Lions on your door: lion head door knockers of Malta and Gozo

Among the great variety of door knockers that grace townhouses in Malta and Gozo, the lion head ones enjoy a particular popularity. None of the motifs are present in such a range of shapes as the lion, which brings a question – why is it exactly the lion and not Triton, Athena or the Maltese cross that won hegemony over the Maltese doors?

During the centuries preceding the 1700s, the human perception of the world was dominated by symbolism and the lion too had a place in it. In times when”the world of nature was freighted with symbolic meanings of such density that they can no longer be perceived by the modern observer”, the lion was seen as a perennial attribute of Strength and was associated with symbols of royalty which made it a popular theme in heraldry. Lions occupied a prominent role as a heraldic charge from the very earliest development of heraldry in the 12th century. The English and the Scottish crowns, among many others, adopted lions as their heraldic emblem.

The rampant lion, symbol of the English crown, also features on the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom. Given that Malta was a colony of the British empire for one and a half century, could the particular popularity and variety of lion head door knockers be a reflection of its colonial past? The knocker on the door 10 Downing Street in London, the official residence of the British Prime Minister, is also lion head-shaped.

There are at least 24 different types of lion head knockers guarding the doors of Maltese (Gozo included) houses. They are a significant element of the great sentimental experience that a stroll by a line of traditional townhouses brings. All the elements – the balconies, the windows, the doors, the knockers, the whole of the façade – welcome the curiosity about the people whose lives are hidden behind them.

1. The Guarding Lion

The most popular “don’t mess with me” lion head knocker.

wp_20160817_19_24_13_pro-edt

2. The Smirking Lion

Although it might look like a weathered copy of the previous motif, this one was produced using a different mould. Location: Rabat, Gozo.

wp_20160816_18_36_42_pro-edt

3. The Red Rebel Lion

It might look similar to the first two, yet this lion on the door of the abandoned Rabat’s (Gozo) house still bears unique features.

wp_20160702_19_24_08_pro-edt

4. The Tamed Lion

The lion on the door of Valletta townhouse looks peaceful and welcoming.

wp_20160820_12_04_40_pro-edt

5. The Gallant Lion

Another similar-yet-different lion on one of Mdina’s doors.

wp_20161008_15_16_09_pro-edt

6. The Hangover lion

The lion’s muzzle looks so swollen as if it had been drinking all night long. Location: Rabat, Gozo.

wp_20160702_19_18_40_pro-edt

7. The Grumpy Cat Lion

Located in the lower Republic street, this must be the oldest lion knocker in Malta.

wp_20160817_19_00_27_pro-edt

8. The Fierce Lion

This intricate lion motif can be spotted in Valletta, Mdina and Rabat (Gozo).

wp_20160817_17_55_24_pro-edt

9. Prime Minister’s Lion

This lion is a painted replica of the knocker on the formal residence of the British Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street in London. Installed in the 1770’s, the door featured a centre door knob, lion head door knocker and brass letter plate which bore the inscription ‘First Lord of the Treasury’. Soldiers heading to off to the trenches during the First World War used to touch the lion head door knocker for good luck.

wp_20161019_17_37_37_pro-edt

10. The Pretty Lion

One of its kind – spotted in the Lower Republic Street in Valletta.

wp_20160817_18_58_45_pro-edt-2

11. The Roaring Lion

Sculptural and naturalistic, this type of lion head knockers is especially common in Valletta and Mdina.

wp_20160817_19_07_57_pro-edt

12. The Wrinkled Lion

Another one of its kind pair of knockers were spotted in Rabat (Gozo).

wp_20160702_19_00_51_pro-edt

13. The Round-faced Lion

One of the lesser common knockers spotted in Sliema.

wp_20160924_17_32_06_pro-edt

14. The Devil Lion

Another one of the lesser common knockers – spotted only in a couple of copies. Location: Floriana. One of the knocker designs recommended for recreating the style of Victorian era.

wp_20161019_17_41_46_pro-edt

15. The Abstract Lion

One of its kind knocker in Valletta.

wp_20160929_18_18_46_pro-edt

16. The Chiseled Lion

One of the lesser common knockers which could be spotted in Valletta, Mdina and Sliema.

wp_20161001_12_34_28_pro-edt

17. Monkey lion

One of the Floriana lion head knockers.

wp_20161003_09_09_57_pro-edt

18. The Largest Lion

You can spot the largest lion head knocker in Malta on one of the Mdina’s doors.

wp_20161008_15_09_53_pro-edt

19. The Noble Lion

One of the few unique knockers of Mdina.

wp_20161008_15_00_35_pro-edt

20. The Fancy Lion

One of its kind, intricately designed lion head knocker on one of Valletta’s doors.

wp_20161026_18_09_17_pro-edt

21. The Brutal Lion

Spotted only in a single copy in Sliema.

wp_20161124_16_27_22_pro-edt

 22.  The Timid Lion

Although only a single copy of this particular knocker has been spotted (in Sliema), similar motifs are more common.

wp_20160924_17_29_30_pro-edt
23. Brothers but not Triples

The Original (Edwardian?) knocker and its more recent modifications, all spotted in Valletta.

24. The Lion King

This impressive celebratory knocker was spotted on one of the Valletta’s doors.

wp_20161010_17_59_46_pro-edt

Feel free to share pictures of the lion head door knockers which remain unnoticed and didn’t feature in this post.

Like Malta Sketches Facebook page if you like to receive more article about Malta from an avid Malta’s explorer.

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Lions on your door: lion head door knockers of Malta and Gozo

  1. Some are gorgeous. You must have had fun taking all those shots. I imagine you probably had to explain a couple of times …

    1. I’ve spent a few months searching for the new ones. Actually, didn’t explain anything. Fortunately, the doors of most of Maltese houses open directly on the pavement, so they are perfectly reachable. So click and go.

  2. I was just doing some research on the door knockers of Malta and your blog post came up in google. Nice pictures, and nice to see that I am not the only one who has been writing about this. Interesting how you have seen the facial expressions in all the lions. 🙂

    1. Hi Johnny. Thank you for your feedback! I’ve just checked your post about the Maltese door knockers – lovely pictures (pity I cannot read Swedish). Coincidentally, I also am a great fan of Norway, which means I can’t resist typing “Norge er vakkert! Whohoo” even if my comment is totally unrelated to the door knockers :D.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s