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 known as l'Isolotto and now known as Manoel Island after the fort, which overlooked the city. Shortly after Valletta's construction, the Order of Saint John realised this was a potential vulnerability in the city's defences. As early as 1569, it was proposed that a small fort with a cavalier be built on the Isolotto to prevent the enemy from taking the island and building batteries on it. The threat was again highlighted by the Spanish military engineer Scipione Campi in 1577, and by Giovanni Battista in 1582.

The next proposal to build a fortification on the island was made by the Italian military engineer Antonio Maurizio Valperga in 1670. Other proposals were made in 1715, this time by the knight René Jacob de Tigné and a team of French engineers. There were several different plans, including building a coastal battery and a redoubt. Other plans included building a four-bastioned fort, or combining all three (fort, battery and redoubt) for the defence of the island.

Eventually, the final design was agreed in 1723, and it incorporated the work of de Tigné as well as Charles François de Mondion, the Order's military engineer. The new fort was to be square in shape, with four bastions and two cavaliers. The fort was financed by, and named after, the Portuguese Grand Master, António Manoel de Vilhena. He also set up the Manoel Foundation, a fund responsible for the maintenance and garrison of Fort Manoel and its outworks.

The first stone was laid by de Vilhena on 14 September 1723, and work progressed rapidly. By 1727, the enceinte, cavaliers and gateway were complete. The ditch had been excavated by 1732, while the chapel, barracks, magazines and countermines were completed in around 1733. The fort was an active military establishment by 1734. When Mondion died in 1733, he was buried in the crypt under the fort's chapel.

In 1757, Lembi Battery was added near Tigné Point, Sliema. The battery was funded by the Manoel Foundation and it was considered to be an outwork of Fort Manoel, since it was intended to prevent an enemy from bombarding the fort's northern flank. It was decommissioned following the construction of Fort Tigné in 1795. The construction of the latter fort was also partially funded by the Manoel Foundation.

The fort first saw use during the French invasion of Malta in June 1798, in the French Revolutionary Wars. At the time, it was commanded by the Portuguese knight Gourgeau, and it was garrisoned by the Cacciatori, who were a volunteer chasseur light infantry regiment, as well as a few men from the Birchircara militia. The fort surrendered after Grand Master Hompesch officially capitulated to Napoleon.

A French garrison of a few hundred men took over the fort on 12 June. During the subsequent Maltese uprising and insurrection against the French, Maltese insurgents built Għargħar and Sqaq Cappara batteries to bombard Fort Manoel. The Maltese attacked the fort on a number of occasions, and the French retaliated with their own bombardment at least once. On 12 September 1799, a company of French troops from Fort Manoel attempted to silence an insurgent gun position in San Ġwann, but were repelled by the Maltese insurgents.

When Malta became a British protectorate in 1800, Fort Manoel was officially taken over by the British military that September. In the late 19th century, the echaugettes on the bastions facing Valletta were dismantled to make way for gun emplacements. Later on, significant alterations were made to St. Anthony Bastion, when its gunpowder magazine was demolished to make way for a battery of three QF 12-pounder guns.

The British military finally decommissioned the fort's guns in 1906. Nonetheless, it remained a military establishment, seeing use again during World War II, when a battery of 3.7-inch heavy anti-aircraft guns was deployed there. The guns were mounted in concrete gun emplacements and deployed in a semicircle in and around the fort. The fort suffered considerable damage to its ramparts, barracks and chapel as a result of aerial bombing during the war. The fort was eventually decommissioned in 1964.

After being decommissioned, Fort Manoel was abandoned and fell into a state of disrepair. Parts of it were also vandalized. In 2001, the restoration work began on the fort. The piazza and some of the bastions have been restored, with the ruined chapel being completely rebuilt.

References:

Comments

Your name



Address

Manoel Island, Gżira, Malta
See all sites in Gżira

Details

Founded: 1723–1733
Category: Castles and fortifications in Malta

Rating

4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Benjamin Bugeja (4 months ago)
Quiet place good for family walks and nice ambience and view
Abdo Abdo (7 months ago)
This is a small and very beautiful island, and there is an old castle and it is now closed, and there are places to swim and enjoy the sun.
mcdermc (12 months ago)
Checking-out photos and reading other more recent views we hear of Manoel Island "looking a bit run down" and that's certainly evident although there's a luxury yacht marina, a ship yard, and a large restaurant serving pizza and pasta there at present. But there's also rumblings about a €100 million deal to redevelop Manoel Island completely, so something may eventually get done with it? But for many it'll forever feature as a focal point of a Saturday night out in Malta! Kicking-off the festivities down on Sliema front, with a few "warmers-in-the-bank" before heading down to Manoel island for the Tombola ["here you are then!"] and then, win or lose we'd move on to the Chez Venci restaurant in Floriana for a slap-up binge. Happy days!
RedHat Master (13 months ago)
One of the few places around here where you can take a pretty normal dog walk
Tamas Bankuti (PROPERTYPHOTO.NET) (2 years ago)
Amazing view. A little ran down but still beautiful. Very photogenic
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba

The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture.

According to a traditional account, a small Visigoth church, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins, originally stood on the site. In 784 Abd al-Rahman I ordered construction of the Great Mosque, which was considerably expanded by later Muslim rulers. The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd al-Rahman II ordered a new minaret, while in 961 Al-Hakam II enlarged the building and enriched the Mihrab. The last of such reforms was carried out by Almanzor in 987. It was connected to the Caliph"s palace by a raised walkway, mosques within the palaces being the tradition for previous Islamic rulers – as well as Christian Kings who built their palaces adjacent to churches. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard.

In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features, such as King Henry II rebuilding the chapel in the 14th century. The minaret of the mosque was also converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. It was adorned with Santiago de Compostela"s captured cathedral bells. Following a windstorm in 1589, the former minaret was further reinforced by encasing it within a new structure.

The most significant alteration was the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the middle of the expansive structure. The insertion was constructed by permission of Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. Artisans and architects continued to add to the existing structure until the late 18th century.

Architecture

The building"s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam. It had a rectangular prayer hall with aisles arranged perpendicular to the qibla, the direction towards which Muslims pray. The prayer hall was large and flat, with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance.

In planning the mosque, the architects incorporated a number of Roman columns with choice capitals. Some of the columns were already in the Gothic structure; others were sent from various regions of Iberia as presents from the governors of provinces. Ivory, jasper, porphyry, gold, silver, copper, and brass were used in the decorations. Marvellous mosaics and azulejos were designed. Later, the immense temple embodied all the styles of Morisco architecture into one composition.

The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, granite and porphyry. These were made from pieces of the Roman temple that had occupied the site previously, as well as other Roman buildings, such as the Mérida amphitheatre. The double arches were an innovation, permitting higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible with relatively low columns. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch.