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 700 BC, the Phoenicians founded the fortified city of Maleth on one of the highest points of the island of Malta, far away from the sea. Eventually the city was taken over by the Roman Empire and it was renamed Melite. The Punic-Roman city was much larger than present-day Mdina, and its walls also surrounded part of modern Rabat. In the early Middle Ages, probably when Malta was part of the Byzantine Empire, a retrenchment was built within the city, reducing it to its present size. The Byzantines also possibly built a fort at the southeast corner of the city, near the main entrance.
In around 870, the Maltese Islands were occupied by the Arabs. The city was renamed to Medina, which led to its present name Mdina. The digging of Mdina's ditch possibly began under Arab rule.
Malta became part of the County of Sicily in 1091, and was then dominated by a succession of feudal lords. Various alterations to Mdina's city walls were made over the following centuries. The Byzantine fort was converted into a castle known as the Castellu di la Chitati. By the 15th century, Mdina's land front consisted of a series of double walls, flanked by four towers, including the Turri Mastra near the main entrance and the Turri di la Camera at the southeast corner of the land front.
By 1522, modern artillery had been introduced to Mdina, and the city walls began to be upgraded. Most of Mdina's medieval fortifications were later dismantled and rebuilt by the Hospitallers, especially during the 18th century. Despite this, some foundations of the ancient Punic-Roman ramparts, as well as various medieval remains, were recently discovered during excavations.
The medieval fortifications of Mdina were upgraded during the reign of Juan de Homedes y Coscon, and the city withstood a brief Ottoman attack in 1551. At the end of the Great Siege of Malta of 1565, the defenders of Mdina scared away the Ottoman army that was retreating from their failed siege of the Order's base in the Grand Harbour by firing their cannons, despite having very little ammunition.
Mdina's fortifications were again upgraded in the 17th century, when the large De Redin Bastion was built. The main gate, the area around Greeks Gate, and other parts of the fortifications were modernized or rebuilt by the architect Charles François de Mondion in the early 18th century, while Despuig Bastion was built during the reign of Ramon Despuig between 1739 and 1746.
Mdina's fortifications were considered to form part of the Victoria Lines during the late 19th century.
The present configuration of Mdina's fortifications consists of an irregular perimeter of medieval or Hospitaller curtain walls, which are stiffened by the five bastions, all of which were built during the Hospitaller period. The Torre dello Standardo, located just within the city walls near the Main Gate, also forms part of the city's fortifications since it was used as a signalling tower to communicate with the coastal watchtowers. It was built in 1725 on the site of the medieval Turri Mastra, which also had the same function.References:
The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.
A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.
In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.
In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.
In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.
From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.
In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.
The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.
In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.
The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.