Fort Manoel

Manoel island, Gzira show on map

The Fort Manoel is settled on the Manoel Island, located in the center of Marsamxett Harbour, to the North-West of Valetta. It was built by the Knights Hospitallier to protect Northern Valetta’s bastions, the point from which you can admire the picturesque view of the entire island and the Fort, in particular. Being a great sample of Baroque style it became both a strong military construction and an architectural gem of the terrain.

The first proposal to fortify the island was made in far away 1569, when Valetta’s construction was coming to its final stage. Understanding that l’Isolotto, as the island was called in those times, was the weakest link in Valetta’s fortifications chain, it was suggested to build there a small cavalier. Beginning with the 1570s the military engineers from different European sites started proposing various plans of construction, but the conclusive one was finally agreed only in 1723. It was a mutual project of the Knight René Jacob de Tigné and the Order’s military engineer Francois de Mondion, which consisted of building a square-shaped fort with two cavaliers and four bastions.

The first stone was laid in 1723 by Manoel de Vilhena, who occupied the Grand Master’s position in that period. By 1734 the Fort already became an active military setting. During the French Invasion of 1798 the Fort Manoel was used for the first time according to its military purpose. Unfortunately, after the capitulation to Napoleon it was surrendered by the invaders and then occupied by the French garrison. As a result, Maltese forces had to attack their own fort for several times.

From 1800 to 1906 the Fort Manoel was overtaken by the British and it was a new period of construction amendments. After the British left the Fort it continued its functioning as the military establishment and it was actively used during the Second World War.

In 1964 the Fort Manoel was decommissioned and abandoned. After numerous construction amendments dictated by different military strategies and then by the war damages came another difficult period when the historic fortification was considerably damaged due to neglect and repeated cases of vandalism.

In 2001 the restoration of the Fort began. Some of the objects such as bastions and the piazza have been simply restored, the others, like a chapel, needed a complete rebuilding. The first phase of restoration was completed in 2009, the second one was approved in 2012 and it is in the process. But there is no doubt that the Fort Manoel will soon be back to its vivid life as a heart of the Manoel Island and welcome the tourist to observe its territories of great historic significance.

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