Thursday, 31 March 2016

San Anton and Mosta


Wild fennel and thyme growing on Malta's cliff tops
Hidden away at the back of a cupboard are boxes of colour slides including one which shows a photograph of me as a young girl in the gardens of San Anton. The image may not be readily to hand but the memory is crystal clear. It was the very first time that I had walked in a garden filled with exotic flowers usually seen growing under glass in England.  Curiously many of those very same flowers that I saw growing then now thrive very happily outside in my own garden too!!!
San Anton Palace was built during the late 1620's as a summer palace for Grand Master Antoline de Paule, a French knight of the Order of St. John, who  personally supervised the layout of the formal gardens that surround the palace. During the British time in Malta it was used as the Govenor's summer residence, and in 1882 British Govenor Sir Arthur Burton decided to open up the major part of the gardens to the general public, a practice which still continues today. Filled with wonderful paintings and fine decorative works of art, the palace is now the offical residence of the president of Malta.
Naturally the palace itself is 'off limits' but there are no restrictions to strolling around the outer corridors 
and visiting this small beautiful palace chapel built by the Grand Master for his own use
which shows the white cross on a red background of the Order of St. John on the ceiling
Zantedeschia - arum lily
Hibiscus - family Malvaceae
Lavender
Erythrina - coral tree, flame tree
As this is the penultimate post I can't leave Malta without showing you the Rotunda of Santa Maria Assunta, Mosta. It is extraordinary that such a small island should be home to the third largest unsupported dome in the world. The Rotunda sits in the middle of the island and when travelling in any direction it regularly comes into view.
Based on the Pantheon in Rome it was built without using any interior scaffolding. During World War ll, a German bomb pierced the dome and fell right through into the church. The fact that the bomb did not explode and nobody was injured was considered by the islanders to be a miracle.
Inside the church preparations were underway for the Good Friday parade through the streets of Mosta when the churches statuary is carried on the shoulders of local men in a similar manner to a post I showed here of Easter processions seen in Spain.

38 comments:

  1. Wonderful photographs of wonderful buildings - once again. And two of my favourites - hibiscus and the coral tree.

    Ms Soup

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    1. Thanks Ms Soup - Coral trees are a rarity for us to see, but must be very familiar to you.

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  2. My favourite picture here is the circular study of peacocks against the bright flowers. What a bright sunny and gorgeous place Malta must be. The palace is beautiful and the chapel very special in its blues and golds. I am smiling at the familiar flowers: hibiscus, arum lily, flame tree, lavender - all thrive in our area too, and maybe not what I associate with the Mediterranean. Beautiful photos thank you Rosemary.

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    1. I hoped that one of them would open up their tails, but because the peahens were showing them so much interest I think that they decided it would be a waste of their efforts!!!

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  3. How I enjoyed seeing these beautiful photos of gorgeous gardens and golden buildings! The dome interior is amazing in it's pattern and clarity. Thank you for yet another beautifully presented post, Rosemary.

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    1. Thank you Betty - it is a very peaceful setting and there were very few people around

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  4. This is exactly as I imagined Malta would be, a Mediterranean paradise.

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    1. The March weather was perfect for us although the locals still consider it to be the end of winter. The more exotic flowers were just beginning to emerge.

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  5. Everything looks so beautiful! And sunny.

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    1. Yes, it was lovely and warm - they were praying for rain as they hadn't seen any all winter.

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  6. Hello Rosemary, I get that same feeling here of seeing plants growing wild in profusion that I had thought of only as potted houseplants, and never taking up such large sectors of ground.

    I just looked up George, Duke of Kent and found that his life was quite colorful, if short.
    --Jim

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    1. I remember seeing Christmas Poinsettias growing in Maderia and discovered that our little houseplants were actually small trees.
      George's life was very colourful which is not a good recipe if you want to reach old age.

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  7. Wow, as always wonderful photos. The interior of the church with life-size statues looks almost pagan.

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    1. The statues aren't normally in the church - they gather them together and decorate them with flowers etc ready for parading in the streets on Good Friday. Malta is a staunchly Catholic country

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  8. I have enjoyed exploring Malta through your lovely photos, Rosemary. The gardens look very colourful and peaceful (although I imagine those peacocks aren't always silent!) The dome on the Rotunda is amazing.

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    1. In the past the Maltese people have lavished their money on building bigger and better churches than the neighbouring villages.
      Sadly the peacocks would not perform for us with their tails

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  9. The flowers are open early compared with Bodrum, our hibiscus don't even have buds yet.

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    1. I wonder if it is because Malta has had such a long dry winter - apparently they are desparately praying for rain.

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  10. How beautiful Rosemary.
    I love the arched walkway - I could quite happily spend an afternoon here.
    The colour of the stone paving and walls is lovely.

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    1. This place is completely free for anyone to enter but was surprisingly very quiet.

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  11. Dear Rosemary,

    Wonderful to see your beautiful photos of Malta - the architecture is amazing and the gardens so very beautiful.
    Lavender is one of my favourite flowers. Thanks for showing us.
    Happy weekend
    Carolyn

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    1. Dear Carolyn - my own lavender will not flower for several weeks - this lavender had soft stems and leaves unlike the more woody ones in my garden.

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  12. No wonder you never forgot.
    All beautiful photos of wonderful flowers and buildings.

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    1. It is funny how some things stick in your mind so clearly from years ago

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  13. Lovely post to read and look at. The colours in each photo are beautiful, especially the floral ones.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thank you very much Jan - I am glad that you enjoyed seeing them

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  14. The ceiling of the Rotund is stunning, and I really enjoyed the virtual tour of the Mediterranian garden .

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    1. The garden was a walk down memory lane for me

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    1. Thank you for your visit Linda and kind comment

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  16. What a shame you weren't able to find that photograph. The gardens look amazing I'm not surprise that they attracted as a child too! Were you just in Malta on holiday then? The Rotund looks so beautiful it is incredible how they managed to build it without any scaffolding and it also to survive from the German bomb. Sarah x

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    1. I suspect that I could have found the photo Sarah, but I am not sure how to convert a slide into a photo for the blog. Yes, I was on holiday, and I also recall that it was my very first flight too.

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  17. I too have a picture of me in St. Anton and just sent an old school friend a picture of HER in St. Anton, when we were teenagers. Goodness, were you there, too, Rosemary? What time did you live there as a teenager? or was it just a visit?

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    1. I didn't live there Jenny, but visited in July 1963 for about three weeks.

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  18. Exquisite. I would love to sit in the chapel to gaze at the ceiling, or walk under any one of the canopies of tree and vine that shade the paths. I was struck by the statues of Christ - so realistic.
    Lavender will not flower here for another month, so it was lovely to see some on the screen.......and dream a little.

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    1. I expect that the statuary will all have been packed away again now until next Easter comes around.
      The little chapel was a really pretty intimate space to sit in.
      Yes, I look forward to the return of the lavender too.

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  19. I so want to visit Malta now but, alas, I always end up simply going to England to visit my family only due to the cost of travel and everything but one can always dream!

    That story of the bomb going through that incredible dome and not exploding is amazing to think of as I look at all that beautiful work that would have been otherwise destroyed if it had!

    Rosemary, I love what your wrote about your memory as a little girl in Malta and seeing plants that one would have only seen under glass in that day. It speaks to just how much horticulture has grown and diversified since those days that now many of use get to enjoy plants right in our own neighbourhoods that previously one coudl only see in such exotic locales. For eample, right here in Colorado, there is a big push for Xeriscape and with our dryness and high altitude as well as temperature extremes, a lot of plants native to parts of Mongolia, China, etc have made the transplant to here to adapt and grow so well along our Rockies. I love that I can see some rare bush with a once a year pink flower that jsut 30 years ago was pretty much only spotted by shephards and villages in the remotest regions of Mongolia or where have you.

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    1. I do empathise with you Michael, travel is so expensive and especially so when you have family living in England to visit. It has always been the same for my brother who lives in Canada, but once he retired then he did have the opportunity to visit other places within Europe often then finishing up in England before returning back to Canada.
      It is interesting regarding plants - I have a Callistemmon tree (bright red bottlebrush plant) growing in the garden, which is native to Australia. They are not supposed to survive our winters, but it has been thriving with me for the past 18 years and is now a substantial size. I think some of it may be due to the so called 'global warming' effect.

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