, and emblems usually associated with Oriental art.

Projectile Weapons The oldest form of projectile weaponry to be found inside the Armoury is the crossbow.The examples in the collection are all of the same type, that is of Spanish origin with steel bows and wooden inlaid stocks with long metal triggers, dating to the first half of the 16th century (figs. T1 & T3). Many have the words ‘Jesus Maria’ inscribed on the bow. These crossbows have a grooved stag-horn nut and lack a leaf-spring feature, since the bolt was held secure in the recess cut in the nut. They were all designed to be spanned by means of a pied-de-chevre, or goat’s-foot, type of lever which pivoted on two stock-pins set on each side of the lever just behind the nut (fig. T2). Judging by the large number surviving in the collection, these must have been part of a munitions stock in the Order’s armouries and date to around the time of the Great Siege. Their importance and usefulness in Hospitaller warfare has already been discussed in Chapter two. After 1565, such weapons could also have been employed for target practice and hunting at the Grand Master’s hunting grounds in the Buschetto. Still, many of the knights would have owned their personal bow; indeed, as late as 1674 we find Frà Angeli Marone owning two stone-throwing crossbows, ‘Due balestri di sparare co’ la palla’. In France such bows were known as arc a galle and were of a much lighter construction, with double cord, in the middle of which was a contrivance for holding the ball, known as la fronde, or sling. The stone-bow was used to kill small birds. The collection is also documented to have once held a singular wooden bow and arrow, ‘arco di legno con sua freccia’, possibly a relic of the Great Siege, when wooden bows were still in use, particularly by the Turks. The knight Frà Giacomo Maria Cupelli, who died in 1683, is known to have left behind ‘due archi con cassa per le frezze.’ By the late16th century, however, firearms had become the most important military hardware to be stored in the Order’s armouries. Unfortunately no examples of early 16th century firearms have survived, mainly because of the Order’s practice of disposing of obsolete weapons and replenishing its stores with newer weapons. As already shown earlier in this book, this process was repeated at frequent intervals. The earliest form of firearm to be seen in the collection is a sporting matchlock arquebus of Flemish or French make dating to around 1590 (fig. Z13). Laking


described it as being of German make of ‘c.1590-1600 with primitive match or firelock action; the barrel has a peep sight on the breech which is fashioned in the form of a grotesque warrior, dressed in a costume of about 1580. The stock is gracefully formed, carved in places with grotesque bearded masks, and generally inlaid with scrolls in polished bone’ (fig. Z14). The arquebus (harquebus, hackbut or hagbut) was the earliest term applied to a military firearm. It was a lighter type of firearm than the caliver and musket which followed. By the mid-17th century both the arquebus and musket are used by the Order’s armed forces, particularly the galley squadrons, but the documents show us that the lighter weapons were reserved for the sailors while the ‘soldati dell’ordinario armamento delle galere’ were to be ‘somministrate di moschetti dall’armeria della Sacra religione, ad oggetto che essendo quelli tutti d’un calibro che da ciascun soldato siano pagati scudi 4 per chiascheduno moschetto/ benche costa tari due al mese sin al intiero pago dal salario’. As on land, the soldiers on the galleys had to be equipped with their ‘morione.’29 An entry dated 1658 states that ‘tutti li Religiosi nostri e loro servitori che passaranno l’eta di sedici anni, e parimente li donate e familiari dell’istessa Religione siano armati con moschetti.’30 The plain but efficient-looking matchlock device of the example in the Armoury was activated by a simple lever trigger. The simplicity of the mechanism was what made it most attractive for guns designed for target shooting, long after it had become obsolete as a military weapon, for the absence of any mechanical shock in its operation made it quite accurate, just as in later years when the wheel-lock was preferred to the flintlock. This distinction between hunting and military weapons is frequently stressed in contemporary records. For example, the knight Salvador Sureda, who died in 1610, is recorded as having owned ‘un arcabus de Guerra col sos flasca.’31 A small cache of old musket barrels, probably once forming part of the 4,000 muskets belonging to the Lascaris Foundation seem to date from around this time. A sizeable hoard of powder flasks and horns, dating from the late 16th and early 17th centuries, can be found in the collection. Both flasks and horns have a simple cut-off device fitted to their metal nozzles. The sides of the powder horns are engraved with martial scenes, three examples of which are shown in figs. Y4,Y5,Y6, and Y7, one bearing the inscribed date 1608. The powder flasks, on the other hand, are made of wood and covered with leather, some even having pierced brass or steel plates bearing decorative motifs or the Order’s eight-pointed cross (figs. Y1 & Y2). Accompanying these are a few similarly shaped, yet smaller flasks that were used to carry the priming powder (fig. Y3). Priming powder was ground smaller and smoother than regular gunpowder and generally contained more saltpetre (sodium nitrate) as this made it more volatile –


an important quality since the flame in the pan had to be transmitted as rapidly as possible to the main charge within the barrel. The provenance of these flasks is probably North Italian or South German. Flasks are frequently mentioned in the spogli. A typical entry is that of Frà Giovanni Barascone, ‘una scopetta di Caccia con sua boggiacca et osso di polvere.’ Frà Angeli Marone, who died in 1674, owned ‘sei fiaschi di ramo grandi e piccoli’ and ‘un paro di fiaschi di soldato.’ Cartridges containing gunpowder and shot wrapped in paper were carried in special cartridge pouches and eventually replaced the archaic system of powder flasks by the late 17th century. The Order’s militia are known to have carried their complement of cartridges in canvas bags but the regular troops usually carried theirs in leather pouches. The Armoury still retains two wooden cartridge holders, originally covered in leather, and designed to hold nine rounds each. The only other matchlock to be found in the collection is a rampart gun, or spingarda, with a Turkish barrel having a bulbous muzzle ‘a tulipano’ (fig. Z12). This is also frequently referred to as ‘muschettone da posta’ or ‘arquebus a croc’. A similar example but with a wheel-lock mechanism, can be seen at the armoury of the Museo Civico Medievale di Bologna. In terms of Turkish firearms, the collection contains three Anatolian tufenk muskets, fitted with miquelet locks, although these were originally all matchlocks, moschetti a serpe, of the 16th century that were later converted. These tufenks have octagonal or circular barrels forged from Damascus steel, all of which are heavily inlaid with gold arabesque motifs on the muzzle and breech (fig. Z8). Their wooden stocks are heavily decorated with brass rondels and white and green stained bone pieces. The miquelet locks used by the Turks, called Tchomak, were similar to Spanish ‘alla catalana’ miquelets (figs. Z4,Z5,Z6, & Z7). There is very little mention of Turkish firearms inside the Armoury in the 18th century. Probably, this is because the larger part were simply listed under the term ‘fucili di spoglio’ for Turkish muskets are mentioned in the French inventory of 1799. Moreover, their presence in the Armoury is revealed by an entry dated 1796, wherein a ‘fucile turco guarnito in argento e avorio’ was submitted to the armourers’ workshop for restoration. Frequently, Turkish firearms are found listed amongst the private possessions of individual knights when their properties were inventoried upon their demise. Frà Lorenzo de Vecchij, who died in 1677, is recorded as having owned ‘un moschetto, et una scimittara turchesca’; 32 Frà Marc Antoine de Voyer Paulmy, who died in Malta in 1700, owned ‘un grand fusil et un mousquet à la turque.’33 The earliest entry for Turkish firearms in the Order’s records dates back to 1564 when a Hospitaller knight was despatched to Rome to present the Pope, various cardinals and ‘altre persone della corte Romana’ with gifts of valuable items, including ‘moschetti turcheschi segnati’ with the cross of the Order.


As for Turkish pistols there remain only two examples, both heavily decorated flintlocks from around the early 18th century. The pistols themselves, particularly the barrels and locks are of western European manufacture, but the wooden stocks and their ornamentation are of probably Balkan production. Many Turkish firearms, especially in the 18th century, were imported from Europe as the Turks never managed to establish their own armament production centres on the large industrial scale that was necessary to equip their vast armies. These weapons, known as Levantines, were produced specifically for the North African and Ottoman markets where they were then decorated in ethnic and Arabesque fashion. One typical specimen (figs. X19, X20, & X21) is a fine quality flintlock holster pistol with octagonal breech-to circular-barrel. Fully stocked in walnut, the rear of the lock and pistol grip around the barrel tang are superbly inlaid with fine silver filigree wire and a decorative silver escutcheon studded with two small coral stones. The pistol has a chiselled and engraved long-eared brass butt cap and a chiselled and pierced brass band over the muzzle. A pistol of this kind, all beautifully encased in gold and studded with jewels, formerly belonged to the master of the Corona Ottomana, which was captured by the Christian slaves on board. It was presented to Grand Master Pinto by the liberated crew after they sailed the vessel to Malta in October 1760. The 16th and 17th century European firearms in the collection can be subdivided into three categories depending on the type of firing mechanism. The most intriguing are undoubtedly the wheel-locks, of which the collection has three examples, an arquebus and two sporting muskets. The wheel-lock replaced the burning match of the matchlock, which was useless under wet conditions, with a mechanical spark-generating device, wherein a steel was made to rotate against a piece of pyrite, the friction between the two causing incandescent sparks to ignite the powder. The finest specimen in the collection is undoubtedly a German sporting wheel-lock arquebus of c.1615 (fig. Z3). The Germans were leaders in the production of wheel-locks with the centres of Augsburg and Nuremberg being the foremost producers. This example has a cheekstock of ‘dark wood carved to represent rough stag’s horn, in places inlaid with polished bone, engraved with a lion combating a monster’. The barrel is octagonal and applied to the lock is ‘a tracery a jour representing strapwork, the Goddess Diana and over the wheel an ornamented case of brass.’ The two other wheel-locks are also sporting muskets but date to around 1650 (fig. Z2). In the late 1700s, a ‘schioppo all’antica con fucile a ruota’ is recorded in one of the Order’s buildings at Viterbo, Italy.34 There are no wheel-lock pistols to be found in the Armoury, particularly of the type which would have been used by the cuirassiers, so abundantly represented in the Armoury with their harnesses. Owing to its complex


and expensive mechanism, the wheel-lock never really proved quite popular in military circles, its use being limited to a few cavalry units and ceremonial bodyguards. Still, the ‘pistoli a ruota’ are frequently mentioned in the Order’s records. In one document dated 1603, they are referred to as ‘instrumenti diabolici’, and many were apparently being kept by knights in spite of the severe prohibitions decreeing that any such ‘pistoletti, e pistole ... minori, et più curti di duo palmi e mezza di canna, e simili archibusi’ were not to be carried around or at kept home but consigned immediately to the commander of artillery, except of course for those who had a licence to do so (in writing) from the Grand Master.35 Simpler and cheaper mechanisms than the wheel-lock were already being produced in the early decades of the 17th century. These were the flintlocks which worked by having a piece of flint, held between two adjustable jaws of an arm (known as cock), strike a metal plate (the frizzen) and produce sparks to ignite powder in a pan. Flintlocks come in three major varieties - the miquelet, the snaphance, and the French flintlock. The snaphance lock (also spelt snaphaunce) was characterized by the shape and position of the steel, which was separate from the pan cover and had, in the earlier models, to be opened manually by the firer. This was the principal feature which distinguished it from the flintlock though both types were produced concurrently. The snaphance was the first of those firing mechanisms which acquired regional attributes and features so that one can find Italian and English versions. Snaphance firearms are represented in the Armoury by three examples. Referred to in contemporary sources as ‘alla fiorentina’, the finest of these is a holster pistol of around 1661, of North Italian make, with an elaborately designed hammer and steel, of flat, pierced, and engraved steel with scroll which Laking attributed to North German production of around 1700 (fig. X13). A similar, but unmounted, snaphance lock now displayed inside the ‘pistols’ showcase was also noted by Laking and mentioned in his catalogue (Laking 238). The Spanish miquelet was an early form of true flintlock, deferring in operation from the latter mainly due to the presence of a horizontallyacting sear which bore directly onto the cock through the lockplate. In appearance, the miquelet was characterized by the shape of the cock, a large ring-head jaw screw, and a large external main spring. As in the flintlock, the pan cover and anvil were combined into the frizzen or batteria (fig. X10). As most of the mechanism was on the outside, little wood was removed from the stock to accommodate the lock, making the weapon more rugged. The Palace collection boasts a number of firearms with Spanish miquelet locks. A few are sporting muskets and carbines with Catalan stocks


Illustration taken from Laking’s ‘Catalogue ...’ showing the wheel-lock and matchlock arquebuses, a pair of French holster flintlock pistolets, two powder flasks, and a snaphance lock.

stained dark (fig. Z9) distinguished by the straight comb and the pronounced downward curling toe of the butt. There is one example mounted on a South Italian type of stock and another mounted on a French-style stock and bearing the name GIOVAN BERETTA. The spoglio of the Italian knight Frà Chigi Monrari lists a ‘schioppo con canna da piedi mezza lavorata a fioretti con gran d’oro; e mercio di Spagnia con mire d’argento con cassa alla Catalana guarnito d’ottone con saccoccia di fustagno verde.’36 The Italian type of miquelet was similarly laid out but the lockplate was usually more in the French style. These were then frequently referred to as alla Romana and many such entries can be found in the spogli of Italian knights. Frà Chigi Monrari, for example, owned three such firearms (‘Schioppo con canna senza merco incassato d’acero guarnito d’ottone con focile alla Romana con saccoccia di fustagno verde; Altro Schioppo con canna mercata con lettere P. Zamborelli con cassa d’acero guarnito d’ottone con focile alla Romana, e saccoccia di fustagno verde; Altro schioppo con canna senza merco con cassa d’acero guarnito d’ottone con fucile alla Romana e saccoccia verde’). A surviving example in the collection is a Neapolitan sporting musket fitted with a Madrid-style stock (fig. Z18). The flintlock, particularly the French style, became the most common and reliable type of firing mechanism throughout the 18th century in the larger part of Europe. Early 17th century French flintlocks had their mechanism mounted on the inner side of the lockplate and consisted externally of a distinctive S-shaped cock (cane), pan (scodellino), frizzen (batteria) and spring (molla di scatto). An example of the earlier type of French flintlock can be seen on a pair of fine holster pistols produced in Paris around 1670 (figs. X1 & X2/Laking 98) by ‘Mathieu Des Forests’. The name of the maker, repeated on the lockplate, and the word ‘PARIS’ are inlaid on the barrel (fig. X4). Both barrels are russeted, flattened at the breech and inlaid with scrollwork and arabesques in gold. Their most notable feature are the stocks of walnut carved at the pommel with the heads of an eagle and a lion respectively (fig. X2). One finds a rich variety of flintlock pistols in the Armoury. There are both holster pistols for the cavalry and ‘pistolets de la marine’ or ‘cours egalements montes en cuivre’, for use on board the Order’s galleys and men-of-war. The boarding pistols and cavalry pistols (pistolets d’arcon) by Girard and Compagnie are perhaps the best documented firearms in the collection. Their historical significance has already been dealt with earlier in this book and need not be repeated here. Of the 700 pairs of ‘cours’ and ‘pistolets d’arcon’ ordered in 1761, however, there are only a couple of boarding pistols left today. On can see a few long pistols, of French make, marked on the lockplate with the name of the maker FAF Champ (figs. X8 & X11) and a boarding pistol marked PIER FABRI


(figs. X9 & X12). A singular specimen has a metal box with folding lid covering the flintlock mechanism, an unwieldy contraption designed to render the weapon waterproof. Unlike the pistols, there are hardly any complete muskets in the collection which formed part of the military arsenal. All the muskets in the collection are hunting pieces, largely ornamented to one degree or another, that seem to have actually belonged to the Grand Master’s private collection. Military muskets, on the other hand, were seldom ornamented, the majority of these having had little more than an engraved line running along the edge of a lockplate. The sole exception were officers’ muskets, which had some decoration on the lockplates and possibly brass furniture, such as the two muskets bearing the mark of Girard et Compagnie. Of the 20,000 military muskets which were ordered from Girard et Compagnie in 1761, however, none remain to be seen. From 1761 onwards the weapons from St. Etienne en Forest became the primary firearms stored within the Armoury, replacing most of the older weapons which were either removed to the secondary armouries and the armeria di rispetto at the Falconeria, or else were discarded. A few remnants of the Order’s earlier military firearms, however, can be found in a small number of apparent carbines that originally were fulllength muskets before their barrels and stocks were sawn off. Presumably these muskets were shortened not to serve for cavalry use but to enable better service on board the Order’s galleys and men-ofwar, where their shortened length would have allowed for better handling (fig. X18). One such example, now at the Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa, has the words GALERE DE FRANCE inscribed on its barrel, showing that it was specifically intended to be carried aboard a naval vessel. These weapons were apparently the ones described in the Order’s records as ‘fucili buccanieri’ and ‘mezzi fucili’. The crude iron furniture and flintlock mechanism on one of these shortened fucili (figs. X24 & Z16) A fucile buccaniere with the words hint at a French musket that predates the Fusil d’Infanterie Modele 1717. GALERE DE FRANCE inscribed on However, given the many documented instances where the Order’s its barrel (Courtesy of the Maritime firearms were assembled locally by the resident armourers with parts Museum, Vittoriosa). procured from abroad, or taken from other weapons, the combination of locks, barrels, and stocks on many of these evidently re-engineered firearms, makes it difficult to date them with certainty.


True carbines can also be found in the collection. These are all fitted with miquelet locks, some of which have Catalan butts. One interesting example has a folding stock (fig. X25). All are richly decorated. Carbines are frequently encountered in the spoglii of Hospitaller knights. Some, like Frà Josephi Buaniatij, owned as many as ‘Quattro carabbine diverse.’ An important category of weapons in the Armoury were the tromboni, or soffioni (sometimes also referred to in documents as ‘scupacoperte’), the blunderbusses. These were frequently employed on board the galleys and men-of-war, generally to repel boarders and were particularly favoured by the local corsairs. Many were regularly hired out from the Armoury to enterprising privateers operating under the Order’s flag. Today, only one such example can be found in the collection but this seems to be a fowling piece. There is also a Spanish carbine with a widened muzzle that can be described as a soffione. Blunderbusses, too, are frequently encountered in the inventories drawn up on the demise of Hospitaller knights. Frà Angeli Marone, for instance, who died in 1674, is said to have had in his possession a ‘soffione co’il grillo alla Francesa’ while Frà Lorenzo de Vecchij, who died in 1677, is recorded as owning ‘due soffioni di bocca larga.’ Below is a list of the various makers’ names and marks found on the lock plates, and barrels of the firearms in the collection: F. MARSILI JEAN LEONARD (figs. Z23-Z24) A Paris (figs. Z29-Z30) Tivets Laborde A Paris (figs. Z31-Z32) GOVET PIER FABRI (figs. X12) FAF CHAMP CHALLTER A PERIGEUX LAZARINO COMINAZZO (barrel) (fig. X17) Mathieu Des Forests Paris (fig. X4) P GIRARD & COMPAGNIE (figs. Z25-Z26) GIOVAN BERRETTA (barrel) (fig. Z43) M I (figs. Z15-Z16) HARDWELL (figs. Z21-Z22) R (figs. Z19-Z20) P DEVVN (figs. Z27-Z28) A Zedant (figs. Z33-Z34) PG (fig. Z36) PMB (fig. Z41) DOMENICO BONOMINO (barrel) PIACENZA ( RIZZI on barrel) ORLANDO (miquelet)


Undoubtedly the most renowned of these names is that of Lazarino Caminazzo (fig. X17). The Caminazzo were a famous Italian family of barrel-makers from Val Trompia, north of Brescia. Fortunato Lazzarino (b.1634), who signed his work as ‘Lazarino’, was responsible for the larger part of the barrels which nowadays can be found bearing the Cominazzo trademark, although there are also many examples which were produced elsewhere and falsely inscribed with his name. Fortunato was killed in 1696 whilst involved in an insurrection against the Venetian authorities. The Giovan Beretta barrel too is of some importance. The Beretta name, associated with the production of firearms at least since the early 16th century when Bartolomeo Beretta is recorded to have received 296 ducats for the production and delivery of 185 arquebus barrels to the central armoury of Brescia, has now become one of the world’s leading arms manufacturers. Mentioned in the French inventory of 1799 is a double-barrelled musket, with vertically mounted barrels and side-by-side flintlock firing mechanism (fig. Z40), possibly the same ‘fusil a deux coups’ mentioned in the spoglio of the French knight Frà Jean Estienne de Ricard who died in Malta in 1716, for undoubtedly the weapon would have found its way into the Armoury. Displayed among the trophies-of-arms or hugging window surrounds inside the Armoury and Palace corridors are a number of early 18th century bayonets. These are mainly of two types. The most common constitutes an early form of ‘split’ socket bayonet, crude forerunner of the true socket bayonet. These bayonets have unreinforced tubes, cut from end to end, which could be adjusted to fit over musket barrels of different sizes, thereby attesting, in their own way, to the wide variety of musket types and calibres found in the Order’s armouries during this period as already discussed earlier in the book. These bayonets have double-edged knife-like blades shaped from the same steel plate which was bent round to fashion the socket. The upper edge of the blade was bent into a langet to secure the weapon inside the scabbard. Most of these had a two stage mortise, cut to fit over a musket foresight. The bayonets bear no marks, although one example has a crudely scratched ‘466’ on the langet, and seems to date to the early 1700s. The other group of bayonets have broad flat blades with a single cutting edge welded to the outside of complete socket tubes. These are each cut with an L-shaped mortise for a foresight. Again, these primitive bayonets are unmarked. Both types are early forms of bayonets dating to around 1700 and are probably of French make, thus predating the Fusil d’Infanterie Modele 1717 which was the first ‘official’ design in French service. In 1714 French military experts had recommended that the knights import over 50,000 ‘bayonnets à doville’ (socket bayonets) but it seems that truly large consignments only began to arrive after 1761, and these are known to have been ‘bayonets triangulaire’.


Graham Priest, who has studied the Armoury bayonnets in detail, believes the second type mentioned above could be of local Maltese construction.37 He identified thirteen true French socket bayonets which match a drawing produced in France in 1703. The ‘split socket’ bayonets, on the other hand could have originated through the commission made by the Order for weapons from San Sebastian in the late 1670s. This town lies close to Bayonne where orginal bayonet designs were rumoured to have been devised. Priest believes that the style of the design resembles later Spanish (and Italian) hunting bayonets. Records of bayonets belonging to individual knights in the late 1680s can be found in the spogli of Frà Don Joacchin de Bustamante (‘una baionetta’) and Frà Maximilien de Talezat Montgon, (‘un fuzil et sa bayonette’) who died during the siege of Negroponte.

Cannon Perhaps of all the military hardware to be found in the Palace collection, the ones that can be safely attributed to Maltese production are the cannon. The Order’s foundry in Valletta, the Ferreria, was undeniably an important production centre for cannon of various calibre destined for the Order’s galleys and ramparts. The majority of the cannon on display in the Armoury are, however, small pieces used either for saluting or instructional purposes in the Order’s school of artillery, then situated in Melita Street. That it was then the practice to have a cabinet with models of cannon inside an armoury is best illustrated in an early 18th century print of the royal armoury at the Bastille in Paris (see page 101). Among the collection of small cannon one finds three brass pieces on their original iron-shod carriages, moulded at the breech with the arms of the Order and those of Grand Master Manuel Pinto de Fonseca. On one of these, in a small shield above the trunnions, is engraved the inscription ‘FR. EMMANUEL PINTO, SACR. ORD. HIEROSOL. SUPR. MAGISTRO PRINCIP. SUI. ANNO XXIV’, showing that this gun was founded in 1765, the twenty fourth year of Pinto’s reign. The second, moulded at the first reinforce with the arms of the Order and those of Grand Master Pinto has two other scrolled shields decorating the chase and the second reinforce above the trunnions, and the inscription ‘GIACHINO TRIGANCI F. 1765’ on the cascable. The ‘giovane Giocchino Trigance’ was not only a capable gun founder but also well versed ‘nell’architettura militare, nella costruzione della polvere’ and ‘nella raffinazione de nitri’, qualities which earned him a secure position in the service of the Order in 1771 on the recommendation of the commissioner of fortifications, Balì de Tigné. The Trigance family was an important name in Maltese gun-founding. Their name can be found inscribed on a number of late 17th-century brass cannon.


A pair of larger cannon are founded at the breech with the arms of the Order and those of the Grand Master Cotoner. On one is engraved the inscription ‘Comre. Del Artillerie Relhanette’ and the number ‘362’. The other bears the inscription ‘IL COM. DELL’ ARTIG. F. MICH. DE VERDELIN, 1670’. Both are mounted on their original iron-shod carriages. Of slightly later date are two small brass cannon decorated with the arms of Grand Master Perellos. One of these has a lizard in low relief on the muzzle (fig. V6). The second is founded with classic friezes and figures of dolphins in full relief above the trunnions. Both are mounted on their wooden iron-shod carriages. An interesting example is a cannon comprising a small iron barrel cased with wood which Laking dated to 1820. Until the outbreak of the War in 1939, the Palace Armoury also had a pair of short brass cannon on wooden carriages of about 1630, of Turkish provenance, moulded at the breech with floral ornamentation and having an inscription in Cufic at the muzzle (Laking 220,221). These two cannon, however, seem to have disappeared after the collection was removed to the Palace basement for safety during the war, for they were reported missing in 1949, together with a sword, when the collection was reassembled. Scattered around the Armoury are a number of small mortalletti mounted on stout wooden bases. The larger part of these are common iron mortars while three examples are more finely executed. One of these is made of brass and bears the arms of Grand Master Pinto. It is inscribed with the title ‘IL VIGOROSO’ in a scroll beneath the muzzle mouldings and the name ‘FRANCISCVS TRIGANCE’ above the touch hole on the bulbous breech (fig. V14). Another brass mortar, without rear trunnions, is founded with the arms of Grand Master Carafa set in a large escutcheon above which is a singular dolphin (fig. V18). On the stand is modelled the name ‘MIRI. MIVILLA F.’ and the date 1698. The finest example of the three is fitted on an iron-shod wooden wheelless carriage and is made of brass bearing a scroll-shaped escutcheon surmounted by an open crown. The coat of arms, however, have been rubbed off and are now illegible (figs. V15,V16, & V17). Laking mistakenly described it as moulded with arms of Grand Master Jean de Valette. The oldest piece of ordnance on display is undoubtedly the breech-piece of a 16th century built-up wrought-iron cannon known as a port-piece (see p.50). This was long thought to have been a medieval bombard and is still displayed as such, mounted on a reproduction wooden carriage described as ‘Pezza Cavalca’ (based on a design taken from an old work entitled ‘Pratica Manuale dell’Artiglieria’ published in Milan in the year 1606). The port-piece gun was used on ships and was designed to fire stone shot. Several examples, some complete with their carriage, have been recovered from the wreck of King Henry VIII’s warship, the Mary


Rose. The breech-piece has a calibre of 6.5 inches and is built up from five longitudinal staves of iron, each approximately 8 cm wide, upon which was shrunk a breech and muzzle-ring. The latter was pierced with a hole into which was inserted a loose handling ring, and three other strengthening rings, the last of the three similarly pierced to receive a ring, now broken. Beneath this first ring is a strengthening band.38 Dating from the early half of the 17th century are the long steel barrels of six ‘spingardi’ or ‘moschettoni da posta’, rampart guns, which Laking called culverins. These guns, of both circular and octagonal section, are all breech loaders, fitted with square breech-loading action (fig. Z1). The barrels are around 2.5m long, except for one example which was damaged and shortened when put back together. The spingardi were, to all intents and purposes, little more than heavy, long range muskets, but were generally listed with the artillery. In 1658, two of these were placed in each of the coastal watchtowers, particularly the Lascaris towers, which were not designed to take the heavier artillery pieces. The leather gun in the Armoury is a unique exhibit in its own right, being one of the earliest documented weapons kept solely for display purposes inside the Palace at the time of the magistracy of Ramon Despuig in 1737. It was long thought to have been either imported from a northern country, produced at the end of the 18th century or even brought over from Rhodes. It was actually constructed by a local gunsmith as revealed in a petition to the Grand Master by Margerita Ellul (see p.104). Leather guns are said to have originated in 1622 in Switzerland, and subsequently introduced into Sweden where they were extensively used by Gustavus Adolphus. They were designed to be light field pieces capable of being moved around the battlefield with ease as the tactical situation required. The gun in the Armoury has a copper core cased in wood and bound with layers of tarred rope. It is fashioned in the form of a late 17th century cannon and rests on an original wooden field carriage with wheels ‘a raja’. Another interesting piece of ordnance is a sizeable brass cannon standing vertically on its flat cascable. It bears two escutcheons with the arms of the Order and Grand Master Carafa. This appears to have been a signalling piece designed to sound the alarm. It bears the date 1683 inscribed above the touch hole. A similar ‘vertical cannon’ which had no ‘cavette’ and whose ‘mouth pointed skyward’ is reported to have stood ‘in the middle of the city’ of Valletta around 1663. This was the so-called ‘alarm cannon’ which was ‘fired at night if a Turkish ship’ was seen approaching Malta. Its cannon shot was said to ‘be heard in all parts of the island.’39 In her description of the Palace, Lady Simmons mentioned that this gun was originally kept at Saqqajja (near Rabat) and was used during the Mnarja festivities to mark the start of the horse and donkey races.


The centre-piece of the artillery exhibits today is an 18th century bronze gun bearing the royal coat of arms of Charles Bourbon, King of the Two Sicilies. This gun has no direct connection to the Hospitaller armoury and was only introduced into the museum after it was lifted from the sea at Marsaxlokk Bay by divers from the Royal Navy Diving Centre H.M.S. Phoenicia in 1963. It may have been one of those weapons which were sent from Sicily to arm the Maltese insurgents in their struggle against the French but was somehow dropped into the sea whilst it was being transferred to shore. The cannon is an 18-pdr gun, measuring around 3.3m in length with a bore of 5.25 inches. Inscribed on the chase of the barrel are two scroll inscriptions, the one nearer the muzzle bearing the words ‘EL PRONTO’ (the ready one) and the other ‘SERVATVR IMPERVM’. Another inscription beneath the coat of arms reads ‘CAROL. DEI GRAT. VTR. SIC. REX HISP. INF.’ Inscribed on the base ring is the name of the maker, ‘ME FECIT FRANS CASTRONOVO R.F. PANORMI 1740’. Its carriage is a modern reproduction based on the British sea-service pattern. Back in 1798 the centre-piece of the artillery exhibits in the Armoury was a cannon of greater artistic significance and of a most unusual nature, a piece popularly known as the Ximenez cannon and considered by many as one of the finest late Baroque examples of its kind. Traditionally, it is said to have been presented to the Order of St John by Louis XIV of France, the Roi Soleil (1638-1715), together with a life-size portrait of himself which now hangs in the Palace staterooms.40 Modern historians believe that this popular notion holds little truth, for Louis XIV had already been dead for some 58 years by the time that this gun was cast in 1773. Most of the evidence for this statement comes from inscriptions and the coat of arms on the gun itself. Two personalities are known to have been associated with this gun, namely Frà Luc de Boyer d’Argens d’Eguilles, commander of artillery, and Grand Master Ximenes de Texada. D’Argens’ connection is commemorated on the first chase of the cannon. From the inscriptions carried on the gun itself it can be safely deduced that this was cast in 1773 by the famous Alberghetti gun founders of Venice for d’Argens during his fourth term of duty as commander of artillery. Another inscription on the base ring of the piece, however, tells us that it was made by ‘Orazio Antonio Alberghetti public founder in Venice 1684.’ One possible explanation for this rather confusing statement, short of any documentation, as suggested by Mario Farrugia, may be that another gun from 1684 was actually used as a model to cast the Ximenes cannon, and on which Philip Lattarellus simply added further ornamentation. Whatever its origin, it was already on display inside the Armoury by 1785 as attested by the entry ‘canonetto di bronzo scolpito’ in St. Felix’s inventory, which places it in the ‘prima piazza in faccia ai gabiani della piccola porta’. Unfortunately the cannon was removed from the Armoury by the French and placed aboard the French frigate ‘Le Sensible’ destined for France but was intercepted and captured by


Captain E.J. Foote of HMS Seahorse. In the event, the prize, which also included eight regimental flags of the Order, one of which, a ‘Standardo’ of the Reggimento di Malta still survives in the Royal Armouries collection (XVI.9), was sent to England and now can be seen at Fort Nelson in Portsmouth. The Armoury contains a number of stone and iron cannon shot. The most impressive of these are six huge cannon balls of stone for use with heavy siege artillery of the type not found in the arsenal of the Hospitaller knights. Most probably these were part of the siege ammunition left behind by the Turks in Malta after the siege of 1565, the largest of which would have been fired from a basilisk. Musical instruments By the 18th century, an important component of the Order’s armed forces were the military bands. Very few descriptions of these units and their equipment have survived. One entry, however, mentions that the ‘band’ of the ‘battaglione delle galere’ consisted of two ‘trombe di caccia’, two ‘clarinetti’ and two ‘obue’. There was then also a ‘tamburo’ (drummer) for the detachment of grenadiers and another for the ‘fucilieri’. Such equipment appears to have been stored in the respective armouries. Indeed, a singular element in the collection is a long brass trumpet of the type used on the Order’s galleys for signalling purposes. Traditionally, this trumpet was said to have sounded the knights’ retreat from Rhodes in 1522 - an interpretation that was laid to rest by Laking in 1903 when he revealed that the inscription DANIEL KODISCH IN NURNBERG MACHT featured in scrollwork on the trumpet actually referred to the name of a well-known 17th century trumpet marker from Nuremburg and dated to 1670. The Order’s records frequently mention the acquisition of the trumpets, trombette, for use aboard the galleys. We read how in 1679 the members of the Council ordered that the two ‘trombette nuovamente accordati per servisio della squadra, si dia uno al v. Generale per la Capitana, lasciando uno che oggi tiene, e li che restarano si distribuirono nelle due galere piu ansiani, elli capitani delle sudetti galaere si darano la solita posta.’ Reference to the purchase of other trumpets, this time of yellow copper, can likewise be found in the Libro delle Commissioni. In February 1771, for example, the ‘Nobile Pignatelli’ in Naples was commissioned to purchase ‘dodice Trompetti di rame giallo per servizio delle nostre squadre.’41 One also finds, in the spoglio of a Spanish knight, an entry listing ‘tre trombette coperte con tela gialla.’42 The other martial musical instruments with a long connection to the Armoury are the drums. The Armoury contains various examples but it


is not clear if these are original items or else simply 19th century props. The Order’s records frequently mention ‘cassi di tamburi’, many of which were to be found in a sad state of repair. The following entry confirms that ‘Nell’armeria di questa loro Sacra Religione si trovano numero de casci de tamburi tutti sfatti, che quali non se ne puol’servire in nessuna occasione.’ Such was their poor condition that in 1680, one enterprising individual petitioned the Order to be allowed to repair the broken ‘casse di tamburi che si trovava nell’ Armeria.’ Towards the end of the 18th century, there seems to have been a shortage of drum skins, for the Colonel in charge of the militia regiments was compelled to suggest to the Grand Master that the drums were to be used as little as possible ‘per non fattigare inutili li tamburi’ given that the sounding of the ‘radunata, [...] benché sarebbe una cosa decente batterla, non è pero necessario’.



Selective Record of the Collection of Arms & Armour


A1 A2

A3 A4



A5 - The Pompeo della Cesa corsaletto da piede (Laking 91/ Milanese c.1590). A1 - Brocchiere accompanying the Pompeo della Cesa harness (Laking 140). A2 - Detail of left lower cannon of the Pompeo della Cesa harness. A3 - Spanish morion of the Pompeo della Cesa harness. A4 - Detail of leonine pauldron (left) of the Pompeo della Cesa harness.


B1 B4

B2 B3 - The ‘Verdelain’ armour (Italian - c.1590/ Laking 139) is a full harness (cap-à-pie) complete with leg defences. B2 - Detail of backplate and pauldrons of the ‘Verdelain’ armour. Note the cartouche-like plume-holder below the comb on the rear part of the helmet. B1 - Detail of decoration on pauldron of the ‘Verdelain’ armour. B4 - Falling-buff belonging to the ‘Verdelain’ armour which would have been worn with a burgonet, now missing.




C1 -Full suit of armour believed to have been worn by Grand Master Martin Garzes (German c.1560).


C2 C2 - Detail of Wignacourt harness (Milanese 1601). C3 - Detail of shaffron accompanying Wignacourt harness (Milanese 1601).



D1 D2




D5 D6

D4 - Pettoforte & backplate of Grand Master Wignacourt’s siege armour ( c.1601-1620). D5 - Backplate of Wignacourt’s siege armour. Note the proof-mark. D6 - Detail of escutcheon bearing coat of arms of Grand Master Wignacourt. D1 - Chapel-de-fer (Grand Master Wignacourt’s siege armour). D2 - Brocchiere (Grand Master Wignacourt’s siege armour). D3 - Front of gorget (Grand Master Wignacourt’s siege armour).



F1 - Cuirassier harness (possibly French c. 1630 Laking 186). Helmet does not match.



G2 G3 - Cuirassier harness (possibly French c. 1625 - Laking 186). G1 - Detail of backplate and garde-de-rein. G2 - Detail of laminar garde-de-rein.




H1 - Shaffron(Chanfron), head armour for horse, with an attached, hinged crinière (neckplate), etched with bands of trophies and studded with brass-headed rivets. (Italian c.1590 - Laking 375) . H2 - Sabaton, one of a pair (Italian c.1520).




I1 - Remains of a brigandine composed of small iron plates covered with linen and crimson velvet attached by brass hemispherically-headed rivets. (Italian early 1500s - Laking 233). I2 - Mail vest. I3 - Detail of steel scale plates of a garde-de-rein (Italian c.1600). I4 - Detail of steel rings of mail vest.

I1 I3

I4 I2


J3 J4

J1 J2

J1 - Portrait of FrĂ Gabriele Cassar dated 1633 showing gorget plate worn alone over buff-coat. J2 - Hinged gorget plate containing traces of leather lining. (Italian c.1570). J3 - Gorget plate crudely converted from a fine Italian breastplate of the late 15th century. Across its top, but now almost polished away, is a broad band of engraving with a composition of saints in the manner of the earlier Florentine engravers. (Italian - Laking 146). J4 - Hinged gorget plate studded with brass rivets (Italian c.1625).


K1 K2

K3 K4


K5 K6

K7 K8


K9 K10

K1 & K2 - Breastplate and backplate of flattened bombĂŠ form, corsaletto da piede (Italian c.1540). K3 - Breastplate, petto da piede (Italian c. 1560). K4 - Breastplate, petto da piede (Italian c. 1550). K5 - Breastplate, petto da piede (Italian c. 1555). K6 - Breastplate, petto da cavallo with holes from lance-rest attachment (Milanese c.1555). K7 - Peascod breastplate, petto da piede (Italian c. 1565-1570). K8 - Peascod breastplate, petto da piede, engraved in the centre with a small oval shield, supported by pages in the costume of about 1580 (Italian, possibly Brescian c. 1580 - Laking 350). K9 - Peascod breastplate, petto da piede (Italian c. 1590). K10 - Plain peascod breastplate, petto da piede (Italian c. 1590-1600).


K11 K12 K13

K11 - Corsaletto da piede (Italian c. 1590). K12 - Detail of trophy from etched decoration of corsaletto da piede K13. K13 - Corsaletto da piede (Italian c. 1590). K14 - Backplate, schiena (Italian c. 1560-1570/ Laking 294). K15 - Backplate, schiena. The collection also contains the corresponding breastplate and pauldron (Italian c. 1560-1570 / Laking 189-191). K16 - K17 - Laminar breastplate of anime type, petto di animetta (c. 1600). K15a - Detail of laminar backplate of anime type, schiena di animetta (c. 1600).


K14 K15 K15a

K16 K17


K19 K20 K18

K18 - Detail of etched decoration on backplate K14 showing an effigy of a crucified Christ set in a mandorla surrounded by the words CERTABO ET NON TIMEBO – IN NOMINE TUO SEMPER (Italian c. 1560-1570/ Laking 294). K19 - Detail of etched decoration showing the figure of Mars. K20 - Detail of etched decoration on backplate K15 showing a group of cupids supporting the cognizance (clasped hands) which Laking believed to represent the Manfredi family of Faenza (Laking 191).



K21 - Breastplate, petto da piede, part of a cuirass for foot combat of Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette (Figure K21). Both breastplate and backplate are decorated with three bands of etched decoration composed of vertically aligned grotesque animals, humanoid figures, and symmetrical foliage, the central band of which contains a panel with St John the Baptist holding a lamb and the inscription ECCE AGNUS DEI and the heraldic arms of Jean de Valette. The breastplate has a median ridge and is articulated at the waist with a single upward overlapping lame. The backplate is similarly articulated at the collar and waist. This armour dates from 1558-1568 (Italian c. 1560/ Laking 116/117).


K22 K23 K22 - Heavy reinforcing plate, or plackart, of peascod form designed to be attached to the front of a breastplate (c.1610). K23 - Reinforcing plate, or plackart, designed to be attached to breastplate (c.1630).


K25 K24 / K24a

K24/K24a - Heavy breastplate, pettoforte, deeply engraved, or chiselled, with a crucifix shown as though suspended from the neck by a chain. This breastplate, decorated with brass rivets, was designed to accept a reinforcing plate or heavy plackart which was secured to it by a combination of keyhole slots and mushroom-headed studs, and swivel hooks. The breastplate, damaged along the lower end of the median ridge, may have been repaired locally (Italian c.1630-40 / Laking 143). K25 - Detail of crucifix on breastplate K24.



K26 K27 K28

K27 - Breastplate, petto da piede, with articulated lames at the base, deeply engraved with an eight-pointed cross on the left side, shown as though suspended from the neck by a chain. (c.1660). K26 - Detail of eight-pointed cross on breastplate K27. K28 - Breastplate, petto da piede, engraved with an eight-pointed cross on the left side (c.1600). K29 - Detail of embossed heart crudely inscribed with a cross and the letters IN MF SS, placed as though hanging from the neck by a strap on breastplate K30. K30 - Heavy bulletproof breastplate, pettoforte, indented with musket ball punch-marks, bearing an embossed heart placed as though hanging from the neck by a strap (c.1650). K31 - Pettoforte, possibly for a pikeman; has attachments for securing tassets (c.1630). K32 - Heavy bulletproof breastplate, pettoforte, with proof-mark. (c.1590). K33 - Heavy bulletproof breastplate, pettoforte, indented with musket ball punch-marks, (c.1660).


K30 K31

K32 K33


L4 L5

L1 L2 L3

L1 - Left tasset, scarsella (Italian c.1580). L2 - Left tasset, scarsella (Italian c.1570). L3 - Left couter, cubitiera alla tedesca (Italian c.1560). L4 - Detail of strapwork, medallions, and roped border of tasset (Italian c.1580). L5 - Couter, elbow guard, from a possibly Flemish (or Italian?) harness (c.1520). L6 - Detail of leaf-work on face of pauldron (Italian c.1580). L7 - Left pauldron, spallacio da piede (Italian c.1570). L8 - Arm defence (Italian c.1580). L9 - Left pauldron of cuirassier armour, spallacio (c.1600). L10 - Left pauldron with attached upper cannon and couter (c.1590). L11 - Left pauldron of cuirassier armour, spallacio da cavallo (c.1630).


L7 L6

L8 L10 L9 L11


M3 M1

M1 - Cuirassier harness, one of an extensive series preserved in the collection and consisting of breastplate with folding-lance rest, backplate, full arms with asymmetrical pauldrons (shoulder pieces) and gauntlets, long tassets of many plates detachable at the base from the poleyns, to which they are fastened by turning staples, gorget, and closed helmet with falling buff, the ocularium protected by a ridged visor, known as an ambril. It is free from decoration, save for rope-pattern borders. The rivets have been soldered upon brass washers. (Italian c. 1620/ Laking 316).


M2 M3 M4

M2 - Cuirassier harness (Italian c. 1620/ Laking 316). M3 - Cuirassier harness (Italian c. 1620/ Laking 316). M4 - Large harness with laminar or splinted corslet of anime type made to fit a tall man of ‘ungainly proportions’, complete with arms, pauldrons, taces, and genouillères reaching down to the knee. It is free from any ornamentation save for a narrow roped border. The siege helmet does not belong (European c.1600-1650 / Laking 11).



N1 N2 N1, N2, N3 - Italian sallet, or celata, of around 1520, with finely moulded crown finishing in a cable, the front portion of which is stiffened by a reinforcing plate. The vision slit, or ocularium, is formed by the gap between the top of the visor, itself of bellows-form and embossed with four concave transverse flutes pierced by breathing holes, and the lower edge of the reinforcing plate. The back of the skull is curved out to form a neck-guard. The crown still retains traces of delicate etching. The harness that would have been worn with such a headpiece would have been of a plain, rounded, and predominantly functional and robust design (North Italian, possibly Venetian c. 1510-1520 / Laking 439). N4,N5 - Maximilian close-helmet dating to around 1520 with fluted crown and sharp pointed visor of bellows form. The original pivot hole on one side of the visor was damaged and a new hole fitted, giving the visor a slightly upward displacement to one side. (German c.1520 / Laking 44). N6, N7 - French-style field close-helmet with roped comb. The visor is pierced with a continuous ocularium which has the lower edge forged out into a roped ridge. The helmet has a pivoting ‘mezail’ but lacks the chin-piece, rendering it, as a result, incomplete. On the right side of the visor is fixed a lifting peg. This helmet has a distinctive and pronounced prow-shaped profile (French c.1520-30, Laking 427).


N5 N4

N6 N7


N8 N9

N10 N11

N8,N9 - Close-helmet, elmetto da cavallo, fitted with front collar lames, and decorated with bands of foliate ornament (Italian c.1560-70).


N12 N13 N14

N12, N13, N14 - Closed cuirassier burgonet for the field with attachments for reinforcing shot-proof plates. These were screwed to both sides of the bowl (German c.1620-30). N10 - Close-helmet, elmetto da cavallo, with high corded comb, etched with a continuous band of scrollwork, the ground-work hatched and gilded. Visor and beaver are of strongly accentuated forms with etched and gilded borders. It has missing front and rear collar lames (Italian c.1570). N11 - Heavy close helmet with perforations for breathing on the right-hand side of the visor. The lower part finishes in a hollow roping that was designed to fit over the top rim of the gorget ensuring free rotary movement of the head. (Italian c.1600-20 / Laking 322 ).


N15 N16 N17

N15 - Closed cuirassier helmet for the field (Possibly German or Flemish c.1620-1630). N16 - Closed cuirassier helmet for the field (French c.1620-1630). N17 - Heavy close-helmet with perforations for breathing purposes on the right-hand side of the visor. The lower part is designed to fit over the top rim of the gorget ensuring free rotary movement of the head (Italian c.1600-20 / Laking 322 ).


N17a N17a - Pair of finely moulded jambes, or greaves, with flat, spreading bear-paw form sollerets with radiating fluting at the end. The various borders are decorated with narrow bands of etched acanthus leaves, all gilded, the remaining surface being russeted. (North Italian, c. 1525).


N19 N20

N21 N22

N19, N20 - Comb morion, morione tondo, and detail of medallion on comb (North Italian c.1570-80). N21 - Comb morion, morione tondo (North Italian c.1580). N22 - Comb morion, morione tondo (North Italiann c.1580).


N23 N24 N25 N26 N27 N28

N23 - Pointed morion, morione aguzzo di munizione (North Italian c.1580-90). N24 - Cabasset, cabassetto di munizione, (North Italian c.1580-90). N25 - Pointed or peaked morion, morione aguzzo di munizione (North Italian c.1580). N26 - Cabasset, (Brescia c.1570-1580). N27 - Pointed or peaked morion, morione aguzzo (North Italian c.1580). N28 - Cabasset (North Italian c.1570) N29 - Pointed or peaked morion, morione aguzzo (North Italian c.1580).



N30 N31

N30 - Burgonet, burgonetta tonda (North Italian c.1570-1580). N31 - Sapper’s reinforced burgonet, burgonetta tonda da zappatore, missing the guanciali (Italian c. late 16th century). N32 - Reinforced burgonet, burgonetta tonda (Italian c.1560-70). N33 - Burgonet-morion, burgonetta aguzza (Italian c.1580). N34 - Officer’s burgonet, burgonetta tonda (North Italian c.1580). N35 - Burgonet, burgonetta tonda, missing the guanciali (Italian c.1560-70). N36 - Burgonet, burgonetta tonda,with attached falling-buff, mezza buffa, that does not belong (North Italian c.1570-1580). N37 - Casque, caschetto di munizione (European c.1600). N38 - Zischagge, Taschetto da Ussaro, missing cheek-pieces and nasale (Polish c.1660 / Laking 7).




N34 N38 N35 N36 N37


N39 - Sapper’s reinforced burgonet, burgonetta da zappatore, with guanciali cannibalized from another helmet, and having attached reinforcing shot-proof plates (Possible Maltese assembly c.1650). N40 - Reinforced closed burgonet (Flemish c.1620-1630). N41 - Closed burgonet for the field with reinforcing shot-proof plates. These were screwed to either side of the bowl. Original blue-black surface of the bowl is preserved (German c.1620-30). N42 - Close-helmet converted into Savoyard-type helmet (Possible Maltese conversion c.1600-1620). N43 - Reinforced closed burgonet for use by siege engineers, sappers and bombardiers (Possibly Flemish c.1600-1650). N44 - Reinforced closed burgonet for the field (French or Flemish c.1620-1630). N45 - Closed Burgonet with falling-buff (German c.16201630). N46, N47 - Close-helmet with reinforcing shot-proof plates for back of skull and bevor (Italian c.1620). N48 - Reinforced closed burgonet for the field (French c.1620-1630). N49 - Reinforced closed burgonet for the field (French c.1620-1630). N50 - Savoyard or ‘Totenkopf’ type helmet (Italian c.16001620).


N40 N41


N42 N43 N44

N45 N46 N47

N48 N49 N50


N51 - Cuirassier’s closed burgonet with attached mezza buffa (German or Flemish c.1620-1630).


N52 N53 N54

N52 - Cuirassier’s close-helmet with faceted bowl surmounted by a pointed comb characteristic of French examples worn during the reign of King Louis XIII (1610-1643) (French c.1630). N53, N54 - Cuirassier’s closed burgonet with faceted bowl, barred face defence, pointed comb, and single collar lame at the front and back (French c.1630). N55 - Cuirassier’s closed burgonet. (French or Flemish - height of comb and roping suggest date close to 1600-10).



N56 - Falling-buff, mezza buffa, of three lames with ocularia (North Italian c.1580). N57 - Falling-buff, mezza buffa, of three lames with ocularia (North Italian c.1580). N58 - Falling-buff, mezza buffa, of three lames with ocularia (North Italian c.1580). N59 - Falling-buff, mezza buffa, of three lames belonging to the ‘Verdelin’ harness (North Italian c.1580).

N56 N57

N58 N59


O2 O3 O1 O4


O1 - Turkish Shishak, missing cheek-pieces (Turkish c.1580). O4 - Kalkan, circular and convex, Turkish shield of gilded copper corresponding with the period of the invasion of Malta by the Turks in 1565 (Laking 119). O2 - Reconstructed armour of a Sipahi (Spahi), the Turkish counterpart of a medieval knight. The main components of Sipahi armour are the shishak, char-aina and zirh. O3 - Char-aina, a type of body armour consisting of four plates hung from the shouders by mail and linked to a large round plate worn in the centre of the breast. The Turkish char-aina was worn over a mail tunic.

P1 P2

P13 P1 - Sergentina, Palace Guards of Grand Master Perellos (c.1710). P2 - Partisan, mezza picca da ufficiale (Italian c.1700). P3 - Ronca (Italian, first half of the 16th century). P4 - Gisarme (Italian, first half of the 16th century). P5 - Fauchard (Italian, first half of the 16th century). P6 - Gisarme, (Italian, first half of the 16th century). P7 - Military fork (Italian, 17th century).







P8 P9

P8 - Partisan, also known as Tongue-de-beffe (Central Italy c.1530). P9 - Spontoon. P10 - Ranseur or corsesca (North Italian c.1600-1630). P11 - Langdebeve (North Italian c. 1700) P12 - Short partisan (c.1700). P13 - Halberd (Central Italy c.1590).






Q1 Q2

Q3 Q4

Q5 Q6


Q8 Q7

Q1 - Estoc-type rapier Q2 - Three-ring swept-hilt rapier, showing the diagonal inner guards (c.1590). Q3 - Cup-hilt rapier (Spanish c. 1650). Q4 - Skeleton rapier with seven rings (North Italian c. 1630). Q5 - Three-ring swept-hilt rapier. Q6 - Two-ring swept-hilt rapier (c.1620). Q7 - Cup-hilt rapier (Spanish c. 1660). Q8 - Detail of ricasso of swept-hilt rapier showing eight-ponted cross of the Order and maker’s mark.


Q9 Q10 Q11

Q9 - Cup-hilt rapier, with broken crossguard (Spanish c. 1660). Q10 - Main gauche, left-hand dagger. It is the more advanced form of the simple cruciform-hilted dagger in use in the latter part of the 17th century (Spanish, c.1670 / Laking 102). Q11- Three-ring swept-hilt rapier with a long stiff blade of diamond section, with an armourer’s mark upon the ricasso. The centres of the principal ornaments had oval cartouches originally enriched with gold plaquette medallions, now missing. (Italian c.1590 / Laking 46).


Q12 Q13 Q14

Q12 - Schiavona (Venetian c. 1630/ Laling 47). Q13 - Hand-and-half sword, also known as bastard sword, has straight quillons, with a single ringguard on either side; the grip is of dark wood and fluted. The blade is double-edged with a strong fluted ricasso and is 45 inches long, inscribed at the hilt ‘IN TE DOMINE SPERAVIT.’ (Spanish c.1540 / Laking 440). Q14 - Combination hunting swordgun with blade of falchion shape, the back of which was forged in a way so as to form a pistol barrel. At the hilt is attached a wheel-lock mechanism for discharging the weapon, the trigger being released by a pin on the opposite side of the blade (German, late 16th century / Laking 381).



Q15 Q16 Q17

Q15 - Smallsword, or espadin with broken bow and blade of diamond section (Early 18th century). Q16- Brass-hilted hanger (c.1750). Q17 - Possibly a locally assembled sword with brass hilt taken from a British hangar of around 1700 and double-edged blade from a larger sword. Q18- Transitional rapier/espadin (c. 1640).


R1 R2 R3 R4

R5 R6 R7

R1 -Brocchiere (Milanese School c. 1580-1600/ Laking 161). R2 - Brocchiere (French c.1600/ Laking 274). R3, R4, Brocchiere (Italian c.1600). R5 - Brocchiere from the Pompeo della Cesa harness (Milanese c. 1580-1600 / Laking 370). R6 - Sapper’s buckler, oval-shaped with proof-mark (French 17th century). R7 - Large sapper’s shield with ocularium (Possibly Maltese 16th century).



S1 S3 S5



S6 S7 S8 S9

S1 - Sajf, hilt of engraved silver and brass with grip overlaid with tortoise shell (Middle East, 18th century / Laking 237). S2 – Nachakh, Turkish battle-axe. S3 – Yataghan dagger, ivory grip and silver mounts (West Balkans 18th century/ Laking 239). Also shown is a silver grip of an officer’s baton or mace (Turkish c. 1660 / Laking 234/235). S4 - Topuz, officer’s baton or mace (Turkish c. 1660/ Laking 234/235). S5 – Dagger with scabbard (North African, 18th century). S6 - Sajf (Middle East, 18th century). S7 - Sajf (Middle East, 18th century). S8 – Kilij (Anatolian, 17th century). S9 – Nimcha (North African, 17th century).


S10 S11 S12

S10 – Kilij with scabbard (West Balkans, late 16th century). S11 - Detail of ivory hilt of Kilij S10, with a short, downward curved silver cross guard with largerly missing quillions. S12 - Detail of silver locket of scabbard, fodero, of Kilij S10. The scabbard is made of wood covered with light brown felt and mounted with big silver locket and chape. S13 to S20 - Details showing makers’ marks on Sajf and Nimcha blades.


S13 S14

S15 S16

S17 S18

S19 S20


T1 T2

T1 – Crossbow with steel bow and straight wooden stock inlaid with bone, typical of the many crossbows to be found in the Palace Armoury collection (Spanish or German, first half of the 16th century). T2 - Detail of grooved stag-horn nut designed to secure bolt in recess. Note also the two stock pins set on each side of the lever just behind the nut. These allowed the pied-dechevre (goat’s-foot type of lever) a pivoting point for spanning the crossbow. T3 – Crossbow (Spanish or German, first half of the 16th century).



V1 – ‘Gonne’-shield, front and rear view. This is said to be part of the gift of arms sent by King Henry VIII to the Order in 1530, but now suspected by various historians to be simply an Italian target for it lacks the vision grill as found on similar examples in the Royal Armouries, Leeds. (Italian, early 16th century / Laking 435).


V2 V3 V4

V2 – Brass cannon on iron-shod carriage, delicately founded with classic friezes and the arms of Grand Master Perellos (16971720) and the figures of dolphins in full relief above trunnions (Probably Maltese c.1700/ Laking 225). V3 - Brass cannon on iron-shod carriage (Probably Maltese c.1700). V4 - Brass cannon on iron-shod carriage, founded at the breech with the arms of the Order and those of Grand Master Cotoner, and engraved with the name ‘Comre. Del Artillerie Relhanette’, and the number 363 (Probably Maltese c.1670/ Laking 445).


V6 V7 V5

V5 - Detail of breech of small brass cannon, cannonetto di bronzo, founded with the arms of the Order of St John and those of Grand Master Manoel Pinto de Fonseca (Probably Maltese c. 1743-1773). V6 - Detail of muzzle of cannon showing lizard in low relief. V7 - Detail of breech of brass cannon showing the arms of the Order and those of Grand Master Nicholas Cotoner and the number 363 (Probably Maltese c.1670/ Laking 445).


V8 V9 V10

V9 - Leather gun, cannone di cojo or cannone di pelle, mounted on wooden field carriage. The gun was already recorded on display inside the Palace Armoury in 1737. This leather gun is known to have been built by a local craftsman (see text). (Maltese, second half of the 17th century / Laking 449). V8, V10 - Detail of the breech of the leather gun, showing the wooden cascable and rope binding around the barrel. The wood baulks of the carriage holding the gun are carved out near the breech to accommodate the shape of the cascable.


V11, V12, V13,V14 - Ximenes Cannon now at Fort Nelson, Royal Armouries. (Photographs V13 and V14 courtesy of Mario Farrugia)

V11 V12 V13 V14


V14 – Small brass mortar, mortaletto, founded with the arms of Grand Master Pinto and inscribed IL VIGOROSO, and also FRANCISCVS TRIGANCE (Maltese c.1750/ Laking 224). V15, V16, V17 - Small brass mortar, mortaletto, founded with a scroll-shaped escutheon bearing a now defaced coat of arms surmounted by an open crown, mounted on a static iron-shod carriage (Possibly Maltese c.1700 / Laking 229).

V14 V15 V16 V17


V18 – Mortalletto, small brass mortar founded with the arms of Grand Master Gregorio Carafa (16801690) on the barrel and the name MIRI. MIVILLA F. (fecit) on the stand (Maltese 1686/ Laking 458). V19 – Small brass mortar, mortaletto (Maltese c.1750). V20 - Small brass mortar, mortaletto (Maltese c.1750). V21 - Small iron mortar, mortaletto di ferro, fixed on wooden base fitted with iron carrying handle (Maltese c.1750). V22 - Chain-shot (Maltese, 18th century, Maritime Museum, Vittoriosa). V18 V22


V19 V20 V21

V23, V24 - Brass signalling cannon, with flat breech designed to be stood vertically in order to fire warning shots and petards. It is founded at the breech with the arms of the Order and those of Grand Master Gregorio Carafa, and engraved with the date 1683 (Possibly Maltese 1683 / Laking 445).

V23 V24


X1,X2, X3, X4 – Pair of French flintlock holster pistols. The name of the maker ‘Mathieu Des Forests’ and the word ‘Paris’ are inlaid on the barrel, the name being also repeated on the lockplate. The barrels are russeted, flattened at the breech and inlaid with scrollwork and arabesques in gold. The stocks are of walnut wood and carved at the pommel with the combined heads of an eagle and a lion in the manner of fish-tail type butts (Paris c.1670/ Laking 96/97).

X1 X2 X3 X4


X5 X6 X7 X8 X9


X10 X11 X12

X5, X10 - Pistolet with miquelet lock. X6 - Pistolet with miquelet lock and widened muzzle. X7, X13 - Holster pistol with Snaphance lock, alla fiorentina (German c.1670). X8, X14 - Flintlock pistol. X9 , X12 - Flintlock pistol with fucile alla francese and lockplate engraved with maker’s name PIER FABRI (French 18th century).


X13 X14


X15 X16 X17

X15,X16, X17 - A ‘Levantine’ flintlock holster pistol with octagonal breech-to-circular barrel and fully stocked in walnut. The barrel and lock are of European manufacture, but the wooden stock and its ornamentation is of probable Balkan production. The pistol has a chiselled and engraved long-eared brass butt cap and a chiselled and pierced brass band over the muzzle. The rear of the lock and pistol grip around the barrel tang are superbly inlaid with fine silver filigree wire and a decorative silver escutcheon studded with two small coral stones. (West Balkans/ European 18th century). X18 - Detail of decoration of octagonal breech of a ‘Levantine’ flintlock pistol. The cock is missing (West Balkans/European 18th century). X18


X19 X20

X21 X22

X19 - Detail of muzzle and head of wooden ram-rod, bacchetta, of a holster flintlock pistol (French 18th century). X20 - Detail of breech of barrel, showing pan and frizzen. X21 - Detail of breech of barrel inscribed with maker’s name LAZARINO CAMINAZZO X22 - Mezzo fucile,or boarding musket, a flintlock military musket cut down and converted into a carbine for naval use onboard the Order’s galleys and men-of-war (French c.1700).



X23 - Naval signalling gun, with short brass barrel, miquelet lock and folding musket-type butt (Spanish/ South Italian c. 1700). X24 - Mezzo fucile, a flintlock military musket converted into a carbine for naval use (French c.1700). X25 - Carbine with miquelet lock and folding stock with Catalan butt (Spanish or South Italian c. 1690). X26 - Detail of decorative carving on wooden stock of carbine. X24 X25 X26


Y1, Y2 Powder flasks of wood, sheated in leather with faces covered with pierced steel plates bearing decorative motifs and the Order’s eight-pointed cross. Both flasks have simple cut-off devices fitted to their metal nozzles (North Italian or German, c.1600). Y3 - Powder flask of wood, sheated in leather, with faces covered with pierced steel plates bearing the Order’s eight-pointed cross. This example still retains the remains of the carrying strap decorated with velvet tassels, badly decayed. Attached to the flask, though not belonging to it is a smaller, primer powder flask.

Y1 Y2 Y3

Y7 – Curved powder flask, sometimes also referred to as a horn, with nozzle fitted with a simple cut-off device and a metal tange to enable it to be hung on bandolier or portetche (German, c.1600). Y4,Y5,Y6 - Detail of various martial scenes incised on the sides of horn powder flasks, one of which bears the date 1608.



Y4 Y5 Y6


Z1 Z2 Z3

Z1 – Rampart guns, spingardi, with square breech-loading mechanism and barrrels of octagonal section (Possibly French c.1660). Z2 - Wheel-lock mechanism of hunting musket. Z3 – Wheel-lock arquebus, archibuso a ruota, with stock of dark wood carved to immitate stag-horn in places inlaid with polished bone. It has a cheek-piece of bone engraved with a lion combating a monster’. The barrel is octagonal and applied to the lock is ‘a tracery a jour representing strap-work, the goddess Diana and over the wheel, an ornamented case of brass’ (German fashion c.1615 / Laking 157).


Z5 Z7 Z8

Z4 Z6 Z9


Z4, Z5, Z6, Z7,Z8 - Tufenk, Turkish muskets with miquelet locks. Originally all three examples in the collection were fitted with matchlocks and date to the late 1500s. Barrels are of Damascus steel inlaid with gold arabesc motifs on the muzzle and breech. Z9 - Detail of stock of Tufenk decorated with brass rondels and white and green stained bone pieces.

Z9 – Miquelet muskets and carbines with Catalan butts. Z10, Z11 - Miquelet locks of hunting muskets from the spogli of individual knights (South Italian or Spanish c.1700). Z11a - Detail of miquelet lock.


Z10 Z11 Z11a


Z12 - Matchlock rampart gun, or spingarda, also referred to as muschettone da posta and arquebus a croc. The barrel is inlaid with arabesc motifs and the muzzle is of a bulbous form known as a tulipano. (Anatolian/European 17th century ) Z13, Z14 - Matchlock arquebus. The the barrel has a peep sight on the breech which is fashioned in the form of a grotesque warrior, dressed in a costume of about 1580. The stock is carved with grotesque bearded masks, and generally inlaid with scrolls in polished bone (Flemish or French make c.1590 / Laking 45).

Z12 Z13 Z14


Z15 Z16 Z17 Z18 Z15, Z16 - Flintlock musket with inscription M I on lockplate. Missing upper jaw of cock (French c.1700). Z17 - Flintlock musket (French c. 1700). Z18 - Musket with miquelet lock alla Romana and Madridstyle stock (Neopolitan c.1700). Z19, Z20 - Flintlock musket with inscription RGA on lockplate (French 18th century). Z21, Z22 - Flintlock musket with inscription HARDWELL on lockplate, missing cock (English 18th century). Z23, Z24 - Flintlock musket with inscription JEAN LEONARD on lockplate (French 18th century). Z25, Z26 - Flintlock musket with inscription P. GIRARD & COMPAGNIE on lockplate, missing cock (French 18th century). Z27, Z28 - Flintlock musket with inscription P. DEVVN on lockplate, missing cock (French 18th century).


Z19 Z20

Z21 Z22

Z23 Z24

Z25 Z26

Z27 Z28


Z29 Z30

Z31 Z32

Z33 Z34


Z35 Z36

Z37 Z38



Z40 Z41 Z42 Z43

Z29, Z30 - Flintlock musket with inscription ‘a Paris’ on lockplate (French 18th century). Z31, Z32 - Flintlock musket with inscription ‘Laborde A Paris’ on lockplate, missing cock (French 18th century). Z33, Z34 - Flintlock musket with inscription ‘A Zedant’ on lockplate, missing cock (French 18th century). Z35, Z36 - Flintlock musket with inscription ‘PG’ on lockplate, missing cock (18th century). Z37, Z38 - Flintlock musket (18th century). Z39 - Sporting flintlock rifle with hair-trigger; missing upper jaw (German 18th century). Z40 - Double-barrelled flintlock hunting musket, missing left cock. Z41 - Flintlock mezzo fucile (French c. 1700). Z42 - Sporting flintlock rifle (Italian 18th century). Z43 - Detail of breech of barrel inscribed with maker’s name GIOVAN BERETTA fitted on a French style stock with miquelet lock.





List of Weapons mentioned in the Spogli, Spropriamenti, and Wills of Hospitaller Knights

The following pages contain a number of selective extracts relating to the disposition of weapons. These are taken from various spogli, wills, and spropriamenti of individual Hospitaller knights who either died in Malta or abroad in their commanderies. By regulation such weapons automatically escheated to the Order and would have found their way into the Palace Armoury unless auctioned off. These extracts reproduced here constitute only a representative selection chosen mainly for the manner in which the various weapons and military equipment were described and inventoried. The names of knights are reproduced as written in the documents with the correct rendering added in brackets.

Frà Antoine de Tressemanes Chastueil, 1684, (died in convent),6 ‘une espée d’or de raport plus un autre petite espée de cuivre vermeil (red copper)’ Rolle des hordes que le port en gallere une espée d’argent une longue espée de caravane avec la garde de fer e la poignée d’argent une paire de pistolets un fusil un mousquet un garde et poignée d’argent pour un sabre qui est a Mon. le Chevalier de Fabre Mazan quon remettra avec ses autres hardes a’ Mons. Rebuffat’.

Frà Fràncisco de Torres, 1644,1 ‘Dos espadines zuarnicodos de plata’

Frà Louis de Saint Hillayre (Hilaire) (died in siege of Negroponte 7.8.1688)7 ‘due pistole che sono in potere de Mons. Miran una spada una scopetta che e’ del Frà Gio Battista Casha Priore della Capitana. Il Mede. Priore tiene un’altra scopetta mia in luogo di quella che tengo in gallera.’

Frà Jean Ollivier de la Serre, 1682 (died in convent) 2 ‘Une espée ordinaire Une cane a plombeau d’argent’ Frà Alessandro de Ponteres, 1682 3 ‘dice che ha una schopetta e due pistole’ Frà Antoine de Tomas de Pierrefeu, 1683, (died in convent)4 ‘un epée d’argent d’ore (15 ecus) un autre epée de simple argent (10 ecus)’

Frà Massimilien de Talezat Montgon (died in siege of Negroponte 10.8.1688)8 ‘un fuzil et sa bayonnette pour pistolets un pair qui sont a mr. Des Contures une cane mornée d’argent’

Frà Jean de Bartellany St. Croix, 1683, (died in convent)5 ‘Un paire pistolet’

Frà Jean Baptiste le Marinier, 1689 (died in convent)9 ‘Un espée a’ garde et branche de vermeil d’ore


un fusil un paire de pistolets pour mon usage, et une autre vicille paire pour un valet un espée de cuivre d’ore de longeur’

Sacra Infermeria) 17 ‘une espée d’argent et une autre en consteau aussy d’argent deux espées à poignée d’argent’

Frà René de Hamel de Villechien, 1691 10 ‘Un fusil en façon de mousqueton avec une espée’

Frà Marc Antoine de Voyer Paulmy, 1700 (died in convent) 18 ‘trois fusils don’t le plus mannais (?) apparsient à son valet plus un grand fusil et un mousquet à la turque’

Frà Jacques de Castellan Mazangues, 169311 ‘Un pair de pistolets’

Frà Lazzaro Colomb (Colombo), 1708 19 ‘Due spade d’argento’

Frà Paul Antoine de Villages la Chassagne (Chassaigne), 1693 12 ‘une espée d’argent de Frànce avec sa garde que ce parte ordinairement à mon coté’

Frà Nicolo Giorgio de la Rue, 1709 20 ‘tengo una spada con la guardia d’argento una scopetta’

Frà Jacques Asselen, Frere Servant 1694 (died in convent) 13 ‘un fusil 2 mousquetons 2 paires des pistolets’

Frà Josef Sousson de Millon, 171121 ‘quatre epées don’t l’une est de vermeil l’une noire parmy des quelles il ya un conteau deux pistolets’

Frà Albert de Bouquenarc (?), 1694 14 (died in convent) ‘un espée d’argent’. Frà Fràncesco Bonaventura Patoiulet (Patoulet), 1694 (died in convent) 14 ‘una spada, et un bastone con pomo d’argento un paro de pistole tre moschetti et un’ Alabarda’ Frà Melchior Darcussin de Renest, ‘une espée un manteau double de rouge’ Frà Ugo de Loubeux Verdall, 1695 (died in the Sacra Infermeria) 15 ‘deux espées ...., et l’autre de vermeil d’ore’ Frà Louis Cesar du Mer de Blanc Buisson, 1694 (died in the Sacra Infermeria) 16 ‘un fusil, et deux pistolets dans leur foureaux un espée de cuivre d’ore à poignée d’argent’ Frà J. des Portes Chenair, 1696 (died in the

Frà Magdelon de Maunier Sausses, 1712 22 ‘une epée’ Frà Elzcar de Sabran Chanterenne, 1712 (died in convent) 23 ‘quatre fusils un paire de pistolets de peu de valeur’ Frà Frànçois de la Champée, 1715 (died in convent)24 ‘une espée d’argent de vermeil d’ore’ Frà Pierre de Roquefeuil, 1715 (died in convent)25 “trios beaux fusils valant six pistols piece une paire de pistolets de meme prix une carabine raiée’ (scratched) Frà Jean Estienne de Ricard, 1716 26 (died in convent) ‘un fusil a deux coups trios fusils avec les baionettes quattre pistolets deux espées une d’argent et l’autre de cuivre d’ore’


Frà Jean Paul de Cardaillac Douzan (Commander of the Cavalry) 1687 (died in convent)27 ‘duex paires de pistolets l’un grand et longs avec leurs fourneaux qui sont dans le grand armoire un autre paire plus petits et courts que mon valet met a l’arcon de la cele du cheval quil monte avec leurs fourneaus et son fourreaux quattre fusils, un grand et long, un autre de grosseur et longeur ordinaire, et un autre long mais de petit caliber et l’autre petit que mon d. valet et a constume de porter’. Frà Hettore Pigniatelli, 1677 28 ‘non possede altro che un habito, … croce d’oro della sua Religione, un vestito et una spada et altro di questo non possede altra cosa.’ Frà Pace Lana, 1677 29 ‘Una spada con la guardia & …. (?) d’argento ‘Item dichiaro, che in mano dilo Ricevitore di Venetia si deve trovare una cassetta d’armi, cioé quattro para di pistole, quattro carabine, & quattro scopetti che ho fatto venire da Brescia per commissione del Vice Cancelliere, et un altro para di pistole da sparare due volte per commissione del Baglio di Montenegro Correa sudetti Armi, sono stati comprati di mio denaro per il prezzo di lire 1250. ‘... esser state trasmessi in mano del Ricevitore di Venetia tre alter canne di scopette fatte comprare similmente in Brescia per commissione del Cavaliere Mirrittio ‘... dichiaro d’haver imprestato al Baglio di Napoli Morando una carabina con la sua bandoliera, e fiaschino a fibia d’argento.’

l’impugnatura di filo d’argento’ ‘un paro di pistole con le fonde di Vacchetta rossa, e le mostre di velluto e brinette d’oro con la sua calza rossa’ Frà Tomaso de Gregorii, 1678 32 ‘due spadini uno dorato et l’atro d’argento’ scopetta no. 9 un pistone due spadi una spada di D. Andrea di Grigori pistole no. 4 una mazza ferrata’ Frà Josephi Buaniatij(?), 33 ‘Due cucchiaroni da trinciera Un paro di pistole guarnite d’argento Due altre para grande d’ Acciaio Un altro paio ordinarie Tre fonde per le sudette pistole Quattro Carabbine diverse Una spada con guardia d’acciaio con suo pugnale e centurion Due Spadini con guardia d’Argento’ Frà Fràncesco Carafa, 34 ‘Un spatino d’argento novo’ Frà Agostini Morando, 1679 35 Tre guarnitioni di scopettini di peso onze 3 Un manco piccolo di spatino di peso onze 4 Una scopetta lunga e due cherunini Frà Joseph Buccadifocco, 36 Un spatino con la guardetta d’argento Quattro carabbini Una scopetta Una canna di scopetta nova Una spada

Frà Lorenzo de Vecchij, 1677 30 ‘un moschetto, et una scimittara turchesca’ una carabina, e due soffioni di bocca larga con altri armi spasse per casa, cosi da fuoco come da taglio che tutte sono robba mia’

Frà T. Labini, 37 ‘due spadini una d’argento l’altro indorato quali sono di potere del Cameriere della Galera di San Pietro (the latter was then at sea engaged on caravan duty)’

Frà Fràncesco Spada, 1677 31 ‘una spada con la guardia traforata di ferro con

Frà Carlo Giuseppe Belloni, 1680 38 ‘spadini due col guardamano d’argento a tutti


due’ ‘pistole corte un paro da Agalino con sue fonde pistolete longhe da porre all’Arcione del Cavallo pure d’Agalino senza calzette, con sue fonde una schiopetta d’azalino longa da caccia’ Frà Antonio de Cordua, 39 ‘un paro di pistole con grilli alla Fràncese con sue vesti un spatino con manico d’argento una spada di palmi quattro’ Frà di Somma, 1680 40 ‘due scoppette a grillo, cioé una corta e l’altra lunga uno archibugetto, tre spade ordinarie vecchie, uno spatino vecchio’ Frà Giovanni Barascone, 41 ‘Una spada Una scopetta di Caccia con sua boggiacca et osso di polvere’ 42

Frà Fràncesco Cavallo, ‘Due spatini d’argento Quattro scopette, et un paro di pistole con spada’ Frà Andrea Priscicelli (?), 1682 43 ‘uno spatino d’argento’

pendente e un stiletto un moschetto/dui pistole’ Frà Themaso Spadagna (Spadania ?), 47 ‘un spatino d’argento alla Fràncese’ Frà Vincenzo Morso, 1675 48 ‘Una spada d’argente’ Frà Angeli Marone (Marono/a), 1674 49 ‘Sei fiaschi di ramo grandi e piccoli Un paro di fiaschi di soldato Due pistoli et un tirzaloro U soffione co’il grillo alla Fràncesa Una scopetta curta Un arcabuggio Dui scopettuni Un’altra scopetta piu’ lunga Una cimittara turchisca co’ lo fodaro Una spatino co’ lo fodero Fràncesa Due balestri di sparare co’ la palla’ Frà Matteo de Valle, 1676 ‘Una spada d’argento’


Frà Carlo Marulli, 1677 51 ‘Uno spadino d’argento’ Frà Scipione Guardat (?), 52 ‘Due scoppette seu archibuggi vecchi Una spada e pugnale negri’ Balì Frà Charles Martial, 1729 53 ‘un fuzil de Decot donne’ a M. le Major des galeres une paire de pistollets de ...(?) avec leur fourreaux donner au major deux porte fuille (fucil?) marroquin noir un cinture de Granade pour manchon avec une boucle de metail de prince deux espée de Raport – une donne au M. le Major des Galeres une espée de cuivre un espée de .... (?)’

Frà Arnaldo Valguarnera, 1683 44 ‘una scopetta lunga due carrubini tre pistole una spada con suo pignale’ Frà Giacomo Maria Cupelli, 1683 45 ‘Due cimitarre Due archi con cassa per le frezze Un para pistole curte Altre più lunghe’ 46

Frà Fràncesco Gotho (Gotha), 1648 ‘una spada semplice negra con sua conia

Frà Pierre de Castellana Esparon, 54 ‘Code militaire ou compilation des reglements et ordonnances de Louis quatorze en un tome’


trios paires des pistolets avec les faces fourreaux de cadis Voir(?) Vuz quatre fusils’

Frà Guy Teyssier, 1722 55 ‘Une petite paire des pistolets Une epée à poignée d’argent’

Frà de Montainville, 1749 64 ‘une pair des pistolets’


Frà Gio Luigi di Crillon, 1711 ‘un fucile et un para di pistole et ses fondes una gran croce guarnita di diamanti 155 e Quattro grossi estimata dal sign Gioielleire Boggetti Luigi d’oro no.80 1280 scudi una spada con guardia e pugnale d’argento una spada d’argento con guardia tislaba(?) e traforata una spada con guardia d’ottone una lama di spada olinda un paro pistole con piastre alla Fràncese con sue fonde’

Frà Jean Fràncois de Gratett Dolomieu, 1749 ‘due pistole, le canne de quail son fornite con oro’ 65

Frà Magdelon de Monier Saussee (Sausse/y), 1712 57 ‘Une epée uzée de vermeil avec son scinturon’ Frà Louis Duchon Duscrots (?), 58 ‘Un vieux fusil’

Frà Vittorio Fera de Rouville, 1741 67 ‘due spade d’argento una de quali indorata’


Frà Jean de Damian Vernègues, 1719 ‘Un epée à poignée d’argent, un fusil et une paire de pistolets’ Frà Charles de Fabre (S) Mazan, 1719 60 ‘Deux fusils Une epée poignée d’argent et une autre vieille espée’ Joseph de Resmond de Modene (Resimont de Modona?), 1718 61 ‘Trios fusils Une epée la poignée et garde d’argent et une autre mechante epée la poignée d’argent’ Frà Jean Philip de St Viance, 1718 62 ‘Deux fusils, et une paire de pistolets qui sont entre le mains de l’armuriere de la Religion pour en avoir soin’ Frà Jean Bertrand de Larracon (?), 1716 63 ‘un escu vieux une espée d’argent

Frà Charles d’Ormesson (Ormsson), 66 ‘une targue couvert de cuivre rouge un mousquet un fusil une bandouliere un plaston (?) et morion que ily pris a la salle d’armes une espée de fer deux halebardes une paire des pistolettes une lame d’argentine une espée de cuivre .donc. la poignée est fine un fusil avec un faux fourreau’

Frà Philibert Bernard Froissard de Broissia,68 ‘Dans le fond de la dite armoire Un paire de pistolets a deux coups estimez 30 sols Un autre apire a simple canon sans platine estimez 20 sols Deux vieux mam(?)ais fusils don’t la platine de l’un ne vaut rien 6 livres’ Frà Carlo Arrigo de Lamir (Lamire), 1742 69 ‘una spada di rame indorata’ Frà Claude de Fontanet de la Valette, 1729 70 ‘Deux fusils Un epée avec la garde d’argent’ Frà Andrea de Cays, 71 ‘il busto del GM Caraffa’ Frà Fràncois Jospeh Doria, 72 ‘un fusil brine (?) carabine fort vieux’


Frà Charles de Montolieu, 1735 ‘Une epée d’argent moderne Une epée d’acier d’orée’


une paire de pistolets un fusil un mousquet’ ‘un plastron et un mourrion’ 83 Frà Accurse de Voisins, 1676 84 ‘deux paires de pistolets avex leur fourreaux’

Frà Jean Baptist de Durand, 1693 74 ‘un petit espée une paire de pistollets de Cheval avec leur estrirp’ (?)

Frà D. Joaquin de Labitia, 85 ‘Una espada de plata’

Frà Fràncesco Bonaventura Datuillet, 1694 ‘una spada un paro di pistole tre moschetti et un Alabarda’ 75

Frà Louis de la Faye, 86 ‘un espée de fer’ Chev de Chastueil, 1676 87 ‘un petite espée avec sa garde d’argent un pair de pistollets un autre petite pistollet de poche’


Frà Giovanni Raimondo Deolz (?), ‘tre spatini d’argento di valore circa otto doppie’ Jacques des Pester Cheneau, 77 ‘Deux espée d’argent Un espée d’argent et une autre en consteau aussy d’argent’

Frà Jean de Sabran, 88 ‘deux pairs de pistolets, don’t une sans fourreaux un fusil et un mousqueton avec leurs fourreaux’

Frà Louis Cesar du Mer der Blanc Buisson, ‘un fusil et deux pistolets dans leur foureaux’78 Frà Maximilien de Talezat Montgon, 1689 79 ‘pour armes un fuzil et sa bayonette - paire de pistoletes’ Frà Louis de St Aubin, 80 ‘fusil pair de pistolets’

Frà Jean de Jittores Barronniere, 1674 89 ‘un fuzil estant au manteau de la cheminée’ Frà D. Gius Ondrea y Gusman, 1777 90 ‘dos espadins de plata’ Frà Joseph Lano de la Vega, 91 ‘un espadin’


Frà Luigi de St Hillayre (Hilaire), ‘una spada una scopetta, che e’ del Rev. Sign Frà Gio Batista Casha Priore della Capitana Medesimo Priore Frà Gio. Batista tiene un’altra scopetta mia in luogo di quella, che tengo qui in sala’ Frà Antoine de Tressemanes Chastueil 82 ‘une espée d’or de raport une autre petite espée d’ore une espée d’argent une longue espée de caravane avec le garde de fer et la poignée d’argent

Frà Joseph Carlos de Baiona (Bayon), 1764 ‘un espadin con pumo de plata ordinario una escopeta una pistola’92 Frà Don Nicolas Lloret, 93 ‘una escopetta y un par de pistolas una cartuchera de onte para llevar la municion de polbora per dizon y balas’ Frà Don Ferdinado Correa de la Cerda, 1762 94 ‘Tengo qui un schioppo che appartine anche alla mia casa e voglio che sia restituito al detto mio nipote’


Frà Pedro Escoredo 95 ‘guarnicion de Espadin’

Frà Don Joseph de Villanel (Villnes), 1729 06 ‘un espadin con guarnicion de plata un par de pistolas de arcon con las contters(?) de bronze’

Don Martino Pinto, Bali di Lessa, 96 ‘una fibbia di spada d’argento dorato, ma la spada con impugnatura do oro’ Frà Anival Petrucci, 97 ‘espadin de plata uno fusil con bayoneta uno pistola dos Una espada de montar con su puno de Acero’ 98 Frà Don Luis Milan de Aragona, 99 ‘dos espadines de plata dorada un espadin con puno de Acero Negro’ Frà Don Cristoval de Blanes, 100 ‘un espadin con guarnicion de plata’ Frà Rocco de Tavorra, 101 ‘Una spada d’argento dorata con la sua boccola Una spada di metallo fino di germania tre trombette coperte con tela gialla’ Frà Emanuel de Tradin, Bailli d’Aquila, 102 ‘un par de pistolas ordinaries tres scopettas muy ordinaries un strabucco de campana con llarc a la Frànzessa un trabucco ordinario’ Frà Juan de Vals, 1708 103 ‘una scopetta una bandiera vecchia rossa turchesca una sacchetta di palle di piombo’ Frà Emmanuele Peixotto de Silva, 1725 104 ‘una spada alla portughese’ Frà Giuseppe de Magalhan, 1726 105 ‘Escopetti num. 6 Con tre baionetti una di quelli fornita con argento Due borse di chaccia Due pari di pistole de Cavallo Altri due pari, uno mezzano et altro piccolo’

Don Juan Togores Balenzuel, 1731 107 ‘una espada Quattro escopetas’ Frà Don Joacchin de Bustamante, 108 ‘una sobravesta una scopetta un par de pistolas un espadin de plata una espada a la Espanola un mosquete una bandolera un morion o’ celada un peto de hierro dos bolsas para las cargas una baionetta una calabara para beber’ (drinking flask) Frà Fernando Bracco, 109 ‘spada e pugnale’ Frà Don Diego de Baldespino, 110 ‘una espada’ un Arcabuz pequeno’ Frà Don Diego de Mier, 1697 111 ‘una espada de C’inta con guarnicion ordinaria pla....(?) de Toledo’ Frà Salvador Sureda, 112 ‘un arcabus de Guerra col sos flascas’ 1610 Frà Don Marion di Hora, Prior of Navarre, 1692 113 ‘Tre Spade con le guardie d’Argento 6 pistole, due di borsa, due ordinarje, due con due bocche d’una un moschetto et una scopetta’ (..) ‘nel gabinetto vicino la camera d’Inverno114 un pugnale, un stiletto una spada di rame dorato una spada di Azzaro


una spada ala Spagnola’ Frà Constantino Chigi Monrari, 1791 115 ‘Due rastrelli da schioppo a Quattro luoghi stimati 30 – Uno schioppo alla militare tutta cassa con canna ottagonalata con merco di Spagna, e grano d’oro, e mira d’argento senza fucile con castra rotta con ornato d’argento - 60 Altro schioppo con canna da piedi mezza lavorata a fioretti con gran d’oro; e mercio di Spagnia con mire d’argento con cassa alla Catalana guarnito d’ottone con saccoccia di fustagno verde stimato (10 –) Altro Schioppo con canna senza merco incassato d’acero guarnito d’ottone con focile alla Romana con saccoccia di fustagno verde stimato ( - 7) Altro Schioppo con canna mercata con lettere P. Zamborelli con cassa d’acero guarnito d’ottone con focile alla Romana, e saccoccia di fustagno verde stimato - 8 Altro schioppoi con canna senza merco con cassa d’acero guarnito d’ottone con fucile alla Romana e saccoccia verde - 6 Altro schioppo con canna mercata G B J P incastato d’acero guarnito di ottone con fucile alla Fràncese Marcato con merco Andre Cropison con saccoccia di fustegno verde - 10

Altre due pistole da fondo con canne violettate con bolli forestieri con casse di noce tinte rosse guarnite di ottone con fucili alla Fràncese con saccoccia di Saja rossa stimate 8– Una pistola da fondo scompagna, ed una bajonetta il tutto ordinario -60 Una spada di lama di Frància acartoccie e fodero bianco con guardia d’ucciarro Una lama di spada larga - 10 Un spadino con guardia d’ottone con catenelli di acciarro stimato /40 ‘Tre coltelli turchi con stuccio di pelle near manicati di osso bianco /30 Una spada con guardia, pomo, loccia ed impugnatura di filo d’oro, con guarnizione d’oro diverso del peso di oncie 10 cosi considerate per non essere stata smontata - 35 scudi’ Due pistole da cavalcare ordinarie con fucile alla Romana guarniti di ferro con suoi fondi ricoperti avanti di velluto verde guarnite di felluccia d’argento in cattivo stato.’ Un armario inverniciato giallo color di noce con entro Quattro schioppi, due pistoni, un schezzetto, Quattro pistole con suoi fondi, con suoi guarda fondi, con galloncino d’argento.’ ‘Un armario o sia rastello da schioppi a cinque ordini Un schioppo all’antica con fucile a ruota Altro schioppo guarnito di ottone con fucile alla Romana Altro con fucile come sopra guarnito parimenti di ottine più grosso.’

Due rastelli piccolo da pistole a Quattro luoghi ingestito di legno bianco - 20

Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt 115 ‘All’Illustrimo Gran Mourier un Archibuso stimato 8 scudi.

Due pistole da fonde ordinarie con fucili alla Fràncese con saccoccie di fustagno verde

‘All Gran Con. Moncada Un Archibuso turchesco stimato a 6 scudi

Altri due pistole parimenti da fondo con canne, e bassi rilievi incassati di noce guarnite d’argento con fucili alla Fràncese tutti lavorati con saccoccie di fustagno scuro - 15

‘Al Prior di San Gilio de Paula Un Archibuso turchesco stimato a 4 scudi

Una carana da caccia di pelle gialla guarnita d’ottone con dentro una fiaschetta da polvere di ottone stimato - 50

‘Al Prior di Messina La Mara Un Archibuso a grillo da portare al barcioni ‘All’ S. Jesoricio Boisboudran Un Archibuso a grillo


‘Al Sotto Mro. Scudiero Un Archibuso turchesco di poca valuta’ Grand Master Manuel Pinto de Fonseca116 Weapons to be handed to Commander of Artillery ‘Due petriere di bronzo Quattro mascoli di bronzo Tre sciabole rotte Dieci altre Tre sciabole rotte’ ‘... una patrona da soldato che il Comm dell’ Artillery Cav. D’Argens s’esita con il suo secondo semester più due pistole’ Grand Master Ximenes ‘All’ Mro Onorato Zarp per manifattura di No 11,000 scartucci senza palla consegnati alle guardie del Sua Eminezza Cav de Guron Magg delle Guardie consegn. all artiglieria in fucili no 114 consegn. 4to semester del cav d’argen 1775’ Frà Antonio Surriano, 1790, ‘tre schioppi’ Frà Don Gio Batta. Monforte (1673)117 ‘due Zaffioni due pistoni due requette sei moschetti e serpentina uno pugnale et una spada delle due contenute nella nota stante che l’altra spada non si é consignata uno corrello una scarina rorescha uno petto forte et uno morione che non si sono consignati stante che sono dal Frà di Giacomo d’Aquino’


Grand Masters and Lieutenants of the Order of St John

The Blessed Gerard (Founder of the Hospital - c.1180) Raymond du Puy 1120- 1158/60 Auger de Balben 1158/60-1162/3 Arnaud de Comps 1162/3 Gilbert d’Assailly 1163 - 1169/70 Cast de Murols c.1170-1172' Joubert c.1172-1177 Roger des Moulins 1177-1187 Lt. Borrell & Ermengard d’Asp (ruled the Order after the death of Roger des Moulins) 1188-1189 Garnier de Naplous 1189/90-1192 Geoffroy de Donjon 1192/3-1202 Afonso de Portugal 1202-1206 Geoffroy le Rat 1206-1207 Garin de Montaigu 1207-1227/8 Bertrand de Thessy 1228-c.1231 Guerlri Lebrun4 c.1231 - 1236 Bertrand de Comps 1236-129/40 Pierre de Vieille-Brioude 1239/40-1242 Guillaume de Chateauneuf 1242- 1258 Hugues de Revel 1258-1277 Nicolas Lorgne 1277/8-1284 Jean de Villiers

c.1285- 1293/4

Odon de Pins Guillaume de Villaret Foulques de Villaret Lt Gerard de Pins Helion de Villeneuve Dieudonne de Gozon Pierre de Corneillan Roger de Pins Raymond Berenger Robert de Juilly Juan Fernandez de Heredia Riccardo Caracciolo (Anti-Master not acknowledged at Rhodes) Philibert de Naillac Antonio Fluviano Jean de Lastic Jacques de Milly Raimundo Zacosta Giovan Battista Orsini Pierre d’Aubusson Emery d’Amboise Guy de Blanchefort Fabrizio del Carretto

1294-1296 1296-1305 1305-1317 1317-1319 1319-1346 1346-1353 1353-1355 1355-1365 1365-1374 1374-1376 1376-1396

1383-1398 1396-1421 1421-1437 1437-1454 1454-1461 1464-1467 1467-1476 1476-1503 1503-1512 1512-1513 1513-1521

Philippe Villiers de 1’1sle Adam



Pietrino del Ponte Didier de Tholon Sainte Jalle Juan de Homedes y Coscon Claude de la Sengle Jean Parisot de la Valette Pietro Ciocchi del Monte San Savin Jean 1’Evesque de la Cassiere Hugues Loubenx de Verdale Martin Garzes Alof de Wignacourt Luis Mendes de Vasconcellos Antoine de Paule Jean-Baptiste Lascaris de Castellar Martin de Redin y Cruzat Annet de Clermont de Chattes Gessan Rafael Cotoner y de Oleza Nicolas Cotoner y de Oleza Gregorio Carafa della Roccella Adrien de Wignacourt Ramon Perellos y Rocafull Marcantonio Zondadari Antonio Manoel de Vilhena Ramon Despuig y Martinez de Marcilla Manuel Pinto da Fonseca Francisco Ximenez de Texada Emmanuel de Rohan de Polduc Ferdinand von Hompesch

1534-1535 1535-1536 1536-1553 1553-1557 1557-1568 1568-1572 1572-1581 1581-1595 1595-1601 1601-1622 1622-1623 1623-1636 1636-1657 1657-1660 1660 1660-1663 1663-1680 1680-1690 1690-1697 1697-1720 1720-1722 1722-1736 1736-1741 1741-1773 1773-1775 1775-1797 1797-1799

Laking’s ‘Catalogue of the Armour & Arms in the Armoury of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem.’ Screen A 1. A MORION, with high comb, entirely forged from one piece; etched with bands of trophies of arms, etc.-, and introducing in the comb a circular medallion portrait bust in Romanesque attire. Plate IV. Italian (Milanese School), c. 1600. 2. A MORION, with high comb, entirely forged from one piece; the whole surface etched with a strapwork design, caryatids and grotesques, derived from the French school of ornament of the middle of the 16th century. Plate IV. Italian, c. 1580. 3. A MORION, of similar form to the preceding, the surface etched with a chequered ornament; the compartments containing conventional arrangements of scrollwork; the brass-headed rivets round the lower part of the skull-piece were intended for the attachment of the lining. North Italian, c. 1600. 4. A BREASTPLATE, of peascod form. French fashion and workmanship, c. 1550. 5 - 6. A PAIR OF “ COUDRES,” or elbow-pieces. c. 1590. 7. A LOBSTER-TAILED HELMET, the skull-piece fluted, an umbril in front through which should pass the nasal guard. Probably Polish, c. 1660. 8. A CIRCULAR SHIELD, known as a “Targe” or “Target,” decorated with ten cable-pattern ridges radiating from the centre. Italian, c. 1600—30 9. A CLOSED HELMET, the surface blued and etched with delicate acanthus scrollwork. North Italian, c. 1565-80. 10. A BREASTPLATE, with a laminated sprinted plate below. Spanish type, c. 1550-70 11. A SUIT OF ARMOUR, reaching to the knee. It still has its original russeted surfaces free from all ornamentation save narrow roped border. It consists of a large splinted breastplate of the larger brayette; the back plate corresponds in size. Complete arms, with pauldrons, taces alnd genouillères. On the suit is now placed a heavy sapping helmet. The absence of all fashions in this large harness rather proves that it was made for a man of ungainly proportions-Falstaffian in his unwieldiness than for a man who was tall and proportionately broad. This suit, as formerly set up at the end of the Armoury, was drawn out to measure little short of seven feet in height,

whereas now, set together to its proper proportions, it fits a figure hardly more than six feet high. The siege helmet upon the suit weighs 39 lbs. ; its date is about 1640. Probably made in Malta about 1560-80. 12. A CABASSET HELMET, etched with vertical bands of trophies. Italian, c. 1610. 13. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, the whole surface etched with close bands of arabesque foliage. Probably Vend, c. 1570. 14. A CABASSET HELMET, very similar to No. 12. Italian, c. 1610. 15. A BACK PLATE belonging to the Breastplate No. 109. French, c. 1630. 16. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, closely etched with bands of trophies. North Italian, c. 1600. 17. A nearly similar HELMET. Of the same nationality and date. 18. A BREASTPLATE, with slight tapul and detached gussets. c. 1600. 19. A SERGEANT’S SMALL PARTISAN. Probably English, c. 1710. 20. A GLAIVE, with curved, cutting edge. Italian (Venetian), c. 1580. 21. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 19. 22. A PIKE, with leaf-shaped blade. Maltese, c. 1690. 23. A SPETUM, the side blades set on at an acute angle. c. 1550. 24. A PIKE, similar to No. 22. 25. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 29. 26. A GLAIVE, with an up-curved spike issuing from its back edge. Italian (Venetian), c. 1580. 27. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 19. 28. A LEFT PAULDRON (shoulder-piece), etched with bands of scrollwork. Italian, c. 1570. 29. A CIRCULAR SHIELD, “Targe” or “Target” without decoration, but with four screw rivets forming the inside attachment of the arm- straps; roped border. c. 1630. 30. A “ BUFFE,” or detached beaver, to be worn with an open helmet, composed of two falling plates, the upper one pierced with the ocularia ; the surface etched with bands of trophies of arms ; the gorget wanting. Italian, c. 1600. 31. A “BUFFE,” fashioned on the same principle as the above-, the gorget also wanting; the surface deeply etched with heart-shaped panel, the groundwork gilt. Plate V. French c. 1580.


32. A “BUFFE,” as the above, but of larger proportions; etched with bands of armorial trophies, early 16th century school of ornament. Italian, c. 1590. 33. ANOTHER “ BUFFE,” of large proportions, but of finer workmanship; etched with delicate bands of scrollwork in the school of Northern Italy. Plate V. Italian, c. 156070. 34. A “BUFFE,” of similar quality and proportions, but etched with band of armorial trophies. Plate V. Italian (Milanese), c. 1590. 35. A “BUFFE,” similar. Italian, c. 1580. 36. A “BUFFE,” similar in construction but of larger proportions, etched with narrow bands of armorial trophies. Italian (Milanese), c. 1590. 37. A CUP-HILTED RAPIER, the cup pierced with petal-shaped panels and engraved with tulips ; the blade inscribed IHN SOLINGEN. The fashion of the hilt is Italian. c. 1660. 38. A CUP-HILTED RAPIER, plain cup, long straight quillons, small pommel and the pieced inner shell known in Spain as the Guardapolvo. The blade of fluted, diamondshaped section. Plate VIII. Spanish, c. 1690. 39. AN OVAL BULLETPROOF SHIELD. Probably Maltese, c. 1640. 40 -41. TWO TASSETS, or thigh pieces, etched with bands of ornaments. Italian, c. 1600. 42 -43. A PAIR OF PLAIN PAULDRONS. c. 1610. 44. A PORTRAIT OF PHILIP IV. OF SPAIN, 1658. The King is dressed in half-armour, with an embroidered buff coat showing beneath; his left hand rests on his swordhilt; in his right hand he holds a baton. The figure is viewed three-quarter face, turned to the left. As a work of art it has no merit, being but a late copy of a picture of the Velasquez school. However, it is interesting as a record of costume. 45. AN ARQUEBUS, with the primitive match or firelock action; the barrel has on the breech a peep-sight which is fashioned in the form of a grotesque warrior, habited in the costume of about 1580. The stock is gracefully formed; carved in places with grotesque bearded masks, and generally inlaid with scrolls in polished bone. Plate VII. Probably German, c. 1590-1600. 46. A RAPIER. It is of the usual “ swept “ hilted form, the pommel oviform and hollow, as also are the centres of the bars and knuckle-guard ; the surface russeted and in places gilt, also incrusted with spiral scrolls in silver. In the centres of the principal ornaments are now plain oval cartouches, that no doubt in the past were enriched with gold plaquette medallions, the holes for their attachment still remaining. These were in all probability despoiled for their intrinsic value. The blade is long, stiff, and of diamond-shaped section, with an armourer’s mark upon the ricasso. Plate XXII. Italian, c. 1590. 47. A BASK.ET-HILTED SWORD, known as “Schiavona.” This form of basket-hilted sword was the model from which the English basket-hilted sword was fast taken, now erroneously called the claymore, as for the last two centuries it has been worn with the Scotch highland dress, in which country it must have borrowed

the old Gaelic name of claid-heamh-mor, or “great sword,” the true name of the early Scotch two-handed sword. Plate XXII. Italian (Venetian), c. 1630. 48. THE ORIGINAL BULL OF POPE PASCHAL THE SECOND receiving under his protection the Hospital of St. John, Jerusalem, passed in the year 1113. 49 - 50. A PAIR OF “ COUDRES “ (elbow-pieces), with sunk bordering, delicately etched with radiating scrollwork in the School of Missaglia. Italian,c.1540-60. 51. AN ELBOW-PIECE etched with a salamander and flames, one of the cognisances of Francis 1 of France. Italian, c. 1560. 52. AN ELBOW-PIECE, etched with a form of scale ornament. French c. 1570. 53. AN ELBOW-PIECE, the entire surface etched with formal leaf-work. Italian, c. 1580. 54. AN ELBOW-PIECE, etched with narrow radiating bands of duplicated scrollwork. French, c. 1560. 55. AN ELBOW-PIECE, the whole surface etched with acanthus leaf- work. Italian, c. 1580. 56. AN ELBOW-PIECE, much resembles in decoration Nos. 49 and 50. School of Missaglia, c. 1540-60. 57. AN ELBOW-PIECE, etched with armorial trophies. Italian (Milanese), c. 1600. 58. AN ELBOW-PIECE, somewhat different in form, with various etched ornaments. Spanish, c. 1600. 59. AN ELBOW-PIECE, now of 17th century fashion, but apparently altered from a fluted Maximilian harness of the early part of the 6th century. German. 60. AN ELBOW-PIECE, etched with trophies of arms. Italian (Milanese), c. 1600. 61. THE TWO GORGET PLATES of a “Buffe,” etched with vertical bands of ornaments. Italian, c. 1570. 62. A CABASSET HELMET, etched with vertical bands of trophies, between which are suspended cartouche ornaments. Italian or Spanish, c. 1600. 63 and 64. A PAIR OF PLAIN (thigh pieces). c. 1610. 65. CIRCULAR SHIELD, Almost identical with No. 8. c. 1565-80. 66. PAULDRON (shoulder-piece), for the right side, etched with delicate bands of foliage. North Italian, c. 1570. 67. A BREASTPLATE, with a sprinted plate at the base. Spanish type, c. 1550-70. 68. A THREE-QUARTER SUIT OF ARMOUR. This suit is made up of various plates chosen from the Armoury, so must be considered as a somewhat “composite” harness. The plates match as to decoration, and coincide as regards period and fashion They are all etched with borderings and bands of armorial trophies, and edged with brass-headed rivets that formerly retained in position the lining. The suit consists of the breastplate of peascod form, the backplate, full arms, pauldrons, large tassets, cuisses and genouillères; gorget and closed helmet. The helmet is of earlier date, and superior in design to the remainder of the suit. It dates from the middle of the sixteenth century. Comprehensively Italian (Milanese), c. 1590. 69. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, etched with vertical bands of various trophies of arms, suspended cartouche ornaments between. Italian, c. 1580.


70. ANOTHER MORION, of similar form and decorator. Italian, c. 1590-1600. 71. A CABASSET MORION, etched with vertical bands of armorial trophies. Italian, c. 1590. 72. A CABASSET HELMET, etched with vertical bands of ornament, between which are suspended cartouches. Italian, c. 1600. 73. A BACKPLATE, etched with three vertical bands of armorial trophies. Italian, c. 1580. 74. A CABASSET HELMET, etched with vertical bands of ornament, between which are suspended cartouches. Italian, c. 1600. 75. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 19. Probably English, c. 1710. 76. A HALBERD. Italian, c. 1660. 77. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 75. 78. A PIKE, Similar to No. 22. Maltese, c. 1690. 79. A BOAR-HUNTING SPEAR, with a hollow leafshaped plate. German, c. 1580. 80. A PIKE, similar to No. 78. 81. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 75. 82. A HALBERD, similar to No. 76. 83. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 81. 84. A BREASTPLATE, with a laminated splint below. Spanish type c. 1550-70. 85. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, etched with narrow vertical bands of trophies. Italian or Spanish, c. 1590. 86. A CIRCULAR SHIELD, “Targe” or “Target,” slightly convex centre. Italian, c. 1600. 87. A BREASTPLATE, with a single broad sprinted plate below, etched with three broad bands, and with a V-shaped panel above containing conventional leaf-work, terminal winged figures and birds. In the centre, in an oval cartouche, the figure of the Virgin and Child. Italian fashion and workmanship, c. 1550. 88. THE RIGHT TASSET belonging to the above Breastplate. 89. A TASSET, etched with broad central band of foliage and narrower chevron bands. Italian, c. 1550. 90. A CABASSET HELMET, etched with vertical bands of trophies, bordered by roped designs. Italian or Spanish, c. 1600. 91. A SUIT OF HALF ARMOUR, said to have belonged to the Grand Master La Vallette. It is of Milanese make, and is in the fashion of the end of the 16th century, consisting of the breastplate, of peascod form, the backplate, full arms with pauldrons, short tassets, fingered gauntlets (the fingers missing), gorget, cabasset helmet, and circular “targe” or buckler. The whole surface of the suit is divided into bands, enriched with aqua fortis engraving upon a ground formerly gilt; these bands are divided by narrower bands reserved in the brightened surface. Their decoration alternates, the one having oval medallions of classic deities, the medallion frames joined by knotted ornaments; the other, continuous trophies of armour, weapons, etc. In the centre of the breastplate is an oval panel inscribed POMPE, and on the backplate a medallion with the subject of Mutius Scaevola before Lars Porsenna. On the pouldrons, embossed in low relief and chased, are

lions’ scalps. Around the base of the cabasset run series of rivets, the heads of which are of brass and shaped as lions’ masks. This suit, though effective in decoration, shows the decadence of the armourer’s art. It will be noted that the tassets, although purporting to be of eleven plates, are in reality embossed from, the single plate; a deception practised during the seventeenth century, which leads to the assignation of a later date than otherwise would have been given to this suit. With this suit as formerly set up were a pair of modern jambes and sollerets; a pair of cuisses not belonging, now on the made-up suit No. 68; also an open casque, with modern engravings, a buffe to the casque, of good quality but not belonging, and fingers to the gauntlets, taken from the gauntlets of another suit. Plate VI. 1557-1568 (sic). 92. A MORION, with high comb, the whole surface etched with bands of acanthus foliage, introducing figures of griffins, etc. Around the base of the skull-piece is a series of buss-headed rivets that formerly retained in position the padded lining. Plate IV. Italian, c. 1570. 93. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, deeply etched with four bands of armorial trophies, between which are leafshaped panels containing same ornament. Plate XV. North Italian, c. 1580. 94. A RAPIER, with curved quillons, shell, and bars. Blade partly grooved. Italian, c. 1600. 95. A GUISARME, with fleur-de-lys-like projection from the back of the blade. Probably English, about 1540. 96- 97. A PAIR OF FLINTLOCK PISTOLS, the stocks of walnut wood, carved at the pommel with the head of an eagle and lion, gilt. The barrels russeted, flattened at the breech, and inlaid with scrollworks and arabesques in gold, introducing the name of the maker, MATHIEU DESFORESTS, FECIT X PARIS. The name is repeated on the lockplates. Plate VII. French c. 1670. 98. A GUISARME, similar to No. 95. 99. A GUISARME, similar to No. 95. 100. A SWEPT-HILTED RAPIER, with grooved blade. Itatian, c. 1600. 101. A RAPIER. The hilt is of the type known as “swept”; it has its original grip. The blade is of flattened hexagonal section, grooved and inscribed “IN TE DOMINE SPERAVIT.” Upon the ricasso is impressed a Maltese cross. Plate XXII. Probably Italian, c. 1600. 102. A LEFT-HANDED DAGGER, known as a “Main gauche.” It is the more advanced form of the simple cruciform-hilted dagger in use in the latter part of the seventeenth century. Held in the left hand to parry the lunges and cuts of the adversary’s rapier or sword. Plate VIII. Spanish, c.1600. 103. A RAPIER. It has the “cup” hilt, with the overturned edge for catching the point of the adversary’s rapier; also in the interior of the cup an additional pierced plate, known in Spain as the guardapolvo. The blade is of flattened hexagonal section. Plate VIII. Italian, c. 1660. 104-105. A PAIR OF PAULDRONS (shoulder-pieces). Italian, c. 1600. 106. A VISOR OF A HELMET, used as a bulletproof


reinforcing plate. Probably Maltese, c. 1620. 107-108. A PAIR OF TASSETS. Italian, c. 1630, 109. A BREASTPLATE, slightly peascod form. French, c. 1630. 110-111. A PAIR OF PAULDRONS, similar to No. 104. 112. A GORGET. Italian, c. 1620. 113. A PAULDRON (shoulder-piece) of the left side, etched with bands of armorial trophies and two circular medallions containing portrait busts. Italian (Milanese), c. 1590. 114. A PAULDRON, nearly similar to the above. 115. A PAULDRON, of the right side. 116 - 117. A BACK AND BREASTPLATE (worn by the Grand Master la Vallette, Grand Master from 15571568), with a laminated splint below. It is etched with three broad vertical bands, containing in the centre the figure of St. John and the Lamb, inscribed ECCE AGNUS DEUS ; below that the shield of arms of La Vallette. Plate IX. Italian, c. 1560. 118. A CABASSET, of pen-shaped form, etched with bands, between which are oval medallions containing the emblematical female figure of Fortune. Italian (Milanese), c. 1600. 119. A SHIELD, circular and convex, of copper gilt. Corresponding with the period of the invasion of Malta by the Turks in 1565; probably retained in the armoury of the Knights from that date. Its gilded surface is curiously engraved with carnation-like flowers, cone- shaped panels, and emblems usually associated with the art of the Orient. Plate X. Turkish. 120. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, etched with vertical bands, leaf-shaped panels between. Plate XV. Italian, c. 1590. 121 -122. A BREASTPLATE of peascod form, and backplate belonging, etched with radiating bands of various armorial trophies. Italian fashion, c. 1600. 123. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, the whole surface etched with strapwork, introducing various groups of arms. French or Spanish, c. 1580. 124. A MORION of similar form, engraved with vertical bands of armorial trophies. Italian, c. 1600. 125. ANOTHER, of similar form and decoration. 126. ANOTHER, of similar form and decoration. 127. A PLAIN BACKPLATE. French, c. 1630. 128. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, etched with vertical bands. Italian, c. 1590. 129. ANOTHER, of similar form and date. 130. A SERGEANT’S PARTISAN. Probably English, c. 1710. 131. A GUISARME, similar to No. 95. 132. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 130. 133. A PIKE, with leaf-shaped blade. Maltese, c. 1690. 134. A SPETUM. Italian, c. 1690. 135. ANOTHER PIKE, similar to, No.133. 136. A PARTISAN, Similar to No. 130. 137. AN AHLSPIESSE, with estoc blade of squareshaped section. probably Austrian, c. 1540. The Emperor Maximilian is seen using this weapon in the “Freydal”. 138. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 130.

139. A SUIT OF COMPLETE ARMOUR, said to have been made for the Grand Commander Jean Jacques de Verdelain (1590-1673). It is full in all its parts, having the characteristic peascod breastplate of the decadence of the sixteenth century, complete arms, consisting of pauldrons, rere and vambraces, coudres, fingered gauntlets, taces, laminated tassets, large and wellmodelled cuisses, genouillères, and jambs. It seems extremely, unlikely that it ever possessed plate sollerets, though they exist in the portrait now hanging beside the suit. Around the lower end of the jambe are a series of small holes, which-would suggest the original use of the chain-mail solleret with the plate toe-cap, as seen on so many of the suits in the Madrid armoury. The decorations consist of broad bands and circular panels, etched with Romanesque heads, trophies of arms, strap and scrollwork, all fire-gilt, upon a “white “ or brightened field. The name of Lucio Picinino, of Milan, as the probable maker of this suit, at once suggests itself. So much late and poor Italian armour of this particular school of ornamentation has been attributed to this armourer that his name is associated with much inferior late work; but in the suit before us we see the really fine (both from point of design and execution) work of the artist-armourer himself, though the copyists and duplicators had made the ornamentation meagre by poor reproduction and bad imitations. Plate XI. Italian workmanship and fashion, c. 1580. 140. THE SHIELD belonging to the suit No. 91.Plate XIII. 141-142. A PAIR OF VAMBRACES (Guards to the Forearm), etched with broad bands of armorial trophies, in the early 16th century school. Italian, c. 1560. 143. A HEAVY BULLETPROOF BREASTPLATE, incised with double lines, the border studded with brass-headed rivets, and, deeply engraved in the front as though suspended from the neck, a crucifix. The figure of Christ is so deeply engraved that it may be said to be chiselled in the steel. Possibly Maltese workmanship, made for the Order of St. John, Plate XIX. c. 1660. 144. A HIGH GORGET, etched with broad bands of Romanesque armour; between these a design of linked leaves. Probably Spanish, c. 1560. 145. A “ BUFFE” belonging to the suit No. 139. Plate XII. 146. THE FRONT OF A GORGET PLATE. At first sight it might be thought to be one of the very many coarse 17th century gorgets, such as there are in this collection, but on close examination it will be found that this rude armament is fashioned from the remains of a fine Italian breastplate of the last years of the 15th century. Across the top, now almost ground and polished away, is a broad band of engraving with a composition of saints, rendered in the manner of “ Maso “ (Tommaso) Fineguerra, or some even earlier Florentine engraver. It seems to us distressing that what must have originally been a magnificent breastplate, made at the very zenith of the Armourer’s art, should have been ruthlessly altered and cut into such a commonplace armament ; however, it is an interesting example of a piece of armour of early date, being altered in shape and cut in order to fill the requirements of a later


fashion. Probably constructed in Malta during the second quarter of the 17th century. 147. A PAULDRON of the right side, etched with bands of trophies and medallion portraits. c. 1590. 148 -149. A PAIR OF PAULDRONS with the rere braces attached, the borders etched with narrow bands of trophies. Italian (Milanese) c. 1600. 150. A CONICAL HELMET of steel, entirely gilt. To it, in the front, is attached a movable umbril and through that passes the adjustable nasal guard; the upper portion of the skull-piece is fluted, the lower part deeply engraved with arabesque designs introducing characters. Plate XIV. Saracenic, c. 1500. 151. A CONICAL HELMET of steel, entirely gilt. It is of similar construction to the preceding, but less elegant in form ; there is a fixed umbril through which the nasal guard should pass, retained in position by a spring; the nasal guard is missing, the upper portion of the skullpiece is closely fluted, the whole surface etched with a duplicated foliage design, an ornamentation of German (Saxon) influence. Plate X. Saracenic, c. 1600 152. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, etched with broad bands of trophies and leaf-shaped panels between. Italian (Venetian), c.1580. 153. ANOTHER, nearly similar. 154. A POWDER-FLASK of polished horn, engraved with concentric circles, mounted with russeted iron. German, c. 1650. 155. A PRIMING FLASK, triangular in form, of wood, mounted with russeted iron. Plate VII. Maltese, c. 1660. 156. THE PORTRAIT OF THE GRAND COMMANDER JEAN JACQUES DE VERDELAIN (1590-1673). He is represented three-quarter face, turned to the right; wearing the identical armour that now stands beside the picture No. 139. However, in the portrait the “ jambes “ finish in square-toed steel sollerets, matching the rest of the suit. These one may venture to suggest never existed to the suit, except in the versatile imagination of the painter. The picture is very important as a work of art, but interesting as showing the costume. But even that is misleading, as it is certainly not a contemporary work. 157. AN ARQUEBUS. The stock of dark wood carved to represent rough stag’s-horn, in places inlaid with polished bone, engraved with a lion combating a monster, etc. The barrel octagonal, the lock on the wheel principle, that is, a wheel is wound to tension by a spanner, which on its release revolves quickly against the iron pyrites, that is rigidly held against the wheel by the stationary jaws of the hammer; this produces a spark, which ignites the priming powder. Applied to the lock of this arquebus is a tracery à jour representing strapwork, the goddess Diana, etc., and over the wheel an ornamented case of brass. The whole of German fashion and workmanship, c. 1615. Plate VII. 158. THE ORIGINAL ACT, upon parchment with its great seal and crimson velvet bag, of the Donation of the Island of Malta and Gozo and the fortress of Tripoli to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem by the Emperor Charles

V., signed in his handwriting “YO EL REY” before the last paragraph; passed on the 23rd March, 1530. 159. A POWDER FLASK of polished horn engraved with combating warriors. Plate VII. German, c. 1650. 160. ANOTHER of similar form, engraved with a lady in the costume of 1620, holding a hawk on a wrist. 161. A CIRCULAR SHIELD, “ Targe” or “ Target.” The centre slightly convex, the border flat and finishing in a roping, etched with five hands radiating star-like from the centre between these are cartouches, each containing the emblematical female figure of justice. Italian (Milanese School), c. 1580-1600. 162. A VAMBRACE, delicately etched with a band of scrollwork. c. 1550. 163. A SIMILAR VAMBRACE, of rather later date. 164. A BREASTPLATE, with a laminated plate at the base, etched with a single broad band running down the centre, containing finely drawn arrangements of scrollwork, cornucopiae and amorini, supporting at the top a circular medallion containing a group of the Virgin and Child; the groundwork has been originally gilt. There are two plates of the taces remaining. North Italian, c.1550. 165. A BREASTPLATE, of peascod form, etched with vertical bands containing grotesques and scrollwork, and small sprays of leaf- work dispersed along the bordering. Italian and French, c. 1580. 166. THE RIGHT-HAND TASSET belonging to the above Breastplate. 167. A CABASSET HELMET, etched with bands and leaf-shaped panels. Italian, c. 1590. 168. A BACKPLATE, with a single vertical band of etching down the centre. Italian (Milanese), c.1600. 169. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, with facetted skullpiece, etched with vertical bands and leaf-shaped panels. Italian, c.1600. 170. ANOTHER, of similar form, etched with bands (much rubbed). 171. A BREASTPLATE, deeply etched with three long vertical bands of armorial trophies in the early 16th century school. Italian or Spanish, c. 1570. 172. A CABASSET HELMET, deeply etched with vertical bands. Italian, c.1600. 173. ANOTHER, similar, with leaf-shaped panels between the bands. 174. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, with facetted skullpiece and drooping brim, etched with broad bands of armorial trophies in the early 16th century school. Italian (Venetian), c.1560. 175. A BACKPLATE, etched with three broad bands of armorial trophies. North Italian, c. 1580. 176. A CABASSET HELMET, entirely etched with vertical bands. Italian or Spanish, c. 1600. 177. A SERGEANT’S PARTISAN. Probably English, c.1710. 178. A BOAR-HUNTING SPEAR, with leaf-shaped blade and decorated haft-socket. c.1600. 179. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 177. 180. A PIKE, with leaf-shaped blade. Maltese, c. 1690. 181. A HALBERD, with a long central spike of square-


shaped section. French, c. 1610. 182. A PIKE, similar to No. 180. 183. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 177. 184. A MILITARY FORK, with down-curved lateral beaks. c. 1600. 185. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 177. 186. A SUIT OF ARMOUR, complete to the knee. Consisting of the breast and backplate pauldrons, with complete arms, having articulated plates in the inner bead of the arms, full garde-de-rein, large laminated taces, gorget and closed helmet. The decoration is simple, having plain gilt radiating band, edged with an incised line and punched ornament, alternating with the plain reserved surfaces, the exposed portions of which are brilliantly blued. On various plates of the suit, also punched out, are flear-de-lys-like forms, gilt; the taces are attached to the breastplate by a gilt hinge and screw. The borders of the plates are edged with gilt hemispherically-headed rivets that formerly retained the lining in position. It is interesting to note that this advanced 17th century war harness used formerly to be ascribed to the Grand Master L’Isle Adam, whose years of office were from 1521 to 1534, or at least one hundred years earlier than the possible manufacture of this suit. In the past when this suit was shown, despite the fact that the actual belonging plates existed in the armoury, though they were certainly hidden high up upon the furthest wall, tassets, cuisses and gauntlets were added to it from a suit of rather earlier date, also a pair of modern jambes and meaningless sollerets, all painted blue, with gold stripes, in order that they might match the rest of the suit. It is needless to say we must entirely upset the former absurd supposition as to its supposed ownership. The original taces and gardede-rein have been put back upon the suit, though it is unfortunate their original surface colour of blue and gold has in the past been cleaned off ; they have been recoloured by a tinted copal varnish to seem a little in keeping. Plate XVI. Probably French work, c. 1625. 187. A SHIELD, companion to No. 119. 188. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, the whole surface deeply etched with chequered ornaments, containing diamond-shaped panels, with various armorial trophies. Plate XV. French or Spanish, c. 1590. 189, 190 -191. A BREASTPLATE, BACKPLATE and full PAULDRON for the left side, deeply etched with bands composed of groups of Cupids upholding canopies and supporting the cognizance (the clasped hands) of the Manfredi family of Faenza. Italian, c. 1570. 192. A PAULDRON (shoulder-piece) for the left side, belonging to the Breastplate No. 165. 193 -194. A PAIR OF VAMBRACES, COUDRES, and ONE RERE BRACE, etched with trophies of arms, Italian (Milanese), c. 1600. 195. A BRONZE PESTLE AND MORTAR, moulded with three classic friezes and the arms of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, and of the Grand Master, M. A. Perellos. Beneath is the date 1710. This mortar was formerly used in the Dispenser of the Knights in their Hospital in Valletta, and was placed in the Armoury in the

year 1886. 196 -197. A PAIR OF PLAIN VAMBRACES. c. 1610. 198. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, the whole surface etched with bands of scrollwork. Italian, c. 1580. 199. A CABASSET HELMET, etched with vertical bands of armorial trophies. Italian or Spanish, c. 1600. 200 -201. A PAIR OF TASSETS, deeply etched with various ornaments. Italian, c. 1600. 202. A RIGHT-HAND TASSET, similarly ornamented. 203. A PIKE, with leaf-shaped blade. Maltese, c. 1690. 204. A RAPIER with cup-hilt, roughly chased and pierced with panels of hounds and scrollwork. Italian, c. 1630. 205. A PARTISAN. English, c. 1710. 206. A RAPIER with shell and complicated bar-guard. Blade inscribed I.H.S. many times repeated. German, c. 1620. 207. A SPETUM, with crescent-shaped lateral projections. Probably Hungarian, c. 1620. 208. A RAPIER, similar to No. 206. The blade of diamond-shaped section. 209. A PARTISAN. English, c. 1710. 210. A RAPIER; with shell bar-guard. Blade inscribed, “ ME FECIT SOLINGEN. Italian, c. 1620. 211. A PIKE. Maltese, c. 1690. 212 and 213. A PAIR OF COMPLETE ARMS AND PAULDRONS, having the inner bend of the elbow protected by laminated plates; they are thick and of fine quality of workmanship, probably belonging to some late French 17th century siege- armour. 214. A REINFORCING BULLETPROOF BREASTPLATE, incised with double lines. French c. 1670. 215. A SAPPER’S BREASTPLATE. On the left-hand side a heart- shaped ornament, applied in the form of a pendant. Maltese, c. 1650. 216. A HEAVY SAPPER’S HELMET, the surface blackened. Maltese, c. 1630. 217 -218. A PAIR OF LONG (LOBSTER) TACES, with genouilleres attached; the surface russeted and incised with lines; gilt. French, c. 1640. 219. A BRASS CANNON, moulded with a blank shield of arms at the breech; two dolphins in full relief above the trunnions; wooden iron-shod carriage. Maltese, about 1650. 220 - 221. A PAIR OF SHORT BRASS CANNONS, moulded at the breech with a floral ornament, at the muzzle an inscription in Cufic; wooden carriages. Turkish, about 1630. 222. A BRASS CANNON, moulded with the arms of the Grand Master Perellos (1697-1720); scrolls above the trunnions, and with a lizard in low relief on the muzzle; wooden iron-shod carriage. Maltese, c. 1700. 223. A BRASS CANNON, of smaller proportions, founded with the arms of the Grand Master Manuel Pinto on a shield above the trunnions, and similar inscription to No. 456. 224. A BRASS MORTAR, with the arms of the Grand Master Pinto; inscribed IL VIGOROSO, also FRANCISCVS TRIGANCE.


225. A BRASS CANNON, delicately founded with classic friezes, the arms of the Grand Master Perellos (16971720), and figures of dolphins in full relief above the trunnions; on wooden iron-shod carriage. 226- 227. A PAIR OF CAST-IRON CANNONS. c. 1800. 228. AN IRON CANNON, cased with wood and mounted with brass; wooden carriage. c. 1820. 229. A BRASS MORTAR, moulded with the arms of La Vallette in a scroll-shaped escutcheon. 230. A CIRCULAR SHIELD, “ Targe “ or “ Target” etched with fan- shaped panels containing alternately festoons of laurel ornaments, bucrania, and drapery. French, c. 1570. 231. LIFESIZE BUST IN WHITE MARBLE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE, after Canova, the plinth inscribed, “Napoleon the Great: presented by His Excellency Lieut-General Sir Gaspard Le Marchant, G.C.M.G., Governor of Malta, 1858.” 232. THE GRAND MASTER’S CARRIAGE, decorated in the style usually associated with the period of the French monarch Louis XVI. The mouldings carved with various classic ornaments, the panels of vernis martin; formerly painted with the arms of the Grand Masters, the interior lining of the carriage of cut green velvet.

THE GLASS CASE IN THE CENTRE OF THE ROOM. 233. A PORTION OF A BRIGANTINE JACKET, composed of small iron plates covered with linen and crimson velvet attached by brass hemispherically-headed rivets. The whole appears to be of Italian manufacture, c. 1530. It is said to be part of the dress of Dragut Rais, Pasha of Tripoli, Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish army, killed at the great siege of Malta in 1565. 234. A COMMANDER’S BATON OR MACE (Turkish, c. 1600), the head and grip of silver gilt, engraved with a cone-shaped panel of floral ornaments. The haft of dark wood. 235. ANOTHER MACE of similar construction and decoration. This example bears the Turkish silver mark. These two batons were formerly said to have been used by the Grand Masters La Vallette and Wignacourt. 236. A BATTLE-AXE, with triangular head of bright steel the haft of wood plated with silver stamped to represent shagreen. Turkish, c. 1550. 237. A SCIMITAR, with curved back-edged blade, the hilt of the usual Arabian form; of engraved silver and brass, the grip overlaid with tortoise-shell. Turkish, c. 1600. 238. A SNAPHANCE LOCK of a pistol, pierced and engraved with scrollwork. Plate VII. North German, c. 1700. 239. A CURVED YATAGAN, ivory grip and silver mounts, said to be the weapon of Dragut, but more probably a weapon dating towards the end of the 18th century. CASE I 240-242. Contain the COLOURS of the Regiment of the Maltese Light Infantry, 1800-2, raised by order of lord

Lynedoch, then General Graham, given in 1884 by Dr. Weir, son of Major Weir of the Royal Marines, who raised and disciplined the corps ; COLOURS of the Royal Regiment of Malta, 1805-11, deposited in 1836; COLOURS of the Royal Malta Fencibles Regiment, 18151861, deposited in 1861. 243. A SILVER PENDANT AND BATON of the Captain of the Hospitium or Poor House in the time of the Knights. These insignia of office the Captain wore on parade days, as the Chief of the Police in charge of the good order and discipline of the Poor House. 243. A SWORD, ACCOUTREMENTS, and BADGES of the Malta Militia, 1853-1858. . CASE II 244. THE OLD COLOURS of the 80th (Staffordshire) Regiment, deposited in the Armoury in 1829. 245. THE OLD COLOURS of the 35th Regiment (Sussex). 246. A SWORD worn formerly by Colonel Attilio Sciberras, 98th Prince of Wales’ Regiment. 247. TWO BRASS-MOUNTED WANDS used by the Guardians of the Palace Courtyard, 1858-64. 248. A BANNER with the motto of the Order of the Garter. 249. A BANNER with the Order of the Bath. 249. A BANNER with the motto of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. 249. A BANNER with the motto of the Hanoverian Order. SCREEN B. 250. A HELMET, the surface now russeted. The skullpiece is made in two halves, and is greatly strengthened by the addition of reinforcing plates, screwed on either side. It is devoid of visor or beaver; the face is protected by full and large cheek-pieces, cut for the ocularia and for breathing purposes; these are also strengthened by additional applied plates. The weight of this curious headpiece is 21lbs. Probably Maltese, c.1600. It must not be considered that a helmet of such weight as this was worn in the manner of even the moderately heavy closed helmet. It was put on for but a few minutes at a time, when the wearer, either ordinary sapper or commander, was under the actual hot fire from the ramparts of a besieged town or in imminent danger of missiles or hot lead, then thrown upon the heads of a scaling or otherwise attacking party. 251 - 252. A BREASTPLATE, BACKPLATE, AND THE PAIR OF PAULDRONS. The breastplate of slightly peascod form, with roped laminated, gussets and roped turnover above. The decoration consists of three broad, deeper etched bands containing interlaced acanthus-leaf foliage, amongst which may be seen figures of pelicans, etc.; between these broad bands are narrower ones, also of scrollwork, at even intervals along the edges project sprigs of trefoil-shaped leaves. Plate XVII. Italian, c. 1570-80. 253. A CIRCULAR SHIELD, “ Targe “ or “ Target” slightly convex in form, finishing in a short central spike.


It is etched with many bands radiating from the centre, each containing conventional armorial trophies, in the accepted late Milanese school. Italian, c. 1600. 254. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, very similar in decoration to the pieces No. 251. Italian, c. 1570-80. 255-256. A PEASCOD. BREASTPLATE and BACKPLATE, etched with three broad bands of trophies, birds, classical figure, and festoons of drapery. North Italian, c. 1570. 257. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, with plain brightened surface, a row of rivets round the base of the skull-piece for the attachment of the lining. Italian or Spanish, c.1600. 258. A BREASTPLATE, with a single laminated splint at the base. Probably Spanish, c. 1550-70. 259. A CABASSET HELMET, with plain, brightened surface. Spanish or Italian, c. 1600. 260. A BACKPLATE, etched with three vertical bands of armorial trophies. Italian (Milanese), c. 1590. 26. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, with plain, brightened surface. Italian (Venetian), c. 1570-80. 262. ANOTHER; of similar form, nationality and date. 263. A CABASSET HELMET, plain, brightened surface. Spanish or Italian, c. 1600. 264. A SERGEANT’S PARTISAN. Probably English, c. 1710. 265. A PROCESSIONAL PARTISAN, the base of the blade fashioned to the outline of a star, that may have been formerly painted with the cross of the Order. Probably Maltese, c. 1650. 266. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 264. English, c. 1710. 267. A PIKE, with leaf-shaped blade. Probably Maltese, c. 1680. 268. A PARTISAN, a variant in form of the English sergeant’s weapon of the early part of the 18th century. 269. A PIKE, similar to No. 267. 270. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 264. 271. A PROCESSIONAL PARTISAN, the companion to No. 265. Maltese, c. 1650. 272. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 264. English, c. 1710. 273. A SUIT OF ARMOUR, complete to the knee. Consisting of the breast and backplate, complete arms with full pauldrons, long laminated taces finishing in the genouilleres and gorget. With the suit is its original ballproof reinforcing breastplate, weighing 18½lbs. The closed helmet placed upon it is from another suit. The surface is brightened and deeply etched with radiating bands, decorated with a design of trophies of various Romanesque arms, alternating with a continuous band of acanthus leaves. Both are similarly bordered with an engraved cable-pattern ornament. Upon the pauldrons, the coudres and genouilleres are engraved large detached trophies of various arms. These, as also the various narrow bands, are executed in the manner usually associated with the French school of engraving during the reign of Louis XIII. Plate XVIII. French work and fashion, c. 1630. 274. A CIRCULAR SHIELD, “Targe” or “ Target” slightly concave, and decorated with raised petal-shaped panels;

the extreme border cabled. Italian (?), c. 1625. 275 -276. A PAIR OF PAULDRONS, slightly embossed with spiral ornaments and deeply etched and with arrangements of acanthus leaves. Italian, c. 1600. 277. THE REINFORCING BULLETPROOF BREASTPLATE belonging to the suit No. 273 ; on it are the trial marks of a bullet. Weight 18½lbs. French, c. 1630. 278. A CABASSET HELMET, deeply etched with vertical bands of Romanesque arms, between which are suspended strapwork cartouches, having in the centre of each a profile portrait bust. Italian, c. 1690. 279. THE “BUFFE” or movable Beaver, etched with trophies. The two gorget plates do not belong to it. Italian, c. 1570-80. 280. THE RIGHT-HAND VAMBRACE from the same suit. 281. A “ COUDRE” or elbow-piece, etched with vertical bands of foliage and leafage. Italian, c. 1580-1600. 282. A LEFT TASSET (thigh-guard), etched with a broad band of trophies of Roman arms, in the early 16th century school. North Italian, c. 1560. 283 - 284. A BREAST AND BACKPLATE. The breastplate has a laminated splint at the base, also a single plate of the taces attached; the backplate has a garde-derein of one plate. The surface is brightened and deeply etched with three broad bands, containing finely drawn and well-composed acanthus scrollwork, introducing grotesque heads and winged monsters. In the centre of the breastplate are two warriors attired in Roman armour. In the centre of the backplate is a female figure emblematical of Fortune standing upon the terrestrial globe. Plate XVII. Italian, c. 1560-75. 285. A PAULDRON for the right side, delicately etched with broad bands of acanthus foliage, narrow bands crossing these at an obtuse angle. North Italian, c. 1560. 286. A BACKPLATE, of brightened steel. c. 1620. 287. A BACKPLATE, of brightened steel with two embossed annular ornaments above. Italian, c. 1600. 288. A BRASS TRUMPET. It is of the usual form, having one elongated twist, and the funnel-shaped finial, around which is engraved a frieze of tulip-like flower, and formal scrollwork introducing the name of the maker in the following inscription: DANIEL KODISCH IN NÜRNBERG MACHT. The joins of the various tubes are covered by cylindrical cases, stamped with spiral bands of scrollwork. In the centre of the principal tube is a depressed knop. The interesting statement to the effect that it was the trumpet that sounded the Knights’ retreat from Rhodes in Dec. 1522, must, alas ! be for ever laid aside: its form and decoration do not unhappily allow a second thought to be given to such precious history. The shape of it is most characteristic of the last quarter of the 17th century, and Daniel Kodisch the name of a wellknown maker of that period. It has been described as having been preserved with great care as a relic by the Grand Masters, so it would not be without interest to know when and how this story first originated. Made in


Nuremburg about 1670. 288A. AN EQUESTRIAN PORTRAIT, described as that of a Spanish “Infante” probably a portrait of Philip IV when a boy. 289. A CABASSET HELMET, etched with bands of trophies, medallion ornaments between. Italian, c. 1600. 290. A PAULDRON AND, RERE BRACE OF THE LEFT SIDE, etched with spiral arrangements of acanthus leaves. Italian (Milanese), c. 1590. 291. AN OPEN CASQUE, with high corded comb etched with broad bands of scrollwork, introducing dolphins and festoons of drapery. North Italian, c. 1570. 292. A COMPLETE LEFT ARM, etched with groups of grotesques and narrow bands of scrollwork. Italian, c. 1580. 293-294. A PEASCOD BREASTPLATE AND BACKPLATE, etched with three broad bands of arabesque foliage, birds, masks, and festoons of drapery. In the centre, in an oval compartment, is the Crucifixion, surrounded by the inscription “IN DOMINE TUO SEMPER CERTABO, NON TIMEBO.” Italian, c. 1550. 295. A CIRCULAR SHIELD, “Targe” or “Target,” slightly convex in the centre, etched with six radiating bands of various trophies of arms. In the fan-shaped compartments between are vases and scrollwork. French, c. 1570. 296. A LEFT PAULDRON (shoulder-piece), etched with various ornaments. Italian (Milanese), c. 1600. 297. ANOTHER, nearly similar. 298. A PLAIN PEASCOD BREASTPLATE. c. 1620. 299. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, with brightened surface. c. 1590. 300. A CABASSET HELMET, etched with bands of trophies. c.1590. 301. A PLAIN BACKPLATE. c. 1620. 302. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, etched with bands of various trophies. Italian, c. 1600. 303. ANOTHER, nearly similar. 304. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, with brightened surface. c. 1600. 305. A PEASCOD BREASTPLATE, etched in the centre with an oval medallion containing a mask of Cupid. French, c. 1600. 306. A MORION, with a high comb. The skull-piece entirely etched with zigzag bands of scrollwork, and grotesque birds on the comb. Italian, c. 1590. 307. A SERGEANT’S PARTISAN. Probably English c. 1710. 308. A PROCESSIONAL PARTISAN, the base of the blade fashioned to the outline of a star that may have been formerly painted with the cross of the Order. Probably Maltese, c. 1650. 309. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 264. English, c. 1710. 310. A PIKE, with a leaf-shaped blade. Probably Maltese, c. 1690. 311. A SPETUM. Italian, c. 1560. 312. A PIKE, Similar to No. 267. 313. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 264.

314. A PROCESSIONAL PARTISAN, similar to No. 265. 315. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 264. 316. A THREE-QUARTER SUIT OF ARMOUR. This suit, presenting no particular point of interest, was chosen from the many that surround the walls of the armoury, in preference to any other, on account of its completeness. By this is meant that it was made with each piece fitting, and intended for its companion, and not built up of odd pieces of plate armour, regardless of date and nationality, such as those with which most of the wooden figures of the Armoury are clothed. It shows the full armament of a Knight during the first half of the 17th century. It is free from decoration, save, perhaps, the little rope-pattern border and the double lines incised upon some of the plates. The rivets have been soldered upon brass washers. The plates are as follows: The backplate; the breastplate, on the left-hand side of which is attached the lance rest; full arms with pauldrons (shoulder pieces) and gauntlets ; long taces of many plates detachable at the base from the genouilleres, to which they are fastened by turning staples ; gorget and closed helmet, the ocularia protected by a ridged visor, known as an ambril. Probably German, c. 1625. 317. A CIRCULAR SHIELD, “Targe” or “Target,” the companion to No. 86. Italian, c. 1600. 318 - 319. A LARGE PEASCOD BREASTPLATE and BACKPLATE, deeply etched with trophies of arms in three radiating bands. Strapwork cartouches between, with the figure of Judith carrying the head of Holofernes, and, the figure of Mars. Plate XIX. Italian (Milanese), c. 1600. 320. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, etched with vertical bands of armorial trophies. Italian (Milanese), c. 1600. 321. A PEAR-SHAPED CABASSET, similar decoration to the last. 322. A HEAVY CLOSED HELMET, with perforations for breathing purposes on the right-hand side of the visor. The lower part finishes in a hollow roping that should fit over the top rim of the gorget insuring free rotary movement of the head. It is the type of closed helmet that many of the figures round the walls of the armoury are mounted with. In this armoury are 49 exactly similar examples. Italian, c. 1600-20. 323 - 324. A PAIR OF LONG “LOBSTER” TACES, finishing in genouilleres. French c. 1630. 325. A BACKPLATE, delicately etched with five bands of interlaced scrollwork. North Italian, c. 1560. 326. AN OPEN CASQUE, with a high roped comb and hinged earpieces, etched in the centre of the comb with a strapwork panel containing a trophy of arms. French, c. 1580. 327. A MILITARY FORK, with down-curved cutting beaks. c. 1600. 328. ANOTHER, exactly similar. 329. A BACKPLATE, deeply etched with three broad bands of trophies of arms, figures of amorini, etc. Italian, c. 1600. 330. A PIKE with a leaf-shaped blade. c.1650. 331. ANOTHER, nearly similar.


332. A GARDE-DE-REIN, composed of scales, overlapping upwards, incised with double lines and Maltese crosses. c. 1640. 333. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, the skull formed in the shape of eight facets, each etched with narrow bands of trophies, etc. Italian (Venetian), c. 1580. 334. A CIRCULAR WOODEN SHIELD, painted with the arms of Philippe de Villiers L’Isle Adam, the first Grand Master in Malta, 1521-1534. 335. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, etched with six radiating bands of various trophies, the spaces between filled with arrangements of drapery, and other Renaissance ornament. French, c. 1580. 336. A CLOSED HELMET, with blued surface, deeply etched with trophies of arms, etc., in the school of Lucio Picinino. Italian, c. 1600. 337. A “ BUFFE,” deeply etched with broad bands of armorial trophies in the early 16th century taste. North Italian, c. 1580. 338. A “BUFFE,” etched with bands of trophies. Italian (Milanese), c. 1600. 339. A LEFT TASSET, etched with amorini, masks and scrollwork in bands. North Italian, c. 1570. 340. A LEFT TASSET, etched with bands of various trophies. Italian (Milanese), c. 1600. 341. A GARDE-DE-REIN, exactly similar to No. 332. 342. ANOTHER GARDE-DE-REIN, the scale plates overlapping downwards. French, c. 1630. 343. A RIGHT VAMBRACE, etched with bands of trophies. Italian, c. 1600. 344. A RIGHT PAULDRON, etched with bands of trophies and leaf-shaped panels. Italian, c. 1600. 345. A LEFT VAMBRACE, etched with bands of trophies in the early 16th century school. c. 1590. 346-347. A PEASCOD BREASTPLATE AND BACKPLATE, etched with broad radiating bands containing vases supported on the heads of dolphins, and upholding figures of winged female monsters. Between these broader bands run narrow bands of curb-chain ornament. Italian or Spanish, c. 1570. 343. A CIRCULAR SHIELD, “Targe” or “Target,” of convex form finishing in an acute salient centre; round the border run oblong and circular panels, etched with various trophies of arms. In the centre are twelve petalshaped panels containing a like ornament. Italian (Milanese school), c. 1580. 349. AN OPEN CASQUE, with high comb (the earpieces are wanting), engraved with bands of various armorial trophies. North Italian, c. 1580. 350. A PEASCOD BREASTPLATE, engraved in the centre with a small oval shield, supported by pages in the costume of about 1580. French c. 1600. 351. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION etched with six vertical bands of armorial trophies. Between these are strapwork cartouches containing medallion portraits. Italian, c. 1580. 352. A CABASSET, of similar decoration. c. 1600. 353. A PEASCOD BREASTPLATE, engraved with radiating bands of various trophies. Italian

(Milanese), c. 1600. 354. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, the whole surface etched with strapwork and trophies of arms. French, c. 1580. 355. A HELMET, of similar form, the entire surface engraved with radiating bands of various ornaments. Italian, c.1580. 356. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, with six bands etched with trophies, between which oval medallions are suspended and supported on the top of fleur-de-lys-like ornaments. Italian, c. 1580. 357. A PEASCOD BREASTPLATE, etched in the centre with an oval panel containing the figure of St. George fighting with the Dragon; strapwork borders. Possibly English, c. 1610. 358 - 359. A PAIR OF PAULDRONS, with slight sunk bordering, etched with scrollwork. North Italian, c. 1570. 360. A SERGEANT’S PARTISAN. English, c. 1710. 361. A HALBERD. French, c. 1630. 362. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 360. 363. A PIKE, with leaf-shaped blade. Maltese, c. 1670. 364. A SPETUM. Italian, c. 1570. 365. A PIKE, similar to No. 363. 366. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 360. 367. A HALBERD, with long estoc-shaped spike. German, c. 1580. 368. A PARTISAN, similar to No. 360. 369. A SUIT OF ARMOUR, reaching to the knees. Consisting of the breastplate, of peascod form, the backplate, full arms with pauldrons, fingered gauntlets (the right gauntlet and all the plates missing), tassets, taces detachable above the knee, gorget, and closed helmet. The decoration chosen for the enrichment of this suit consists of wide radiating bands and borders, deeply etched and gilt. The bands are filled with duplicated annular panels, each finishing in the outline of a dolphin, joined tail to mouth. In the centre of each of these is a rosette. These are bordered on either side by narrow bands of conventional scroll- work - the intervening space between being minutely granulated and filled with a black pigment. This suit, by far the finest from the point of armourers’ art in this collection, was attributed formerly to the Grand Master Martin Garzes (1595-1601). It is quite possible that it may have been his property ; indeed, with the exception of the Wignacourt suit, it is the only one in the Armoury that corresponds in period to the owner originally accredited to it. Unfortunately the taces have been in the past altered from their original form, three rough plates have been added at the top, and the detachable plate above the knee-piece has had its lower edge cut away, and is now permanently riveted to the plate below. Originally shown with this suit as having belonged to it were the fine pair of jambes and sollerets (Nos. 437 & 478). German, c. 1560, possibly by the armourer Wolf of Landshut. Plate XX. 370. A CIRCULAR SHIELD, “ Targe “ or “ Target.” Plate XXI. 371. A BACKPLATE. 372. A COMPLETE RIGHT ARM.


373. A LEFT PAULDRON. These four pieces all belonged formerly to such a suit as No. 91, the other plates of which are now unfortunately lost. The surface ornament consists of alternating bands, the one band containing variously shaped panels of figures chosen from heathen Mythology, framed by strapwork, linked together with Cshaped scrolls; the other band various military and amatory trophies divided by plain chevron bars. The groundwork of these various ornaments is etched with granulated surface, and has been formerly gilt. Italian (Milanese), c. 1580-1600. 374. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, surface divided by sixteen narrow, radiating bands, the groundwork occupied by various armorial trophies. Italian (Milanese), c. 1580. 375. A CHANFRON (defence for the horse’s head), with a hinged crinière (neckplate) attached, etched with bands of trophies and studded with brass-headed rivets. Italian, c. 1590. 376 -377. A BREASTPLATE AND BACKPLATE, the breastplate is of semi-globose form, in the fashion of the civil doublet of the middle of the 16th century. There is a laminated splint at the base, and laminated gussets at the sides, which finish like the “turnover “ above in a cabled design. Down the front is etched a narrow band, winding at the top, with figures of amorini, dolphins, etc., whilst in the centre above is a circular medallion containing a representation of the Virgin and Child, in the school of Giovanni Bellini. The whole of the etching was formerly gilt. North Italian, c. 1550. 378. A RIGHT VAMBRACE, etched with bands of conventional scrollwork. North Italian, c. 1560. 379. PORTION OF A LEFT VAMBRACE, similarly decorated. North Italian, c. 1560. 380. PORTRAIT OF ALOF DE WIGNACOURT, Grand Master of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem from 1601-1622. Painted by Caravaggio. Michel Angiolo (Amerigi or Morigi), the pointer known as Caravaggio, was born at Caravaggio, a village in North Italy, in 1569, and died at Porto Ercole in 1609. The Grand Master is represented standing three-quarter face, turned to the left. In his right hand he holds a baton, the end resting on his thigh; his left hand falls loosely on the pommel of his sword. He is depicted wearing the suit that now stands beside the picture, No. 413. The shield, No. 393, is seen standing against a table on the right-hand side of the picture, upon which is his helmet, his surcoat with the blazonings of the Order. It is interesting to note that in the picture, applied to the central spike of the shield is a larger coat of arms than now appears upon the actual shield. This no doubt, was originally of thin iron, painted with the Wignacourt arms, and mounted with ormolu. By the picture it will be noted that the gauntlets once possessed finger- plates (these are now missing), and that the exposed linings of the suit were blue velvet with silver lace embroidery. 381. A HUNTING SWORD. The pommel is shaped as a falcon’s head; there is a single knuckle-gaud, a solid sheet, single quillon and single pas-d’âne; the whole surface, now of brightened steel, was formerly the field for the richest

strapwork etching in the Saxon school. The blade is of falchion shape, the back of which is so forged as to form a pistol barrel. At the hilt is attached the wheel-lock for discharging the weapon, the trigger being released by a pin on the opposite side of the blade. Plate XXII. German, c. 1550. 382. THE GARDE-DE-REIN of the armour of Alof de Wignacourt. 383. A BACKPLATE, etched with three radiating bands containing various trophies of armour; early 16th century school of ornament. North Italian, c. 1570. 384. THE BREASTPLATE. 385. THE BACKPLATE. 386.and 387. THE VAMBRACES AND COUDRES. 388. THE LEFT TASSET. All from the same harness, deeply etched with broad bands of various trophies of armour and arms, also introducing medallion profile busts, and honeysuckle-like border ornaments. North Italian, c.1570. 389. A LEFT PAULDRON (shoulder-piece) etched with various ornaments. Italian (Milanese), c. 1600. 390. A LEFT TASSET (thigh-piece), of many plates, deeply etched with various narrow bands of ornaments, trophies of arms, etc. c. 1600. 391. A LEFT TASSET (thigh-piece), from a breastplate much resembling No. 383. 392. THE CHANFRON belonging to the suit of Alof de Wignacourt, No.413. Plate XXIII. 393. THE CIRCULAR SHIELD, “Targe” or “Target,” belonging to the same harness, No. 413. Plate XXIV 394. THE REINFORCING LEFT SHOULDER PLATE, belonging to the same harness, No. 413. 395. A PEASCOD BREASTPLATE, etched with vertical bands of various armorial trophies. Italian (Milanese), c. 1600. 396. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, the surface deeply etched with strapwork introducing various groups of arms. Probably French , c.1580. 397. A SIMILAR MORION, with almost identical decoration. 398. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, etched with narrow radiating bands of trophies, the spaces between occupied with medallions containing trophies of busts. Italian, c.1580. 399. A PEASCOD BREASTPLATE, of large proportions, engraved with nine radiating bands containing armorial trophies. Italian (Milanese), c. 1600. 400. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, etched wit six radiating bands, between which are smaller chevron bands in the same design. Italian or Spanish, c.1580. 401. A PEAR-SHAPED MORION, the surface entirely etched wit trophies of various arms, but having tongueshaped panels reserved in the brightened surface. Italian, c.1580. 402. A SERGEANT’S PARTISAN. English c.1710. 403. A HALBERD, with crescent shaped blade and drooped beak. German, c.1580. 404. A PARTISAN similar to No. 402,


405. A PIKE, leaf-shaped blade. Maltese, c. 1670. 406. A PARTISAN, with broad-ridged blade and small lateral projections. Italian, c. 1550. 407. A PIKE, similar to No. 385. 408. A SERGEANT’S PARTISAN, similar to No. 402. 409. A HALBERD, of similar form and nationality to No.403 410. A SERGEANT’S PARTISAN, similar to No. 402. 411. A BREASTPLATE, with slight tapul ; two plates of the taces etched with broad bands of various armorial trophies. c. 1570. 412. A CLOSED HELMET, the surface russeted: the skull-piece has a high corded comb, etched with a continuous band of scrollwork, the groundwork hatched and gilt. On the lower part of the skull are two C-shaped scrolls, also etched and gilt. The visor and beaver are of strongly accentuated forms, the borders also etched and gilt. Probably Spanish, c. 1560. 413. THE FULL SUIT OF ARMOUR made for Alof de Wignacourt, Grand Master of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem from 1601- 1622. It is of Italian fashion, and made in all probability by the armourer Geronimo Spacini of Milan. Consisting of the breast and backplate, full arms and pauldrons, showing the laminated plates in the bend of the arms, gorget, closed helmet, tassets, full taces, genouilleres, jambes, sollerets, and a garde-de-rein of articulated scales (No. 382). With it is a circular buckler (No. 393), the chanfron of the horse armour (No. 392), and a reinforcing plate for the left shoulder (No. 394), to be used in running a “course.” The decoration is extremely rich, though the design is wanting a little in reserve. The surface is divided at intervals of 21 inches by longitudinal bands deeply engraved and fully gilt; these bands are crossed at a distance of every inch by straps passing at right angles between the longitudinals fashioned in outline to the segment of a circle, giving at a distance a scale-like appearance. These straps, each half an inch wide, form the field of the finest gold azzimina damascening inlaid with arabesque scrollwork, and introducing at intervals the fleur-de-lys, engraved and gilt. The ground upon which this gold enrichment is applied being deeply blued, and the surface punched to field, matted with small circles. The spaces between this trellis-like ornamentation are occupied with trophies of various arms, musical panoplies, fruit, flowers, and in places galleys manned by eight oars. All these trophies appear to be suspended by slender festoons of drapery. In the centre of the breastplate is a canopy with an arched top, on which is engraved and gilt tile figure of a Knight of St. John ; below this is the fleurde-lys. In the centre of most of the principal plates is another such canopy, in most cases containing a figure in Romanesque armour. On the buckler is engraved and gilt and incrusted with silver the arms of the Wignacourt family, surmounted by a coronet. The suit, when in its pristine state, must have been splendid in its wealth of colour ; the blued ground, the golds of two colours, the silver bordering, the coloured velvet lining and gold tinsel we see in the portrait of Wignacourt, must have made a brave and gorgeous display; like No.91 in this collection it

cannot rank among the fine productions of the armourer’s art of earlier times, but by reason of its high quality of workmanship, its certain elegance of form, and the fertility of its ornamentation, it has a rightful claim to the first place among the best known 17th century suits of the armouries of Europe. In the Wallace Collection of London is a suit made for the family of Manfredi of Faenza (No. 1146 in the Catalogue), that somewhat resembles it in decoration whilst in the Poldi-Pizzoli Museum of Milan is another suit that more closely resembles it in workmanship. The whole suit is small though evenly proportioned, which led to Madame Sajani saying, in her Ultimi Giorni dei Cavalieri di Malta (published is Malta, 1841), when describing Junot’s visit to the Armoury in 1798, “that on comparing this suit of armour with the portrait, it is seen that Wignacourt was a taller man than the armour would now fit. She adds, “ that some years after junot’s visit the armour was sent to London, and worn by a noble lord, and that it was cut down so as to fit him ;” on what occasion she is ignorant. May it have been sent to England to wear in the Eglinton Tornament of 1838? It would seem extremely impossible; and rather than the suit having been reduced in size, it appears to have been enlarged to its present proportions. Plate XXV. c. 1610-20. The following seven numbers are parts of a suit of armour reaching to the waist, and used, like the helmet No. 250, for sapping purposes. 414. THE CIRCULAR SHIELD. 415. THE TWO LOWER PLATES of either espaliers (shoulder- pieces). 416. THE BREASTPLATE. Plate XXVI. 417. THE BACKPLATE. 418. THE GORGET. 419. THE “CHAPEL-DE-FER,” or iron hat. Plate XXVI. 420. THE LEFT TASSET. This extremely, interesting harness, perhaps one of the heaviest suits of its kind in Europe, for when in its entirety upon the wearer its weight was a little over 110lbs., belonged to the redoubtable Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt. Very deeply engraved on the breastplate, and as though hanging from the neck, is represented a chain on which is hung an oval badge chiselled with Alof de Wignacourt’s arms quartered with those of the Order of St. John ; this shield and arms were no doubt formerly filled in with opaque charaplevé enamels in their proper heraldic colours. Around the borderings of the various plates is a continuous escalloped band, each segment of the circle finishing in a trefoil. This design was originally gilt, the remaining exposed surface being blued. The gorget, the left tasset, and the lower plates of the espaliers, still retain their former colouring, the breast and backplate, shield and helmet, unfortunately at some time or other having been polished to a brightened surface. On the breastplate and backplate are three deep concavities formed by musket bullets; whether these marks are contemporaneous with its illustrious wearer, and were


caused by bullets actually received in battle, or whether they were the marks of bullets purposely fired at the armour, a test often resorted to in the 17th century, it is quite impossible to ascertain - but whatever their cause, it proves the obstinate endurance of this sturdy little harness. The helmet is of an interesting type, the form evidently borrowed from that of the salade of the 15th century. Upon the side of the skull-piece is engraved a fleur-de-lys, an emblazonment found on the shield of the Wignacourt family. It may not be without interest to note the individual weights of the various plates in the suit The breastplate, 25 lbs. The shield, 27 lbs. The backplate, 22 lbs. The tasset, 6 lbs. The helmet, 25 lbs. The espaliers (about), 8 lbs. The gorget, 3 lbs. The suit is now reclaimed, if the word may be used, and shown to the public for the first time, for until reorganization of the Armoury it was distributed to the four comers of gallery; the back and breastplate were hanging in one of the corridors of the Palace, the gorget, painted black, was upon one of the many figures against the walls, and the two fragments of the espaliers were consigned to a barrel full of rusty fragments eventually to be cast aside. The helmet stood always on the pedestal of the figure upon which was set the large suit of black armour. 421. AN OPEN CASQUE, with gracefully moulded comb, having on either side a shallow embossed roping. Italian (Milanese), c. 1560. 422. A RIGHT PAULDRON, etched with various trophies and leaf-shaped panels. Italian (Milanese), c. 1600. 423 -424. A BREASTPLATE AND BACKPLATE, ensuite. The breastplate is high in the neck and of flattened globose form, having three laminated splinted plates below, each finishing in an escalloped border. The gussets are detached and fluted. The backplate is on the same principle. Italian, c. 1540. 425 and 426. A BREASTPLATE AND BACKPLATE, en suite. The breastplate is of globose form, with roped and fluted gussets, two deep splinted plates at the base. Italian, c. 1550. 427. A CLOSED HELMET, with a roped comb, the visor pierced with ocularia fitting within the beaver (cheekpiece is wanting). English, c. 1540. 428. A “ COUDRE,” with sunken roped border. c. 1550. 429. A “ COUDRE,” with sunk border, delicately etched with radiating bands of scrollwork. North Italian, c. 1540. 430. A GLAIVE, with curved cutting edge. Italian (Probably Venetian), c. 1550. 431. A COMPANION WEAPON. 432. A SPETUM, with crescent-shaped lateral projections. Probably Polish, c. 1550. 433. A COMPANION WEAPON. 434. A CLOSED HELMET, with fluted crown and bellows visor. The surface is russeted. It is of a type known as

“Maximilian,” from the first German Emperor of that name, who made the fashion in such war harness. Plate XXVII. German (probably Nuremburg), c. 1535. 435. A BUCKLER. It is circular and convex in form, composed of the central steel nimbus and a border of twelve plates, each fashioned to the segment of a circle, and having in their centre an embossed ridge - all laid down upon oak foundations, their joins concealed by applied framing of brass. In the centre is a hole now roughly filled in ; through this formerly passed the barrel of a small gun, discharged by a match-lock, on the inside of the shield. In the Tower of London Armoury, at Windsor Castle and in Edinburgh Castle, are other such shields, but having the gun barrels and locks existing. This most interesting shield, one of the earliest specimens of plate armour in the Armoury, must have had a curious and chequered career, for it is one of a series of eighty that were in the Tower of London Armoury, made and placed there by order of King Henry VIII. Plate XXIX. English work, c. 1520. 436. A CLOSED HELMET, roped comb, etched with radiating bands, gilt, the surface russeted. To this headpiece has been added the visor of an earlier helmet. German, c. 1530. 437-438. A PAIR OF JAMBES AND SOLLERETS. The toe-pieces of spreading “ bear-paw “ form, with radiating fluting at the end, the jambes or greaves finely modelled ; along the various borders are narrow bands of etching of acanthus leaves, all gilt, the remaining surface russeted. Plate XXVIII. Italian (school of Missaglia), c. 1525. 439. A SALADE or open headpiece, with hinged visor. The skull-piece has a finely moulded crown, finishing in a cabling, the front portion strengthened by a reinforcing plate, the ocularia formed by the distance between the top of the visor and the lower edge of the reinforcing plate. The back of the skull is out-curved to form a neck-guard, the whole of the edging being turned under to a blunted edge, as in all armour of Gothic times. The surface is blacked, the original patina, bordered by a delicate ornamental design of acanthus leaves, etc., with traces of the original gilding. The visor os of bellows form, with a few apertures for breathing purposes. This fine and rare helmet, certainly one of the rarest possessions of the Armoury, was, until recent alterations, upon one of the suits of 17th century half- armour that line the walls of the gallery. It had received from time to time coats of black paint, entirely obscuring the delicate etching, which only appeared after several strong baths of hot water and soda. In the Musée d’Artillerie of Paris, a similar helmet, the actual work of Missaglia, may be seen upon the suit No. G. 8 of the present Catalogue. In London, in the Wallace Collection, there are three examples, Nos. 86, 200, and 201, the foremost being Italian, and much like this helmet in general feeling ; the other two are of German manufacture, but closely following the Malta salade in outline. It was the knightly helmet of Italy, in fact in nearly all Christendom, from about 1460 to 1515, when it gradually made way for the more complete forms of closed


helmet. This form of salade is constantly to be seen in the pictures of Botticelli, Bellini and Giorgione. Italian, probably Venetian (school of Missaglia), c.1500-1520. Plate XXX. 440. A “HAND AND A HALF” SWORD. The hilt, now of brightened steel, his straight quillons, with a single ring-guard on either side; the grip is of dark wood, fluted. The blade, double-edged, with a strong fluted ricasso, is 45 inches long, inscribed at the hilt IN TE DOMINE SPERAVIT. There is another such sword in the armoury of Windsor Castle that was taken from Malta and presented to King George III by General Pigot in 1821. Plate VIII. Probably Spanish, c. 1540. 441. A “HAND AND A HALF” SWORD. It is similar in form to the preceding. The blade is 47 in. long, and inscribed ESPOIR EN DIEU - ANTOI MEFEI. Plate VIII. Probably Spanish, c. 1540. 442. A BREASTPLATE, of slightly globose form, with a single splint at the base, etched with vertical bands of acanthus scrolls, monsters, and birds, introducing in the centre the figure of the Virgin holding the infant Saviour, standing in a crescent moon. Plate XXXI. Spanish, c. 1540. 443. A BACKPLATE, en suite. 444. A CANNON or “BOMBARDE” (sic). It was found at Malta. The carriage is designed after a drawing marked Pezza Cavalca (literally, riding piece), in an old work entitled “ Pratica Manuale dell’ Artiglieria,” published at Milan in the year 1606. It consists of a cylinder of iron 2ft. 2in. long, upon which is shrunk a breech and muzzlering, the latter pierced with a hole, into which is inserted a loose ring. Inside this are three other strengthening rings, the first of the three similarly pierced to receive a ring, but now broken ; beneath this first ring is also a strengthening band. The rings were no doubt to facilitate moving it. The bore is 6.5. Probably dating within the first half of the 15th Century. Plate XXXII. (see text for correct interpretation). 445. A BRASS CANNON, founded at the breech wit the shield of arms of the Order and those of the Grand Master Cotoner, engraved with the name “Comre. Del Artillerie Relhanette” and the number 362 ; on iron-shod carriage. 446. A SMALL BRASS CANNON: the touch-hole forms the cockle-shell. c.1780. 447. A SMALL BRASS CANNON, the breech founded with a lion’s mask and shield of the Order. c.1750 448. A CULVERIN; the barrel of octagonal section, and with a square breech-loading action. 8ft.8in. long. c. 1660. 449. A CANNON, the core of copper cased in wood and bound with layers of tarred rope. It is fashioned on the model of one at the end of the 18th century: on a wooden carriage. 450 and 451. A PAIR OF SMALL CAST-IRON SALUTING CANNONS on wooden carriage. c.1800 452. FOUR STONE BALLS, weighing 80lbs each. 453. FOUR SIMILAR. 454. A CULVERIN, similar to No.448. 455. A SMALL BRASS SALUTING CANNON, on wooden carriage, c.1800.

456. A SMALL BRASS CANNON, on iron-shod carriage, moulded at the breech with the arms of the Order and those of Grand Master Manuel Pinto. In a small shield above the trunnions the following engraved inscription: “FR. EMMANUEL PINTO, SACR. ORD. HIEROSOL. SUPR. MAGISTRO PRINCIP. SUI. ANNO XXIV. Maltese, 1765. 457. A COMPANION CANNON to No. 445, engraved at the breech with the following inscription: IL COM. DELL’ ARTIG. F. MICH. DE VERDELIN, 1670. 458. A SMALL BRASS MORTAR, founded with the arms of Grand Master Gregorio Carafa, 1680-1690. On the stand is modeled the name MIRI. MIVILLA F. OBJECTS AT THE NORTH END OF THE GALLERY 459. SEDAN CHAIR OF CARVED WOOD, formerly gilt now painted a dark green. The general character of the ornamentation points to the period of the French Regence, or c.1740. Used by the Grand Masters in 18th century. 460. BREECH-LOADING CULVERIN, similar to No.448 461. ANOTHER, similar. 462. ANOTHER, similar. 463. ANOTHER, Similar. 464. ANOTHER SEDAN CHAIR OF WOOD, formerly gilt, now painted green, carved with beaded mouldings and decoration characteristic of the period of the later part of the reign of Louis XVI of France.


Glossary of Arms & Armour

anime - breastplate made up of overlapping plates archibugio - arquebus, a short gun used by the infantry in the late 15th, 16th and early 17th centuries armature - harnesses or suits of armour armet - Italian helmet consisting of a skull, two hinged cheek pieces which fasten at the front, and a visor (15C from old French Armette). aventail - mail armour attached to the base of a helmet, especially a bascinet azzarino - musket backplate - plate armour defence for the back baguette - see ramrod bajonetta, baoinetta bayonet, a stabbing blade attached to the muzzle of a musket balestra - see crossbow bandolier - musketeer’s

shoulder-belt holding cartridges bascinet - light pointed helmet, usually worn with an aventail and a visor (13C to 15C) bastard sword - a contemporary term used to describe swords wielded by one or both hands


bayonette triangular bayonet with blade having three faces bellows visor - visor with horizontal ridges bevor - plate armour for the chin and lower face bill - weapon with heavy blade on short staff bracciali - arm defences bracer - armour for the lower arm (14C) brassart - vambrace breastplate - plate armour protecting the front of the torso, referred to in the bascinet







poleyn greave sabaton

close burgonet



Order’s documents as pettoforte - bulletproof or reinforced breastplate are called pettoforti a botta d’archibuso brigandine - a flexible body armour made from a large number of metal plates riveted inside a cloth-covered jacket. buckler - a small round shield buffe– bevor worn strapped to an open-faced helmet (16C) burgonet - light openfaced helmet, with peaked brow, combed skull and hinged ear flaps cabasset - Spanish openfaced helmet with almond-shaped skull ending with stalk-like projection

canne di fucili - musket barrels cannonetti - miniature cannon carabina - a carbine, short firearm for cavalry use casque - light open helmet celata - open-faced Italian sallet ceppo - wooden stock ceppo di cannone - gun carriage chanfron - head armour for a horse chausses - mail protection for legs

morion cheek-pieces or ear flaps targe


pauldron rerebrace breastplate couter vambrace


close helmet - helmet with a full visor and bevor that completely encloses the head and face collar - gorget comb - ridge on the skull of a helmet comb morion - morion with a high central comb corsaletto - a corslet (corselet), a light cuirass popular in the 16th century, consisting of breastplate and backplate, tassets corazza - see cuirass cock or hammer (cane)


cours - see pistolets d’abordage couter - plate armour for elbow crossbow - bow fixed to a wooden stock pan


trigger (grillo)

spring (molletta)

lockplate trigger-guard (sousgarde)


cuirass - body armour consisting of breast and back protection - the breastplate alone was sometimes called a cuirass and the parts combined, a pair of cuirasses culet - plate armour of horizontal lames for the rump (garde-de-rein) épée, espée - sword espalier - light shoulder defence falling buffe - bevor made of several lames that could be released to expose the face

sopraveste musket-rest


priming-powder flask rapier

fiacchi fatti a maglia mail vests fodera di sciabola - sword sheath or scabbard fucili - muskets fucili di spoglio - muskets escheating to the Order furniture - the mountings, usually of metal, of a gun fusils à mèche - matchlock muskets fusil double - double barreled musket garde-rein - defence for a man’s rump gauntlets -armoured gloves for the hands, either of mitten type or with individual fingers gorget - plate armour for the neck greave -plate armor for the leg from the knee to the ankle


cuirassier harness

guardareni da cavallo see garde-de-rein halberd - an infantry staff weapon half-armour - armour for the head, body arms and hips only harnais - see harness harness - a term used to refer to a full suit of armour jupon - a tight-fitting garment worn over armour kilij - Turkish sabre

lance rest - a support for the lance when couched lame - sword blades mail - flexible armour consisting of inter-linked and riveted metal rings mezzo corsaletto - breastplate with tassets molletta - spring


morion - open faced helmet with peaked broad brimmed skull or high comb mortaletto - small mortar mortalletto di ferro per lanciare granate - small iron mortar for launching grenades pauldron

poleyn - plate armour for the knee, usually equipped with a side wing protecting the outside (genouilliere) ramrod - the loading rod of a muzzle-loading musket rapier - long-bladed slender sword for thrusting razzia - a raid or foray rerebrace - plate defence for upper arm rondaccia - a ronadache or round shield


partizan halberd

moschetto - musket moschetto di gioia musket donated to the Order moschettoni da posta rampart guns or large muskets, sometimes mounted on tripods munition armour - massproduced, cheaply-made armour for the common soldier muschettone - large musket mounted on a swivel, also known as a rampart gun partizan - staff-weapon with broad double-edged pointed blade pauldron - plate armour for the shoulder picche - pikes Pisan armour - Italian armour of the late 16th and early 17th century pistolets d’abordage boarding pistols pistoletti a ruota - wheellock pistols plackart - a half-breast plate to protect abdomen, usually worn with a brigandine (15C) poignard - dagger

sabaton - plate armour for foot sajf - curved Arab sabre sallet - a light helmet, sometimes with a visor, and with tail to protect back of neck savoyard - 17th century close helmet with holes for eyes, nose and mouth sciabola, sciabla - sabre and hanger, light swords with curved single-edge blades schiavona - a Venetian sword with metal basket knuckle guard schinati forti - reinforced backplates schioppo da caccia fowling piece shishak - Turkish helmet, see zischagge shaffron - see chanfron smeriglio - swivelmounted guns of small


calibre sopraveste - surcoat or garment worn over armour spada - sword spada alla Spagnola - see rapier spadone - large heavy sword spingardi - rampart guns spuntone/spontone spontoon, a kind of halberd stiletto - small pointed dagger taces - tassets target - Small round shield tasset - plate attached to breastplate to protect thigh testale da cavallo - see chanfron tromblon - blunderbuss vambrace - plate armour for the arm zischagge - fluted helmet with nasal guard, cheekflaps, peak and long lobster-shaped neck guard (from Turkish shishak)

Sources & Bibliography



References & Notes

The Origins of the Palace Armoury 1. Riley-Smith J, The Knights of St. John in Jerusalem and Cyprus c.1050-1310, p.53 (London - 1967). 2. Bruman, E, The Templars: Knights of God, p.21 (Kent - 1986). 3. Riley-Smith, op.cit., p. 58. 4. Smail, R C, Crusading Warfare 1097-1193, p.96, (Camb. Univ. Press - 1989 -first publ. 1956). 5. A plain Latin cross was used at first; the eight-pointed cross came in much later 6. Riley-Smith, op.cit., pp.118-19. 7. ibid. 8. Theoderich, ‘Theoderich’s Description of the Holy Places (c.1172 AD)’, (trans. & ed. Aubrey Stewart) London in Palestine Pilgrims’ Text Society, V (1896), pp.30-2. 9. Riley-Smith, op.cit., p.57. 10. Statutes of John de Villiers, Chapter General of 1288 held at Acre quoted in E J King, The Rules, Statutes & Customs of the Hospitallers 1099-1310, p.33 (London -1934); ‘that all armour, which escheats at the death of brethren, or of those who depart from this country, or which escheats from any cause, should be placed in charge of a brother, who should be appointed for the purpose by the Marshal, which brother should set in writing what he received, and what he gives out at the command of the Marshal: and those who would refit from his equipment, may make an exchange and have it. The crossbows (arbalestres) which come in should be placed in the Treasury.’ (p.33, S.8). 11. Chapter General of 1258 held in Acre, King, op.cit., p. 20. 12. Chapter General of 1303, King, op.cit., p.129. 13. Archives of the Order of St John in Malta, (hereafter referred to as AOM) Vol. 100, f. 141 (1600). 14. Statutes of William de Villaret, King, op.cit., p.129. 15. Statutes of Hugh Revel, King, op.cit., p.12. 16. AOM 1700, f. 56v. 17. King, op.cit., p.189, The Customs (Usances 113 /115). 18. Cartulaire Général de’ l’Ordre des Hospitaliers de St. Jean de Jérusalem (11101310), no.4050, ed. J. Delaville le Roulx (Paris - 1894-1906).


19. Marshall, C, Warfare in the Latin East, 1192-1291 ( Camb. Univ. Press. - 1992), pp. 51-6. 20. ibid., p. 218. 21. ibid., pp. 58-60. 22. Spiteri, S, Fortresses of the Cross - Hospitaller Military Architecture 11361798, see chapter on Hospitaller Castles in Outremer (Malta - 1994). 23. Irwin, R, ‘Islam and the Crusades 1096-1699’, in The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades, edited by J. Riley Smith (1995), p. 249. 24. Bosio, J, Dell’Istoria della Sacra Religione et. Militia di San Giovanni (Rome - 1621-1629) Vol.II, p. 143. 25. Bosio, II, p. 323 (1470). 26. Luttrell, A, and Jepesson, K, The Maussoleion at Harlikarnassus (Hojberg 1985), p. 146. 27. Poutiers, J C, Rhodes et ses Chevaliers, p.183 (Bruxelles - no date). 28. Bosio, II, p. 322 (1470). 29. Bosio, II, pp. 330-1. 30. Bosio, II, p.264 (1459). 31. Bosio, II, p.156 (1397): quoted in Luttrell, The Hospitallers at Rhodes 13061421, p. 291-92. 32. Bosio, II, p. 366. 33. Delaville, Orient, Vol.1, p. 412; Vol. 2, p. 97 - ‘deux bombardes, quelques balistes et viretons, pris dans nôtre arsenal à la demande du Gran-Maitre de Rhodes’; authorization was given on 27 May 1402. 34. Caggese, R., Roberto d’Angiò e I suoi tempi (Florence - 1922), Vol. I, p. 212. 35. Bosio, II, p. 206 (1434). 36. Bosio, II, p. 216 (1440). 37. Bosio, II, p. 143 (1491). 38. AOM 77, f. 140. 39. AOM 1700, f.126v. 40. ibid., f.160v. 41. Bosio, II, p. 350. 42. Bosio, II, p. 644. 43. Rottiers, B E A, Description des Monuments de Rhodes (Bruxelles - 1828), p. 314 and pl. XXIII. 44. Bosio, III, pp. 1-2 (1523).

The Knights of Malta 1. Description of 13th century armament of the Castrum Maris quoted from Document XI - 1274 - Luglio 29. Ind.II, reproduced from Malta nei documenti Angioni del r. Archivio di Napoli by Vincenzo Laurenza, edizioni dell’Archivio Storico di Malta, XIII (Rome - 1935); For 15th century armaments see G Wettinger ‘The Castrum Maris and its Suburb of Birgu during the Middle Ages’ in Birgu: a Maltese Maritime City, (Malta - 1993), Vol. I, p. 44. 2. AOM 6559, f. 92 et seq. 3. Wettinger, op.cit., p. 45.


4. Bosio, III, p. 89. 5. ibid., p. 85 (1530). 6. Leopardi, E R, ‘The Island of Gozo 1432-1453’ in Melita Historica (1964), Vol.4, No.1, p. 20 . 7. Bosio, III, p. 150. 8. ibid., p. 100 (1531). 9. ibid., p. 100; ‘... molti de quali trovandosi proveduti d’alcune armi’. 10. King, E (Sir), and Luke, H C (Sir), The Knights of St. John in the British Realm (London - 1967), pp. 98-102. 11. Bosio, III, p. 529; AOM 78, f. 95. 12. ibid., p. 490. 13. ibid., p. 514. 14. University Manuscript, Vol.13, ff. 440v-43v (29.4.1565). 15. Bosio, III, p. 561. 16. ibid., p. 577. 17. Braudel, F, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Vol.II, p. 839. 18. Bosio, III, p. 561. 19. Balbi di Correggio, F, The Siege of Malta trans. Maj. H.A. Balbi, p. 156 (Copenhagen - 1961). 20. AOM 91, f. 74v. 21. AOM 91, f. 60 (4.11.1562). 22. Bosio, III, p. 122 (1533). 23. ibid., op.cit., p. 640. 24. AOM 6387, f. 354. 25. AOM 6387, f. 342. 26. AOM 91, f. 74v: a corslet (corselet) was a light form of cuirass - ‘ Si chiamò così una specie di corazza leggiera che verso la fine del 16 Secolo si portava senza spallacci e senza fianchi’; the cuirass was a piece of armour for the body consisting of breast and back protection - the breastplate alone was sometimes called a cuirass and the parts combined, a pair of cuirasses, and the breastplate a half-cuirass. The bracciali were defences for the whole arm and shoulder, and consisted of a pauldron (spallaccio), rerebrace, couter, and vambrace. The hands were protected by gauntlets. 27. Bosio, III, p. 617. 28. ibid., p. 606. 29. ibid., p. 544. 30. de Giorgio, R, A City by an Order, p.89 (Malta -1985); ASV Fondo Borghese, Serie I, p. 569. 31. ibid., p.97. 31a. AOM 43, f . 193 (24.7.1566). 32. ibid., p. 101; ‘Spada, e pugnale, o sia Sica, e cingolo di gran prezzo furono mandati in dono al Gran Maestro dal Re Filippo Secondo per la Vittoria ottenuta contro l’Armata Turchesca’ - this sword was taken away from Malta by General Bonaparte and is now at the Louvre in Paris. 33. Balbi, op.cit., p. 179. 34. Bosio, III, p. 605. 35. ibid. 36. Balbi, op.cit., p.178. 37. See chapter 1, pp.22-3. 38. The Adventures of Count George Albert of Erbach translated from the German


of Emil Kraus, into English by Beatrice Princess Henry of Battenberg, p.85.(London - 1891). Erbach records how the captain of the Order’s Galley on which he was sailing to Malta informed him that many Persian blades were displayed also in the ‘hostelries for strangers’, pp. 51-3. 39. Bosio, III, p. 608. 40. Freller, T, The life and adventures of Michael Heberer von Bretten, p. 109 (Malta - 1997). 41. de Giorgio, op.cit., p. 101. 42. ibid., pp. 101 &106. 43. In 1614, the Duke of Osuna reported to the King of Spain that the Maltese were left unarmed on the advice of the members of the French Langue who felt that they would thus retain a better hold over the islanders who, being numerous, could have caused problems in seeking to associate themselves more closely with the Spanish Crown in preference to allowing the Order to rule over them. 44. Denaro, V, The Buildings of Valletta (Malta - 1967), p.41. 45. Dal Pozzo, B., Historia della Sacra religione Militare di S. Giovanni Gerosolimitano detta di Malta (Verona - 1703-1715), p.570. 46. AOM 6552, f. 39. 46a. Bosio, III, p. 777 (1566). 47. AOM 100, f. 49V. 48. Dal Pozzo, op.cit., p. 399. 48a. AOM 1378, f. 12 (1598), ‘...un delle cose di che mag. cura hanno havuto gli Illust. nostri precedessori, si simile dobbiamo haver noi di provedere alla conservatione di queste fortezze è che non manchino loro, ma più tosto avranno le arme, e particolarmente archibuggi onde avvenga Dio che doppo la nostra elettione al Magistero havessimo trovato la provisione ordinaria di mediocre quantità, ci parve non di meno di dare ordine che se ne comprassero in Lombardia fino a quattro milla di più; et gia si sarebbero comprati se non fossero che non havendo in quella nostra ricetta cosi pronto tutto il denaro necessario, non s’è portato di manco, se non aspettare che si metisse insieme.’ ‘Intanto havendo a trattare de diminuire la provisione che si ritrova qui nell’Armeria, non essendo punto maggiore, anzi meno del nostro bastervole ... delle arme cosi necessarie come sono archibuggi et moschetti ... finche fu risolto di tre mila archibuggi che il Med. Ing, si è chiarito con ogni verita non essere con di vantaggio gliene fossero subito consignati mille con tutti i loro fornimenti, benche non siano in tanto numero, quanto Sua Santità haver fosse creduto di poter cavare di qua’: AOM 1378, f.13v, ‘... che di tre mila archibuggi ritrovati nella Armeria della Religione ne faccia parte a Sua Santità di mille con tutti i loro fornimenti.’ 49. AOM 120, f. 214. 50. AOM 92, f. 67V. 51. AOM 92, f. 71v. 52. AOM 90, f. 117. 53. Dal Pozzo, op.cit., p. 279. 54. AOM 199, f. 16. 55. De Lucca, D, Romano Carapecchia (Malta - 1999), p. 224; details taken from AOM 927, f.103 and AOM 931, f. 39; Bonello, G, ‘The Melanchony death of Romano Carapecchia, Architect’, in the Sunday Times (of Malta) (13.12.98).


A ‘Sala d’Armi’ in the Grand Master’s Palace 1-2. Erbach, op.cit., p. 130. 3. Charles Alexander De Cosson, in the introduction to Sir Guy Laking’s A record of European Armour and Arms through Seven Centuries, p.xxxxviii (London 1920-22) 4. AOM 1061 - section which deals with Palace Armoury; see also pages 96-9. The portrait seen by St Felix is probably that attributed to Lionello Spada. The portrait by Caravaggio showing Wignacourt in the so-called Verdelin armour, now in the Louvre, had by then already reached France. John Evelyn noted it in the Palace of the Comte de Liancourt. Although Belloni, writing around 1645, alleges that this portrait was then still in the Armoury, it is most probable that he was actually referring to the Spada portrait - See D Cutajar, Caravaggio in Malta; his work and his influence ed. P Farrugia Randon, pp.3-5 (Malta - 1989). 5. Erbach, op.cit., p. 110. 6. AOM 227, f. 93; AOM 220, f. 187-87v. 7. Paolo Del Rosso, R F, Statuti della Religione de Cavalieri Gerosolimitani tradotti dal Latino in Lingua Toscana (Firenze - 1567), p.108. 8. AOM 1679, f.243: See also Codice Rohan, Stat.XXII, Ord. 19 Tesoro. 9. AOM 742, ff. 6-13. 10-11. AOM 114, f. 256v. 12-13. AOM 220, f. 187v. 14. AOM 273, ff. 297 & 339v-41. 15. AOM 1112, f. 132. 16. AOM 220, f. 187v. 17. ibid, f. 189 (24.10.69). 18. ibid., f. 189. 19. AOM 212, f. 538. 20. AOM 227, f. 1034. 21. Dal Pozzo, op,cit., p. 99. 22. AOM 1700, f. 126v. 23. Erbach, op.cit., p. 125. 24. Pepper, S, & Adams, N, Firearms and Fortifications: Military Architecture and Siege Warfare in Sixteenth-Century Siena (Chicago - 1986), p.16. 25. AOM 261, ff.144v-45. 26. AOM 6437, f. 119; see also f. 118 - ‘Si faccia provisione d’armi, cioé moschetti e archibugi di Biscaia’. 27. AOM 261, f. 151. 28. Laking, G. F., A Catalogue of Arms and Armour in the Armoury of the Knights of St. John, p. xi (London - 1903). 29. AOM 120, f. 214. 30. Abela, G F, Della descrittione di Malta (Malta - 1647), p. 71: AOM 222, f. 167 ‘Fondatione del GM Lascaris a favour della Religione per compra di miglio salnitro, moschetti, e polvere’ (1645); AOM 1759, f. 277v, ‘... la provisione per tempo d’assedio, sono gia nel Magazeno o Armeria per quest effetto destinati m/4 moschetti con le sue bandoliere e mecchia.’ (1651). 31. AOM 212, f. 2. 32. AOM 261, f. 145. 33. AOM 6552, f. 11v. 34. ibid., f. 39. 35. ibid., f. 4v: see also Chev. de Coyenart, Le Chevalier de Folard (1669-1752)


(Paris - 1914), p. 150. 36. AOM 266, f. 142v. 37. AOM 6547, no foliation. 38-39. ibid. 40. AOM 6552, f. 8v. 41. AOM 267, f. 115v. 42. ibid., f. 151. 43. ibid., f. 179. 44. Hayward, J F, The Art of the Gunmaker (London - 1963), Vol.II , p. 52. 45. AOM 271, f. 92. 46. AOM 1014, f. 1. 47. AOM 634, ff. 82-3. 48. See also AOM 6558, f. 84v (1761). 49. Funchen, L & F, The Lace Wars (London - 1977), part 1, pp.60-4. 50. AOM 1065, f. 144. 51. AOM 1061, ff. 121-22. 52. Testa, C, The Life and Times of Grand Master Pinto (Malta - 1989), p. 258. 53. AOM 634, p. 89. 54. ibid., f. 66. 55. ibid., f. 68. 56. AOM 1061. 57. Wismayer, J, The History of the KOMR and the Armed Forces of the Order of St. John (Malta - 1989), pp. 29-49. 58. AOM 1015, f. 177. 59. ibid., f. 204. 60. AOM 1005, Vol. entitled ‘Armi’: ‘nel quale sono descritte le Armi che il Tesoro consegna ai cavalieri per esercitarsi nell’ arte della milizia’, f. 26; Some other manufacturers’ marks found on the surviving muskets and pistols in the Palace Armoury are FAF Champ, Challter A-Perigueux, F Marsili, Pier Fabri, Jean Leonard, a Paris, Tivets, Laborde A Paris, Govet (Carbine), P G, A Zedant & P DEVVN. 61. Barthorp, M, and Embelton, G A, Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaigns 1798-1801 (London -1992 edn.). 62-63. AOM 634, f. 82. 64. AOM 1015, ff. 77-8. 65. ibid., f. 79. 66. ibid., f. 439. 67. AOM 1020, f. 600. 68. AOM 257, ff.48 & 21. 69. AOM 634, f. 96. 70. AOM 1061, f. 99. 71. AOM 1061, f. 83. 72. AOM Manuscript 6524, ff. 24-31. 73. This was an instrument for measuring the quality of gunpowder - ‘c’est en general une machine propre à mesurer le degré de force ou de bonté de la poudre à canon’ - Le Blond, 1762. 74. Testa, C, The French in Malta 1798-1800 (Malta - 1997), p. 618.


A Profusion of Armouries in the 18th Century 1. AOM 634, f. 96. 2. ibid., f. 82. 3. ibid. 4. AOM 262, f. 112. 5. AOM 1061, f. 100. 6. ibid., f. 100. 7. AOM 1015, f. 78. 8. ibid., f. 87. 9. Schermerhorn, E, Malta of the Knights (London - 1929), pp. 287-90 . 10. AOM 1061, f. 87. 11. ibid., f. 82. 12. Fiorini, S, and Buhagiar, M, Mdina: The Cathedral City (Malta - 1997), pp. 445-46. 13-15. ibid. 16. de Lucca, D, Mdina; A history of its urban space and architecture(Malta 1995), p. 109 : Cathedral Museum Misc. 60, f. 6. 17. University Library Manuscript Vol. 89, no foliation (19.12.1728). 18. University Library Manuscript Vol.187, f. 39. 19. de Lucca, D, ‘Architectural Interventions in Mdina following the Earthquake of 1693’ in Mdina and the Earthquake of 1693, ed. Can. J Azzopardi (Malta - 1993), p. 58. 20. ibid. 21. AOM 1061, f. 112. 22 ibid. 23. Treasury Manuscript Vol. A103, ff. 414 & 429: AOM 1023, f. 263. 24-25. ibid. 26. AOM 1061, f. 54; An example of the arms of a Greek ship deposited at Fort St Angelo is found at AOM 6437, f.85v - ‘il far restituire, se cosi li pareva, alli Greci del Londro condotto dalle galere nello state passato almeno l’armi bianche’. 27. For reference to the armoury in Fort Manoel see AOM Treasury 27 (A) vol.2 f.f. 51,52, 56, 62. This armoury was still in use in the 1790s. 28. AOM 271, p.92. 29. AOM 6553, f.64v. 30. AOM 6554, Stato del Castello, e Torri Maritime del Gozo. 31. ibid. 32. AOM 1016, f.198; ‘L’Armeria del Castello non hebbe dal terremoto quel male che se gli attribuiva, e per cui se ne levarono le armi, transportandole fuori, e calandole al Rabato’: The Cittadella’s armoury is again mentioned at f. 433. 33. AOM 6554, Stato del Castello, e Torri Maritime del Gozo. 34. AOM 265, ff. 39v-43v. 35. Spiteri, op.cit., p. 615. 36. ibid. 37. Stato del Castello , e Torri Maritime del Gozo. 38. AOM 1061, f. 121. 39. Wismayer, op.cit., pp.7-9. 40. AOM 1015, f. 79. 41. ibid., f. 87. 42. ibid., f. 434.


43. ibid., f. 401. 44. ibid., f. 419. 45. ibid., f. 23; AOM 977, f. 11. 46. Regolamenti delli sei Regimenti di Campagna ( Malta - 1761). 47. ibid., pp. 11-2. 48. ibid., p. 12. 49. AOM 1015, f. 450. 50. ibid., f. 435. 51. AOM 771, f. 123. 52. AOM 1015, f. 502. 53. ibid., f. 555. 54. Testa, op.cit., p.47. Azopardi in his Giornale della Presa di Malta e Gozo (1836) recounts how the Knight-Commander Simon gathered the men of Zebbug regiment in the village square and began to march them off along the road to Qalet Marku, where he told them they would find their arms waiting for them along the way ( he is here referring to a ‘deposito d’armi’ as established in the regulations). We are told that the villagers, however, suspecting that he was fooling them and tricking them into surrendering tried to lynch the knight who had, as a consequence, to flee for safety and find refuge inside the village parish church. 55. ibid., p. 262. 56. ibid., p. 261. 57. Library Manuscript Vol.1020, item 4.

The Organizational Framework 1. AOM 87, f. 35 (Frà Simon de Sesa); Sammut, E, The Valletta Armoury and a letter from Sir Guy Laking, reprinted from Scientia, Vol.XXV, No.1(Malta - 1959), p.4 . 2. AOM 73, ff. 60 & 61v. 3. Dal Pozzo, op.cit., p. 445, (1601) ‘ ... l’accidente fu che havendo Frà D. Francesco Pontiosa Cavalier Castigliano ferito d’un taglio sopra la mano un Artigianaro Spadaro della Valletta, per differenza di certo servitio della sua arte, e mala creanza di parole’; Guilliame Le Blond (1762) describes an armourer as an ‘ouvrier qui travaille à la fabrique, à l’entretien & au nettoyement des armes. Il est absolument nécessaire d’avoir des Armuriers dans une Place assiégée soit pour raccommender les armes des soldats, soit pour en faire de neuves en cas de besoin. Il seroit même à desirer, pour l’utilité du service, qu’il y en eût quelques-uns attachés à la suite de chaque Régiment.’ 4. Sometimes his surname is written as Lubrana or Labruno; Erbach states that the captain of a galleon informed him that the Order possessed skilful armourers, ‘In the cause of religion, no cost or pain are spared to provide the most efficient arms. Not only do we possess in our island most skilful armourers, but we also take advantage of every opportunity offered by our cruises to lay in a stock of good weapons, not to speak of the Damascus & Persian blades which we take from the Turks in our engagements with them.’ 5. Luttrell, A, The Hospitallers at Rhodes 1306-1421, pp. 291-92. 6. AOM 1015, f. 78.


7. AOM 1082, f.340. 8. AOM 998, ff. 222-24; AOM 650, f. 297. 9. AOM 634, f. 101. 10. AOM 977, f. 97 (1772). 11. AOM 1020, f. 522. 12. ibid. 13. Spiteri, S, ‘An Armaments Deal - 18th Century Style’, in the Sunday Times of Malta, 16.11.1997. 14. AOM 634, f. 225. 15. ibid., f. 240. 16. ibid., f. 66; AOM 977, ff.18-9. 17. AOM 634, f. 240; AOM 999, f. 145; AOM 1000, f. 169; AOM 1001, f. 167. 18. AOM 634, f. 100. 19. AOM 6534, f. 85, undated. 20. AOM 273, ff. 339v-40. 21. Bono, S , Naval Exploits and Privateering in Hospitaller Malta, ed. V. MalliaMilanese (Malta - 1993), p. 386. 22. It appears these men were brought purposely from France. 23. AOM 1015, ff. 79-80. 24. ibid. 25. AOM 262, f. 10. 26. Testa, The Life and Times of Grand Master Pinto, p. 122. 27. ibid., pp. 255-56. 28. AOM 116, f. 176v. 29. AOM 6534, f. 85. 30. ibid. 31. AOM 1015, f. 79. 32. ibid., f. 439 33. University Manuscript Vol. 89 (1726), no foliation. 34. AOM 267, f. 177v. 35. ibid. 36. AOM 6547, f. 4 37. AOM 6534, no foliation; see also AOM 1061, ff. 99 & 105. 38. AOM 273, f. 340. 39. Treasury AOM A 27 (2), f. 62. 40. AOM 233, ff. 142v-143. 41. AOM 1061, ff. 105-6. 42. AOM 273, f. 339v. 43. AOM 1015, f. 80. 44. AOM 6552, f. 2v (5.11.1714). 45. ibid., f. 6 (7.1.1715). 46. AOM 650, ff.297-97v. 47. AOM 634, ff. 100-4. 48. ibid. 49. AOM 1015, f. 192. 50. AOM 1024, f. 21. 51. University Manuscript Vol.89, no foliation. 52. Treasury Manuscript Vol. A 27 (2) ff. 51,52 & 62. 53. AOM 1026 to 1031 (various).


Artillery Stores & Gunpowder Magazines 1. AOM 73, f.144v (1464); ‘pro bombarderio’. 2. AOM 73, f. 135v (24.8.76). 3. AOM 77, f. 65 (1.12.1491). 4. AOM 77, f. 109 (12.9 .1493); AOM 81 f. 210 (1516) - ‘Item si ordina che li bombardierij infrascripti siano deputati a la guardi continua a la detta torre. Per non saranno obligati ad altro angarie dela religione et sono questi cioe’, f.191v. 5. AOM 74, f. 49; Bosio, II , p. 322. 6. AOM 73, f. 140. 7. AOM 89, f. 116v (1552); AOM 89, f. 4 (1554): AOM 88, f. 31v (1555) 8. Bosio, II, p. 846. 9. AOM 271, f. 191. 10. AOM 1444, f. 43v-44 (1669). 11. AOM 1015, f. 398 (1793). 12. D’Homedes bastion, Fort St Angelo. 13. AOM 1015, f. 134. 14. AOM 222, f. 167 (1645). 15. AOM 1444, f. 43v-44 (1669.) 16. Spiteri, S, ‘The Development of the Bastion of Provence, Floriana’, in Sacra Militia Journal, 2002, Issue 1 (Malta - 2002) p. 10. 17. AOM 260, f. 139. 18. See illustration on p. 191. 19. AOM1020, f. 490. 20. AOM 1016, f. 198 (1693). 21. Testa, Grand Master Pinto, p.179. 22. AOM 1015, f. 208 (1778). 23. AOM 270, f. 60v. 24. University Manuscript Vol. 6, f. 31. 25. AOM 259, f. 2v. 26. Spiteri, S, The Fougasse; the stone mortar of Malta (Malta - 1999), passim. 27. AOM 1015, f. 270 (1781). 28. AOM 260, f. 17. 29. AOM 260, f. 155.

The Development of the Palace Armoury 1. Libray Manuscript 142, Vol.IV, f. 137. 2. de Lucca, Romano Carapecchia, p. 148. 3. Testa, Life and Times of Grand Master Pinto, pp. 62-5. 4. de Lucca, Romano Carapecchia, p. 43; Library Manuscript 81, p. 15v. 5. Grassi, G, Dizionario Militare Italiano (Naples -1835). 6. Bosio, III, p. 777. 7. Nouvelle Relation du Voyage et Description Exact de L’Isle de Malthe -par un gentilhomme, p. 104 (1679) 8. Treasury Document A1, f. 132v.


9. AOM 120, f. 214. 10. AOM 257, f. 7. 11. Testa, Life and Times of Grand Master Pinto, p. 243. 12. AOM 950, f. 113. 13. AOM 950, f. 27v & f. 28. 14. AOM 950, f. 160. 15. Library Manuscript Vol. 164, ff. 59-60.; ‘Regola che s’osserva dal Com. rio della Sala dell’Armi nel mantenimento a custodia delle’, ‘...Tutte le armi bianche, e di fuoci, scartucci, fugili, bacchette, palle, pietre e tutto quello che riguarda generalmente lo stato dell’armi si terrà custodito con ogni particolar attentione dal che ne avra il carico in un Magazeno nel quale come in una Sala d’armi si erigeranno quattro Castelli in forma di Trofei per tener separate tutte quell’armi d’ogni vassello, che averanno da servire p. la campagna, accioche nelle occorrenze ogni sargente possa trovare prontamente le armi di suo vassello p. questa sala d’armi si stabilira dalla Ven. Cong de Vasselli un Mro Armiere molto capace e esperto pagato a giornata o a partito, o come meglio le pareva ....’

From Armoury to Museum 1. Laking, A Catalogue of Arms and Armour, passim. 2. National Archives (Santo Spirito Rabat) hereafter referred to as NA, Despatch from Buthurst to Maitland (5.7.1822) 3. NA, Despatch from Buthurst to Maitland (13.11.1822) 4. Ellul, M, History on Marble: A Corpus of Inscriptions in the Presidential Palaces in Valletta, San Anton and Verdala Malta (Malta - 1998), p. 50. 5. Laking, op.cit., pp.xv-xvi 6. Badger, G P, Description of Malta and Gozo, pp.143-46 (1838) 7. Brief notes on the Palace Armoury (Malta -1906), p.13: ‘the collection was then taken charge of by the Ordnance Department, and the old arms and armour, which appeared to have been considered solely from a utilitarian point of view, were cast aside as useless lumber, to make room for small arms of tower manufacture’; See Also Ellul, op.cit., p. 50. 8. Public Records Office (PRO) Kew, MPH 889 part 1(9); WO 44/139; ‘Plan and Section of Magazine in Bastion Vendome, Fort St Elmo, showing its proposed conversion into an Armoury, and communication to the same within the Fort’. The plan is signed by Francis Ringler Thomson, Lt.Col. CRE 22.7.1853. On Lt. Col. Ringler Thomson as a Commander of the Royal Engineers in Malta see Spiteri, The Fortress Builders in British Military Architecture in Malta (Malta -1996), pp. 89-95. 9. Badger, op.cit., The numbers given by Badger seem to be inflated - particularly the 30,000 pikes; he may have relied on hearsay rather than on official figures given that there did not then exist any form of inventory. 10. ibid. 11. Blue Book extracts; Public Works 1855, pp, 56 -59; 1856, pp.52-55; 1857, pp.5457; 1858, pp.54-57; 1860 , pp.56-59. 12. NA, LGO 1625/1858 (21.12.1858). 13. NA, LGO 2750/1859.


14. NA, Weekly reports on the Civil Work. December 1855-1859. 15. Blue Book 1860, Memorandum p.21. 16. NA, LGO 11255/1900; LGO 10897/1900; Government Gazette, no.3701 (15.12.1894); Gov. Notice 203. 17. NA, LGO 20072/1902 (13.3.1902). 18. NA, LGO 22850/1902 (3.9.1902). 19. Daily Malta Chronicle (14.10.1902). 20. Sammut, op.cit., p. 6. 21. Czerwinski, A, and Zygulski, Z, Palace Armoury of Valletta (Unesco, Paris 1969, report), p. 6. 22. ibid. 23. NA, Minute Paper 734/Works (9.5.1903). 24. Sammut, op.cit., p. 5. 25. NA, Letter from P. Asnew to Lord Grenfell (23.1.1903). 26. NA, Gatt to Lt. Governor 1.4.1903 (4198). 27. NA, Works 3047/3 (18.9.1903). 28. NA, Gatt to Lt. Governor (31.8.1903). 29. NA, Clarke to Grenfell (1.9.1903).

The Collection of Arms & Armour 1. AOM 1380, f.50v; The documents containing this information were first discovered in March 1998 by Prof. David M. Stone of the University of Delaware. In 1999, he gave several lectures in the United States (to be published shortly) on the iconography of Caravaggio’s Louvre portrait of Wignacourt in which these documents were featured. I also had the opportunity to come across and examine this documentation independently in the course of my own research for the preparation of this publication. 2. AOM 1380, f.f. 153-54 (22.6.1601). 3. AOM 1381, f. 204v (12.8.1602). 4. In addition, there are a cuff of a gauntlet (III. 798) and a pauldron lame (III.959) in the Royal Armouries Leeds (This information was supplied by Ian Eaves.). 5. A rather similar armour in the Real Armeria, Madrid (Cat. no. A 354) is marked by the ‘Master MP’ who certainly worked in Flanders (This information was supplied by Ian Eaves.). 6. The earliest record of Pompeo della Cesa appears in a letter of 11 October 1571 in the Civic Armoury of Milan (J A Godoy, ‘Emmanuel -Philbert de Savoi (1528-1580): un portait, une armure’ (Genova, N.S. Vol. XXXII, 1984) p.86 (This information was supplied by Ian Eaves.). 7. Watts, K, ‘The Armour of the Knights of St John, Malta’ in Royal Armouries Yearbook, Vol 3, 1998, pp. 29-43. 8. Boccia, L, L’Armeria del Musaeo Civico Medievale di Bologna (Bramante Editrice, Busto Arsizio - 1991), p. 66. 9. Phyrr, S, & Godoy, Heroic Armor of the Italian Renaissance: Filippo Negroli and his Contemporaries (New York - 1998), passim. 10. Boccia, op.cit.


11. National Museum of Art in Bucharest, dated to around 1620. 12-13. This information was supplied by Ian Eaves. 14. Erbach, op.cit. 16. Watts, The Armour of the Knights of St John, Malta. 17. Phyrr, S, European Helmets, 1450-1650, Treasures from the Reserve Collection, p. 30, 18. The term ‘casque’ is a somewhat ill-defined French one. In English texts it is often (but dubiously) used to designate a burgonet that has no cheek-pieces (This information was supplied by Ian Eaves). 19. Dal Pozzo, II, pp. 530-37, 573, 598-623, 650-67; the use of petards to open a breach in a gate of the castle of Tripoli in 1590 is also recorded by Dal Pozo p. 319. 20. Trap in The Armoury of the Castle of Churburg, p. 127. 21.Schermerhorn, Malta of the Knights, p. 49n. 22. Ryan, The House of the Temple, p. 265 23. Franzoi, U, Armoury of the Doges Palace in Venice (Venice -1966), p. 82, fig 58d. 24. AOM 931 Vol 17. f. 27v. 25. AOM 931 Vol 21, f. 108v. 26. Boccia, p. 131. 27. AOM 950, f. 50. 28. Wackernagel, R H, & Eaves, I, The Armoury of the Castle of Churburg, 176, 29-30. AOM 220, f. 187-89. 31. AOM 931, Vol. 3, f. 261. 32. AOM 931, Vol. 3, f. 261. 33. AOM 930, f. 9v. 34. AOM 930, f. 194. 35. AOM 950, f. 160. 36. AOM 950, f. 27v. 37. Information on bayonets was kindly supplied by Graham Priest. 38. Hull, N, ‘Building and firing a replica Mary Rose port piece’ in Royal Armouries Yearbook (Great Britain - 1998), Vol. 3, p. 57. 39. Freller , T, The Cavaliers Tour and Malta (Malta - 1998), p. 111. 40. Information on the Ximenes cannon was taken from a detailed study presented in a still unpublished paper by Mario Farrugia. 41. AOM 979, f. 6. 42. AOM 931 Vol. 7, f. 15v.

List of Weapons mentioned in the Spogli, Spropriamenti, and Wills of Hospitaller Knights 1. AOM 930, f. 38v; small sword (espadin) decorated in silver. 2. AOM 929, f. 8; walking cane with silver button. 3. AOM 929, f. 11v. 4. AOM 929, f. 12. 5. AOM 929, f. 19v. 6. AOM 929, f. 32; smallsword; list of weapons taken on board for caravan duties. 7. AOM 930, f. 82v.


8. AOM 930, f. 83v; musket and bayonet. 9. AOM 930, f. 93. 10. AOM 930, f. 107; roughly translated, ‘musket in the manner of a blunderbuss’. 11. AOM 930, f. 124v. 12. AOM 930, f. 129. 13. AOM 930, f. 138v. 14. AOM 930, f. 142v. 15. AOM 930, f. 145; ‘vermeil d’or’, reddish gold. 16. AOM 930, f. 163v; ‘foureaux’, pouches, generally of leather or cloth.. 17. AOM 930, f. 168v: ‘poignée d’argent’, silver handles or hilts. 18. AOM 930, f. 194 19. AOM 930, f. 264 20. AOM 930, f. 265v. 21. AOM 930, f. 389v. 22. AOM 930, f. 407. 23. AOM 930, f. 408v. 24. AOM 930, f. 431. 25. AOM 930, f. 454. 26. AOM 930, f. 46; ‘cuivre d’ore,’ gilded copper or brass.. 27. AOM 921, f. 71. 28. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 5. 29. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 7; ‘para di pistole da sparare due volte’, pair of doublebarrelled pistols. 30. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 9v: ‘soffioni di bocca larga’, blunderbusses. 31. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 14v. 32. AOM 931,Vol. 30, ff. 22 & 29; ‘una mazza ferrata’, metal mace. 33. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 36-36v; ‘centurion’, belt. 34. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 47. 35. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 52. 36. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 58 37. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 82-3. 38. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 88. 39. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 92. 40. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 106v. 41. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 118. 42. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 152. 43. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 154. 44. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 167; ‘carrubini’, carbines. 45. AOM 931,Vol. 30, f. 175 - v; ‘cimitarre’, scimitars. 46.AOM 931,Vol. 29, f. 33v 47. AOM 931,Vol. 29, f. 60. 48. AOM 931,Vol. 29, f. 103. 49. AOM 931,Vol. 29, f. 105 -107. 50. AOM 931,Vol. 29, f. 124. 51. AOM 931,Vol. 29, f. 139-v. 52. AOM 931,Vol. 29, f. 149v. 53. AOM 931 vol 24, f. 13. 54. AOM 931,Vol. 24, ff. 30, 41v. 55. AOM 931,Vol. 24, f. 143. 56.AOM 931, Vol 23, ff. 2-30 (no date c.1711 f.21).


57. AOM 931, Vol 23, f. 42; ‘epée uzée’ , used sword, ‘scinturon’, sword-belt. 58. AOM 931, Vol 23, f 106 (‘vieux’ = old). 59. AOM 931, Vol 23, f. 147. 60. AOM 931, Vol 23, f. 149. 61. AOM 931, Vol 23, f. 172. 62. AOM 931, Vol 23, f. 192v. 63. AOM 931, Vol 22 f. 143 & f.147v. 64. AOM 931, Vol 21, f. 91. 65. AOM 931, Vol 21, f. 95. 66. AOM 931, Vol 21, f. 108 (no date); ‘targue couvert de cuivre rouge’, shield covered with red copper; ‘bandouliere’, bandolier. 67. AOM 931, Vol 20, f. 44. 68. AOM 931, Vol 20, f. 86v (no date but c.1741); ‘pistolets a deux coups’, doublebarrelled pistols. 69. AOM 931, Vol 20, f. 96v. 70. AOM 931, Vol 18, f. 164v. 71. AOM 931, Vol 19, f. 16v. 72. AOM 931, Vol 19, f. 66 (no date but c. 1773 - died in Marsaille). 73. AOM 931, Vol 19, f. 104-5; ‘epée d’acier d’orée’, sword of gilded steel. 74. AOM 931, Vol.17, f. 9. 75. AOM 931, Vol.17, f. 27v. 76. AOM 931, Vol.16, f. 87 (no date but c. 1690). 77. AOM 931, Vol 16, f. 106. 78. AOM 931, Vol.17, f. 112v. 79. AOM 931, Vol 15, f. 17. 80. AOM 931, Vol 15, f. 29. 81. AOM 931, Vol 15, f. 45. 82. AOM 931, Vol 14, f. 35v. 83. AOM 931, Vol 14, f. 65; ‘plastron’, shirt front. 84. AOM 931, Vol 13, ff. 5 -7. 85. AOM 931, Vol 13, f. 10 (no date but c.1676); ‘espada de plata’, silver sword. 86. AOM 931, Vol 13, f. 20. 87. AOM 931, Vol 13, f. 82; ‘petite pistollet de poch’, small pocket pistol. 88. AOM 931, Vol 13, f. 101. 89. AOM 931, Vol 12 , f. 3a. 90. AOM 931, Vol 10, f. 48. 91. AOM 931, Vol 10, f. 57 . 92. AOM 931, Vol 10, f. 174; ‘escopeta’, musket. 93. AOM 931, Vol 9, f. 61; ‘cartuchera’, cartridge pouch. 94. AOM 931, Vol 9, f. 76. 95. AOM 931, Vol 9, f. 140. 96. AOM 931, Vol 8, f. 46. 97. AOM 931, Vol 8, f.61. 98.AOM 931, Vol 8, f. 158. 99. AOM 931, Vol 8, f. 163. 100. AOM 931, Vol 7, f. 10. 101. AOM 931, Vol 7, f. 15v. 102. AOM 931, Vol 4, f. 54. 103. AOM 931, Vol 4, f. 52. 104. AOM 931, Vol 5, f. 160.


105. AOM 931, Vol 5, f. 201. 106. AOM 931, Vol 6, f. 4. 107. AOM 931, Vol 6, f. 72. 108. AOM 931, Vol 1, f. 31; ‘un peto de hierro’, iron breastplate, ‘dos bolsas para las cargas’, two cartridge bags, ‘una calabara para beber’, a drinking flask. 109. AOM 931, Vol 1, f. 60. 110. AOM 931, Vol 2, f. 93; ‘un Arcabuz pequeno’, a small archibus. 111. AOM 931, Vol 3, f. 7. 112. AOM 931, Vol 3, f. 261. 113. AOM 931, Vol 3, f. 307. 114. AOM 931, Vol 3, f. 309. 115. AOM 950, passim. 116. AOM 924, ff. 8v-11. 117. AOM 742, ff. 6-13.



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Armoury of the Knights  

The story of the Palace Armoury, as perhaps inadvertently hinted at by its very name, may appear to have simply commenced with the establish...