Forni della Signoria

The Forni della Signoria (Maltese: L-Ifran tas-Sinjurija;[1] English: Bakeries of the Grandmaster) was a bakehouse, housing a number of bakeries, built during the Order of St John in Valletta, Malta. It was built in the late 16th century, and it produced bread for the inhabitants of Valletta and the surrounding area, as well as for the Order's garrison and navy.

Forni della Signoria
Bakery of the Order
Forni della Signoria 02.jpg
View of the bakehouse
General information
Architectural styleMannerism
LocationValletta, Malta
Coordinates35°53′53″N 14°30′39″E / 35.89806°N 14.51083°E / 35.89806; 14.51083Coordinates: 35°53′53″N 14°30′39″E / 35.89806°N 14.51083°E / 35.89806; 14.51083
Completedc. 1583 or 1584
OwnerTreasury of the Order (1584-1798)
French Republic (1798-1800)
British Government (1814-1921)
Self-Government (1921-1926)
Technical details
Floor count3
Design and construction
ArchitectGirolamo Cassar

It remained in use by the French and later the British militaries, until a new Royal Naval Bakery was opened in Birgu in 1845. The bakery was subsequently converted into stores, before falling into disrepair. The building was demolished in the early 20th century to make way for Vincenti Buildings. The bakery gave its name to Old Bakery Street, one of the main streets of Valletta.



The first prominent bakeries for the Order were built in Birgu in 1545.[2] In 1566 Architect Francesco Laparelli designed a plan for a new city, Valletta, where all public and prominent buildings were to be in a reserved area. Among these buildings were the Forni della Sacra Religione.[3][4]

Small individual bakeries were first built on site, which had existed since the 1570s.[5] These bakeries were built during the magistracy of Grand Master Jean de la Cassière at his own expense, and were known in Italian as the Forni pubblici della religione (Public Bakeries of the Religion).[6][7] The bakeries were among the first erected buildings in Valletta.[8] According to Leonard Mahoney (1988), similar to the first buildings of Valletta, these bakeries were built for convenience of the first wave of workers and migrants rather than keeping also in mind the aesthetic appeal of architecture. Thus, these bakeries can be considered to have had a vernacular architecture to a certain extant.[9]

The reserved area, generally known as the collachio, was toyed about for years and was eventually abandoned as it proved not practical for business, administration and the rest of inhabitants of the city.[4][10][11] However, more or less, the mentioned buildings occupied the designated area.[3]

Construction and useEdit

The Order's bakery was being planned by 1582[12] and an engraving by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio of Valletta including the planned bakery was drawn up that year. The building was marked as Il Forno Signoria et l’Armaria, meaning part of the building had to also include an armoury to serve in case of a siege.[13] This also because it was mainly intended to serve the military.[14] It was eventually built in around 1583[15] or 1584, during the magistracy of Grand Master Hugues Loubenx de Verdalle.[8] The building was designed by Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar,[16][17] who also designed many other buildings in Valletta.[18] As planned, the building was used primarily for the making of bread, while another part of the edifice was used as an armoury or ferreria.[8] Other food products from similar ingredients of bread, such as biscuits, were also made.[19] In the 17th century a mill room was added to the building.[20]

Interior of the bakery while still in use during the British period

The building was property of the Treasury of the Order, and under the responsibility of the Castellan.[21] The building was rented, each part to different owners, however was administered by one person known as Commendatore dei Forni (Bakeries’ Commander). The owners were to sell bread at an estabslished price.[6] The bakery produced most of the bread for the inhabitants of Valletta and Floriana, as well as for the Order's hospital, prison, galleys and garrison.[6][22][23]

Some of the expenses for the operation of the bakery were relieved as a number of slaves were engaged in forced unpaid labour.[24] Only trusted slaves were allowed to work at the bakery. However, after the revolt of the slaves during the magistry of Grand Master Manuel Pinto da Fonseca, none of the slaves were trusted in important buildings such as the bakery which provided traditional everyday food.[25] The incident followed by a shortage of bakers in Valletta that villages bakers were ordered to do so on site and those who refused to bake bread in the city were jailed by the Castellania for a roughly a week.[26][27]

The building gave its name to Strada Forni, now Old Bakery Street

During the French occupation of Malta, the bakery was used to produce bread for the French garrison, and it was heavily guarded during the blockade of 1798–1800.[28] At this point, the street where the bakery was located, originally called Strada San Giovanni Battista,[29] was renamed Rue des Fours after the bakery.[30] It was later known as Strada Forni in Italian during the early British period,[29] and since 1926 it has been called Old Bakery Street. It is known as Triq il-Fran or Triq l-Ifran in Maltese, but it is still commonly called Strada Forni by Valletta residents.[31][32] This means that the bakery gives the name to a main street in the capital Valletta.[8]

At some point, during the British period, the building became known as the Forni Regii[8] or the Majesty’s Bakery.[33] It was also known as The King’s Bakery. In 1824 the upper floor, which housed the armoury, was handed over to the British military.[6] The bakery remained in use throughout the early 19th century, supplying bread to the British military.[34] The British Army prominently used it as a colonial department, which stored and supplied food for the troops stationed in Mallta, better known as the Commissariat.[35] The British also used it for the grinding of corn.[29]

It fell out of use when the Royal Naval Bakery was opened in Birgu in 1845.[36] It was initially used as stores, but the building fell into a state of disrepair. An English boy is said to have died when part of the building collapsed while he was playing there.[37]


The bakery was demolished in 1926.[16] The Times of Malta published an article accompanied with a photo to inform the general public that the bakery was demolished and not destroyed by war.[35] The newspaper stated:[35]

No! this building has not suffered from an aerial bombardment; it is the Knights' Bakery in Old Bakery Street that is in the process of demolition to make way for a better and more imposing building.

Redevelopment and remainsEdit

The Vincenti Buildings, the place where the bakery stood

In the mid-1930s the site was purchased by the architect Gustavo R. Vincenti.[35][38] He raised a Modernism (Art Nouveau[5][39] or simply an Art Deco[40]) block, known as Vincenti Buildings after its architect[35] in 1938.[41] Vincenti Buildings were damaged during WWII but were faithfully repaired to the original design.[35][42][43] Some of the residences have been converted into offices.[5]

In March 2010, Enemalta workers uncovered remains of the bakery's foundations during paving works in Strait Street.[5] The remains consist of sections of a wall up to four courses high and laid on bedrock.[28] Other remains were also found at Melita Street across Old Bakery Street.[44] A detailed wooden model of the bakery, probably dating back to the British period, is found at the Heritage Malta reserve collection at the Inquisitor's Palace in Birgu.[37][45]


Interior of the building

The bakery of the Order was located on a city block bordered by Old Bakery, Melita, St. John and Strait streets.[46][5][33] Its main façade was in Old Bakery Street facing the Church of St. Augustine,[22][23] and it consisted of a central bay with two sloped roofs, with three-storey high sections on either side.[37] It had imposing corners, typical of Architect Cassar,[17] which were characterised by large rusticated pilasters to support the massive building.[46]

The façade was asymmetric and had no moulding.[46] It contained two main doorways, but there were other entrances in Strait Street.[37] The exterior was plain, contrasting with other Valletta buildings, however this was typical when built. Though the exterior may not have had any aesthetically pleasing features, the interior was spacious and adequate for its purpose.[34] Similar to other prominent buildings, the bakery was provided with water from the Wignacourt Aqueduct.[47][48] The building did not suffer damage during the 1693 Sicily earthquake though, as documented, the surrounding buildings did.[49]

Further readingEdit


  1. ^ Cassar Pullicino, Joseph (October–December 1949). "The Order of St. John in Maltese folk-memory" (PDF). Scientia. 15 (4): 162. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Dawra Kulturali" (PDF). 2018. Retrieved 2020-12-31.
  3. ^ a b Guidoni, Enrico; Marino, Angela (1982). Storia dell'urbanistica: il cinquecento (in Italian). 16. Laterza. p. 602. OCLC 11238601.
  4. ^ a b Bianco, Lino (1995). "Valletta: A city in history" (PDF). Melita Theologica. University of Malta. 60 (2): 9–11. ISSN 1012-9588. OCLC 1587122. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 March 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Foundations of knights' bakery believed found in Strait Street". Times of Malta. 17 March 2010. Archived from the original on 19 July 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d "Statement of all the property transferred to the military and naval authorities from the year 1816 to the end of 1875 with appendix". Foreign and Commonwealth Office Collection. University of Mancestor: 8, 21. 1877. JSTOR 60231726. Archived from the original on 2018-03-04. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  7. ^ Storia dei Gran Maestri e cavalieri di Malta con note e documenti giustificativi dall'epoca della fondazione dell'ordine a' tempi attuali (in Italian). 3. Rome: From the Library of Modern and Contemporary History. 1853. p. 456.
  8. ^ a b c d e Ferris, Archille (1881). Memorie dell' inclito Ordine gerosolimitano esistenti nelle isole di Malta (in Italian). Tip. di C. Busuttil. p. 207. ISBN 9781168127242. OCLC 642909207.
  9. ^ Mahoney, Leonard (1988). A History of Maltese Architecture: from Ancient Times up to 1800. Żabbar: Veritas Press. p. 150. ASIN B0006EXLGK. OCLC 224662095.
  10. ^ Bouet, Ryan W. (2001). The Story of Valletta: A Companion to the City. Allied Publications. pp. 11–20. ISBN 9789990931297.
  11. ^ Bugeja, Jennifer Rose; Vanessa, Ciantar; Formosa, Christian (2017). Valletta my city, my story: as told by Jean de Vallette. Heritage Malta. p. 48. ISBN 9789993257493.
  12. ^ Spiteri, Stephen C. (2003). "An Armoury in Valletta". Armoury of the Knights. Midsea Books. p. 67. ISBN 99932-39-33-X.
  13. ^ Ganado, Albert (1984). "Matteo Perez d'Aleccio's engravings of the Siege of Malta 1565". Proceedings of History Week. Malta Historical Society: 125–161. Archived from the original on 2016-03-01. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  14. ^ Castagna, P. P. (1865). Malta bil chzejer tehne u li ghadda min ghaliha (in Maltese). 2. Malta: s.n. p. 112.
  15. ^ Dal Pozzo, Bartolomeo (1703). Historia della sacra religione militare di S. Giouanni Gerosolimitano detta di Malta, del signor commendator Fr. Bartolomeo Co. Dal Pozzo veronese, caualier della medesima: Parte prima che proseguisce quella di Giacomo Bosio dall'anno 1571 fin' al 1636. 1 (in Italian). Verona: per Giouanni Berno. p. 205. OCLC 801215558.
  16. ^ a b Mangion, Giovanni (1975). "Girolomo Cassar: Architetto Maltese del Cinquecento" (PDF). Melita Historica. 6 (2): 195.
  17. ^ a b "Atti del XV Congresso di storia dell'architettura Congresso di storia dell'architettura" [Proceedings of the XV Congress of Architecture History Congress of Architectural History] (in Italian). 15. Centro di studi per la storia dell'architettura. 1967. OCLC 1564788. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ Castillo, Dennis Angelo (2006). "The Maltese Cross: A Strategic History of Malta". Contributions in Military Studies. Greenwodd Publishing Group (229): 81–82. ISBN 9780313323294. ISSN 0883-6884. OCLC 470553071.
  19. ^ Grima, Joseph F. (2001). "The Rowers on the Order's Galleys (c. 1600-1650)" (PDF). Melita Historica. 13 (2): 125. ISSN 1021-6952.
  20. ^ Cassar, Carmel (1996). Witchcraft, Sorcery, and the Inquisition: A Study of Cultural Values in Early Modern Malta. Msida: Mireva Publications. pp. 84–85 (plates XXI-XXII). ISBN 9781870579476. OCLC 36885502.
  21. ^ Abela, Giovanni Francesco (1772). "Malta illustrata... accresciuta dal Cte G.A. Ciantar" (in Italian). Mallia. p. 324.
  22. ^ a b Denaro, Victor F. (1959). "Houses in Kingsway and Old Bakery Street, Valletta" (PDF). Melita Historica. Malta Historical Society. 2 (4): 210. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 May 2016.
  23. ^ a b Van Den Bossche, Bart; Bastiaensen, Michel; Lonergan, Corinna Salvadori (2000). "Soavi Sapori della Cucina dei Cavalieri di Malta". Soavi sapori della cultura italiana: atti del 13. Congresso dell'A.I.P.I., Verona, Soave, 27-29 agosto 1998 (in Italian). Firenze Cesati. p. 129. ISBN 9788876671005. OCLC 248752154.
  24. ^ Wettinger, Godfrey (2002). Slavery in the Islands of Malta and Gozo ca. 1000–1812. Publishers Enterprises Group. pp. 320–322. ISBN 978-99909-0-316-4.
  25. ^ Cutajar, Tony C. (2011). Mewt Lil Pinto! (in Maltese). Lulu. p. 105. ISBN 978-1-4478-4179-1. OCLC 941694707.
  26. ^ Buttigieg, Noel (2009). "Is Bread Male or Female? Gender and Power Relations". Proceeding of History Week. Malta Historical Society and Midsea Books. 12 (7): 101. ISBN 978-99932-7-400-1. Archived from the original on 1 March 2016.
  27. ^ Buttigieg, Noel (2014). Cassar George (ed.). "Bread and the City: 1740-1798". Journal of the History of the Order of St John. Mosta: Sacra Militia Foundation (13): 4. ISBN 9787999016069. ISSN 2306-8272. Archived from the original on 23 December 2017.
  28. ^ a b "Wall unearthed in Valletta 'could be' foundations of Knights' bakery". Times of Malta. 18 March 2010. Archived from the original on 18 July 2016.
  29. ^ a b c Mifsud, A. (December 31, 1980). "Knights Hospitallers of the Ven. Tongue of England in Malta". New York : AMS Press – via Internet Archive.
  30. ^ Bonello, Giovanni (2000). Histories of Malta. 1. Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti. pp. 38, 40. ISBN 9789993210016.
  31. ^ Chetcuti, Kristina (1 June 2015). "Where the streets have four names". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 19 July 2016.
  32. ^ Borzesi, Giuseppe Pericciuoli (1830). The historical guide to the island of Malta and its dependencies. Government Press. p. 51.
  33. ^ a b More information available in source. Playfair, Robert Lambert (1881). "Handbook to the Mediterranean". 2. J. Murray: 63–64. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  34. ^ a b Riland Bedford, William Kirkpatrick (1905). Malta and the Knights Hospitallers. Seeley and co., Limited. pp. 53–54. OCLC 15910350. Archived from the original on 28 October 2008.
  35. ^ a b c d e f Bonnici, Joseph; Cassar, Michael (2004). A Chronicle of Twentieth Century Malta. Books Distributors Limited. p. 151. ISBN 978-999097227-6.
  36. ^ Vassallo, Giovanni Antonio (1854). Storia di Malta. Tip. Francesco Cumbo. p. 390.
  37. ^ a b c d Darmanin, Denis (25 January 2015). "The bakeries in Valletta of the Order of the Knights of St John". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 19 July 2016.
  38. ^ Said, Edward. David Felice (ed.). "The Architecture of Gustavo R. Vincenti (1888-1974)" (PDF). The Architect. Media Today: 18–19. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 January 2018.
  39. ^ Benoit, Maie (28 February 2014). "Marie Benoit's Diary". Archived from the original on 9 October 2016.
  40. ^ Said, Edward (2011). "Architects who built Sliema - Perit Alberto La Ferla (1898-1942)". Architecture XV. Archived from the original on 20 January 2018.
  41. ^ "A Strategy for Valletta: Public Consultation Draft" (PDF). Planning Authority. June 2016. p. 17.
  42. ^ Abela, Tony (2014). Malta's Early Warning System During World War II. Hamrun: SKS. pp. 479–489. ISBN 9789993217312. OCLC 889717045.
  43. ^ Mirabelli, Terence (2015). "The ANZAC experience in Malta - Arrival" (PDF). Ta’ Xbiex: The Island Publications Ltd: 2, 5, 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 March 2016. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  44. ^ Scicluna, Raymomd (3 April 2017). "Dokument imqiegħed fuq il-Mejda tal-Kamra tad-Deputati fis-Seduta" (PDF). Annual Report 2016 Superintendence of Cultural Heritage (in Maltese). Ministru għall-Ġustizzja, Kultura u Gvern Lokali. It-Tnax-Il Legislatura (Numru 501): 23–24. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 September 2018.
  45. ^ Vella, Godwin (2016). Valletta 1566: Melita Renascens. Heritage Malta. p. 125. ISBN 9789993257387.
  46. ^ a b c Hughes, Quintin (1956). "The Building of Malta During the Period of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem: 1530-1795". The Tiranti. A. Tiranti. 6: 183–184.
  47. ^ Fiteni, Leopoldo (21 May 1841). "Le conversazioni di Filoteo". Giornale Cattolico (in Italian). Senglea: From the National Central Library of Rome: 46.
  48. ^ Frendo, Henry (1997). Attard - The Life of a Maltese Casale (PDF). Attard Local Council. pp. 35–38.
  49. ^ Gangemi (1999). Annali del barocco in Sicilia (in Italian). 6. Centro internazionale di studi sul barocco in Sicilia. p. 61. ISBN 9788849203011. ISSN 1125-9205. OCLC 32146636.