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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - San Anton Garden

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San Anton Gardens
Triq Birbal, Attard


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It was Grand Master Antoine de Paule who decided that Verdala Palace was too distant from the Capital and set about constructing a summer residence that was closer to Valletta. The new building started off as a house that de Paule owned in the Attard area, which he enlarged and embellished. Fruit trees were brought from overseas to enhance the buildings orchards. Subsequent Grand Masters would commission further projects: de Vilhena was responsible for the construction of the Madonna tal-Pilar chapel whilst the orange groves would be enlarged by Grand Master de Rohan.

Napoleon's stint in governing the country was short lived, and when the French stirred the ire of the locals, San Anton Palace served as the rebels' headquarters; when the French lost their grip in 1800, it was here that Vabois and Pigot signed their historic capitulation pact ceding the islands to the British. On suspicion of colluding with the French occupiers, Maltese patriot Mikiel Anton Vassalli was briefly imprisoned here.

The British Governors used San Anton as their summer residence until 1929, and thereafter it became the Governor's official residence. When Malta was declared a republic in 1974, the Palace became the official residence of the Head of State. San Anton was also the birthplace of Princess Victoria Melita, grand daughter of Queen Victoria and Tzar Alexander II.

 Whilst a small area is not accessible to visitors, most of the garden has been open to the public since 1882, by decree of Governor Sir Arthur Borton.The coats-of-arms of Grand Master de Paule and Governor Burton adorn the main Gate through which the public may access the Gardens. A long passageway lined with a bougainvillea hedge on either side leads to a three pronged fork. The right prong leads to a major landmark in the garden – the Eagles fountain, with its two cherub-like boys standing on a discus-shaped base restraining an eagle, against a spectacular backdrop of a prickly-stone covered wall. The structure was constructed in 1623 and used to spurt water, fed by a a system of pipes that was dismantled during the revolt against the French, to provide raw material for lead shot.

A modernistic sculpture by Charles Sammut was unveiled in 1994 on the occasion of the the first National Arbor Day on January 16th, 1994.

The Europa Lane leads to the Diana Pond. This pond is a 20thcentury addition, having been completed in 1908, and owes its nickname to a stone statue of the Roman deity Diana, goddess of Nature. 

The masks pond is so-called for its centrally located sculpture, prominent features of which are three masks, stone pillars and a fruit basket. This was sculpted by John Bonnici in 1982 to adorn the then newly-constructed pond.The large Swan's Pond, the main pond in San Anton used to host ducks until 1923, but these were later joined by their more graceful cousins.

The largest open area in the gardens in front of the Palace as adorned with the bronze busts of the British monarchs, George V and George VI on marble plinths. Several semicircular steps lead to the palace forecourt. The portico leading to the palace complex is flanked by two stone armchairs. A marble plaque on the palace's facade lists the country's past presidents. A niche here houses a statue of Venus, the Roman goddess of Love and Beauty, transferred here from Argotti in 1984.

The Maghluqa area used to be a mini zoo, with camels and gazelles. These animals have since been removed and now live happily in the Government Experimental Station at Marsa.  A five tiered copper pagoda is an example of fine workmanship and donated by the Copperware Manufactures of Takoka, Japan and the Japan Cherry Blossom Association has been standing in the Japan lane since 1970.