Category Archives: Mediterranean

About Malta – The Walls of Siege

In her book Malta of the Knights, first published in 1929, Elizabeth Schemerhorn wrote that “the history of the fortifications of Valletta is the history of the Order in Malta”.
In reality it is the history of the Maltese archipelago itself which is, in many ways, a history of fortification. Certainly few other islands around the world can so eloquently claim the title of “island fortress”. Fewer still are those fortified landscapes which can boast such a rich concentration of stone-built defenses in a combined surface area that covers little more than 300 km2.
History of Malta
This vast legacy of forts and fortresses, citadels and fortified towns and cities, towers, batteries, and entrenchments, and concrete forts and World War Two bunkers and pillboxes which dominate this rocky and insular landscape bears testimony to the intense periods of military activity that have helped shape the history of the Maltese Islands. Over the centuries, Malta’s strategic location at the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, coupled with it’s excellent natural harbour, saw it play a leading role in the military struggle for supremacy in the region. This was accompanied by a nearly continual investment in fortifications, particularly from 1530 onwards when it was transformed into a frontline bulwark of Christendom by the Hospitalier Knights of the Order of St. John and then, after 1800, as Britain’s entrepot and naval base.
Surely no other place around the shores of the Mediterranean can match the diversity of shape and the powerful sculptural features encountered in Malta’s rampants, knit as they are of virgin rock, dressed stone and reinforced concrete. They are truly majestic essays of force encountering force, of grace under pressure. In terms of fortifications, the Maltese Islands are truly unique. This uniqueness has long been acknowledged throughout the course of history.
Malta owes this unique wealth of defensive architecture to three important factors: its geography, the Knights of St. John and the British military. Geography placed these islands in a position of strategic importance in the centre of the narrow channel joining the eastern and western basins of the Mediterranean, rendering to them a unique strategic relevance in the history of the region. It also endowed Malta with an excellent natural harbour, one of the finest first-class anchorages to be found anywhere around the shores of the Mediterranean, big enough to accommodate any size of fleet, and it furnished the archipelago with an easily worked stone ideal for realizing extensive building programmes.
Order of St John
The first to systematically exploit all these features for military purposes were the Hospitaller Knights of the Order of St. John. These warrior monks, who first came together in the Holy Land for the protection of
pilgrims at the time of the Crusades, were responsible for starting the process of militarization that was to result in the widespread fortification of the Maltese Islands. The Knights’ arrival in Malta in 1530 set off an unprecedented building spree, which over the course of the next 268 years, saw the whole harbour area, transformed into one large fortress system with kilometres of bastions, citadels, entrenchments, coastal batteries and towers.
The core of these fortifications is made up of a network of defences guarding the harbours of Malta (the Grand Harbour and Marsamxett), with their nodal point, the fortified city of Valletta, all of which were built by the Knights of the Order of St. John between 1530 and 1798.
This unique ensemble of permanent defences built mainly to the conventions of the bastioned style was then inherited by the British in 1800 who continued to augment and modify it as their naval base, eventually spreading the whole defensive effort to cover the remainder of the island with new important works of fortification, creating in the process a unique island-fortress system. In all, some of the 31 forts and large batteries, five fortified cities, three fortified lines (one of which is 12kms long), over 50 tower and coastal batteries, and hundreds of WW11 concrete bunkers and defences – comprising, together over 60 kms of fortifications were erected to defend the Islands’ urban settlements, harbours and shores.

Are you interested in the History of Malta? There is so much you can learn about Malta. To assist you the Grand Hotel Excelsior Malta is offering a special Malta Military and Heritage Package. Feel free to contact the friendly Team at this Luxury Malta Hotel who will assist you in planning your special Malta Holidays and inform your about Things to Do in Malta during your stay.

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Malta Attractions – Walking Trails

Malta’s central position in the Mediterranean has made the Island a hub of history – from the landing of St Paul; through the times of the Knights of St John; to the modern epic of Gallant Malta.
A cultural mix makes Malta unique. Its language is based on Arabic, but English is widely spoken. There is a rich variety of country walking allowing visitors and locals alike to explore the Maltese Islands’ landscape of small ridges and valleys, seamed by tracks among stone walls and little farmsteads as well as lovely panoramic coastal paths. There are a number of attractive country walks in Malta. The ideal period for walks is autumn to spring as the weather would not be as hot and the countryside turns into a green paradise with blossoming wild flowers.
Gozo is greener, without the bustle of large towns. With some great walking across irrigated farmland, steep valleys, terraced fields and table-top hills, there is no better way of discovering the best the island has to offer. Through walking tours you may explore the hidden and secluded areas around the island and discover stunning views and hidden valleys. You may come across wayside chapels and old forts as well as villages that have remained practically untouched where elderly men and women still work the fields. There are also many historical and archaeological sites with breathtaking views.
If you are planning your next Malta holidays the Chauffuer Driven Service at this superior Malta Hotel can assist you with your Malta Walking Tours.
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Visit Malta – The Sacred Islands

Maltese Prehistory
The Mediterranean island of Malta figures in the historical record of Europe due to its association with the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. However this small island, of 243 square kilometres, has a far greater importance in European prehistory due to its extraordinary collection of megalithic temples.

According to the studies of orthodox archaeologists, the remains of bones, fragments of pottery, and marks of fire indicate that human beings have lived on Malta since at least 5200 BC.

Malta temples
Evidence suggests, these early people lived in caves, but later built huts and villages. Approximately 1600 years after their arrival in Malta, these people began the formation of stupendous megalithic temples. The ruins now remaining are the bare skeletons of once magnificent structures, mostly roofed over, paved, furnished with doors and curtains, and beautifully decorated with sculptures and paintings.

On the Islands of Malta and Gozo, one may find around 23 temples in various states of preservation although the remains of 50 temples have been found. No particular pattern emerges from the distribution of these temples and this may be explained by the probability that numerous temples were destroyed in antiquity and that others remain to be discovered.
Amongst these 23 temples is the Hypogeum which is situated in Paola, and was discovered surprisingly by workmen digging at about 3.5 m under the road surface. The word Hypogeum comes from the Greek word “Ipogaina”, which means, “an underground construction sunk into the solid rock.” It is a UNESCO World Heritage site like the other temples in Malta. This underground temple is made up from a set of rooms and caves dug by Copper – Age people, most probably between the years 4100 B.C. and 2500 B.C. At the beginning of its existence, the Hypogeum was used as a temple or sanctuary as well as a burial place. This is
known due to its architectural resemblance to the freestanding Megalithic Temples outside. However the greatest evidence present is the several statuettes of the Fat Lady, their goddess of Fertility. A big statue of a “sleeping Lady” was also found in this temple. The discoveries of some 7,000 human bones were also found in the temple and many dead people were found buried with their personal belongings.
The megalithic temple of Hagar Qim is another historical wonder situated in the West of Malta, near the village of Qrendi and was built between 3600 B.C. and 3000 B.C. The name Hagar Qim means “freestanding boulders” and was first explored in 1839. Hagar Qim was the third temple to be built in the Maltese Islands and its layout is very similar in shape of the other temples. The original alters previously found in the temple can now be found in the Museum of Archaeology.
Though of more recent origin than the great megalithic temples, the Romanesque basilica of Ta’ Pinu is of importance as a pilgrimage site. Legends relate that in 1883, a local woman named Carmel Grima heard a voice telling her to pray by a 16th century chapel. A friend, Francesco Portelli, confirmed that he had also heard the voice and thus they prayed together for Francesco’s bedridden mother and she soon experienced a miraculous recovery. More miraculous healings were thereafter reported and from thanksgiving offerings the present sanctuary was built in the 1920’s.The sanctuary incorporates the early chapel, whose original caretaker, Pinu Gauci, lent his name to the site. The Ta’ Pinu Shrine is visited for its healing qualities and is also sacred to sailors. Many locals as well as foreigners visit the site to offer thanksgiving and pay for healings.

If you are planning your next holiday to Malta, stay in a top five star Luxury Malta Hotel that offers superior Accommodation. Our Chauffeur Driven Service can guide you on where to go in Malta during your stay.

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