Mediterranean Conference Centre

The Mediterranean Conference Centre (MCC, Maltese: Dar il-Mediterran għall-Konferenzi) is a conference centre in Valletta, Malta. The building was built as a hospital in the 16th century by the Order of St. John, and it was known as the Sacra Infermeria or the Holy Infirmary (Maltese: Il-Furmarija).[2][3] It was known as the Grand Hôspital during the French occupation of Malta[4] and during the British period was named as the Station Hospital.[5]

Mediterranean Conference Centre
Dar il-Mediterran għall-Konferenzi
Sacra Infermeria in 2016.jpg
The MCC in September 2016
Former namesSacra Infermeria
Holy Infirmary
Alternative namesMCC
General information
TypeHospital (now conference centre)
LocationValletta, Malta
Coordinates35°53′58.2″N 14°31′4.8″E / 35.899500°N 14.518000°E / 35.899500; 14.518000
Construction started1574
OwnerGovernment of Malta
Technical details
Floor area7,000 m2 (75,000 sq ft)[1]
Design and construction
Architect(s)probably Girolamo Cassar

It was one of the leading hospitals in Europe until the 18th century, and it remained in use until 1920.[6] It had a capacity to keep from 500 to 2,500 patients.[7] The building is now used for multiple banquets, exhibitions, international conventions and theatrical shows.



The Holy Infirmary was ordered to be built by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière on 7 November 1574, after a Chapter General, to replace the already existing one in Birgu. Construction instigated in the same year. It was completed towards the end of the 16th century. Its architect is not known,[8] but it is usually attributed to Girolamo Cassar.[9]

The Great Ward today

It was meant to receive Maltese and foreign patients, as well as to provide lodging to pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land. It also had two pharmacies. In 1596 a phalange was built, which was meant to accommodate the patients with venereal and contagious diseases. In 1636, one of the pharmacies was closed down.

During the reign of Grand Master Raphael Cotoner, the infirmary was enlarged, having more wards added. This work continued until 1666, during the reign of Raphael's successor and brother, Nicolas Cotoner. The ‘Old Ward’ was also extended. During his reign, in 1676, a School of Anatomy and Surgery was established in the infirmary itself.[10] A dissection room was built in the infirmary due to the school, which was later on moved to the site of the graveyard outside the infirmary. More work was carried out in 1712, during the reign of Grand Master Ramon Perellos y Roccaful. These included a Quadrangle, the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, a laboratory and a pharmacy.

When the French, under Napoleon Bonaparte, occupied Malta in 1798, they made alterations to the hospital. They improved its ventilation, sanitation and lighting. They also changed it to a military hospital to accommodate the sick French sailors and soldiers, which resulted in the name change from Sacra Infermeria to Hopital Militaire. As soon as the Maltese insurrection began, the hospital's efficiency began to deteriorate. Supplies like medication, fresh food, water and clothing were scarce.[10] Diseases like nightblindness, scurvy, intestinal diseases and phthisis were common. The French capitulated on 5 September 1800 and it was immediately occupied by 350 British Troops.

Great Ward of the hospital in 1906 with entire original ceiling

The new General Hospital now became a Station Hospital to accommodate the wounded British soldiers being brought in by Hospital ships. This was done due to its strategic position overlooking the harbour. This meant that the seriously injured troops could be easily and quickly transported there.[10] The hospital saw much use mainly during the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War and the First World War. In effect by World War I Malta was known as the 'Nurse of the Mediterranean'. Between 1863 and 1865 more alterations were made to improve the building.

The Station Hospital was brought to an end in 1918, by the conclusion of the Great War.[10]

Subsequent usesEdit

The building today, as seen from the Lower Barrakka Gardens

From 1920 until May 1940 it served as the headquarters of the Malta Police Force.[10] The building was included on the Antiquities List of 1925.[11] It was evacuated during the Second World War during which it took four direct hits, which destroyed certain parts of it. After the War, the part of the 'Great Ward' which remained became a Command Hall for the Allied Troops. It remained so until 1950. Afterwards it became a Children's Theatre for a year. In 1959, the centre became a school and an examination centre. Restoration was attempted multiple times, however in 1978 a full restoration started and on 11 November 1979, the current centre was inaugurated. It was later awarded the Europa Nostra Diploma of Merit.[10]

The centre has since housed many conferences, meetings, summits and other events, such as the Valletta Summit on Migration and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2015.[12]

The Sacra Infermeria is listed on the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands.[6]

On 20 November 2016, the centre was the official venue for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest of that year


The Sacra Infermeria originally had two wards with a central courtyard, but was subsequently enlarged to have six large wards.[6] The main hall was once the largest hall in Europe with a length of 480 feet.[13][14] It also has a monumental staircase designed in form of flight of stairs going down against a wall and then turn midway opposite the other side of the wall.[15] The corridors and underground halls have vaulted ceilings in the form of a cross.[16]

Further readingEdit

  • Cassar, Paul (1946). "The Hospital of the Order of St. John in Malta" (PDF). Scientia. 12 (2): 59–71.
  • Critien, A. (1948). "A Round of the Holy Infirmary Wards" (PDF). Scientia. 14 (3): 112–127.


  1. ^ "Malta Country Report 2008: The largest conference centre of the island of Malta". CountryProfiler Malta Limited. 17 September 2008: 125. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ Cassar Pullicino, Joseph (October–December 1949). "The Order of St. John in Maltese folk-memory" (PDF). Scientia. 15 (4): 160. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 April 2016.
  3. ^ Morana, Martin (2012). Ara x'int tgħid: glossarju enċiklopediku ta' termini storiċi, toponimi, qwiel u idjomi, tradizzjonijiet Maltin, kurżitajiet oħra (in Maltese). Martin Morana. pp. 69–70. ISBN 9789995703608. OCLC 830362895.
  4. ^ Savona-Ventura, Charles (2015). Knight Hospitaller Medicine in Malta [1530-1798]. Lulu. p. 304. ISBN 978-1326482220.
  5. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 March 2018. Retrieved 11 June 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b c "Sacra Infermeria" (PDF). National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands. 28 December 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 December 2014. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  7. ^ Degiorgio, Stephen. "Palaces and Lodgings of the Knights of St John at Malta". Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  8. ^ "The Maltese Architect Gerolamo Cassar". Malta Architecture. Archived from the original on 9 July 2015.
  9. ^ Schiavone, Michael J. (2009). Dictionary of Maltese Biographies Vol. 1 A-F. Pietà: Pubblikazzjonijiet Indipendenza. pp. 520–521. ISBN 9789993291329.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Is-Sacra InfErmeria" (PDF). 15 December 2018.
  11. ^ "Protection of Antiquities Regulations 21st November, 1932 Government Notice 402 of 1932, as Amended by Government Notices 127 of 1935 and 338 of 1939". Malta Environment and Planning Authority. Archived from the original on 19 April 2016.
  12. ^ Attard, Rachel (31 October 2015). "8,000 people, many heads of state participating in Valletta Summit on Migration and CHOGM". The Malta Independent. Archived from the original on 15 November 2015. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  13. ^ "The Mediterranean Its Storied Cities and Venerable Ruins" (PDF). 2 November 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  14. ^ Cassar Pullicino, Joseph (October–December 1949). "The Order of St. John in Maltese folk-memory" (PDF). Scientia. 15 (4): 149. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 April 2016.
  15. ^ Bugeja, Lino; Buhagiar, Mario; Fiorin, Stanley (1993). Artistic, architectural and ecclesiastical aspects. Malta University Services. p. 446. ISBN 9990944024.
  16. ^ Garofalo, Emanuela (2016). Crociere e Lunette in Sicilia e in Italia Meridionale nel XVI Secolo (PDF) (in Italian). Palermo: Edizioni Caracol. p. 31. doi:10.17401/CROCIERE-LUNETTE. ISBN 978-88-98546-59-6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 June 2017.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Mediterranean Conference Centre at Wikimedia Commons