Castles and fortifications in Malta

Saluting Battery

The Saluting Battery is Valletta's ancient ceremonial platform from where gun salutes are still fired regularly. Equally, the passage of time is marked twice daily from her with gun fire at noon (12:00) and sunset (16:00). The battery itself is located at one of the capital's highest vantage points from where splendid vistas of the Grand Harbour and its surrounding towns can be enjoyed. Its origins go back to the time wh ...
Founded: 1566 | Location: Valletta, Malta

Fortifications of Mdina

Mdina, the former capital of Malta, has been fortified since antiquity, but the majority of the present fortifications were built by the Order of Saint John between the 16th and 18th centuries. The city walls have survived completely intact except for some outworks, and are among the best preserved fortifications in Malta. Mdina has been on Malta"s tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1998. In around ...
Founded: 700 BC-1746 | Location: Mdina, Malta

Cittadella

The Cittadella is a small fortified city and citadel which lies in the heart of Victoria on the island of Gozo, Malta. The area has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, and in the Medieval era it was known as the Gran Castello. The Cittadella has been on Malta"s tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1998. Archaeological remains show that the area presently occupied by the Cittadella was first inhabited ...
Founded: c. 1500 | Location: Gozo, Malta

Fort St. Elmo

Fort Saint Elmo is a star fort commanding the entrances to both harbours along with Fort Tigné and Fort Ricasoli. It is best known for its role in the Great Siege of Malta of 1565. By 1417, the local militia had already established a permanent watch post on the tip of the Sciberras Peninsula. In 1488, the Aragonese built a watchtower on Saint Elmo Point, and it was dedicated to Erasmus of Formia, better known as Saint El ...
Founded: 1552–1570 | Location: Valletta, Malta

Fort St. Angelo

Fort Saint Angelo is a large bastioned fort in Birgu, located at the centre of the Grand Harbour. The fort was originally a castle, and its date of construction is not known. It definitely existed by the 13th century, and in the Middle Ages it was known as the Castrum Maris. It was rebuilt by the Order of Saint John as Fort Saint Angelo in the 16th and 17th centuries, and it played an important role in the Great Siege of ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Valletta, Malta

Fort Rinella

Fort Rinella is one of a series of four coastal batteries built by the British in Malta and in Gibraltar between the years 1878 and 1886. The purpose for building these forts was for each of them to house an Armstrong 100-ton gun. The building of these forts was necessitated by Britain’s fear of losing her naval superiority in the Mediterranean to Italy, who was at the time rebuilding her navy to an unprecedented streng ...
Founded: 1878-1886 | Location: Kalkara, Malta

Saint Mary's Tower

Saint Mary"s Tower is a large bastioned watchtower on the island of Comino. Saint Mary"s Tower was built in 1618 to defend Comino since ships travelling between Malta and Gozo were often attacked by Barbary corsairs based on the cliffs and creeks of Comino. It also served as a communications link between the island of Gozo and mainland Malta in case of an attack on Gozo. The tower is a large, square building wi ...
Founded: 1618 | Location: Comino, Malta

Wignacourt Tower

Wignacourt Tower is a bastioned watchtower in St. Paul's Bay, Malta. It was the first of six Wignacourt towers to be built, and it was completed in 1610. An artillery battery was added a century later in 1715. Today the tower is a museum. By the end of the 16th century, Malta's harbour area was extensively fortified. However, the rest of the islands was virtually undefended, and the coastline was open to attacks by Ottom ...
Founded: 1610 | Location: Saint Paul's Bay, Malta

Fort Manoel

Fort Manoel is a star fort on Manoel Island built in the 18th century by the Order of Saint John. Fort Manoel has been on Malta's tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1998, as part of the Knights' Fortifications around the Harbours of Malta. In the 16th century, the Marsamxett Harbour was one of the two major harbours in the Maltese city of Valletta. In the centre of the harbour was an island, originally k ...
Founded: 1723–1733 | Location: Gżira, Malta

Fort San Lucian

Fort San Lucian is a large bastioned watchtower and polygonal fort in Marsaxlokk, Malta. The original tower was built by the Order of Saint John between 1610 and 1611, being the second of six Wignacourt towers. An artillery battery was added in around 1715, and the complex was upgraded into a fort in the 1790s. In the 1870s, the fort was rebuilt by the British in the polygonal style. Saint Lucian Tower is the second larg ...
Founded: 1610 | Location: Marsaxlokk, Malta

Saint Thomas Tower

Saint Thomas Tower is a large bastioned watchtower in Marsaskala. It was built above the shore on the seaward face of the headland of il-Hamriga in Marsaskala. It is a substantial fortification intended to prevent the landing of troops in the sheltered anchorages of Marsaskala Creek and St Thomas Bay. Construction of the tower was approved in July 1614, weeks after the raid of Żejtun, in which an Ottoman fleet manage ...
Founded: 1614 | Location: Marsaskala, Malta

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Abbey of Saint-Étienne

The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.

Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.

The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.

As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).