Manuel Pinto da Fonseca, Grand Master of the Order of Malta, 1741 - 1773

  • During Grand Master Pinto's rule, a plot to assassinate him was uncovered.
  • This led to the arrest of Mustapha Pasha of Rhodes and 150 conspirators.
  • He was the longest serving Grand Master in the history of the Order.
  • Pinto was the first Grand Master depicted with a closed Crown, symbolizing his absolute monarch status.

Manuel Pinto da Fonseca was born in 1681 in Lamego to one of Portugal's noblest families and was received into the Order of Malta at the tender age of two.

He later served as Bailiff of Acre before being elected as the Grand Master on January 18, 1741, following Grand Master Ramón Despuig's death.

He was the first Grand Master to be portrayed with a closed crown as an absolute monarch.

Painting of Manuel Pinto da Fonseca

As the longest serving Grand Master, Pinto ruled for 32 years, assuming the title of "Altezza Eminentissima" and styling himself as Prince.

He was the first Grand Master to be depicted wearing a closed crown in his portraits, symbolizing near-sovereign power and authority.

Pinto was an autocratic ruler and resisted the idea of convening a Chapter General during his 32-year reign.

However, under his long rule, Malta enjoyed one of the most prosperous periods of its history.

Pinto built Fort Chambray in Gozo and further strengthened the defenses of Malta with the building of batteries, trenches and redoubts along the coast of Malta.

Fort Chambray in Gozo today

The Grand Master carried out major alterations in the Magistral Palace and transformed the Auberge de Castile, originally built at the end of the 16th century to the designs of Girolamo Cassar.

In recognition of his generosity, the Castilian and Portuguese knights commissioned a bronze bust of the Grand Master to be placed at the main entrance to the new Auberge.

However, Pinto is remembered chiefly for the building of stores (today known as Pinto Stores) along the Valletta Wharf. The Pinto Stores played a pivotal role in Valletta's maritime trade and commerce as essential warehouses, storing crucial goods like grain and wine along the city's wharf.

The Valetta Waterfront, also known as the Pinto Wharf, featuring the Pinto Stores, today

An assassination attempt against Pinto was discovered, resulting in the arrest of 150 conspirators.

In 1749, a plot was discovered to take Pinto's life. The attempt was planned for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on 29th June 1749 but the plan was blown when two Maltese were overheard arguing about it in a coffee shop.

The mastermind behind the plot, Mustapha Pasha of Rhodes, was arrested and 150 conspirators were accused and tortured.

However, although Malta enjoyed a thriving economy, Pinto spent beyond the Order's means and by the end of his reign there was a debt of nearly two million scudi.

Grand Master Pinto died on January 24, 1773, at the age of 92 and was buried in the Chapel of Castile, Leon and Portugal in the Conventual Church (St. John’s Co-Cathedral).

Chapel of the Langue of Castile, Leon and Portugal in St. John's Co-Cathedral, where Pinto was laid to rest