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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - Casa Bernard

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Casa Bernard

46, St Paul's Street (Triq San Pawl), Rabat, Malta;  Tel: +356 21451888, 99844343 or 79444373

 

Monday to Saturday (10.00-16.00) or by appointment. Regular ticket: €8.00; children up to 12 years of age: €4.00

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This 16th Century Palazzo named after Dr. Salvatore Bernard, a Maltese philosopher and physician to Grand Master Manuel de Vilhena has recently been restored to its former glory and opened to the public. It is a typical Maltese Palazzo with a barrel-vaulted ceiling and a courtyard. Descendants of Dr. Bernard resided here for more than 300 years.

Tours are conducted by Josette and Georges Magri, the current owners of this property. In the main hall, your attention will drawn to a collection of pharmaceutical jars arranged on a cornice. The portrait on the right hand side of the room shows  an Admiral from the Spinola family, whilst the lady in the portrait facing him is an 18th Century ancestor of the Magris. Also in this hall are fine examples of traditional Maltese furniture, including a chestnut wood hall table and a senduq, or a large box in which, as Mr. Magri explained, a bride would place the dowry given to her by her parents before getting married.

A well within the sitting room dates from the Roman period and attests to the antiquity of this site. Several paintings with a religious theme adorn this room, yet a centrally located painting stands out - it shows a young lady signing a prenuptial agreement under the watchful gaze of her mother who is holding a rooster in her hands as payment to notary for his services. A depression in a wall originally served as a larder but has been converted into a vetrina – a showcase for trinkets and silverware.

In the living room are several paintings executed in water colours and pastels; these are more recent, dating from the late 18th century to the 20th century and include works by quayside artist Vincenzo d'Esposito and Edward Caruana Dingli, famed for his fascination with Maltese folklore.

A large table in the dining room is decorated with English silverware. A vetrina here contains Maltese coffee pots made of silver standing on three “goat's feet” with a spout in the shape of a dolphin's lips; and 18th Century French Majolica ceramic plates.

At the top of the stairs is a conspicuous sculpture representing the beheading of St. Paul. Nearby is a portrait of Cardinal Joaquin  Portocarrera founder of the Bibliotheca, the National Library in  Valletta.

From the loggia, we reach the piano nobile (the first floor). The drawing room here was reserved for VIP's and contains several baroque paintings by artists from Malta and other European countries. Notable here is an allegorical representation of Father Time, holding a scythe in his hand, by Mattia Preti. This leads to a small yet well-stocked library within which is a traditional Maltese oil-lamp.

You will also visit a bedroom, complete with a bidet and commode, the garden and courtyard, the watch tower and a chapel in the building's basement.