Photographer's Note

This is the most common image associated to Valletta: the wooden balconies.

Small-scale wooden balconies started to appear in Valletta during the mid-eighteenth century and gradually gained popularity and became the fashion. This might have been influenced in no small way by the construction of the two grand wooden balconies of the Grand Master's Palace referred to earlier. So universal was their spread that they eventually came to be referred to by the misleading name of La Maltijja (the Maltese) as if they were original to the place.

In reality this type of balcony was derived from North African, mostly Moroccan, prototypes which again derive from the Arabic Muxrabija (look-out place). During the rule of the Order, Malta was home to a huge number of predominantly Turkish slaves, some of whom were master craftsman who might have helped to introduce the wooden balcony to Malta. Wooden balconies are mostly made of red deal (ta l-ahmar). They used to be priced by purtella (window section) and often matched the main door. In the case of wrought iron ones these were made to match the grada (gate) that separated the main door from the street. But as an old saying puts it "the sun eats the wood while rain gives it drink". Thus our climate is particularly stressful to these structures. The best traditional solution was always thought to be paint which gives the wood strength and oils.

The British introduced a particular type of green that is slowly assuming the status of official colour for wooden balconies, particularly in Valletta. But traditionally, wooden balconies varied in colour like bright red, deep blue and exotic purple. Carpenters were the main craftsmen involved in their creation but blacksmiths were brought in for the various metal parts like gangetti (peg stays) and cappetti (hinges).

Contrary to another popular belief, it must be said that the wooden balcony became widely diffused in the British era, not the Orders'. This was due to the availability of timber, the consequent reduction in price and relative prosperity. Prior to the arrival of the British and their transformation of Malta into one of the main Mediterranean ports, timber was prohibitively expensive.

ryno, snunney, Didi, jjcordier, krzychu30, Tue, maria-v1981, abmdsudi has marked this note useful

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Additional Photos by Daniel Draghici (dkmurphys) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5380 W: 83 N: 10232] (71062)
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