Banca Giuratale, Mdina

Built by Mondion in 1726, the Banca Giuratale or Municipal Palace was part of a grand scheme initiated by Grand Master Fra' Manoel de Vilhena.
It is claimed that this plan was intended to express in architectural terms, the then current mentality of princely absolutism. Whereas the medieval aspects of Mdina's buildings had largely survived two hundred years of the Order's rule, the second  decade of the eighteenth century heralded a rapid transition to the baroque form for substantial areas of the old Capital. one must not ignore the fact that in practical terms this change was aided and abetted by the devastating earthquake of 1693.​​



​The main entrance of Mdina and its surroundings were drastically altered in the space of a few years: the Banca Giuratale for instance, was totally demolished and its stead the Magisterial Palace (today housing the National History Museum) was built. This project even necessitated the shifting the main entrance to the city to its present location. The Banca was erected in the Cathedral area where Mondion's plan were by comparison were less grandiose in architectural scope and more gradual in execution.

 
Architect Denis de Lucca was this to say about the new Banca:
  
​"...the Municipal Palace (which) in its finished form exhibited several fine architectural qualities. The subtle way of integrating the central vermiculated portal of the ground floor with the rest of the facade, the insertion of large expressive windows, the masterly use of the curvature and perspective artifices, the harmonious fusion of architecture and sculpture and the carefully studied proportional mechanism all contribute to transform this building into a sparkling gem of architecture which amongst other things, added a sense of order and a flavour of bull-blooded continental baroque 'dynamism' into what was really an obtrusive medieval street  of blank walls and freely spaced window, the whole scope of the designer being to render the vista more acceptable to the sophisticated eye of the eighteenth century beholder".​​
 
The practical purpose for the Banca Giuratale was to house the offices of the civil administration of the Maltese island. Variously referred to as the Commune, Universita, Parliament, Municipality and Consiglio Popolare, this institution consisted of the Hakem or Capitano della Verga and four Giurati. According to tradition the Consiglio was set by Count Roger the Norman in the eleventh century, while extant records furnish us with the names of successive Hakems dating back to 1365. The Hakem was appointed by the Viceroy of Sicily, and later by the Grand Master. He was the Island's Chief Justice, Commandant of the Army and Head of the Consiglio Popolare. Together with his council, the Hakem had only executive powers which, in the main, consisting in sending ambassadors to the King of Spain or his Viceroy in Sicily, appoint government officials, levy taxes, import wheat from Sicily, maintain the walls and fortifications, repairs of road etc.
 
 
The four Giurati were elected annually on the feast of St. John the Baptist, and their duty was to aid the Hakem rule the Islands. The Consiglio Popolare's power were greatly curtailed with the coming of the Knights of St. John in 1530. It is claimed that the Consiglio played a leading role in the uprising of the Maltese against the French in 1798. The coming of the British to Malta saw the dissolution of the Consiglio Popolare in 1819 by Governor Sir Thomas Maitland. Thus come to an end an ancient and important national institution which in spite of its many inherent short-comings, and restrictions imposed by successive foreign rulers for many centuries served as the only means of popular political expression.
 
 
Up to 1831 the Civil Administration had its District Court at the Banca Giuratale, in which year the building was leased to private tenants. The Education Department took it over as an Elementary School in 1881, and later used it as a Secondary school. In 1969 it was leased fior a short period to the Sisters of the Order of St. Dorothy and was used as a private school. In 1986, the Banca Giuratale was restored and refurbished, and it was taken over by the Libraries and Archives Department​ to form part of the project to organise and develop the National Archives of Malta. It was officially inaugurated on 28 October 1988 by the then Minister of Education Dott. Ugo Mifsud Bonnici.​​