If you wander down to the Marsamxett side of Valletta, close to Fort St Elmo and the Breakwater Bridge, you’ll find the former Auberge de Baviere. It didn’t start out as a knights’ hostel, in fact, it was originally a palazzo.
The private residence of the Portuguese Balì, (Balì was an official title) Fra Gaspare Carneiro, the Palazzo Carneiro was built in 1969. It stands as one of the last and best examples of the austere Mannerist style of architecture before the more ostentatious Baroque style came into vogue.
Auberge de Baviere & the Freemason Connection
The Bavarian knights had long wanted their own lodge, separate from other German knights of the Order, and in 1782 they got their way. Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria, convinced King George III of England to set up an Anglo-Bavarian lodge; they snapped up the Palazzo Carneiro for the princely sum of 20,000 scudi.
The building has connections with Freemasonry. Many of the Knights of St John were members, belonging to the Lodge of St John of Secrecy and Harmony, and the auberge was often used as a meeting place.
During the French occupation, the auberge ceased to be a hostel and was converted into a hospital for the treatment of soldiers suffering from venereal disease. In the British colonial period it was used first as an officers’ mess, then as an office for the head of the Army Pay corps, sort of military accountants.
With Maltese self-rule, the building passed into the hands of the civilian authorities and housed a succession of government departments. The former palazzo turned auberge returned to its previous purpose as a hostel during WWII, when it was used to house people displaced by air-raids.
In the post-war period, the auberge was a school for a while, and then in 1979 it was passed on to the Lands Authority.