The extensive edifice of the Sacra Infermeria (Holy Infirmary) occupies a large site which overlooks the Grand Harbour, very near Fort St. Elmo. This hospital, one of the first buildings of Valletta, started to function in 1574 under Grand Master Jean de la Cassiere.
Originally, it consisted of a large ward. Under the rule of Grand Master Nicholas Cottoner (1663 - 80), the hall was enlarged; and in 1712 Grand Master Perellos commissioned a new building alongside Merchants Street, which included a chapel and a pharmacy. The infirmary provided about 900 beds for male patients who included knights, soldiers, sailors and foreigners.
Maltese patients and slaves were accommodated in another large hall below the Main Ward. In 1676, a school of anatomy and surgery was set up in the building. The administration of the Sacra Infermeria was entrusted to knights of the French Langue, under the headship of the Grand Hospitaller. When the Knights were forced to leave the Island in 1798,
Napoleons’ troops used the hospital for their own personnel. The British, who took over Malta’s government in 1800, renamed the Infirmary ‘Station Hospital’, and used it as such until the end of the First World War. In 1920, the building was used as the Police Headquarters until the outbreak of World War II, when the police had to evacuate the building which was badly damaged by air raids.
Reconstruction and conversion started in earnest in 1977, and in February 1979, the grand old edifice was inaugurated as a first-class Conference Centre. It now consists of the main conference room which accommodates about 1,400 persons, and five other halls of varying sizes, all equipped with facilities for simultaneous translation.
The complex has been renamed ‘The Mediterranean Conference Centre’. What used to be the main hospital ward, measuring 151 metres, is now used as "the lobby" when conferences are in session. The Lower Ward houses a restaurant with a capacity of 1,000 covers.
Several offices, staff and rest rooms and a cafeteria are also provided. Early in 1987, a fire totally destroyed the Main Conference Room and other parts of the complex. These have now been reconstructed, and in 1990 the Centre was re-opened for conferences and conventions. ‘The Malta Experience’, is also within the complex.
Text courtesy of the National Tourism Organisation - Malta.