Take a walk through the dark side of Maltese history at the Mdina Dungeons Museum

Take a walk through the dark side of Maltese history at the Mdina Dungeons Museum

Malta is all about relaxing and having fun in the sun. However, if you wish to spice up your adventure on the island, than you should make your way to the Mdina Dungeons, the museum that documents the cruel and sadistic tortures which some unfortunate souls have experienced over the centuries.

You can access the dungeons through the entrance located on the right side of the main gate that leads to the old town of Mdina. The dark chambers continue under the Vilhena Palace, and the creepiest thing is that these are the actual places of barbaric persecution which occurred here no less than two centuries ago.


The gloomy rooms take you on a journey through the history of torture in Malta, from the Roman occupation to the Arab ruling, and reaching the times of Napoleon, when the French Emperor brought new laws to the island in 1798, one of them being the abolition of slavery and the dreary Inquisition.

The passageways are host to waxwork figures that recreate the mechanisms of torment used on prisoners. Each one of them is overly expressive and tries to imitate as accurate as possible its initial suffering model.

Their presence is escorted by eerie cries of terror and desperation coming from the sound system. The wooden beams are decorated with fake spider webs and the absence of proper lights adds to the spine chilling atmosphere. All of these decorations add to an atmosphere that is not suitable for small children or the faint of heart.

The hostel staff will gladly give you more details about this museum, its history and the best way to get there.

The museum does not rely only on mannequins to replicate the ordeals that took place here, but it also offers historical information and descriptions of the torture methods that span over an arc of almost two thousand years.

The Roman period seems to have started with a heavy agenda of repercussion for all of those who opposed the Empire. Crucifixions and beheadings were the most common torture methods of those ancient times.


The Arabs that occupied the islands in 870 AD brought with them the horrible fashion of slowly crushing people under large stones and cutting the hands of people who stole or attempted robbery. The Maltese surely felt brighter times were at the horizon when the Knights of St. John took over in 1530. However, the long trips around the Mediterranean have taught these armed monks a series of disturbing forms of torture. The most popular amongst them were human butchering and tongue piercing, the latter one let’s just say it wasn’t the equivalent of a modern swagger.

The year 1561 brought to Malta the establishment of The Holy Inquisition. A catholic practice that started as a way of confronting heresy, it soon became a tribunal that condemned people to the most imaginative forms of persecution and torment which they received for small felonies and lawless atrocities alike.


The Inquisitors made a huge public show from compelling victims to long and stressful trials which were followed in the best scenario only by public humiliation. In most cases, though, these impeachments were just a pit stop ahead of the medieval tradition of burning on the stake or hanging and dismembering.

All these forms of torture, as well as the various diseases that swept the islands over the years, are graphically reproduced with wax models and figurines.

The end of the 18th Century brought the invasion of French troops and Napoleon decided enough is enough when he prevented the future museum from having other rooms or exhibits to follow the tradition of treating humans like chopping wood. The organizers even decided to end the tour with a wax figure of the French Emperor chilling with a glass of wine, right after he signed the decree that abolished slavery and torture, together with the Inquisition.


The entrance fee to this crimson walk through history is only 5 euro and is completely redeemed by the show it offers to its viewers. So, while in Mdina, take some time from your long strolls along the city walls and go down for a daunting tour in the Dungeons Museum.

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