Heraldic Tour of Malta (4)

Maltese Heraldry

There was a local nobility in Malta before the knights arrived, mostly of Sicilian or Spanish origin. The main city of the island was Mdina, which is inland.  The knights settled first in the port of Birgu, then built their city of Valletta on a promontory nearby.  On the whole, the local nobility remained in Mdina, though some settled in Valletta.  The Grand Masters created a number of titles of nobility, from baron to marquis, of which about three dozen are still extant.  Maltese residents also received titles from foreign powers, such as the king of Two Sicilies or the king of Spain.

Arms of the marquises of Piro, Casa Rocca Piccola, Valletta.  The family held the title of barons of Budaq (created by Grand Master Perellos in 1716, who also added the pears in the tree above) and that of marquis of Piro in Spain (created in 1742).  The two titles have gone separate ways now.

Arms on the façade of the palazzo Bonici which now serves as lobby to the Teatro Manoel.

Arms above a house on the main square, village of Xaghra, island of Gozo.  Note the name "Refalo" and the date: 1984 (cf. Gauci 1986, p. 148).
This is one of many indications that heraldry is still actively in use in Malta.


These arms appear at the head of the bridge leading to the main gate of Mdina.

A rare example of heraldry predating the arrival of the Knights: façade of a 15th c. house in Mdina.  Note the archaic shape of the shield.

Several layers of heraldry above the main entrance to the cathedral.  Note the arms of Grand Master de Perellos on the left, and of a bishop bearing the arms of a Grand Master (also Perellos?) on a chief of augmentation. In the medallion above are the modern arms of Malta, pre-1942 (the George Cross is absent).  In the center, the arms of the current holder of the see.

Malta is famed for its elaborate door knockers.  This one appears at the door of the house of Testaferrata.

Arms of local nobility, in Mesquita Street, Mdina.

Other Heraldry (non-Order related)

Arms of the Dominican Order, on the ceiling of the stairway in the Grand Inquisitor's Palace, Birgu (Vittoriosa).  Probably 18th c.  A room in the same palace contains the coats of arms of the 63 Grand Inquisitors of Malta from 1575 to 1798.

Arms of the duke of Savoy (16th c.) on a cannon guarding the cathedral of Mdina.  The cannon was a gift to the Order after the Great Siege.  Note the knots above and below the shield, and the motto "FERT".

Arms of viscount Mountbatten (later Earl Mountbatten of Burma) from 1946 or 1947, above the offices of APS Bank Ltd, Republic Street, Valletta. He bears a differenced version of the arms of Battenberg (1 and 4 azure a lion rampant double-queud barry of ten argent and gules crowned or within a bordure compony of the second and third for differenced Hesse, 2 and 3 argent two pallets sable for Battenberg, the whole charged in honour point with the Royal arms bearing a label of 3 points argent, the center point charged with a rose gules and the others with an ermine spot sable; supporters two lions double-queued and crowned all or, motto: "in honour bound", viscount's coronet and helms and crests of Hesse and Battenberg). He was appointed knight of the Garter on Dec. 3, 1946 and created an earl on October 28, 1947.

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François Velde

Jul 27, 2005