Welcome to the Maltese Islands
discover Cottonera
Fort St. Angelo Vittoriosa Senglea Cospicua Kalkara Cottonera Region Cottonera Today
From Hammuna to Borgo del Castello - Birgu
Città Nuova
Città Vittoriosa
The Inquisition
The Collegiate Issue
Historical Sites - Collachio
Historical Sites - Marina Wharf
Historical Sites - Other

Citta Vittoriosa

Flanking battery in the Bastion of Provence

Following the events of the Great Siege, Birgu was renamed Civita Victoriosa, or Citta Vittoriosa – the Victorious City. However, according to Braudel, the Great Siege of 1565 – highly charged with the dreadful fear of the unknown, dramatic, full of atrocities and heroism, intense religious possession, and much loss of life, constituted no significant turning point for the Turks. Their main losses were replaceable men, their morale was far from broken, and their desire for revenge had strengthened. Yet for the local inhabitants, the successful outcome of the Siege marked an important turning point for the Order, for Malta, and for Cottonera. Their social and economic history had to be rebuilt almost from scratch.

After the Siege, Bosio described Citta Vittoriosa as being a compassionate sight. Some 12000 inhabitants, almost half the population of Malta, with all their belongings, were compelled for lack of houses to live and sleep out in the open. There they were exposed to the extreme summer heat during the day and the pernicious humidity during the night. Lying in open squares, they suffered all sorts of hardship, not least that of thirst, and of having to tolerate the unbearable stench of foul breath, perspiration, and other similar inconveniences created when crowds of temporarily homeless people as well as multitudes of animals live together. These conditions were quite amenable to the outbreak and spread of plague.

The retrenchment at the Post of Castille

Birgu Land Front

The surviving peasants who returned to their land found an extensively destroyed landscape. Their hamlets and houses were burnt to the ground, with no livestock, equipment, or seed left. Thus, the process of land abandonment and decay so prevalent in the middle ages had come to a climax as Malta was a total ruin and a wilderness.

It was in this situation that the Order decided to accelerate the moving of its administrative seat from Vittoriosa to Valletta. This it did in 1571, leaving behind the Bishop and his Curia in Vittoriosa, thus highlighting the differences that had grown between the Grandmaster and the Bishop. This rift contributed to the establishing of the Gran Roman Apostolic Inquisition in Malta in 1574 – originally intended to reconcile them. However it took some 50 years before Bishop Cagliares and his Curia followed the Order into the new Capital of Valletta in 1620.

Having settled in Valletta, the Order was still concerned with the inadequacy of the fortifications on the other side of the Grand Harbour. At around 1588, the Order planned to raise cavaliers on St John and St James bastions to a maximum height of three vaulted chambers so as to be able to sight enemy artillery on the then barren Santa Margerita Lines. The Order also constructed several sophisticated outworks and a powerful horn-work facing the Bighi peninsula and the San Salvatore heights. Yet by 1654 the land-front fortifications including the two cavaliers were still incomplete and militarily imperfect – presenting the need for considerable and urgent repairs.

By 1715, to the following 16th Century land-front fortifications were in dire need of repairs:
  • The curtain wall between the demi-bastion of St Lawrence and Galley Creek required proper alignment with its counterpart in Senglea,
  • The Post of Castille required substantial modifications, and
  • The Santa Margerita and the Cottonera Lines were still incomplete;
while The Chemin Couvert – the ‘covered way’ in the area of St James Bastion, which was added in the late 17th Century, also required major repairs and adjustments.

French engineers' plan of Vittoriosa's fortifications around 1714, showing proposals for new bastions
Curtain of France
Much of this work was accomplished by 1730, and by 1736 the land-front was considerably strengthened by the successive building of the Santa Margerita Lines (1638-1736), encompassing the 1718 gridiron suburb of Bormla, and the Cottonera Lines (1670-1736). These dual lines of defence present the most important cover defence strategy for Cottonera adopted by the Order between 1530 and 1798.
discover Cottonera
discover Cottonera