An Anti-Conformist Proposal Regarding the Fortification of Gozo

Effective control of Gozo was critical for the defence of the Order's hub in the Grand Harbour area

and, whenever opportune, leading military engineers were assigned the job to evaluate the prevailing situation and come up with cost-efficient proposals on how to enhance the sister island's fortifications.

Antonio Maurizio Valperga, the then chief military engineer of the Duke of Savoy, had his turn in 1670 (Mahoney, 1996: 326). During his hectic stay he produced the first master plan for the defence of Malta, particularly the Grand Harbour Area. This envisaged the creation of a ring of fortifications around Valletta, securing all the approaches to the fortress and its harbours (Spiteri, 2001: 55).  

As regards Gozo, Valperga was asked to re-examine the Castello issue in view of its dual role as refuge for the local population and as a valuable link to Christian Europe during times of distress. Influenced by the happenings at Candia, Valperga discarded the long agreed plan to abandon and demolish the Castello / Rabat settlement and construct a new spacious fortress town at Għajn Damma as championed by Giovanni Rinaldini in 15992 and by Giovanni de Medici in 1640.

Conversely, he advocated that the Order retains and stiffens these centrally located and long established settlements.To this effect, Valperga visited Gozo on 20 April 1670(Hoppen, 1979: 205). He authored an accurate plan of the Castello and of Rabat's historic core and fitted around them a fairly impressive network of defences reminiscent of the much more extensive Cottonera lines.

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Author: Godwin Vella

Article and Image Source: um.edu.mt

Keywords: Gozo,Cittadella,Fortifications,Valperga,Hospitaller,Malta




Godwin Vella

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