The Archives of the Roman Inquisition in Malta
The Roman Inquisition was established in Malta in 1561 and abolished in 1798 during French rule. Its very rich and informative archives – unlike those of similar tribunals in other countries including Rome itself – were fortunately saved and transferred twice, first to Valletta and then to Mdina. They are now available for research under the care of the Cathedral Archives. They are invaluable for the social history of our islands, showing how cosmopolitan Malta was from the late 16th to the 18th centuries. For many years these archives were completely neglected, as their contents were protected by the secret of the Holy Office.
The first two Inquisitors were the Bishops of Malta Fra Domenico Cubelles and Fra Martino Royas. Yet as from 1575 there was a series of foreign prelates, whose term of office in Malta – unlike those of the bishop and the Grand Master – lasted only for a few years.
The Inquisitor, besides being the Guardian of Faith subject to the Holy Office in Rome, was also an Apostolic Delegate subject to the Secretary of State, and later was responsible for the Reverenda Fabrica Sancti Petri in Rome. The Inquisitor also had his patentees.
Since the opening of these archives in 1968, numerous local and foreign scholars as well as university students have researched these archives and published dissertations and articles in learned journals. In 1984 a conference with international participation was held in the Inquisitors’ Palace in Vittoriosa, with published proceedings.
One project the Cathedral Archives of Mdina are currently working on is a searchable database of the Processi Criminali. This documentation strives to read all surviving files and detail e.g. the alleged crime, identity and occupation of the accused, corroborated proof, called witnesses and in general summarizing the cases. This project is still in its infancy but such an exercise is proving valuable in discovering new curiosities, contexts and characters which are just waiting for a researcher to study their story. This project will take many years but plans to publicly present 10 more years of catalogued Inquisitorial proceedings each year.
You can find a document with the results so far here.
Introduction Processi Criminali