The Inquisition in Malta 1561-1798

The Roman Inquisition

The Roman Inquisition was a system of tribunals developed by the Holy See during the second half of the 16th century, responsible for prosecuting individuals accused of a wide array of crimes related to heresy, including sorcery, blasphemy, Judaizing and witchcraft, as well for censorship of printed literature. The tribunals covered most of the Italian peninsula as well as Malta and also existed in isolated pockets of papal jurisdiction in other parts of Europe, including Avignon, in France. The Congregation of the Holy Office, one of the original 15 congregations of the Roman Curia created by Pope Sixtus V in 1588, presided over the activity of the local tribunals. While the Roman Inquisition was originally designed to combat the spread of Protestantism in Italy, the institution outlived its original purpose, and the system of tribunals lasted until the mid 18th century, when the Italian states began to suppress the local inquisitions, effectively eliminating the power of the church to prosecute heretical crimes.

The Pope appointed one cardinal to preside over the meetings. There were usually ten other cardinals who were members of the Congregation, as well as a prelate and two assistants all chosen from the Dominican Order. The Holy Office also had an international group of consultants, experienced scholars of theology and canon law, who advised it on specific questions. In 1616 these consultants gave their assessment of the propositions that the Sun is immobile and at the center of the universe and that the Earth moves around it, judging both to be “foolish and absurd in philosophy,” and the first to be “formally heretical” and the second “at least erroneous in faith” in theology. This assessment led to Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium to be placed on the Index of Forbidden Books, until revised and Galileo Galilei to be admonished about his Copernicanism. It was this same body in 1633 that tried Galileo, condemned him for a “grave suspicion of heresy”, and banned all his works.

Among the subjects of this Inquisition were Francesco Patrizi, Giordano Bruno, Tommaso Campanella, Girolamo Cardano, Cesare Cremonini, and Galileo Galilei. Of these, only Bruno was executed; Galileo died under house arrest, and Campanella was imprisoned for twenty-seven years. The miller Domenico Scandella was also put to the stake on the orders of Pope Clement VIII in 1599.

The Inquisition also concerned itself with the Benandanti in the Friuli region, but considered them a lesser danger than the Reformation and only handed out light sentences.

The Inquisition in Malta (1561 to 1798) is generally considered to have been gentler than the Spanish Inquistition.

Italian historian Andrea Del Col estimates that out of 62,000 cases judged by Inquisition in Italy after 1542 only 2% (ca. 1250) ended with death sentence.

The last notable action of the Roman Inquisition occurred in 1858, in Bologna, when Inquisition agents kidnapped a 6-year-old Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara, separating him from his family.[3] The local inquisitor had learned that the boy was secretly baptised by his nursemaid. Pope Pius IX raised the boy as a Catholic in Rome. The boy’s father, Momolo Montara, spent years seeking help in all quarters, including internationally, to try to reclaim his son. The case received international attention and fueled the anti-papal sentiments that helped the Italian Nationalism movement.

The coming of the Roman Inquisition to Malta, 1561

Before the arrival of the Order there already existed a tribunal of the old medieval Inquisition in Malta under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Palermo. The Bishopric of Domenico Cubelles (1542-1566) was divided into two periods: as bishop of Malta (1542-62) and as bishop and inquisitor (1562-66). The Inquisition was officially established as a separate institution from the Bishop in 1574. This came about almost by incident.

Grandmaster La Cassiere sought the advice of Pope Gregory XIII over a quarrel between him and Bishop Royas. Mgr. Pietro Dusina was sent as mediator, apostolic visitor and inquisitor. His office lasted for only nine months, but it served enough to set up the Inquisition as a separate institution from the Bishop�s Court.

 Who were the Inquisitors?

The Roman Inquisition (or Holy Office) was the official stand by the Catholic Church against Protestantism. It was set up in 1542 by Pope Paul III. Its aim was to inculcate a sense of correct behaviour and the correct beliefs expected from a Catholic. The Inquisition subordinated all aspects of life and government, acted as a watchdog against all kinds of heresies, including blasphemy, apostasy, bigamy, reading of prohibited books and the practice of magic. 

The greatest concern for the Inquisitors in the 16th century were heretics and the reading of prohibited books that were brought to Malta by foreign Protestants. In the 17th century the Inquisitors sought to deal with the impact on the Maltese, especially women, of the growing number of Muslim slaves practicing sorcery and magic. In the 18th century the Inquisition entered its period of decline. Inquisitors became mostly concerned with the increase of blasphemy, bigamy and apostasy to Islam.

The Inquisitor as Papal Legate (ambassador) exercised great power in Malta as the direct representative of the Holy See. In many instances of quarrels with the Grandmaster or the Bishop, it was usually the Inquisitor who came out victorious because he had the more support at the Holy See in Rome . Most Inquisitors who came to Malta were able and ambitious clergymen, who later became Cardinals and two of them were elected Popes (Alexander VII in 1655 and Innocent XII in 1687).

The Inquisitor’s Palaces at Vittoriosa and Girgenti


The Inquisitor’s Palace is found in the city of Vittoriosa , one of the very few surviving of its kind in Europe and South America .

It contains one of the rare early modern prison structures which still survives. Not much attention has been given to the building.

A few years ago the building was restored and transformed into an Inquisition museum and opened for visitors. Until 1571 the Inquisitor’s Palace had been used as the seat of the Castellania (Law Courts) of the Order.

The building had been left vacant when the Knights moved to Valletta until it was handed over to Mgr. Dusina in 1574 as the first Inquisitor in Malta. Various Inquisitors in the 17th and 18th centuries undertook a number of additions and alterations to the original building in order to make it more comfortable and adapted to serve its functions as: residence, court and prison of the Inquisition Tribunal in Malta. 


In 1625 inquisitor Onorato Visconti   built a palace and a chapel to serve as summer residence for himself and for his successors at Girgenti, limits of Siggiewi (today the Girgenti Palace serves as the Country Residence of the Prime Minister).

It was renovated by inquisitor Angelo Dorini in 1763.


The end of the Inquisition in Malta, June 1798

The Inquisition came to a sudden end in Malta when the French took over the islands in June 1798. The Inquisitor was given 48 hours to leave Malta and the Tribunal was closed down. The rich archives of the Inquisition were taken over by the Bishop’s Curia. In the 1970s these archives were transferred to the Cathedral Museum of Mdina where they were opened for research by scholars and historians. These archives give us important information on how the Inquisition Tribunal functioned and what went on inside its prisons.

 How was life in the Inquisitor’s prison?

prisonThere were two prison sections: one for detention (ad custodiam) before a trial and one for punishment (ad poenam) after a sentence. In both cases prisoners were kept in separate cells. Prison sentences were frequent but of short duration � from a few days to a few years. In the 1630s Inquisitor Fabio Chigi had to slow down the sentencing process because the cells were so full that they could not host other prisoners. Life in the prisons was not as desperate as in most civil prisons of the time. In civil prisons, women and children were put together with adult criminals in cells with no beds or sewers. In the Inquisitor�s prisons, prisoners could receive presents and food from relatives and friends. There were no fixed schedules for eating. They could make use of a candle at night and have beds with straw mattresses and blankets. Some had toilet facilities in their cells; others were taken by the warden to the toilet pit. Prisoners were kept in good health by regular visits by a doctor, giving medicine to sick prisoners or taking them to hospital. The Inquisitor took care also of the spiritual needs of the prisoners: they could confess in their own cell, taught catechism and attend Mass.

Prisoners usually used their free time to decorate the walls of their cells with all sorts of graffiti (e.g. ships, religious motifs, symbols, dates, initials. Gambling, singing and playing music were other common pastimes. Attempts at escape were most common at night. One prisoner Pietro Licini escaped eight times in 1697-98, once by removing a stone from the wall of his cell that led to one of the streets. Others tried to commit suicide by poison o hanging. On leaving the prison, prisoners had to take an oath not to reveal anything they had seen or heard in the prisons. 


 The overall contribution of the Inquisition was to introduce the concept of the prisoners’ reform whereby prisoners were made to pay for their misdeeds. The emphasis of most Inquisitors was on the reformation of the prisoner not on his elimination as was usually the case in the civil prisons of the time.


Some case studies of sentences

given by the Malta Inquisition Tribunal

1. Carlo Vella, prison warden , in 1670 was dismissed from his job for having stabbed Antonio Rave’ to whom Vella was in debt.

2. Antonio Bellia, prison warden, in 1622 asked a Muslim slave to keep his money, which he later stolen. 

3. Lazzaro Seichel, prison warden, in 1705 was found guilty of having had sexual relations with a female prisoner and was condemned for 5 years on the Order’s galleys.  

4. Giovanni Maria Zammit, in 1725 escaped from his cell while the warden was fetching water from the well in the courtyard. He disguised himself as a beggar but was caught one month later. 

5. Salvatore Cauchi from Zebbug was imprisoned for 1 day for insulting some Church dignitaries.

6. Two Greeks (Gioanne and Costantino) were found guilty of apostasy to Islam. They were not sent to the galleys because they were disabled and were imprisoned for 3years  and 18 months  respectively instead. 

7. Sulpita de Lango, in 1618 was imprisoned for 8 years because of sorcery.

8. Blasio Visei, a Genoese buonavoglia, was accused of false testimony and sentenced to row on the galleys for 2 years.  


Constant problems which arose between

the Inquisition, the Bishop and the Order

The Inquisition was the third authority in the Maltese islands, and various incidents took place between members of the Curia, the Order and the Inquisition. The population looked at the Inquisition as a Court of redress. Thus the Inquisition became the authority to whom the

Maltese could appeal against given sentences by the Grand Master�s or bishop�s court. The inquisition differed from all forms of secular justice since it was penitential, that is, it aimed at instilling in the culprits a sense of penitence.

Although Inquisitors had full power over persons of any rank, they had no power just over two persons: the Grand Master and the Bishop of Malta. But still it was his duty to denounce them to the Supreme Congregation in case of some evident error against the faith. Those who were at the root of friction between the Inquisitor and the other authorities in Malta were the lay patentees. These patentees were the envy of all in Malta . They depended totally on the Inquisitor in a sense that the Grand Master and the Bishop had no jurisdiction over them. Therefore, they were a continual source of friction, particularly with the Grand Master.


The Inquisitor’s Palace


inqvitThe Inquisitor’s Palace, sited in the heart of Vittoriosa, is one of the very few surviving examples of a style of palace that would have been found all over Europe and South America in the early modern period. Many such buildings succumbed to the ravages of time or became victims of the reactionary power unleashed by the French Revolution against the ancien regime and all it represented. The fact that Malta’s palace, throughout its five centuries of history, always hosted high-ranking officials representing the main ruling powers on the Island helped ensure its survival.

inqvit1The palace also survived the Second World War and the threat of modern development. Although its successive occupants changed much in the structure of the building, the Inquisitor’s Palace remains an architectural gem, representative of the chequered history and European heritage of the Islands.

The palace was not built purposely as a residence for the Inquisitor. It was erected in the 1530s as the civil law courts of the Order of St John (Castellania) soon after the Knights arrived in Malta. It continued to serve as law courts until 1571, when the Order transferred its headquarters to Valletta after the siege of 1565.

The palace then remained empty, but not for long. Mgr Pietro Dusina arrived in Malta in 1574 as the first general inquisitor and apostolic delegate of the Maltese Islands. The Grand Master offered him the unused palace as an official residence. Almost all successive inquisitors sought to transform the palace into a decent mansion. They all shared the same cultural values of clerical baroque Roman society, and by the mid-18th century they had managed successfully to transform the building into a typical Roman palace.

The Inquisitor’s Palace is now home to the museum of Ethnography. It focuses on the popular devotions and religious values latent in Maltese ethnic identity and culture up to the present day. The palace was the ideal place to emphasise such a concept since the raison d’etre of the Inquisition was to model popular devotions and religious culture and make them conform to the official doctrines sanctioned by the Church and imposed by the Council of Trent (1545-63). The Council dictates moulded Catholic faith and practice until the mid-20th century and influenced all major Catholic ceremonies, including the most important – rites of passage of birth, marriage and death.

inqvit3Today, the Inquisitor’s Palace is being given a new lease of life. Careful historical reconstruction of the palace is under way based on extensive research of documents in the Inquisition archives in Malta and at the Vatican. In addition to the display areas in the tribunal room, the prison complex, and the kitchen which are already restored, there is a permanent exhibition on the impact of the Inquisition on Maltese society. The exhibition studies themes such as the Eucharist, the Holy Family, confession, preaching, and the cult of saints.


Girgenti Palace


inqgirg3Close to Siggiewi, at the western  end of the island, is the fertile little valley of Girgenti. At its head is a flat, rocky ledge, from which the ground falls sharply below what it is  a precipice in miniature. At the foot of the lodge is a grove of poplars, medlars, lemon, orange and pomengaranate trees; all sorts of shrubs grow with a luxuriance rare in Malta besides running water that irrigates the farms below.

On the ledge, when even in summer is cool and in winter is buffeted by every wind that blows, stands a little gem of a house – plain harmonious, restrained.

inqgirg5Girgenti was built by Inquisitor Onorato Visconti in 1625 and commands a superb view of the surrounding country. Its gardens are watered by a number of springs, the main one being that of Għajn il-Kbir, which also irrigates the valley of Girgenti below. Its chapel, dedicated to San Carlo Borromeo, was built by Inquisitor (later Cardinal) Angleo Dorini in 1763.

The facade consists of three blocks which lie in one continuous face with recessed panels and plain projecting strips marking the vertical and horizontal divisions. The window surrounds consists of similar palin strips whilst the central axis is accented by a balustraded balcony over the door and a high semi sercular-headed French window in the first floor. Good proportions, a clear articualtion and an interesting broken skyline produce a pleasant effect so that, although plain, the facade in neither monotonous nor preceptibly severe. It is worth nothing the effectiveness of the single top windows in the two wings.

inqgirg4The ground floor plan originally consisted of seven rooms built in a row overlooking the beautiful valley. Three of these rooms, to the right of the entrance hall, now form what is called the Long Room, the prinicipal reception room. At the back of this is a narrow passage which is connected by a graceful loggia to the charming little chapel, which is now the Dining Room. To the left of the entrance hall is a small study and a serving room which leads to the old kitchen. The first floor extends over the whole of the ground. It includes the Library which is a beautiful high ceilinged room with windows in three of the four walls. This floor also contains the main bedroom with it’s private terrace, as well as a secondary bedroom and Reading room.

The second floor only extends over the right wing and contains two bedrooms. What appears to be a second floor over the left wing has been taken up by the Library’s high ceiling.

From 1625 to 1798, when the French regime suppressed the Inquisition, Girgenti was the summer residence of Malta’s Inquisitors.  Of the 41 Inquisitors who used this house, 26 later became Cardinals and two became Popes, reigning as Alexander VII and Innocent XII respectively.

inqgirg2During the British period Girgenti served initially as the summer residence of the Lieutenant Governors of Malta. In the second World War it was used as one of the stores for the National Musuem’s collection. It fell into total despair after the war and was partially restored in 1966 an 1967. It again fell into depair in the 1970’s and was fully restored between 1988 and 1990, when it became the country residence of the Prime Ministers of Malta.


The Archives of the Roman Inquisition in Malta

 Archivum Inquisitionis Melitensis (A.I.M.)

Housed in the Archives of the Cathedral Museum, Mdina, Malta

It had never been honourable to anyone to have members of his family judged and condemned by an Inquisitor. All those who had been judged by an Inquisitor abhorred the tribunal, but could not do anything towards its extinction. In 1798, during that historic year for Malta, some noble families surmised that they had an opportunity to have all the documents burned as in fact happened in other nations. Noble families who had their ancestors judged by an Inquisitor bore renowned family-names in Malta. Two of them, De Piro and Preziosi, are still very well known on the island.

Those who dwelled in the Cite de Malte (better known as Cottonera) agreed to write a petition and address it to the French Authorities in Malta. They humbly requested them to order the burning of all the Inquisition documents. On 23 Messidor of the sixth year of the French Republic (11 July 1798), they received an answer  to their petition, signed by Bosredon Ransijat, as President of the Commission. The French replied that they had read with interest the request to reduce to ashes all Inquisition documents relating to the criminal proceedings, preserved at the Birgu Archive. Their petition was going to be given a due attention.

Two days later, on 25 Messidor (13 July 1798), the French decided to free Malta from the burden of three tyrannical tribunals. These, according to them, were the Tribunal of the Hospitaller Knights, that of the Inquisition, and the one of the Bishop. That day, the Inquisition of Malta really ceased to exist. The French confiscated all the Inquisition ‘s property. From then on, that property always remained in the hands of the legitimate civil authorities of Malta

The French did not acknowledge anymore Don Giovanbattista Gatt as the Assessor of the Inquisition Tribunal. On 8 Termidor of the Sixth Year of the Republic (26 July 1798), Gatt was referred to as an Ex-Assessor. The French decided to take in possession the Inquisitor’s Palace for their own use. On account of this, Gatt  received a stringent order that allowed no evasion. The French commanded him to carry all the Inquisition documents in a big store that was going to be chosen for the preservation of all ecclesiastical  documents.

Napoleon was heavily defeated by Lord Nelson on 1 August 1798 at Abu Qir, near Alexandria in Egypt. In the meantime, Hompesch, who had been compelled to leave Malta, wrote from Trieste in Northern Italy to declare that it was against his will when he surrendered Malta in the hands of the French. Malta still belonged  to the King of the Two Sicilies. On the other hand, on account of the many restrictions imposed by the French, the Maltese were feeling a sense of uneasiness. While they could not move freely in the Mediterranean, the French were resorting to strong measures in Malta in order to raise money. They closed the gates of the cities against the crowd. But the Maltese decided to fight for their freedom. The whole population resolved to stand against the French misrule

The Inquisition Documents

In a situation of a very great confusion, the French could not bother to insist on the transportation of the Inquisition documents. But Citizen Noblot, as Commander of Eastern Malta, took possession of the Inquisitor’s Palace, from where he meant to exercise his authority. Then, on 7 Prairial of the Seventh Year (28 June 1799), Bosredon Ransijat requested Citizen Noblot to take custody of the Inquisition Archives. He received an order to carry all the material to the National Archives. But, from a letter dated 27 Termidor of the same year (14 August 1799), we deduce that the documents had transported to the private dwelling of Gatt, the Ex-Assessor of the Inquisition Tribunal. Gatt and the Ex-Chancellor Debono, cunningly and intelligently, begged the favour to be allowed some more time in order to collect all the material to be able to consign everything to the French! Besides, luckily, the French did not give their consent to the burning of all the documents. On the other hand, the French did not find a store-house which was big enough to contaifi all those documents. The National Archives were not spacious enough for the preservation of three Archives of a considerable size. The French chose the very old Gaetano Bonavita as a general archivist. He was exhorted to work with the assistance of his sons. But Bonavita did not succeed to carry anything to the National Archives.

By the end of the short-lived French occupation (1798—1800), the documents had not yet been handed over.

The diocese of Malta was the legitimate heiress of all the Inquisition documents. While in Malta no one ever protested against the extinction of the Inquisition Tribunal, all scholars feel glad that the documents were saved for posterity. The Inquisition, for better or worse, had become part and parcel an important aspect of the social history of Malta.

The Inquisitor’s Palace did not undergo any change in its name with the end of the tribunal. However, for the fact that the Inquisition documents were important and, at the same time, confidential, it was  imperative that they should be handed to the Church Authorities. In 1814, when a new era of colonial rule by Britain had dawned in Malta, Debono handed over all the Inquisition documents to Mgr Ferdinand Mattei, the Bishop of Malta. The diocesan curia was very glad for that acquisition. As a recompense, Debono was given an
annual pension for the rest of his life. But in the Valletta Curia, a consultation by scholars was extremely difficult. There had been about a century and a half of neglect. During that time, the documents  deteriorated considerably. They were never classified and numbered.

Some documents passed in the possession of private families and never returned to their logic and natural place. Some others found themselves in Government or Parish Archives. The latter had a better chance to be consulted. Then, in 1944, Archbishop Gonzi transferred all the documents in his possession from Valletta to the old seminary of Mdina. But it was still very difficult to consult them. Up to 1966, some scholars had the permission to consult them.

In 1967, Fr John Azzopardi was chosen as the Curator of the Mdina Cathedral Museum, and soon the Director of the Inquisition Archives. Thanks to the initiative of Mgr Edward Coleiro, the Inquisition Archives were opened to scholars and students who were specializing in history. The old Mdina Seminary was officially  opened as a Museum on 4 January 1969.

The Cathedral Museum of Mdina contains the archives of the Roman Inquisition on Malta, one of two complete sets of Inquisitorial archives in Europe.  Sicilian Inquisitors had jurisdiction over Malta before 1561, and occasionally visited the island.  The Bishop of Malta handled most problems of ecclesiastical discipline.  But when the Emperor Charles V gave the island of Malta to the Order of the Hospital in 1530, he also introduced possible conflicts between two ecclesiastical overlords.  Pope Pius IV ordered a resident inquisitor on Malta in 1561, where the office lasted until 1798.  The Roman Inquisition on Malta ostensibly guarded against the introduction of Lutheranism and rooted out heresy, ignorance, and superstition. But the Inquisitor also checked the power of the Grand Master on Malta and reported to the Pope about the ecclesiastical misconduct of the Knights and their servants.  The Maltese Inquisitor’s tribunal in Birgu formed one of the three centres of ecclesiastical power on Malta, balancing the Bishop in Mdina, and the Grand Master in Valletta. The office of the Inquisitor provided a stepping-stone to ecclesiastical promotion.  Many inquisitors went on to become bishops and cardinals, and two — Fabio Chigi and Antonio Pignatelli – became Popes (Alexander VII and Innocent XII).  The French abolished the tribunal when they took the island in 1798, and its records were transferred to the Cathedral, where they remain to this day.

The inquisition on Malta had no connection with the Spanish Inquisition, which Ferdinand and Isabella set up to enforce religious conformity in Spain.  Instead, the word “inquisition” describes the nature of tribunal, which summoned those accused of religious improprieties and interrogated them to determine the facts of the case.  Like the Spanish Inquisition, the interrogation could include torture.  Unlike the Spanish Inquisition, the Roman Inquisition on Malta released few people to the secular arm for execution (church courts could not execute the condemned, and heresy was considered a capital crime).  Instead, the Inquisitor sought to convince the accused to admit his or her errors and to impose the appropriate penance.  Very few Protestants appeared before the tribunal; the most notable case, involving two religious teachers accused of Lutheranism, occurred before the appointment of the Inquisitor in 1561, and the Grand Master shielded French members of the Order who were suspected of being Huguenots.  The best-known example of non-conformists was that of two English women, members of the Society of Friends, who tried to proselytize on Malta.  The Tribunal of the Inquisition held the women for five years (1658-1663) before finally expelling them from the island.

The Inquisitors realized that most of the cases coming before them sprang from ignorance of religious orthodoxy: husbands feigning illness to eat meat on fast days, foreign sailors blaspheming in taverns, and slaves who claimed to work magic.  Questions of religious identity arose concerning Maltese sailors who had been captured by Muslims and who may have converted to Islam. The local parishes encouraged the Maltese people to denounce blasphemers, sorcerers, and heretics to the tribunal. These denunciations reflect village conflicts and tensions. These circumstances also suggest that the greatest challenge facing the foreign-born Inquisitors was not eradicating heresy but understanding the language of the islanders.  The records of the Maltese Inquisition reveal much about daily life in Malta, particularly, the lives of the peasants and other classes usually hidden from the historical record.

Index of the Archives of the Malta Inquistion

  • Acta civilia (580 mss) 1557-1798
  • Computa depositarii tribunalis sancti officii (5 mss) 1658-1798
  • Corrispondenza (104 mss) 1588-1698
  • Memorie lasciate agli inquisitori di Malta (35 mss) 1711-1798
  • Miscellanea (77 mss) 1487-1797
  • Processi e denunzie (296 mss) 1546-1798
  • Registrum actorum civilium sancti officii sanctissimae inquisitionis meltensis (19 mss) 1676-1795
  • Registrum brevium apostolicorum ac decretorum congregationum (3 mss) 1614-1754
  • Registrum litterarum patentium (1 ms) 1739-1792
  • Registrum sententiarum causarum civilium sanctissimae inquisitionis (1 ms) 1753-1786
  • Repertoires (41 mss) 1628-1793
  • Registrum depositorum causarum civilium (22 mss) 1676-1790


Inquisitors and Apostolic Delegates
1561 – 1798

Click here for information on each Inquisitor



Domenico Cubelles  1561-1566
Martino Royas da Porta Tubeo  1573-1574
Pietro Dusina  1574-1575
Pier Santo Humano  1575-1577
Rinaldo Corso 1577-1579
Domenico Petrucci  1579-1580
Federico Cefalotto  1580-1583
Pier Francesco Costa 1583-1585
Ascanio Libertano 1585-1587
Giovanbattista Petralata 1587
Paolo Bellardito  1587-1591
Angelo Gemmario  1591
Giovanni Ludovico Dell’Armi  1592-1595
Innocenzo Del Bufalo de’ Cancellieri  1595-1598
Antonio Ortensio  1598-1600
Fabrizio Verallo 1600-1605
Ettore Diotallevi  1605-1607
Leonetto Della Corbara  1607-1609
Evangelista Carbonese 1609-1614
Fabio Delagonessa  1614-1619
Antonio Tornielli  1619-1621
Paolo Torelli 1621-1623
Carlo Bovi  1623
Onorato Visconti 1624
Nicolo Herrera 1627-1630
Ludovico Serristori  1630
Martino Alfieri 1631-1634
Fabio Chigi 1634-1639
Giovanni Battista Gori Pannellini 1639-1646
Antonio Pignatelli 1646-1649
Carlo Cavalletti  1649-1652
Federico Borromeo  1653-1655
Giulio Degloi Oddi 1655-1658
Gerolamo Casanate 1658-1663
Galeazzo Marescoti 1663-1667
Angelo Maria Ranuzzi  1668
Carlo Bichi  1668-1670
Giovanni Tempi 1670-1672
Raniero Pallavicini 1672-1677
Ercole Visconti 1677-1678
Giacomo Cantelmi  1678-1686
Innico Caracciolo 1686-1691
Francesco Acquaviva d’Aragona 1691-1694
Tommaso Ruffo  1694-1698
Giacomo Filiberto Ferrero di Messerano  1698-1703
Giorgio Spinola  1703-1706
Giacomo Caracciolo 1706-1711
Raniero D’Elci 1711-1718
Lazzarao Pallavicini 1718-1720
Antonio Ruffo  1720-1728
Fabrizio Serbelloni 1728-1730
Giovanni Francesco Stoppani  1730-1735
Carlo Francesco Durini  1735-1739
Ludovico Gualterio Gualtieri 1739-1743
Paolo Passionei  1743-1754
Gregorio Salviati  1754-1760
Angelo Durini  1760-1766
Giovanni Ottavio Mancinforte Sperelli 1766-1771
Antonio Lante  1771-1777
Antonio Felice Zondadari  1777-1785
Alessio Falconieri 1785
Giovanni Filippo Gallarati Scotti 1785-1793
Giulio Carpegna  1793-1798



Who was the first Inquisitor appointed by the Holy See to Malta in 1562?

 Domenico Cubelles. Bishop Domenico Cubelles was appointed by Pope Pius IV by the bull “Licet ab Initio” as the first Inquisitor of the Holy Inquisition in Malta on 15 July 1562.

Paolo Passionei was the longest serving Inquisitor in Malta (1743-1754). What led to his downfall?

“Loose living” including fornication. Inquisitor Passionei secretly had a mistress, and he became the father of two females …. When in 1749 the Pope requested him to go to Switzerland as an Apostolic Nuntio he refused, being afraid that his scandalous life would become public! He left Malta on 1754 and was unfrocked.

What was the most common “crime of the faith” the Maltese were charged with before the Inquisition?

Witchcraft. Witchcraft (magic or sorcery) was by far the most common fault or crime committed by the Maltese in general. These took the form of love magic, divination, using the “evil eye”, magical healing, and black magic and were – apparently – common in Malta in from the mid-17th century and to the late 18th century.

Can you name the Inquisitor whose Inquisitorship occurred between the years 1634-1639, and who went on to become Pope Alexander VII in 1655?

Fabio Chigi. Fabio Chigi was appointed as Inquisitor and Apostolic Delegate in Malta by Pope Urban VIII on 23 April 1634. He left Malta on 28 April 1639. Afterwards, his ecclesiastical career was an outstanding one, becoming first a papal legate, then a papal Secretary of State, Cardinal, and Bishop of Imola until finally becoming Pope in 1655.

The Jesuits were banned from the Maltese Islands by Grandmaster Pinto in 1768. Who was Inquisitor at the time of their banishment?

Giovanni Ottavio Mancinforte Sperelli. Giovanni Ottavio Mancinforte Sperelli was Inquisitor between 1767 and 1771. Although the Jesuits were banished by Grandmaster Pinto, the Inquisitor defended them strenuously, though to no avail.

One thought on “The Inquisition in Malta 1561-1798”

  1. I was visited the Inquisitors palace, and I love this so much, becouse I am interested of the history of the Holy Inquisition about 35 yers. I know maybe all about Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Peru, but not so much about Malta. Please, I will more info about Inquisitors of Malta, the history, Their lifestyle, all. And pictures also about tribunal, livigrooms. Thank You very, very much. In facebook I have group: INSTRUCCIONES ANTIGUAS in language Castellano.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: