The mid-18th century building that now houses the Cathedral Museum was originally a seminary built upon the ancient labyrinth vaults which will be used in the fourth edition of the Mdina Biennale. The subterranean vaults of the Cathedral Museum were re-opened in 1995. Although there exist no secure documentary references that attest to their original function, the remains of an old Roman wall can still be seen, a survival of a construction dating from antiquity upon which the foundations of the seminary were built in 1734. Many believe that, besides other historical elements, these are archeological remnants of a Roman villa that housed the Maltese Liciniu Aristotele and was the residence of Marcus Tullius Cicero, Malta's representative in the Roman Senate.
For the fourth edition of the Mdina Biennale, the Refectory will also be used as an exhibition space. Retaining its original Baroque construction this space is an elegant barrel-vaulted ceiling with four windows on each side between pendentives. It is the largest exhibition space within the Ground Floor of the Cathedral Museum.
From 1858 onwards, the seminary was gradually phased out and the building took on a number of different functions, until finally an exhibition of Marian Art held at the premises in 1949 inspired the ecclesiastical authorities to transform it into the Cathedral Museum. On 4th January 1969, the Museum was officially opened. All the paintings, silver, ecclesiastical textiles and other artefacts, which were formerly exhibited in the restricted space around the nearby Aula Capitularis inside the Mdina Cathedral, were moved out of the Cathedral to be accommodated in the new museum. This transformation established the Cathedral Museum as one of the leading Maltese cultural institutions. The year 2004 saw the start of an active refurbishment programme.
Link to the site plans of the Museum's floor is provided below:
Subterranean Vaults Ground Floor