Buy Yourself A Piece of History
Hence, Valletta, is an urban area which boasts many buildings from the 16th century, but most of them were built during the time of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (the Knights Hospitaller, or Knights of Malta).
The official name the Order of Saint John gave to the city of Valletta was Humillissima Civitas Valletta - a city bound to humility. However, with the building of bastions, curtains and ravelins, along with the beauty of the baroque buildings along its streets, it became known as Superbissima – ‘ Most proud’, amongst the ruling houses of Europe. In Maltese it is colloquially known as Il-Belt, simply meaning “The City”.
The foundation stone of Valletta was laid by the Grandmaster of the Order of Saint John Jean Parisdot de la Valette, on 28 March 1566; The Order (which was the long-time ruler of the city and the island) decided to found a new city on the Scebberras peninsula just after the end of the Siege of Malta 1565, so as to fortify the Order’s position in Malta, effectively binding the Knights to the Island. The city was designed by Francesco Laparelli, while many of the most important buildings were built by Gerolamo Cassar.
After the Knights and the brief French interlude, the next building boom in Valletta occurred during the British rule. Gates were widened, buildings demolished and rebuilt, streets widened and civic projects installed: However the whole city and its infrastructure were damaged by air raids in World War II, notably losing its majestic opera house constructed at the city entrance in the 19th century.
The city contains several beautiful buildings of historic importance, amongst which are St John’s Co-Cathedral, formerly the Conventual Church of the Knights of Malta and home to the largest single work by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, his only signed work, and a priceless collection of seventeenth – century Flemish tapestries (alongside Republic street); the Auberge de Castille et Leon, formerly the official seat of the Knights of Malta of the Langue of Castille, Leon and Portugal, now the office of the Prime Minister of Malta (found on the highest point of the city, above the bastions); the Magisterial Palace, built between 1571 and 1574, formerly the seat of the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, now housing the Maltese Parliament and the offices of the President of Malta (opposite Palace Square along Republic street); The National Museum of Fine Arts, a Rococo palace dating back to the late 1570s which served as the official residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet during the British era, from 1789 onwards (in South Street); the National Museum of Archeology, formerly the Auderge de Provence (Republic street); The Manoel Theatre (Teatru Maneol in Maltese), constructed in just ten months in 1731, by the order of Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena, and one of the oldest working theaters in Europe; The Mediterranean conference center, formerly the Sacra Infermeria, built in 1574, one of Europe’s the most renowned hospitals during the time of the Knights of Malta; and the fortifications themselves, built by the Knights as a magnificent series of bastions, demi-bastions, ravelins and curtains, approximately 100 meters high, designed to protect the city from attack. The city of Valletta was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980.