The Knights of Malta in Mdina are honoured to receive your homage. Within the Mdina battlements, a cultural attraction about the order of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem awaits you. In a series of tableaux and an 3D audio-visual show, you will learn the story of the Order’s origins during the Crusades with The Blessed Gerard and the founding of the Hospital, the Knights’ arrival in Malta, how they delivered the island from foes, made history during their period of rule and how they were finally expelled in 1798. This state of the art project, will reveal the whole story of the Order in a dramatic three-dimensional form with special technological effects. The Casa Magazzini location in Mdina, built by the knights to store ammunitions, provides an apt backdrop for the tableaux about these religious, yet militant knights.


A life of dedication to an ideal. This is what the flower of European aristocracy pledged to the Grandmasters of the Order from early in the twelfth century down to the present day. In mediaeval times, travel in the remote Middle East was hazardous. The dangers for Christians travelling in areas where they met with hostility as they went in the wake of Crusaders exacerbated the discomforts, the threat of disease and death. Thanks to the Order, the sick and infirm could count on succor and cures for their ills when they went on the pilgrimages. In the hospitals of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, later to be known as the Knight of Malta, standards of hygiene and health care were unparalleled for the times in Europe. The celibate knights had dedicated themselves to the sick for the glory of God. If they took up the sword as they did many times including the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, it was only to protect Christian folk and their institution against the Moslem invader. The tradition of the Knight hospitallers followed them from Jerusalem to Acre, Cyprus and Rhodes and thence to Malta where they set up their headquarters ruling over the islanders for more than two hundred years. As we enter the Knights of Malta in Mdina, we see Philippe Villiers de L’Isle Adam, the first grandmaster in Malta receiving the tribute that was expected from all his knights and their henchmen.


A vote of confidence from the directors of the Knights of Malta in Mdina was given to a British company to work out the logistics for the 34 tableaux that make up the cultural attraction. While Casa Magazzini was being restored, Leeds-based Tourism & Leisure Design Consultancy, was commissioned to work on the strength of their success with similar award-winning projects among which the White Cliffs Experience. It is important to note that without the creativity of the artists and crafts people, the know-how of the consultant company and essential technology, it would have been impossible to produce the Knights of Malta to such high standards. Intensive historical research was a key factor for the narration, reproduced in digital sound, the 3D audio-visual show that covers the entire history of the Knights of Malta and the striking effects of the tableaux. High technology processes alone enable us to reproduce the Gobelin tapestries in the Grandmaster’s palace in Valletta. High technology processes alone enable us to reproduce the Gobelin tapestries in the Grandmaster’s palace in Valletta.


The shipwreck of the Santa Claudia, as well as the devastation caused by the earthquake that shook many Mdina palaces to their foundations are realistically depicted. One tableau conveys the effects of the storm with waves lapping at the wreck while, in another, tilted ceilings and floors, broken masonry and doorways that had now become too low to allow anyone but a small child through seem too realistic to be mere props. Likewise, more peaceful scenes are striking reproductions of the real thing. The baroque style beloved of the knights demanded spacious quarters. The staircase in the Grandmasters palace, reproduced in detail as a setting for Grandmaster Emmanuel de Rohan, still gives the impression of leading to the corridors of power. The opulent atmosphere of Grandmaster Manuel Pinto’s extravagant throne room, hung with rich brocade is retained. All this is done with cunning use of the available space and close attention to detail. Furnishings are as true to life as the space permits. Even paint was purposely mixed to give a faithful rendering of the colours used at the time of the knights. As we come to the last of the tableaux the style changes. A hint of the Empire style casts a shadow over the world of the Knights. The décor aboard L’Orion heralds the arrival of the new ruler, Napoleon Bonaparte.


The self-sacrificing heroism of the siege is epitomized in the figure of the young Italian Knight Paolo Avagardo, who was cruelly slaughtered at the door of the chapel in Fort St. Elmo in an attempt to protect the Holy Sacrament. The lugubrious face of Jean-Baptiste Lascaris de Castellar who abolished Carnival on the grounds that it led the chaste knights to lascivious behavior is well-known. A young lady caught flirting with a young knight has been awarded the grace and femininity not often portrayed among the male dominated society of the Knights. And most important of all, the figure all men turned to for leadership and the ensuing victory of the Knights and the Maltese over the infidel during the great siege is the stalwart Jean Parisot de la Valette. The figures of Mattia Preti and Nicolas Cotoner y de Oleza in deep discussion about the ceiling in St. John’s Cathedral is so life-like you expect paint to drop off the artist’s brushes. There are 120 life-size figures in all at the Knights of Malta in Mdina. Each figure has been carefully created, wherever possible, to be as faithful a likeness to existing portraits. Where no faithful portraits exist, a study of their character and actions have helped the artists who worked on the project to create faces that project the individual personality. The result is a group of figures with distinct facial features and expressions, complemented by individually made wigs and costumes.


A treasure of detail is the hallmark of the Knights of Malta in Mdina. Each costume is a gem, thanks to the help of the museums department and independent experts in creating not only the scenery and figures but the historically correct costume too. The reign of the Knights of Malta spanned over two hundred years from 1530 when their mediaeval roots were turning to the more extravagant baroque style to 1798 when they were ousted by the French under Napoleon Bonaparte. Needless to say, fashions in clothing changed during this period and this has to be reflected in the costumes. Over a hundred life-size figures are featured in the Knights of Malta in Mdina. Each one is an individual even in matters of dress. Rich brocad, silk moire’ and velvet are fabrics that knights of rank insisted on. These are the fabrics that have been used for the costumes. There is not a lace collar or a braided cuff out of place. Any inconsistencies in clothing mar the effect. By the same token humbler coin makers at the Mint wear coarser, simpler versions of their masters’ costumes. The wretched Turk, taken prisoner, may have been used to richer threads worn by others of his race at the attraction, has now been reduced to the barest covering.