Saturday, March 27, 2010

Malta Cities Guide

A Guide to the Three Cities of Malta
Malta is a southern European country which is located centrally in the Mediterranean Sea just to the south of Italy. It is a small country which is only 300 square kilometers in size although its location made it strategically important in history and it has been a prized possession over the years. A number of the powerful nations in European history have ruled the country including the Greeks, Romans, French and British although it gained its independence in 1964 and is now a Republic. Another of the powers that ruled the country was known as the Knights of St. John which was a religious/military order that prospered in the Middle Ages. They were responsible for many of the fortifications constructed on Malta, the most famous of which is the three cities of Malta. The three cities comprise Cospicua, Vittoriosa and Senglea and these are surrounded by a line of fortifications which is known as the Cottonera Line. Some information about the cities includes the following.

Cospicua is the largest of the three cities and is centrally located between the other two. All three are in the area surrounding the Great Harbor of Malta which is a natural harbor that has been in use for thousands of years. The history of Cospicua as a maritime location dates back to Phoenician times around 600BC and the area of the city has been in use since this time. However the development of the city itself did not really take off until the 18th century when the Knights of St. John constructed a dockyard. This has been extensively used into the modern day although its use as a working dockyard has declined in recent years and plans are now in place to transform it into a tourist attraction and commercial centre. The patron of the city is the Virgin Mary and there is a church dedicated to her in the city.Other tour packages attractions to see include the fortifications surrounding the city, St Helen’s Gate and Bir Mula Heritage which is a museum documenting much of the history of the city. The city also stages a famous feast on the 8th of December each year which is held to commemorate the Immaculate Conception.

Vittoriosa is a small, ancient city on the south side of the Great Harbor of Malta. It also goes by the name of Birgu and its locality is perfect for safe anchorage which made the area of the city well used from the earliest of times. Many of the powers that have ruled Malta contributed to the development of Vittoriosa. However the city really came to prominence when the Knights of St. John were the rulers of the country as they made it their base and also the capital city of the country. The carried out much work on Fort St. Angelo which lies at the head of the city and also the other fortifications which surround the city. Vittoriosa played a vital part of the defense of the country during the 1565 Siege of Malta when the Ottoman Empire attacked. The city was never captured and its defenses held out to help the Knights of St. John gain a decisive victory. However not long after this the Grand Master of the Knights began construction of a new city which was to be known as Valetta and in 1571 this became the new capital of Malta. Vittoriosa lost much of its influence following this. Today the city is home to around 3,000 residents and is a popular vacation package destination in Malta. There are many attractions to see and some of these include Fort St. Angelo, the Malta Maritime Museum, the Vittoriosa 1565 Museum and St Lawrence’s Church. The many holidays attractions make it an interesting city visit and its beautiful location adds to the appeal.

Senglea is the third of the three cities and this was constructed by Claude De La Sengle from whom it gets its name. It also played a pivotal part in the 1565 Siege of Malta and as it resisted the attempts of the invading Ottoman Empire it was given the name Civitas Invicta meaning undefeated citizens. The area of the city was originally used as hunting grounds by the Knights of St. John although was eventually developed by Claude De La Sengle into the city it is today. It currently has a population of around 3,500 people although this is greatly reduced from earlier times. It suffered much damage during the Second World War as it was bombarded by German aircraft and much of the population left at this time never to return. The city has a few famous travel attractions apart from the fortifications which surround it. The statue of Jesus Christ the Redeemer is the most well known of these and this is located in the Basilica which is a beautiful building to see. Other tour attractions include the Gardjola Garden and the local band club which plays at the festivals staged in the city.

The three cities of Malta are an interesting place to visit and see some of the history of the country. The fortifications which surround them are an impressive sight and a trip to see the three cities is sure to be an enjoyable and fascinating experience.

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