The Mediterranean nation of Malta is rich in architectural and cultural treasures that are evident in its beautiful limestone houses, colourful wooden balconies, lovely courtyard gardens and rugged door knockers. People visiting this island country can enjoy the scenic view of Malta where houses are designed in 18th century architecture; giving tourists the feeling of a country that has been locked in time.
One of the most recognizable features these structures have is its timeless door knockers. These beautifully-aged door fixtures feature numerous maritime motifs such as fishes, sea horses, dolphins and anchors that reflect the maritime past of Malta. Maltese crosses, brass hands and lions are also common in most houses that echo the popular symbols of 18th century Europe. Residents in Malta are very expressive in nature and would never shy away from making a good impression to visitors. Intricately designed door knockers in their front door are one of their ways to show their personality even before you have met them.
Before the advent of door knockers it is believed that instead of knocking, visitors would literally scratch the doors in order to announce their presence to the homeowners which may sound impractical and rude in modern standards. When door knockers have spread from neighbouring countries to Malta it became very popular and the creativity of the residents proliferated. It also slowly evolved into a status symbol where the wealthier the household, the more intricate and large the door knocker.
Upper class members of the society also choose brass-made door knockers because of its perceived higher quality and value. The shininess of brass door knockers can also be advertised how clean the inside of the house is. And when a large house is very clean and maintained properly, it is perceived that the owner of the house is very wealthy as he/she can employ maids to polish the decorations frequently.
Lion head door knockers
Among the great assortment of door knocker designs that is widespread in Malta, the lion head is considered the most popular. During the 1700s, the world is dominated by countless symbolisms that are derived from nature; from animals that are perceived to be strong and courageous to mythical creatures that are considered lucky and provides protection. Traditionally hailed as the king of beasts, the lion head connotes bravery, valor, strength and nobility. Lion symbols are even portrayed in heraldic charges of numerous countries particularly in England. Malta has been under the English crown for approximately one and a half century as a colony. This colonial past can be considered as the main reason that lion head door knockers are very popular in Malta.
Hand-shaped door knockers
Another curiously designed door knocker designs in Malta are hand-shaped door knockers. It is widely considered that this design have originated from nearby Muslim countries and symbolizes the Hand of Fatima or Miriam’s hand. This symbol is recognized as a sign of protection or “the hand of God” to the residents of house and also an indicator that they are a believer of the Muslim faith. The exact reference for the Hand of Fatima is Fatima Zahra which is referring to the daughter of the prophet Muhammed. Jewish faith renamed it as Miriam’s hand referring to the sister of Aaron and Moses.
There are even stories that there are certain house that features two door knockers; one male and one female. Since it was inappropriate for a Muslim woman to open the door for a man, visitors of the house are expected to use the correct knocker according to gender. They also sounded differently when used so that the homeowner would know if the visitor is male or female.
Fish-shaped door knockers
Because of its maritime past, fish-shaped door knockers are also popular in Malta. These designs are thought to have originated from Scottish shipping merchants that have trade routes long ago in Malta. This also means that the resident of house is a merchant class that specializes in travelling the seas or trade goods coming from the sea particularly fishes.
Dolphins, mythical fishes and other marine animals each have their own unique meanings and symbolisms. A carp for example is a symbol of luck and abundance in fish catches while the Trident symbolizes the mastery of the sea; a good indicator that the homeowner is a sailor or a captain of a ship.