Maltese windows

When the Knights of Malta built Valletta in the seventeenth century, it was admired by all who saw it. We don’t realise that it took 400 years or so to look the way it does today. At the beginning, for instance, there were no windows anywhere in Valletta.

In the 16th century, windows made out of plate-glass were unheard of. Technology that could make glass at reasonable prices had yet to be invented. Having a hole in the wall meant exposing yourself to the elements so people used thick curtains to protect themselves from that. [1]

A photo of the Auberge de Baviere - Valletta, Malta

Auberge de Baviere

The Knights’ residential lodges, or auberges, were no exception. Huge leather curtains hung in place purely to keep the damp winter cold at bay. [1]

In 1587, Philibert de Chamesson was the Grand Prior heading the ‘Lange de France’. He brought a glazier from France to Malta which made this technological development fashionable on the island. [1] At the time Valletta was being finished built so all the auberges ended up having modern glass windows.

This was earlier than in other countries; England, for instance, started using glass windows in the 17th century. The French had mastered the process earlier and kept this a secret. They could, at the time, make glass plates 1.8m (6 feet) in diameter. [2] It is no surprise a French Knight would have brought this new development to the Knights’ new headquarters in Malta.

A photo of modern balconies on the northern coast - Valletta, Malta

Modern balconies on the northern coast of Valletta

Obviously windows would have reached the island eventually even if de Chamesson hadn’t intervened. But we can say that the French introduced windows to Malta.



[1] Jackewicz Johnston, Shirley, (2001) “Splendour of Malta”, Rizzoli International Publications
[2] (2013), When were glass windows first used,



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