Culture
Did you know about Manoel Island's quarantine hospital?
Unbelievable!

Jillian Mallia

These are extraordinary times as the nation (and the entire world) battles the Coronavirus. Throughout history, Malta was no stranger to pandemics, having been through some crazy ones. The country even had a designated island with a quarantine facility: Manoel Island.

The Lazzaretto is a complex of buildings that date back to the 17th and 19th centuries, with most structures still existing until today, even though they’ve incurred some damages due to World War II and 30 some years of abandonment.

The Knights’ period

A temporary lazaretto was constructed during the plague of 1592-93 and used to quarantine patients. Fast forward to 1643, Grand Master Giovanni Paolo Lascaris decided to build a permanent one as fears of an epidemic were brewing.

Lascaris built a single building and was later expanded by Grand Masters Cotoner in 1670, Carafa in 1683, Perellos y Roccaful in 1701 and de Vilhena in 1726. Grand Master Rohan-Polduc built a new block in 1797 as well as some warehouses.

British period

Here come the big guns. The Lazzaretto was used as a hospital during the plague of 1813-14, the choleric epidemic of 1895 and yet another plague in 1937. During the Crimean War it was also used as a military hospital for the British, French and Italian soldiers.

The Lazzaretto kept running until 1939 when the Admiralty requisitioned it for military purposes for World War II when the island became a naval base. Between 1941 and 1942 the area was used as a submarine depot and the area was bombed a number of times by the Italians and Germans. These air bombs destroyed some of the areas while other parts had to be demolished because of damage sustained.

It reopened once again as a hospital in 1949 and remained in operation until the Royal Navy sailed away in the 1970s. It was then abandoned and fell into a dilapidated state.

Present day

Today, the complex lies in a neglected state and parts have collapsed or are in danger of collapsing. The Lazzaretto has been listed as a Grade 2 national monument and can be found in the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands.

25th March 2020


Jillian Mallia
Written by
Jillian Mallia
A book lover, writer and globetrotter who loves exploring new places and the local gems that the Maltese Islands have to offer. An avid foodie and arts fanatic, Jillian searches the island and beyond for the perfect settings to write about.

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