The Devil’s Farmhouse: A Maltese Ruin Steeped in Myth

The Devil's Farmhouse outside Mellieha, Malta (Image: Continentaleurope. The Devil’s Farmhouse outside Mellieha, Malta)

Eerie and impressive, these 18th century ruins sit outside the small town of Mellieha, in the Northern Region of Malta. Sometimes called Ir-Razzett tax-Xitan, their official name – Ir-Razzett Tax-Xjaten – mysteriously translates to The Devil’s Farmhouse. While the crumbling structure was originally intended to be a riding school and stables, there are some curious architectural details – most notably two enclosed staircases thought to resemble horns – that helped give rise to the local Maltese myth that it was built by the devil himself.

Malta's Devil's Farmhouse is steeped in myth (Image: Continentaleurope)

The story of the Devil’s Farmhouse is a national legend that has been passed down over generations through the Mediterranean country’s oral history. Evarist Bartolo, Shadow Minister for Education and a lecturer at the University of Malta, discussed his own understanding of the tale with Malta InsideOut.

The Farmhouse of the Devils (Images: Continentaleurope 1, 2. The Farmhouse of the Devils)

According to Bartolo, who grew up near the imposing ruin, devils were said to be ever-present in Maltese folklore, and his grandmother recounted stories about the demons that came to drag sinners off to hell. The Farmhouse of the Devils was said to be built on the hunched, labouring backs of such demons. Bartolo tells of spending his childhood not only avoiding the abandoned structure, but of imagining the devils – which resembled red lizards in his mind’s eye – toiling to cut and carry the stone to build the house.

Ir-Razzett Tax-Xjaten (or Ir-Razzett tax-Xitan), also known as the Devil's Farmhouse, is at the heart of an enduring national legend passed down through Malta's oral tradition. (Image: Continentaleurope)

“So I never dared to walk to the valley to see this farmhouse,” he recounted. “I did not even know where it was exactly. Years later I chanced upon it as a teenager walking with my family when one of my sisters yelled at seeing a huge bale of straw approaching slowly over the hill. She was sure that the wizened old farmer was in fact one of the devils who had built the farmhouse and was now carrying that straw out of the silent farmhouse in the valley. Even that day I kept away from the farmhouse and decided to look at it safely from the other side of the valley.”

(Images: Continentaleurope 1, 2)

While myths and legends have undoubtedly kept countless people away – and awake at night – the building itself has been designated a grade 1 national monument by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA). It’s also on the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands.

(Image: Continentaleurope)

As both in important fixture of folklore and historically valuable 18th century ruin, the so-called Devil’s Farmhouse outside Mellieha is a compelling example of how mythology and oral tradition can continue to thrive, both on a local and national level. As such, the crumbling building, with its simple yet attractive vernacular architecture, will no doubt remain an important part of Maltese history for generations to come.

(Image: Continentaleurope)

Read Next: Northern Malta’s Ancient Walled City of Mdina (From Above)


About the author: Debra Kelly



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