Gregorio Carafa della Roccella, Grand Master of the Order of Malta, 1680 - 1690

  • Carafa was the first General of the Galleys to receive the title "Excellency".
  • He was the first Italian knight to be elected Grand Master in over a century.
  • He led a squadron in the Battle of the Dardanelles in 1683, supporting the Christian fleet against the Ottomans.
  • Carafa constructed Darl-Annona to efficiently distribute wheat, ensuring food security in Malta.

Born in 1614, Gregorio Carafa hailed from Calabria, a region under Spanish rule at the time. As a young knight, he demonstrated exceptional bravery and commitment to the Order of Malta.

At the age of 42, Carafa was appointed General of the Galleys, a prestigious position in the Order's navy. In the same year, he became the first to be given the title "Excellency" by Grand Master Lascaris and the Council of the Order.

He was the first Italian knight elected as Grand Master in over a century.

Portrait of Grand Master Gregorio Carafa della Roccella

In 1680, following the death of Grand Master Nicolas Cotoner, Carafa was elected as Grand Master. His election was particularly welcomed by the Italian Langue, as no Italian knight had achieved the post since Pietro del Monte over a century before.

One of his first acts as Grand Master was to approve revised rules and constitution for the nuns residing in the monastery of St Ursula in Valletta.

Carafa's primary focus was strengthening the island's defenses. He employed military engineer Carlo de Grunenberg and Mederico Blonde', the resident engineer, to extend the fortifications.

Carafa's magistry saw several naval exploits, including the Order's participation in the War of Morea between 1683 and 1699, and the Battle of Vienna in 1683. The Knights, under Carafa, contributed to the Christian victory in defending Vienna against the besieging Ottoman Empire.

In 1686, Carafa commissioned the construction of Darl-Annona, an essential building located next to St. James Cavalier. Serving as an administrative hub, Darl-Annona oversaw the distribution of wheat, a staple food in Malta, and significantly contributed to bolstering the island's food security during that period.

Under Carafa, the Order's fleet suffered a humiliating defeat at Negroponte.

Carafa was responsible for reconstructing the church of St. Catherine of the Langue of Italy and adorned the Conventual Church (St. John’s Co-Cathedral) with valuable artifacts, such as the revered painting known as Our Lady of Carafa.

Church of St. Catherine of the Langue of Italy, Valetta

Painting of Our Lady of Carafa in St. John’s Co-Cathedral

Tomb of Carafa at the St. John's Co-Cathedral

However, in 1689, the Order's fleet suffered a humiliating defeat at Negroponte, which was a significant setback for both the Order and the elderly Grand Master.

Carafa passed away on July 21, 1690, at the age of 76 and was laid to rest in the Chapel of the Langue of Italy in the Conventual Church.

His tenure was marked by his dedication to the Order of Malta, his unwavering commitment to defending the Christian faith, and his vision for strengthening the island's defenses.