Sacra Infermeria, Grand Hôspital, Station Hospital or – as it is known nowadays – the Mediterranean Conference Centre. A grand building that has withstood battles and wars and today attracts some of the biggest events on the island, the Sacra Infermeria is located a mere stone’s throw away from Fort St Elmo and its Granaries.
Attributed to renowned architect Girolamo Cassar, the original building was completed towards the end of the 16th century in order to replace the existing infirmary in Vittoriosa. It started out with the aim of receiving Maltese patients and pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land, but in less than 20 years it was expanded, first to accommodate those with venereal and contagious diseases and later by adding more wards and, in 1676, a School of Anatomy and Surgery.
During World War 1 it played a big role helping Malta earn its title of Nurse of the Mediterranean, with many of the war’s wounded being nursed on site. When the war ended, the building’s function as hospital was retired and it went on to serve as the headquarters of the Malta Police Force until 1940.
If you’d like to learn more about the history and architecture of the Sacra Infermeria, check out the on-site museum’s Augmented Reality experience, which allows visitors to virtually relive the glory days of the Sacra Infermeria.
Sacra Infermeria in the 21st century
Rechristened the Mediterranean Conference Centre, the building took on a more social role in these last decades, with events like the Malta Fashion Awards, the Junior Malta Eurovision Song Contest, an international Comics Convention and various large scale theatrical and musical productions taking place in Republic Hall. The massive performance space was built over what used to be the courtyard of the Sacra Infermeria. The location is a favourite one even with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra for some of their bigger concerts.
In more recent times it was the subject of a small controversy between the Malta Book Council and the authorities, when the venue was booked for a performance by the internationally-acclaimed Cirque du Soleil in November 2021. The dates coincided with the National Book Festival, which traditionally held its annual event in the Sacra Infermeria Main Hall.