Third Centenary of Coastal Batteries

This year, 2016, marks the third centenary since the completion of the Hospitaller Knights' ambitious programme of coastal defences embarked upon in 1714-1716

with the construction of a network of batteries and redoubts around the shores of the Maltese islands.


MilitaryArchitecture.com is commemorating the occasion with an exhibition of new original pen drawings by Dr. Stephen C Spiteri Ph.D, together with a half-day seminar dedicated to the presentation of the latest scholarly research on the subject of the construction and typology of coastal defences by a number of historians and researchers specializing in this subject. This event is being held next September.


Coastal Batteries

By the eighteenth century, coastal defences had become an important component of the Order’s defensive strategy for the Maltese islands.  The initial system of watch-towers intended to warn of approaching danger was augmented by a wider network of defensive positions designed to serve as physical obstacles against invasion. Between 1714 and 1716, the Order’s French military engineers designed and built a vast network of coastal batteries, redoubts, and entrenchments intended to actively resist invasion and provide solid barriers to attack.

Coastal batteries were designed to mount guns intended to fire on approaching ships. Most of these structures followed the contemporary French pattern, albeit on a smaller scale, and basically consisted of semi-circular or polygonal gun-platforms, sometimes ringed by embrasured parapets, and having one or two small blockhouses.  For protection from landward attack, the batteries were given loopholed walls and redans. In most cases the blockhouses were placed in such a manner as to seal off the gorge and their walls were pierced with musketry loopholes. The Order's engineers experimented with various combinations of blockhouses and redans depending on the tactical requirements of the site.  Design-wise, hardly any two batteries were the same. They all differed in some detail from one another, either in size, shape of the artillery platform, number of embrasures, or the layout of the barrack blocks and landward defences.

Coastal Redoubts

A variant of the coastal battery, was the redoubt. Unlike the batteries, however, the majority of redoubts erected by the Knights in Malta and Gozo were given a more or less standard pentagonal plan. These works were not generally designed to mount cannon since they were intended to serve as infantry strong points. Tactically, they were meant to allow small detachments of militia equipped with muskets to hold out against landed troops and prevent them from establishing a beachhead.   The pentagonal-plan redoubts were all fitted with a single blockhouse at the gorge and had low parapets and all-round shallow ditches.  Another category of redoubts, of which only three were built, were tower-like works designed along the lines of French blockhouses or tour-reduits. A fourth such structure was erected in 1720.

Exhibition and Lecture programme.

Further information on the date and venue of both the opening of the exhibition, and the programme of public lectures, will be advertised on this site in due course. MilitaryArcitecture.com is also in the process of finalizing a new volume in its Encyclopaedia of Hospitaller Military Architecture dedicated to the construction of Hospitaller eighteenth-century coastal batteries.



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