VALLETTA The Capital City
It was Sir Walter Scott who described Valletta as - "A City built by gentlemen, for gentlemen".
The Knights called Valletta "The Humble City"
The Maltese - Il-Belt - meaning "The City".
Disraeli wrote that "It equals in its noble architecture, if it does not excel, any capital in Europe."

 The capital of Malta is inextricably linked to the history of the military and charitable Order of St John of Jerusalem.  It was ruled successively by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and the Order of the Knights of St John. Valletta's 320 monuments, all within an area of 55 ha, make it one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world. The Fortress City, Citta' Umilissima, "a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen". Valletta has many titles, all recalling its rich historical past. It is the "modern" city built by the Knights of St John; a masterpiece of the baroque; a European Art City; and a  UNESCO World Heritage City.  

Valletta Capital City of Malta.

Valletta, the capital city of Malta, is built on the northern half of the Sciberras peninsula, which separates the Grand Harbour from Marsamxett Harbour. The city is completely surrounded by fortifications and covers an area that is 900 meters by 630 meters The street plan is based on a more or less uniform grid. Republic Street divides one side of the city from the other and runs from Fort St. Elmo to the City Gate. Many of the streets that run parallel to Republic Street fall steeply as you get closer to the tip of the peninsula. Transverse street begin as flights of stairs at each end. The stairs do not conform to normal dimensions since they were constructed so as to allow knights in heavy armour to be able to climb the steps. The steps contributes towards the uniqueness of Valletta. Any irregularities that occur in the streets grid were imposed on it by the lie of the land and the need to have unhampered communications around the circuit of the fortifications.

Valletta was the brainchild of Grand Master Jean de la Valette. When the knights agreed, although reluctantly, to make Malta their headquarters, de la Valette quickly realized that they needed a defensible city to protect the island against the Turkish hordes that had driven them out of Rhodes and had followed them all the way to Malta. At the Grand Master's request, the Pope sent his own architect and Michelangelo's assistant, Francesco Laparelli, to Malta to help with the building of Valletta. Arriving in Malta on December 28th, 1565, he had the plans for the city drawn within three days. On March 28th, the new city was officially born. The inauguration ceremony was held on the site of the Porta Reale (the site of the entrance gates to Valletta) and the city was christened Valletta after the Grand Master. The bastions surrounding the city are impressive indeed but were never tested. Perhaps the Turkish generals realized that they were no match against the fortified city. The Grand Harbour is virtually lined with a string of bastions. Fort Sant' Elmo and Fort Ricasoli (the largest fort in the Commonwealth) protect the entrance to the harbour. Fort St. Angelo and the walls of Birgu and Senglea across the harbour shield its flank. The Grand Master died before the city was finished.

Towards the end of 1568, the Maltese architect and engineer, Gerolamo Cassar, took charge of the building of the city when Laparelli left for active service in Crete, where he died. Cassar and Laparelli laid out the street plan for the city. The first building that went up in the city is the Church of Our Lady of Victory, which commemorates the lifting of the Great Siege. Cassar designed all the auberges, the Magisterial Palace, the Conventual Church of St. John, the parish church of St. Paul, the churches of St. Mary of Porto Salvo, Carmine, St. Augustine and St. Mary of Jesus, and numerous other buildings and houses for the members of the order. Cassar died in 1586.

The gateway to Valletta was originally dedicated to St. George. It later became known as Porta Reale and eventually Kingsgate. The original gate was demolished in 1964 when the bridge that connected Valletta to Floriana was widened.


The very important collections covering Maltese archaeology are housed
in the Auberge de Provence, Valletta, one of the inns of the Knights of
St. John.  Collections of prehistoric pottery, sculpture, statuettes,
stone implements and personal ornaments recovered from the Maltese
megalithic temples and other prehistoric sites are exhibited. Typical
examples of tomb furniture of the Punic and Roman periods are also

The National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, now under major
renovation with UNESCO technical and financial assistance, will when
completed house a comprehensive overview of Malta's past, from the
arrival of people in the fifth millennium BC, to the building of
Valletta in the 10th century.

This 18th century palace houses paintings, sculptures, furniture and
other exhibits connected with the Order of St. John.  Works by Domenico
di Michelino, Carpaccio, Perugino, Tintoretto, Reni, Valentin, Mathias
Stomer, Preti, Tiepolo, Favray and Vernet are permanently displayed. A
section is specifically reserved for works by Maltese artists.
Occasional exhibitions, together with concerts and lectures  are also
held here. In the monetarium a unique collection of coins and medals may
be viewed by appointment.

St. John’s Co-Cathedral, formerly the Conventual Church of the Order of
St John, is historically and artistically one of the most important
monuments on the island. It was built between 1573 and 1577 to the
design of Gerolamo Cassar, chief engineer of the Order. The “Beheading
of St. John”, Caravaggio’s masterpiece, hangs in the Oratory. Inside the
Cathedral is a hymn of light and colour to the glory of the ‘Monks in
Armour’ and their patron Saint Sr John.   Scenes from the life of the
Saint are depicted by the famous artist Mattia Preti along the whole
length of the ceiling. The side chapels serving the various langue into
which the Order was divided are of magnificent artistry.  In the crypt
there are buried the Grand Masters of the Order who died before St.
John’s was built. The museum houses a unique collection of Flemish
tapestries, silver objects and church vestments.

These last four hundred years this palace has been successively known as
the Grand Master’s, the Governor’s, the Governor-General’s and the
President’s Palace.  The Palace in Valletta is equivalent to any royal
or presidential palace in Europe.   The Magisterial Palace was completed
in 1574.  It contains portraits of the Grand Masters of the Order and
European monarchs, much interesting furniture, and other works of art. A
unique collection of Gobelin tapestries hangs in the Tapestry Chamber
and the main hall is decorated with frescoes by Perez d’Aleccio,
depicting episodes from the Great Siege. The decoration on the ceiling
of the corridors is by Nicolo Nasoni. Many of the State apartments are
decorated with friezes depicting episodes from the history of the Order.
On view are works by Ribera, Van Loo and Batoni.

Many old prints of Neptune lording it over the Island’s grand Harbour
are still in existence.  The Grand Master also being the head of a
religious order, his palace was the meeting place for the Order’s
Supreme Council, where the venerable Superior and thirty six bailiffs of
the Grand Cross heard advocates plead their parties’ cases.  Keeping
with the military aspect of its princely inhabitants the palace looks
austere on the outside belying the interior’ magnificence.

For 160 years of British colonisation the Palace was the residence of
His Britannic Majesty’s representative.  Later in years the succession
of retired soldiers only used it as their offices, residing at the other
delightful magisterial palace of San Anton, in the garden-village of

In 1974 Malta became a republic and  the Grand Masters’ Palace became
the residence of the Maltese President.  The President of Malta now
receives the credentials of foreign ambassadors accredited tot he Island
in the same room that the Grand Masters of St John did hundreds of years
ago at the Ambassadors’ Room. 

The Armory of the Knights is in two halls in the Palace where arms and
armour of various periods and description are displayed.  In the armoury
one finds a collection of European weapons;  and it is surprising that
so much has survived the Great Siege

The Upper Barrakka is situated near the Auberge de Castille and Leon,
the Prime Minister’s office. This site commands a magnificent view of
Grand Harbour, one of the finest harbours in Europe.  From its terrace
one can enjoy the unique view of Fort Ricasoli, Fort St Angelo, Senglea,
Vittoriosa and Kalkara and Marsa Creek.

Auberge de Castille was the official seat of the Knights of the Langue
of Castille, Leon and Portugal. The auberges, or inns, of the Order were
intended mainly as the residences of Knights who did not have a home of
their own in Malta, and for the reception of persons of distinction who,
in their travels, found themselves in Malta and in need of hospitality.
The Langue of Castille was one of the most powerful of the Order, and
its Head was the Grand Chancellor.

A nearby church, dedicated to St James, was the Langue’s church. The
Knights of the Langue of Castille, Leon and Portugal were responsible
for the defence of part of the fortifications of Valletta, known as the
Bastion of St Barbara. It is situated at the top of the highest point of
Valletta and originally looked on a wide open space and on the rolling
country beyond, giving it a unique beauty unsurpassed by any other
building in the city.

The original Auberge was built by the renowned Maltese architect
Girolamo Cassar in 1574. It was extensively re-modelled and virtually
rebuilt by another Maltese architect, Andrea Belli, in 1741. The Auberge
has  a central courtyard, the rooms on three sides being approached
through arched corridors, with the fourth side screening the main
apartments in the piano nobile.

The building is the finest work of eighteenth century baroque
architecture in Valletta. The facade is rich, yet not over-decorated,
and its proportions, and especially its fenestration, are particularly
pleasing. Ornamentation is concentrated in the crowning cornice, the
window mouldings and surrounds, and above all, in the riot of clustered
sculpture of the very rich central focus.

The principal apartments are reached through an external flight of steps
from Castille Place and a magnificent staircase which possesses, both in
concept and execution, a rare degree of architectural excellence.  The
building was damaged during the siege of the French forces (1799 - 1800)
as well as during the Second World War.

Following the departure of the Knights of St. John, the Auberge de
Castille served as the headquarters of the French occupation forces
between 1798 and 1800, and as British Army Headquarters after 1800.   It
became the Office of the Prime Minister in 1972.


Adjacent to Auberge de Castille there is Palazzo Parisio, which has a
chequered history.  Its outstanding fame is that Napoleon Bonaparte
lived in it from June 14 to 20 1798 after his occupation of the Islands
and before he set out for the conquest of Egypt.
The Manoel Theatre was originally built as a Court Theatre by Grand
Master Manoel de Vilhena in 1731. The theatre was officially opened on
19th January 1732 wit the performance of Merope by Maffei. In 1812 the
name of the theatre was changed from Teatro Pubblico to Teatro Reale;
and in 1866 was changed again to Manoel Theatre after the Grand Master
who built it.

When the Opera House was built in 1866, Manoel Theatre was serving as a
dormitory for beggars and destitute;   but when the Opera House was
burnt down in 1878 the beggars were turned out and once again grand
opera was presented in the Manoel Theatre pending on the restoration of
the Opera House.

Through the years it has enchanted all who have visited it including
actors and architects, with its old world charm.  Plays, opera and plays
are often held here.  It is believed to be the oldest theatres in Europe
and it still in operation.


This museum is housed within the walls of historic Fort St. Elmo. The
permanent exhibition contains an ever-increasing collection of war
relics which range from Malta’s historic Gladiator aircraft, baptised
“Faith”, the George Cross awarded to the island for bravery by King
George VI in World War II, to various weapons, uniforms and service

The Valletta Opera House was a very architecturally impressive building
situated metres from the main city gate. During the last world war it
was severely damaged and since then pulled down and was never rebuilt.
A. Samut Tagliaferro wrote in the Sunday Times of Malta in 1965 -
“Coming suddenly upon this building for the first time, one experience a
shock of surprise.  It is obviously British that one might well be in
London, or Manchester, or Liverpool, were it not for the whiteness of
the stone, which alone tends to dispel the illusion.”

The building was commenced in 1860 and its cost was approximately  60
000. Edward Middleton Barry, the architect, prepared the design in
England.  The opera House was officially opened in 1866 with the
splendid glittering performance of Bellini’s I Puritani.  Seven years
later the interior was gutted by a disastrous fire.  However, the
rebuilding followed the original design and Valletta had for many years
a fine, spacious auditorium on the classical model with five tier of
boxes encircling the seating in the stalls.

This building was originally the hospital or “Sacra Infermeria” of the
Order of St. John. It was constructed in 1574 under Grand Master de la
Cassiere and achieved fame as one of the foremost hospitals of the
period in Europe. Food was served by the Knights themselves on silver
plates, specimens of which, together with ceramic pharmacy jars, may beseen at the National Museum of Fine Arts. The restoration and conversionof this edifice into a first class conference center in 1976 won the“Europa Nostra Award” for Malta. The exhibition Hall, formerly the GreatWard of the hospital, which measures 161 meters long, is believed to beone of the longest halls in Europe. The main conference hall, seating1,400 people was destroyed by fire in 1987 and has since been rebuilt.The excellent 40 minute audiovisual show, the Malta Experience, covering5,000 years of Maltese history, is housed in this center.

The last major structure built by the Knights of Malta in Valletta
before their departure from the Island is the Public Library called the
‘Bibliotheca Publica’. The National Library has on show unique historic
documents, with various illuminated manuscripts in glass cases.  Thereare also priceless archives of the Order of St John and 60 incunabula iebooks printed before 1500.

It contains also the original records of the Knights of St John
(1107-1798) and of the suppressed “Universita” of Malta. The
“Universita” which was the constituted civil authority represented by
the Jurats” who were at the head of Municipalities of the islands, is
known to have existed in 1283, during the reign of Peter of Aragon. The
archives contain over 7 000 manuscripts volumes and records.

This fort is the oldest of all the forts in Malta and is situated in the
town of Birgu (Vittoriosa).  Reliable historians state that it was built
during the Arab occupation of Malta between 828 and 870.  In 1400 the
only armament of Fort St Angelo consisted of one cannon, two
three-pounder and a few iron mortar.The Grand Master of the Order I’Isle Adam strengthened the fort and in1533 thee Grand Prior of Toulouse added a bastion to it on the side of
Kalkara Creek. Fort St Angelo was the residence of the Convent and in
1541 Grand Master D’Homedes built a cavalier and from the top of whichthe Knights could overlook Marsamxett Harbour.
Almost on a level with the sea, La Valette built a battery which proved
very effective during the Great Siege of 1565.  It served also as a
state prison for the order and it was here that in 1581, Grand Master dela Cassiere was kept prisoner by the Knights.    In Fort St Angelo are
buried Knights and Maltese soldiers who fell gloriously during the 1565
Siege and victims of the plague in 1676.   On September 8 each year theMaltese visit this cemetery to pay tribute to those heroes who gavetheir live in order to save Malta and Christian Europe from being
conquered by the Muslims. 

St Elmo rebuilt after the Great Siege 0f 1565 occupies the whole point
of Valletta.  Commanding the entrance to the Grand Harbour and
Marsamxett Harbour.  The original fort with the same name was erected in1448 and fortified in 1551. Fort St Elmo was the stronghold during theTurks during the Great Siege of 1565 but was raised to the ground withall its defenders killed. 

Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt (1601-1622) and Ramon Perellos
(1697-1721) assisted in strengthening the Fort and further works were
carried out as late as under the British occupation of Malta in 1880.
The National War Museum is housed inside Fort St Elmo.

Fort St Michael was completed dismantles after the war and was convertedinto a public garden. This fort played a very important part in theGreat Siege of 1565. It was built on the peninsula jutting out into thecentre of the Grand Harbour. Fort St Michael was erected during the ruleof Grand Master D’Homedes from a design of the Spanish Engineer Pedro Pardo in 1551.

The Fort was named after St Michael because, according to a legend, it
was the commemoration of the appearance of St Michael on Mount Garganoon  that guns of  Fort St Michael were it was mounted

Fort Ricasoli was built on the extreme point of an angular peninsular to
defend the entrance to the Grand Harbour on the South. On this very sitethe Turks erected a battery which proved very effective during the GreatSiege.  The small fort was built in January 1629 to prevent the escapeof slaves from the Grand Harbour.  The present fort was constructed in1670 at the expense of Fra Giovanni Francesco Ricasoli.  Grand MasterNicholas Cottoner provided funds for the maintenance of the Fort.  Themoney was derived from his property consisting of a block of buildingserected on the site originally set aside for the Auberge d’Angleterre inMerchant Street.
The fort was greatly improved and strengthened by Grand Master RaymondPerellos in 1698.  The fort was damaged during the heavy bombing of theIsland during World War II and has been partially restored.This huge fort occupies a great part of Manoel Island jutting out fromSliema and dominates the whole of Masamxett Harbour.  It was built in1726 by during the rule of  Grand Master Antonio de Vilhena.  It hasbeen considered as one of the finest forts in Europe.  Intended as anaddition to the defences of Valletta its walls are solidly built andenclose a large square surrounded on three storey building, large enoughto hold a garrison of five hundred soldiers.
Grand Master Vilhena not only paid for its construction but made
provided funds for its maintenance and for supplies of ammunition.  Its
chapel, which was dedicated to St Anthony of Padua, the Patron Saint ofthe Grand Master, was destroyed during the war and it was never rebuilt.

Fort Tigne is the smallest fort on the island.  It was built in 1792 on
a design of Chevalier Tigne, after whom it was named.  Grand Master
Emmanuel de Rohan paid for the construction of the fort.  It was the
last work carried out by the Knights of St. John.   It is situated at
the entrance of Marsamxett Harbour at Point Dragut.

When the city of Valletta was inaugurated in 1566 a chapel was built
where the foundation stone was laid by Grand Master La Valette.  It wasdedicated to the Nativity of Our lady.  The victory over the Turkish
armada occurred on the 7 September 1965, the eve of the birth of the
Virgin Mary.  Later La Valette dedicated the same chapel to Our Lady ofVictory to commemorate the end of the Great Siege.  At a Chapter of theOrder held in 1566 it was decided that 8 September would be solemnisedwith great solemnity each year to commemorate the defeat of the Turks.Grand Master La Valette died on 22 August 1568 and was buried in thischurch.  His remains together with those of Grand Master Pietro delMonte were transferred to the Crypt of St John’s Co-cathedral when workon this magnificent edifice wascompleted

The University started as a Jesuit College established in 1592 by Pope
Clement VIII with authority to confer degrees in philosophy and
theology.  The Faculty of medicine originated in a School of Anatomy andSurgery founded in 1674 by Grand Master Nicholas Cottoner in 1769 GrandMaster Emmanuel Pinto de Fonseca with authority from Pope Clement XIV,raised the college to the status of university and authorised theconferring of degrees in the Faculties of Arts, Law and Theology. Byanother decree -Maxima Utilitas - dated January 16, 1771 gaveinstruction that the conferring of degrees  must be the obligation ofthe Protector of the University , who was a Knight of the Grand Cross
appointed by the Grand Master. The same Pontiff instructed that new
graduates are were to make Profession of Faith, in the presence of the
Inquisitor.During the French occupation of the Island in 1798 the university wassuppressed and replaced by a Superior School.  Immediately after thebeginning of the British occupation the University was reopened  andCanon F.S. Caruana was appointed Rector. It is the oldest university in the Commonwealth outside Britain.  Itoriginally stood in the older part of Valletta , but the site became toocramped and it decided to find a new location which would give it thespace needed for all its activities and for future expansion. A hilltop[site with views of Valletta and Sliema creek was found and the
construction commenced in 1963. The new campus has every modern facilityincluding a magnificent library and a number of scientific and
technological laboratories.  The University of Malta is an autonomous

This building in the corner of Merchant  and St John Streets was the
Civil and Criminal Court of the Knights of St John.  Its artistic facade
was carved by the Sicilian Maestro Gian.  The architects were FrancescoZerafa and Giuseppe Bonnici.   It used to have a Chapel but in 1855 itwas used for other purposes.  The building was the residence of theCastellano or the President of the Court and who was appointed by theGrand Master.  Adjacent to it was a prison

This impressive building was erected by the Grand Master de la Cassierein 1575 and extended during the rule of Grand Master Rafael Cottoner. The hospital consisted of six large wards. During the French occupationof the island the Sacred Infirmary was used as a military hospital andsubsequently as a wine store.  Under the British rule, once again wasused as a military hospital.

Situated at the Old Naval Bakery of the British Naval Headquarters at
Fort St. Angelo, the Museum relates Malta’s maritime history from earlytimes to the present day. Exhibits include 2 ceremonial barges of theGrand Masters Wignacourt and De Vilhena, several models of sailing shipsand galleys of the Order of the Knights of St. John, and a number ofauthentic guns and cannons.

Situated at the Old Naval Bakery of the British Naval Headquarters at
Fort St. Angelo, the Museum relates Malta’s maritime history from earlytimes to the present day. Exhibits include 2 ceremonial barges of theGrand Masters Wignacourt and De Vilhena, several models of sailing shipsand galleys of the Order of the Knights of St. John, and a number ofauthentic guns and cannons.

Valletta, the capital was built by Jean de la Valette, French Grand
Master of the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, after the
epic siege of 1565. It dominates the island’s historic Grand Harbour -
one of the finest natural ports in Europe. Within its limited boundaries
is reflected some of Malta’s rich heritage of archaeology, history,
architecture, art and culture.  On the arrival of the Knights 1530
Valetta was still a rocky hill called Xibberras and Vittoriosa was the
centre of all harbour activities.

It was the magnificence of its palaces and other treasures that led Sir
Walter Scott to describe Valletta as The city built by gentlemen for
gentlemen.  Valletta, Malta’s capital, is a 16th -century rarity that
has changed little over the centuries.   It was planned for military
purposes and its walls are also bastions and fortifications.  Valletta
is also packed with churches and palaces. There is no city quite like it
in the world.  The knights used to the call it ‘the humble city’ and the
Maltese call it ‘Il-Belt’.

The foundation stone contained this inscription in Latin: “Fra Jean De
La Vallette, Grand Master of the Hospitaller Order of Jerusalem, mindfulof the danger of which, a year before, his Knights and the Maltesepeople were exposed during the siege by the Turks, having consulted theheads of the Order about the construction of a new city and thefortifying of the same by walls, ramparts and towers sufficient toresist or to repel or, at least, to withstand the Turkish enemy, on
Thursday the 287 March 1566, after the invocation of the Almighty God,of the Virgin Mary, of Patron St John the Baptist, and of the other
Saints, to grant that the work commenced should lead to the prosperityand the happiness of the whole Christian community, and to the advantageof the Order, laid the foundation stone of the city on the hill calledSceberras by the natives, and having granted for its arms a golden lionon a red shield wishes it to be called by his name, Valletta.”

Five years later, the city was complete—planned by an Italian military
engineer, Francesco Laparelli, a colleague of Michelangelo; built in the
main by his assistant, Maltese architect  Gerolamo Cassar; and named forthe Grand Master of the Knights of St. John who initiated the plan, JeanParisot de la Vallette.

If the Knights of St. John, who built the city, had had their way, most
of their original buildings—palaces all—would have been all together,
campus-style.   But military need dictated that they be located
strategically, inland or on the shoreline, within the district that each
grouping of Knights was responsible for defending.  So a visitor in
Valletta comes upon them throughout the city.

The cost of the city was enormous, for the Order was determined to
create not only an impregnable fortress, but a city of architectural
magnificence and a Baroque masterpiece.

The city’s character still reflects the nature of the Knights—an unusual
amalgam of an aristocratic disdain that tended to isolate there from anybut their own, and a doctrinal Christian humility that kept them
dedicated for seven centuries to the welfare re of pilgrims and other
travellers.Inside the fortification Valletta is a city of superbly decoratedchurches and palaces. Malta is a limestone island, and every house,every building, is of golden limestone. Throughout, on buildings grandand humble, enclosed balconies of painted wood proclaim the city’sRenaissance birth.

Among the original buildings are the auberges, convents, or inns  in
which young Knights lived collegiately and where travellers could find
food and shelter. Many of the palaces built by the Knights are now
government offices and include the Prime Minister's residence and

The Knights’ major hospital, the Sacra Infermeria, is Valletta’s
conference center; the Palace of the Grand Masters is the seat of
Parliament and the President’s office. St. John’s Co-Cathedral contains
elaborate carvings in stone, the inlaid, multicoloured marble tombstonesof the Knights, and Caravaggio’s famous “The Beheading of St. John the Baptist”.

Maltas 16th Century capital Valetta stands on a promontory flanked by two mayjor harbours: Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour Situated on the Crossroads of the Mediterranean , the  little  island has played a leading role in the vicissitudes and the ups and downs of the history of the Middle Sea. But the island owes much of its history of its natural harbours. To the 21st –century cruise liner passenger , Valletta`s Grand Harbour offers an impressive spectacle not easily equalled by the harbours along the Mediterranean littoral. The powers that were looked on Malta as a key harbour in the Mediterranean Sea not only because of its strategic and military position but also as a leading commercial port for entrepot trade.At one time or other the traders of yesteryear- the Pheonicians and the Carthagenians, the Romans and the Saracens, the Normans, the Normans and the Aragonese, the hospitalier Knights, Napoleon and Nelson- have used Maltas Harbours. It was the Pheonicians who gave the island the name Maleth ( a haven), which was later corrupted by the Greeks into Melita (honey), from which the modern name of Malta derives.When Emperor Charles V offered Malta to the Knights of St. John in 1526, the island came into the limelight as a possible place where the Knights could re- establish themselves permanently after the loss of Rhodes, the island of Roses, in 1522. An eight-man commission was dispatched to Malta to report on the nature of the island.The commissioners reported :“The island of Malta is only only one continued rock of soft sand stone…the surface of the rock is stony, unfit to produce corn…except for a few springs in the middle of the island, there is no running water…wood is scarce…but…there are several ports or capes and places that form a sort of bays and coves in which ships may anchor; there are two spacious and very good harbours in the island , capable of receiving the largest fleet… The convenience of so many ports , so convenient for the armada of the Order , make us be of the opinion that the Emperors proposals ought not to be rejected."At the time , the order`s fleet was based in the Roman port of Cittavecchia. In October 1530 the Knights entered Maltas main harbour on board the great carrack Santa Anna- the first ever armour-plated vessel  under the command of Sir William Weston, who had commanded the Santa Maria as the Order pulled out of Rhodes eight years before.Vallettas harbours were bereft of their fortifications, except for Fort St. Angelo , where the Order took up abode. The Knights , whose service was on the sea, and who had accepted Malta only because of its fine natural harbours, preferred to settle in the small fishing village of Birgu, just inside Grand Harbour. A  landmark on the Grand Harbour basin is the vedette on Senglea Point bearing the figures of an ear and an eye- symbols of the hearkening ear and the watchful oculus Francesco Balbi di Correggio , a Spanish contemporary diarist of the epic siege of malta by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1565, wrote that the galley slaves on the Ottoman fleet transported 80 ships across the neck of land that divides Grand Harbour from Marsamxett Harbour.Grand Harbour can tell many a brave story. It welcomed the first Grand Master in 1530, it also bid farewell to the last of the line in June 1798, as Napoleon took over the island. Having anchored inside the Grand Harbour on board his flag ship L’Orient, Napoleon could well exclaim: “Nousavons dans le centre de la mediterrean e la place plus forte de L’Europe”Lord Nelson was the next man to follow in 1800. The British era was marked with many an outstanding event. Valletta`s harbours became the base station of the English Mediterranean fleet, and continued to develop as a nava base with its docks.During the Crimean War in 1854 Malta served as an important military station and a supply depot of feedstuffs and ammunition, as a repairing yard, and as a base hospital. It was an important military  station, and a supply depot of foodstuffs and ammunition, as a repairing yard, and as a base hospital. It was an important bunkering station. Local papers carried the news of Florence Nightingale`s stop in Valletta on her way to Scutarie. “The party landed and visited the objects in Valletta most worthy of notice.” (Malta Times) Visiting Malta in mid 19th century, William Tallack wrote:” Malta is a principal link between Eastern and Western worlds; and although of an area scarcely exceeding that of the Isle of Wight, is one of the most interesting and important of all islands. Besides being the principal station of the British fleet in the Mediterranean, it is daily visited by ships of all nations, and especially by the fine steamers of the peninsular and Oriental mail company, and those of the Austrian Lloyd`s and the French Messageries Imperiales.” In those days constant communication inside the harbours was kept up throughout the day by numerous boats and ferries. In 1910 Thomas Rowley mused: “ In a little springing dghaisa, we can cross as quick as a ferry.”In former times on the natural islet within Marsamxett Harbour there was the Lazzaretto, facing Valletta across the sea. Travellers had to undergo qyuarantine on their arrival. During his second visit to Malta in 1811 Lord Byron carved his name among the graffiti on one of the terraces of Lazzaretto. Rev.(later Cardinal) John Henry Newman, while undergoing quarantine in 1833, hired a violin that sounded “grand” in his spacious apartment.A focal point within marsamxett harbour is the 18th century massive fort Manoel, known after its founder the Portugese Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena. This harbour is now developed as a major yacht marina hub.A landmark on Valletta itself, as seen from Marsamxett Harbour side, is St. Pauls`s Anglican Cathedral with its smart, elegant behind the bastions. It was built in 1839 on the initiative of the Dowager Queen Adelaide of William IV of England, who was wintering  in Malta for health reasons.Visiting Malta in March 1841, Hans Christian Andersen wrote in his travelogue: “Ive heard the anhor fall and knew that we were in the harbour of Malta…I had never before seen brilliance, either under the clear sky of Italy nor in ournorthern winter nights….Valletta and all those proud ships here under the world`s strongest fortress were only the frame for it. The setting was beautifull , one of the most beautifull I have seen.”