A Brief History of Maltese Door Knockers (and where to find your own!)

Maltese door knockers, or “il-ħabbata”, in the native language, are a feature of most traditional Maltese houses. If you’ve ever taken a stroll through the streets of Mdina and Rabat, chances are you’ve already spotted a few of these characterful pieces.

But what’s the story behind them?

Rumour has it that in medieval Malta, visitors would scratch the doors of their hosts to let them know of their arrival – (I suppose that’s one way to do it). Thankfully, this morphed into a knock, which eventually paved the way for door knockers themselves. The pieces quickly became a symbol of wealth and status on the Islands. The bigger and shinier the knocker, the better (I’m not naive to the pun in there!).

Malta’s nobility would often embellish their “ħabbata” with family crests and coats of arms, whilst the more common folk opted for simpler designs. One of the most popular styles being a simple iron ring hung from a circular boss or ball. 

Typically made of brass, metal or ceramic, the traditional knockers can come in loads of different shapes and sizes. That being said, there are definitely some recurring themes. Take a look at some of our favourites below:

Said to have originated in Muslim countries and representing the hand of Fatima, a gentle hand can often be seen on Maltese doors and is believed to provide protection to the household. 

Inspired by the sea and maritime industry, fish, dolphins and seahorses are amongst some of the most popular designs here in Malta.

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Considering our limited wildlife on the island, we do love an exotic animal on our doors. 


Religion has also had an influence on designs. Some houses have creepy-looking devils on their doors (to ward off evil spirits), whilst others host cherubs and other religious figures. 

Where can I get my own?

If you want to add a little Maltese flair to your front door but aren’t sure where to look, we’ve got you covered. 

Funderija Chetcuti

For top quality and a personalised touch, check out the work of Funderija Chetcuti. Founded in 1990 by Joseph Chetchuti, the foundry is known for its craftsmanship and comes highly recommended.

Birgu/Vittoriosa market

Malta hosts several flea markets and car-boot sales, with the Birgu/Vittoriosa market being one of the most frequented by the locals. If you consider yourself a good bargain-hunter who loves a vintage find, this might be for you. Stalls are open between 6am and 12pm on Sundays, but parking can get quite busy so we advise getting there early! You can also turn it into a family outing and have a wander through the streets of Birgu to round off your trip.

Pitre Hardware and Homemate

These outlets sell a variety of classic and more contemporary styles at different price points, so it’s definitely worth checking them out.

We hope you found this useful, and if you purchase any of your own door-knockers after reading this, let us know!