Valletta is one of the most important medieval fortress cities in Europe and is closely linked to the work of the Order of St. John. Outstanding buildings include the Grand Master’s Palace, St. John’s Cathedral and Fort St. Elmo.
|Official title:||City of Valletta|
|Cultural monument:||European fortress city with Fort St. Elmo, the St. Gregory Bastion and St. Lazarus Bastion, with the Grand Master’s Palace, with churches such as St. John’s Co-Cathedral and St. John Shipwreck, with the Manoel Theater and the Palazzo Paradiso, with eight former hostels of the knights and with the former Sacra Infermeria, the former hospital of the Order of St. John|
|Location:||Valletta, on the Grand Harbor, on the east coast of the main island of Malta|
|Meaning:||320 architectural monuments (16th-18th centuries) on 55 hectares as evidence of the city’s history by the Order of St. John|
|Naming:||Jean Parisot de la Valette (1494-1568)|
|March 28, 1566||under Grand Master de la Valette, Grand Master 1557-68, laying of the foundation stone for the fortress city|
|1789||French occupation of Malta, expulsion of the Order of St. John|
|1814||British crown colony by virtue of the Treaty of Paris|
|1940-43||important strategic role in the context of the Africa campaign and the Allied invasion of Italy|
|Early 1942||6,700 tons of bombs dropped on Valletta and the Grand Harbor|
|April 15, 1942||Award of the English Order of Valor “The George Cross” to the “Fortress Malta”|
|September 21, 1964||Valletta capital of the Republic of Malta|
A strong castle on Apostle Paul’s island
According to franciscogardening, the defiant fortresses between Vittoriosa and Cospicua keep a watchful eye on those foreigners who come to Malta by sea. If you look closely, you will find it: eyes and ears as symbols of vigilance on the »Vedette« of Senglea, on one of the numerous watchtowers that stick to the fortress walls like swallow nests. Flashing lights flicker on deck when early in the morning crusaders glide onto the pier below the Upper Barraca Gardens, passing Fort St. Elmo and Sacra Infermeria, the former hospital ward of the Knights of St. John. Monotonous ringing of bells echoes through the stairways. Also in St. Paul’s Shipwreck Church, which was consecrated to Paul, who is said to have been stranded in Malta as a shipwreck, believers gather under the dome painting, which shows scenes from the life of the apostle.
Morning penitents make their way to mass in the oldest church in Valletta, the church “Our Lady of Victories”. After a fleeting cross in front of the candle-lined niche of Mother Mary in St. Ursula Street, other worshipers disappear behind the church portal of the nearby church. Once upon a time, knights plagued by gout hurried from their magnificent hostels, the Auberge de Castille and Auberge d’Italie, to their chapels, which frame the nave of St. John’s Co-Cathedral, for morning prayer. It was also the Knights of Faith who turned steep streets like St. John Street into easy-to-walk stairways with flat steps.
The city only really comes to life when people from the surrounding area step out of the armada of decrepit buses – »bonecracker«, also known as »bone breaker«. With busy steps they make their way to their work on the provincial promenade of the city – Republic Street. Single horses are waiting impatiently for visitors who come to the “City of St. John” for a day. Shortly behind the city gate, broken walls surround a rectangular area. For decades the Royal Opera House stood here, the cultural center of the city, which was destroyed in an Italian air raid in 1942 and subsequently not rebuilt. In the future, neither Papageno nor Papagena will sing their arias in Valletta’s Royal Opera. Resembling the bow of an icebreaker and originally erected to defend the main gate of the city, the St. James Bastion is right next door and pushes itself into the square. Elsewhere, too, the visitor comes across numerous bastions and huge fortress walls that have enclosed Valletta since the victory when the Knights of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem triumphed over the Ottoman troops of Suleiman I. In 1566, a year after the bloody slaughter around the fortresses of St. Angelo, St. Michael and St. Elmo, a new city was built on Mount Sciberras, which was baptized Valletta in honor of the victor of the “Great Siege”. The namesake of the city, the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Jean Parisot de la Valette, did not live to see the completion of his city, because he died shortly after its founding while hunting for falcons. He was the first to be buried in the crypt of St. John’s Co-Cathedral. Whoever enters the externally simple church building, strolls over colorful marble inlays, over hourglass and grim reaper, which cover the burial place of members of the order. A vaulted painting spans the church with the pictorial representation of the life of St. John the Baptist, the namesake of the Order of St. John; the grand masters of the order left their initials as wall decorations. Their magnificent marble tombs – like that of the French Grand Master Jean de Lascaris-Castellar – or the magnificent Grand Master’s Palace with its precious tapestries and friezes of successful naval battles of the Order – all this magnificence raises doubts.