Flanking battery discovered in Valletta Ditch

The hitherto undocumented remains of what was once a low flanking battery situated in the ditch of Valletta, at the foot of the flank of St.Michael's Demi-bastion, were unearthed by the Restoration Directorate in the course of the extensive restoration works currently underway on theValletta fortifications as part of the European Regional Development Fund project (ERDF 039).

These structural remains, which comprise a thick section of a small rampart built of Hospitaller-period masonry, appear to have once formed the scarp of a low flanking battery, or piazza bassa as it would have been known at the time, which had been built to provide raking fire of the ditch along the face of the adjoining curtain wall. This wall was hidden beneath a large mound of earth and debris, heavily covered with trees and vegetation. Its existence was unknown to historians of Valletta and Hospitaller military architecture, largely because it fails to appears on any of the surviving knights-period plans and reports.   The work seems to date from either the seventeenth or eighteenth century as there is no hint of such a work in Laparelli’s initial scheme. Indeed none of the other bastions along the Valletta enceinte have any such similar feature.


The section of surviving wall still contains a small, walled-up embrasure. It appears that the wall, which is missing the right half that joined up with the oriliion of the bastion, once contained a sally-port. This is implied by the remains of a paved sloping ramp which was also unearthed immediately behind wall on the side of the orillion. Such a sally port would have allowed access into the ditch from inside the battery, which itself was reached from within the fortress  via an  sally-port cut into the face of the curtain wall near the re-entrant angle formed by the flank of the bastion and the curtain wall. A press release issued some while ago by the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs announced that this old tunnel  will be restored and opened to the general public to provide a direct access into Valletta from the car-park area within the ditch.  This old sally-port in the re-entrant angle of the curtain wall, which dates back to the sixteenth century and formed part of the orginal Laparelli scheme, was also used as an air-raid shelter during the Second World War and, at one time, served to temporarily house the precious works of art removed from important public buildings in Valletta.


MilitaryArchitecture.com is informed that the unearthed remains of the flanking battery, which are now the subject of further historical research and study by Restoration Directorate historians, will be restored as part of the ongoing works.

Above, View of the flank of St. Michael Demi-bastion, taken from within the Valletta main ditch showing the location of the unearthed battery and the position of the old Laparelli sally-port. (Image source: www.militaryarchitecture.com)


Above, View of the interior face of the parapet wall of the unearthed battery. (Image source: www.militaryarchitecture.com)

Above, View of a cross -section through the wall, showing the remains of a blocked -up embrasure. (Image source: www.militaryarchitecture.com)

Above, Detail of unearthed parapet wall. (Image source: www.militaryarchitecture.com)


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