I have been wanting to go for a walk below the Valletta ramparts on the Marsamxett side for ages. I finally got the chance Sunday before last and don’t regret going. The picture shows St Sebastian Bastion. I wanted to include that car to show the magnitude of the bastion.
When the Knights of St John of Jerusalem arrived in Malta in 1530, they settled in Birgu (later Vittoriosa). Birgu was protected by the small watch tower of St Elmo, which stood on Mount Sceberras - an isthmus of land which separates the Grand Harbour and Marsamxett. Mount Sceberras is the place where Valletta now stands. This fort, which was converted into Fort St Elmo, really came to prove its strategic position in the defeat of Suleiman the Great, the Sultan of Turkey, in the Great Siege of 1565. The Knights realised that this defensive point was capable of keeping the Order safe in the island of Malta.
With the mighty victory over the great Muslim army, the Knights were lauded all over Europe. However, information received from the Orders’ spies in the East announced that Suleiman, incensed at the failure of his troops under the command of his best generals and admirals, had declared that he would place himself at the head of an even more formidable army and attack Malta in the following Spring. The Order appealed to European countries for assistance to build a new fortified city on Mount Sceberras; financial aid soon poured in from the Europe, particularly Pope Pius V and Philip II of Spain and the city was named Valletta, after Grand Master La Valette, the hero of the Great Siege. The mastermind behind the design of the city of Valletta was Francesco Laparelli, a military engineer sent by the Pope himself, who was later succeeded by his assistant, the Maltese, Gerolamo Cassar.
The plan was to build a formidable city that could resist any attack whether from the landward side or from the seaside. Keeping in mind that Valletta was built much before the advent of the airplane, you can understand how ramparts like these made Valletta practicably impregnable. In June 1798, the Order surrendered to Napoleon Bonaparte without any resistance. On his triumphal entery into Grand Harbour aboard l-Orient, Napoleon said in awe of the sight of Valletta's fortifications "we have now the strongest place in Europe."
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