Manuel Pinto da Fonseca

Manuel Pinto da Fonseca (also Emmanuel Pinto de Fonseca; 24 May 1681 – 23 January 1773) was a Portuguese nobleman, the 68th[1] Grand Master of the Order of Saint John, from 1741 until his death.

Manuel Pinto da Fonseca
Portrait by Pierre Bernard (1704-1777)
Grand Master of the Order of Saint John
In office
18 January 1741  24 January 1773
MonarchKing Charles V (until 1753)
Preceded byRamon Despuig
Succeeded byFrancisco Ximenes de Texada
Personal details
Born(1681-05-24)24 May 1681
Lamego, Kingdom of Portugal
Died23 January 1773(1773-01-23) (aged 91)
Valletta, Malta
Resting placeSt. John's Co-Cathedral
RelationsRosenda Paulichi
ChildrenJosé António Pinto da Fonseca e Vilhena
Military service
Allegiance Kingdom of Portugal
Order of Saint John

He undertook many building projects, introducing the Baroque style throughout Malta. The cost of these projects contributed to bankrupting the Order in the decades following his death. His views were comparatively liberal. In 1764, he agreed to the re-unification with the Protestant Prussian branch of the Order, without, however, receiving the approval of Pope Clement XIII. The pope did agree, reluctantly, to the expulsion of the Jesuits from Malta in 1768.


Pinto as 67th Grand Master in Cronologia dei gran maestri dello spedale della sacra religione militare di S. Gio. Gerosolimitano e dall' Ordine del Santo Sepolcro oggi detti di Malta (1776?)

He was the son of Miguel Álvaro Pinto da Fonseca, Alcaide-Mór de Ranhados, and his wife, Ana Pinto Teixeira. The coat of arms of the Pinto portrays five red crescents, to symbolising that the Pinto de Fonseca family won five battles with the Ottomans.[2] Before his election as Grand Master on 18 January 1741,[3] Pinto da Fonseca was a knight of the Langue of Portugal.[4] He had an illegitimate son by one Rosenda Paulichi, daughter of Alberigo Paulichi and Patronilla Ramuzetta, named José António Pinto da Fonseca e Vilhena, who married his first cousin Maria Inácia Pinto da Fonseca de Sousa Teixeira e Vilhena, illegitimate daughter of Francisco Vaz Pinto (his father's brother) by one Clara Cerqueira. He was elected as Grand Master in his 60th year, and he lived to be a nonagenarian, ruling the Order for 32 years.

As Grand Master, Pinto da Fonseca kept an elaborate court, imitating the courts of the great European princes of his era. The court was a center of intrigue, the Grand Master being surrounded by a multitude of "ambitious pretenders".[5]

In 1749, one of his bodyguards, Giuseppe Cohen, refused to join a plot led by Pasha Mustafa to stage a Muslim slave revolt; this refusal led to the exposure and suppression of the revolt, which afterward was celebrated each 29 June, the anniversary.[6]

Pinto da Fonseca made substantial donations to the Conventual Church, and among the most notable mementoes are two large and heavy bells cast by the Master Founder of the Order of Saint John, Aloisio Bouchut, in 1747 and 1748; they still hang in the belfries of what is now the Co-Cathedral. These bells were made by melting two basilisks that were left by the Ottomans after the Great Siege of 1565. As Grand Master, Pinto da Fonseca completed construction of the Auberge de Castille[7] (still one of the most important buildings in the Maltese capital city, Valletta[8]); his bust and arms adorn its façade.[7] Today this building houses the Office of the Prime Minister.[9] Pinto built nineteen storehouses at the Marina, which still bear his name,[10] and built several other buildings and structures.[11] In 1756, he has built the first printing press in Malta at the magistral palace of the Grand Master, known as la stamperia del Palazzo.[12][4] Pinto gave his name to the then town of Qormi and accorded it the status of a city as "Città Pinto".[13] The city of Qormi adopted the Pinto arms, with the tinctures reversed,[dubious ] for its own coat of arms and flag.[14] Pinto gained a bad reputation for creating large debts for the treasury of the Order, leading to bankruptcy.[15]

In 1764, Pinto da Fonseca negotiated with King Frederick II ("Frederick the Great") of Prussia a reunification of the Protestant Bailiwick of Brandenburg with the Catholic Order of Saint John, but as Pope Clement XIII would not allow admission into a Roman Catholic organization of men viewed as heretics by the Church, the agreement came to naught.[16]

In 1765/6, Pinto was befriended by Italian adventurer and occultist Alessandro Cagliostro.[citation needed] A Master Mason of Freemasonry, dom Pinto initiated to the 33rd degree don Raimondo di Sangro, prince of Sansevero, which later established the first Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge in Naples, Italy.[17]

Malta since 1734 was nominally a fief under the House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, from 1759 under Ferdinand III. Bernardo Tanucci pressured Pinto to follow the Bourbon policy of suppression of the Jesuits, threatening a boycott of Malta if he refused. Pinto consulted with Pope Clement XIII, who reluctantly agreed to the expulsion of the Jesuits from Malta, insisting that it should be done "with due decency". Pinto signed the decree of expulsion on 22 April 1768. Twenty Jesuits (thirteen fathers, five brothers and two students) were expelled, while three elderly Jesuits, two of them native Maltese, were allowed to remain.[18][19][20]

After the expulsion of the Jesuit Order, Pinto appropriated all the revenue accruing from its property on the island with the aim of establishing a Pubblica Università di Studi Generali. The decree constituting the University, now the University of Malta was signed by Pinto on 22 November 1769,[21][22] having been authorised to do so by the Papal brief,[19] Sedula Romani Pontificis, received on 20 October 1769. By 22 November of that year, the Grandmaster signed a bando establishing the University.[23]

Pinto died on 23 January 1773, aged 91.[24] His body was laid in a neoclassic monument with his mosaic portrait.[25][26] A statue of Pinto is found in Floriana.[27]


Further reading

  • Salles, Félix de (1889). Annales de l'Ordre de Malte, ou, Des Hospitaliers de Saint-Jean-de Jerusalem, chevaliers de Rhodes et de Malte, depuis son origine jusqu'à nos' jours, du Grand Prieuré de Bohême-Autriche et du Service de santé volontaire avec les listes officielles des chevaliers-profès et de justice, des chevaliers d'honneur, etc (in French). Vienne, France: Imprimerie St. Norbert. pp. 192–195. OCLC 458895934.


  1. Robert Morris, Coins of the grand masters of the Order of Malta: or Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem (1884), p. 64. "67. Emmanuel Pinto de Fonseca. 1741-73: He was a man of more liberal views in many respects than any of his predecessors. In his time the Protestant Knights of Prussia were reunited to the Order and he was largely interested in promoting various internal improvements on the Island."
  2. de Giorgio, Cynthia (2003). The image of triumph and the Knights of Malta. Printed by Printex Ltd. p. 47. ISBN 9789993202783. OCLC 54846760.
  3. Cutajar, Tony C. (2011). Mewt Lil Pinto! (in Maltese). Lulu. p. 22. ISBN 9781447841791.
  4. Seddall, Henry (1870). "Emanuel Pinto". Malta: Past and Present. Chapman and Hall. p. 146.
  5. Ganado, Albert (2001). Palace of the Grand Masters in Valletta. Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti. p. 76. ISBN 9789993210122.
  6. Denaro, Victor F. (1958). "Houses in Merchants Street, Valletta" (PDF). Melita Historica. 2 (3): 161–164. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016.
  7. "Auberge de Castille et Leon" (PDF). National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands. 28 December 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016.
  8. Ellul, Michael (1982). "Art and architecture in early nineteenth century Malta" (PDF). Proceedings of History Week: 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 April 2016.
  9. "Deputat tal-PN tallega li hemm 'direct link' bejn Kastilja u l-MEPA". iNews Malta (in Maltese). 16 June 2016. Archived from the original on 21 June 2016.
  10. p. 146.
  11. Thake, Conrad Gerald (Spring 1996). "The Architectural legacy of Grand Master Pinto". Treasures of Malta. 2 (2): 39–43.
  12. Mifsud Bonnici, Carmelo (August 1936). "Fr. Emanuel Pinto de Fonseca" (PDF). Malta Letteraria. 11 (8): 227. Lectures on the British constitution and on the government of Malta. p. 216.
  13. Cassar Pullicino, Joseph (October–December 1949). "The Order of St. John in Maltese folk-memory" (PDF). Scientia. 15 (4): 162. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 April 2016.
  14. Cassar Pullicino, Joseph (October–December 1949). "The Order of St. John in Maltese folk-memory" (PDF). Scientia. 15 (4): 168. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 April 2016.
  15. A reign of austerity
  16. Robert M. Clark, Jr., The Evangelical Knights of Saint John: A History of the Bailiwick of Brandenburg of the Knightly Order of St. John of the Hospital at Jerusalem, Known as the Johanniter Order; Dallas, Texas: 2003; pages 18-25. Guy Stair Sainty, The Orders of Saint John: The History, Structure, Membership and Modern Role of the Five Hospitaller Orders of Saint John of Jerusalem; New York: The American Society of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John in Jerusalem, 1991; pages 86, 89-90.
  17. Ingrid D. Rowland (Mar 24, 2014). From Pompeii. Harward University Press. p. 115. ISBN 9780674416529. OCLC 873805659. Archived from the original on May 24, 2019. Retrieved May 24, 2019.
  18. Robert Soler SJ, The suppression of the Jesuit Order in 1773, Jesuits in Malta. Denaro, Victor F. (1961). "More houses in Valletta" (PDF). Melita Historica. 3 (2): 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 March 2016. Vassallo, C. (1940). "Condici e Manuscritti della Pubblica Biblioteca di Malta (continuazione e fine)" (PDF). Archivio Storico di Malta (ASM). 11 (1–2): 278. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 April 2016. p. 50
  19. Rudolf, Uwe Jens; Berg, Warren G. (2010). Historical Dictionary of Malta. Scarecrow Press. p. 136. ISBN 9780810873902.
  20. Cassar, Carmel. Megan Armstrong; Corkery, James; Alison Fleming; Thomas SJ Prieto Worcester; Henry Andrés Ignacio Shea (eds.). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Jesuits. Cambridge University Press. pp. 496–498. ISBN 9781108508506.
  21. Mifsud Bonnici, Carmelo (August 1936). "Fr. Emanuel Pinto de Fonseca" (PDF). Malta Letteraria. 11 (8): 230.
  22. pp. 20-21
  23. Gozo Observer. Issue 22. June 2011. p. 3.
  24. Denaro, Victor F. (1961). "More houses in Valletta" (PDF). Melita Historica. 3 (2): 4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 March 2016.
  25. Cutajar, Dominic (1999). History and Works of art of St. John's Church Valletta - Malta (3 ed.). M. J. Publications. p. 64. ISBN 978-9990990003. Archived from the original on 1 July 2017.
  26. Riland Bedford; William Kirkpatrick (1905). Malta and the Knights Hospitallers. Seeley and co., Limited. pp. 34. OCLC 15910350. Archived from the original on 28 October 2008.
  27. Bugeja, Joe (1 March 2015). Origins and history of Argotti Gardens. Times of Malta. Retrieved 29 June 2016.