Defending Valletta's Marsamxett Enceinte

Seventeenth and eighteenth century proposals and projects for the Isoletto and Dragut Point.

Although the building of the mighty fortress of Valletta on the heights of Mount Xeberras solved many of the defence issues which had plagued the Knights of St John ever since they settled down their beleaguered Order in Malta in 1530, the enceinte of their new city also served to create other fresh problems of its own. For one thing, while relatively well protected on its southern Grand Harbour side by the neighbouring strongholds of Birgu, Senglea, and Fort St. Angelo, the new fortified city was now fully exposed to bombardment and attack along the full length of its northern flank straddling Marsamxett harbour. Even as the ramparts of Valletta were still taking shape, the Knights quickly began to appreciate the difficulties and challenges posed by the task of securing their city against bombardment and assault from this direction. Already by 1569, various concerns were being raised about the serious threats posed by the promontory of Dragut Point and by the little island jutting out into the middle of Marsamxett harbour, the Isolotto, which, owing to their vicinity to the walls of Valletta, were seen as providing ideal positions from where Turkish batteries could easily bombard the city's fortifications and its houses in the event of another siege. Various military engineers were set the task of drawing up workable defensible schemes to remedy the situation but none of these would materialize until well into the eighteenth century.

This talk by Dr Stephen C Spiteri looks at the various defence solutions drawn up by the Order's military engineers throughout the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as they strove to address this inherent weakness in Valletta's fortifications. The presentation focuses on the development of the various fortress schemes and designs, with a particular emphasis on the evolution of the plan, design and construction of Fort Manoel.

Lecture title: Defending Valletta's Marsamxett Enceinte - 17th and 18th century proposals and projects for the Isoletto and Dragut Point

Venue: Aula Magna, Old University Building, Valletta

Date : 5 June 2014

Time: 6.15 pm

Attendance by registration at



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