3D Reconstructions of Hospitaller Fortifications

Military Architecture.com is happy to announce that the first phase of an ambitious project which seeks to create 3D computer simulations of ALL the fortifications built, occupied, or adapted by the Hospitaller Knights

 in the theatres of war where the Order established its convent, that is, in the  Maltese Islands, in Rhodes and the Dodecanese, and the Latin East, has finally been brought to completion.


The first phase of the project involved the Hospitaller fortifications of the Maltese island and Tripoli. This seven–year quest was first embarked upon in 2009 with the creation of a small model of St. Julian Tower and Battery (c. 1716), and was then followed soon after by the first of a series of 3D models of Fort Manoel (c. 1750). Seven years of quiet hard work later, the list of completed 3D computer models now stands at some 54 models of major Hospitaller forts and fortresses [from Fort St. Angelo (1530) down to Fort Tigné (1792)] –  and includes the major bastioned enceintes of the massive Cottonera Lines (1670), the Sta. Margherita Lines (Firenzuola – 1638)  and the Floriana Lines (1635), together with over 91 models of coastal towers,  coastal batteries and  redoubts and coastal and inland entrenchments (including the fougasse). These figures do not include all the various variants of each model showing cutaways and interior details, and other singular elements of fortifications such as structural details of palisades, echaugettes, embrasures for affuts à aiguilles etc.

Below is the list of main 3D models completed to date:

Major Forts and Fortresses

  1. Fort St. Angelo – Castrum Maris – 1530
  2. Fort St. Angelo – 1565 (Great Siege period)
  3. Fort St. Angelo – 1798
  4. Mdina – Città Notabile 1530
  5. Mdina – Città Notabile 1565
  6. Mdina – Città Notabile 1798 (Great Siege period)
  7. Gozo Castle – Cittadella – 1565
  8. Gozo Citadella – 1798
  9. Birgu – 1565 (Great Siege period)
  10. Birgu – 1565  Siege works
  11. Birgu – 1798
  12. Senglea – Fort St. Michael – 1552
  13. Senglea – 1565 (Great Siege period)
  14. Senglea – 1565 –  Siege works
  15. Senglea (Città Invicta) – 1798
  16. Fort St. Elmo – 1565 (Great Siege period)
  17. Fort St. Elmo – 1565 – Siege works
  18. Fort St. Elmo  – 1798
  19. Valletta – Francesco Laparelli proposal – 1566
  20. Valletta – 1798
  21. Valletta – Gunpowder magazine in Vendôme Bastion
  22. Valletta – Gunpowder magazine inside St. John Cavalier
  23. Valletta – Ġnien is–Sultan
  24. Valletta – Carafa enceinte – 1798
  25. Floriana Lines – 1635
  26. Floriana Lines – 1670
  27. Floriana Lines – 1798
  28. Floriana Lines – Gunpowder magazine on Dhoccara Bastion
  29. Floriana Lines –  Musketry spur of Marsa
  30. St. Margherita Lines (original Firenzuola proposal) – 1638
  31. Cottonera Lines – 1670 (as proposed with ravelins and cavaliers)
  32. Cottonera Lines – 1798
  33. Cottonerra Lines – Gunpowder magazine
  34. Cottonera Lines – Retrenched bastion with redoubt
  35. Cottonera Lines – Fort San Salvador
  36. Fort Ricasoli – 1670
  37. Fort Ricasoli – 1715 with De Tigné proposed retrenchment
  38. Fort Ricasoli – 1798 with demi–counterguard Covertway
  39. Fort Manoel 1723-1730
  40. Proposal for fort on Isoletto – 1670
  41. Proposal for fort on Isoletto  – 1715
  42. Proposal for fort on Isoletto post  –1716
  43. Fort Manoel – Main gate and corpo di guardia
  44. Fort Manoel – Cavalier cutaway
  45. Fort Manoel – Gunpowder magazine
  46. Fort Manoel – Countermines cutaway
  47. Fort Manoel ­– Under construction c. 1724
  48. Fort Manoel ­– Under construction c. 1728
  49. Fort Chambrai  (after Palmeus with city buildings)
  50. Fort Chambrai – Gunpowder magazine
  51. Fort Tigné – 1792–95
  52. Fort Tigné – Circular tower–keep cutaway
  53. Fort Tigné – Countermines cutaway
  54. Fortress of Tripoli – North Africa – 1551

Coastal and Inland Towers, Batteries, Redoubts and Entrenchments

  1. Orsi Tower
  2. Garzes Tower
  3. St. Lucian Tower
  4. St. Paul Bay Tower
  5. St. Thomas Tower
  6. Mellieħa Tower
  7. St. Mary Tower – Comino
  8. Ghajn Hadid Tower and guard house
  9. Aħrax Tower
  10. Qawra Point Tower
  11. Għallis Tower
  12. Qalet Marku Tower
  13. Madliena Tower
  14. Wardija Tower
  15. Ħamrija Tower
  16. Wied iż–Żurrieq Tower
  17. Nadur Tower
  18. Lippija Tower
  19. Għajn Tuffieħa Tower
  20. Mġarr ix–Xini Tower
  21. Qawra /Dwejra Tower
  22. Xlendi Tower
  23. San Blas Tower (Gozo)
  24. St. Georges Bay Tower
  25. St. Julian's Tower
  26. Triq il–Wiesgħa Tower
  27. Delimara Tower
  28. Qrendi Tower – Torre Cavalieri
  29. Gauci Tower
  30. Captain's Tower (Naxxar)
  31. Gourgion Tower (Gozo)
  32. Qalet Marku Battery
  33. Għallis Battery
  34. Riħama Battery
  35. St. Anthony Battery (Ras-il–Qala)
  36. Wied Musa Battery
  37. Vendôme Battery – Armier
  38. Crevelli Redoubt – Armier
  39. Qortin Redoubt
  40. Tal-Bir Redoubt
  41. St. Julian's Tower Battery
  42. Westreme Battery
  43. Mistra Battery
  44. Arrias Battery
  45. Vendôme Battery – Pwales
  46. Buġibba Battery
  47. Ximenes Redoubt
  48. Perellos Redoubt
  49. Qalet Marku Redoubt
  50. Baħar ic–Cagħaq Redoubt
  51. Wilġa Battery
  52. Vendôme Redoubt
  53. Ferretti Battery
  54. St. George Redoubt
  55. Ghzira Battery
  56. Birżebbuga Redoubt
  57. Kalafrana (Fresnoy) Redoubt
  58. Marsascala Redoubt
  59. Ramla Left Battery (Gozo)
  60. Ramla Redoubt (Gozo)
  61. Ramla Right Battery (Gozo)
  62. Qolla l-Bajda Battery (Gozo)
  63. St. Mary Battery (Gozo)
  64. Mgarr Harbour Battery (Gozo)
  65. St. Lucian Tower Battery
  66. St. Paul Bay Tower Battery
  67. St. Thomas Tower Battery
  68. St. Mary Battrey (Comino)
  69. L-Aħrax Tower Battery
  70. Qawra Point Battery
  71. Orsi Battery
  72. Tombrell Battery and entrenchment
  73. Mellieħa Tower Entrenchment
  74. Louvier Entrenchment  (Armier)
  75. Ta' Kassisu Entrenchment  (Mellieħa)
  76. Xrop l–Għaġin entrenchment
  77. Birzebbuga Entrenchment
  78. Għajn Tuffieħa Entrenchment
  79. Żewwieqa Entrenchment
  80. Qawra Entrenchment
  81. Spinola Bay to St. Georges Bay Entrenchment
  82. St. Julians Entrenchment
  83. Madliena Entrenchment
  84. Falca Gap Entrenchment
  85. Section of Xgħajra (Ricasoli to Żonqor Point) Entrenchment
  86. Naxxar Entrenchment
  87. Bengħisa eEntrenchment
  88. Ramla Bay Entrenchment
  89. Ramla Underwater Barrier
  90. Garzes Tower Entrenchment (Gozo - proposal)
  91. Mġarr Redoubt (Gozo – proposal)

All the work involved in the construction of these computer models was undertaken by Dr. Stephen C. Spiteri Ph.D.  and comprised the creation of 1,143 computer–design files totalling hundreds of gigabytes of memory space.  Some of the models took many months to construct owing to the complexity of a fortress’ design and scale, and involved innumerable field trips and thousands of photographs, backed by many years of research. These models seek to depict the Hospitaller fortifications as they stood (or may have stood) in their time, in their different stages of development, and not as they appear today in the manner that can be achieved through laser scanning and aerial photography. This was considered an indispensible part of the project philosophy, motivated, primarily, by the need to allow for a proper exposition and understanding of the original historical structures, given that many of the fortified works were either heavily altered, mutilated, and urbanized over the centuries or, worse still, wiped away and destroyed,  ‘surviving’ only in the historical records.

MilitaryArcitecture.com has already had various opportunities over the course of the past years, since its set up in 2010, to feature some of these models as short animated videos, both as stand–alone features or as clips inserted in video documentaries (such as those featuring the Fortifications of the Great Siege, Fort Manoel, Fort Tigné and Wignacourt’s Bastioned Towers), and also as 2D illustrations accompanying various articles and papers.  A handful of these models have also been used by local heritage organizations in exhibitions and displays (eg. Fort St. Angelo, Fort St. Elmo, Rihama Battery, Fort Manoel, etc). Readers wishing to views the video features are directed to the video link in the header on the homepage of this website.

The last 3D model to be completed was that of the massive Floriana Lines, showing this impressive and powerful bastioned enceinte in its final and full stage of development under the Hospitaller Knights in 1798, with all its layers of opere avanzate – the lunette, falsabraga and La Galdeana (crowned hornworks)and its strade coperte and caponiers (see images below). The outerworks of the Floriana land front were brought to completion in 1716 under the direction of the French military engineer Charles François de Mondion.  Brigadier de Tigné, on his return to Malta, described them as one of the most beautiful outerworks in all of Europe. A second model of the Floriana Lines showing Pietro Paolo Floriani’s original design, as established in 1635, with its many projected ritirate, has also been produced (not shown in the images below).

A New Generation of Fortification Books

Fully–rendered 2D illustrations produced from screen shots of these models, with cutaways and elevations,  will now serve to illustrate a new generation of publications on the military architecture and fortifications of the Knights of St. John currently under preparation by this website, including a multi–volume Encyclopaedia of Hospitaller Military Architecture.

This new series is intended to create a multi–volume compendium of detailed scholarly studies devoted entirely to all aspects of the fortifications and defensive architecture established by the Knights of the Order of St. John (also known as Hospitallers) in the Holy Land and the Latin East, Rhodes and the Dodecanese, Tripoli, and the Maltese islands. The Encyclopaedia of Hospitaller Military Architecture series will also include volumes on specific themes related to fortress–building techniques, military engineers, and Hospitaller military organization amongst others. These books are a continuation and an approfondimento of Dr. Spiteri’s earlier work entitled Fortresses of the Cross, first published in Malta twenty years ago in 1994, which study examined the Hospitaller contribution to the art and science of military architecture in all the different theatres of war where the Order of St John had established its Convent and headquarters. Fortresses of the Cross, and its abridged second edition (Fortresses of the Knights – Malta, 2001), both of which are now out of print, sought to bring together in one single publication, for the first time, all the various types of fortifications which had been built and occupied by the Knights of St John in defence of their territorial possessions throughout their 600 years of history as a military organization dedicated to protecting the frontiers of Christendom.

Second Phase of Project

The second phase of the project will now focus on the creation of 3D models of the fortifications from the two earlier epochs in the history of the Hospitaller Knights, that is, from the Crusader period in Outremer and the Latin East, and from the period of the Order’s occupation of Rhodes and the Dodecanese.  Three major models from these periods have been constructed so far, namely Crac des Chevaliers (its final phase c.1285), Belvoir (c.1187),  and Kolossi Castle in Cyprus (c.1450).

Sample images of latest models:

A small sample of both rendered and unrendered screen–shots and images extracted from some of the latest models produced by Dr. Spiteri can be viewed below. The gray–coloured images are screen shots of unrendered models and represent the first phase in the construction of a 3D model, which is then followed by a draping of textured materials to give the structure realistic weight and contextual setting.



Latest Articles








~ Additional Features ~