Fort Saint Angelo

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Working hours
09:00 - 17:00
adults 8€
students and the elderly 5€
children 3

Being a jewel of the Vittoriosa landscapes for many centuries, the Fort Saint Angelo is located at the centre of the Grand Harbour, in Birgu. The Fort has been playing an important role in rebuffing numerous enemy attacks at Malta from the most long-ago ages. The biggest impact made to the fortification of the settlement was made by the Knights of St.John’s Order. Since 1998 the Fort Saint Angelo was included in the list of UNESCO Heritage Sites as the treasure of Knights’ fortifications on Malta’s territories.

The Fort from Medieval period until the 20th century

It is considered that the settlement began its development with a castle, which period of construction is unknown, but it was definitely before the 13th century. By 1530 when the St. John’s Order came to the city and decided to stay in Birgu, the setting was a shell which included several buildings, namely the St. Mary Chapel (later renamed St. Anne Chapel), St.Angel chapel (later renamed Nativity of our Lady) and a house of Castellan, being a castle called Castrum Maris.

The Order chose the Fort to become the Grand Master’s seat. Since the fortification was leased to the Order, this resulted in forming a so-to-say independent state within its territories, over which Malta’s authorities of that period had no jurisdiction. By 1536 the Knights made the Fort became D’Homedes Bastion with a moat. The initial settlement was significantly redesigned, strengthened and fortified for this purpose, nevertheless it retained its initial medieval features. With further reinforcements the St.Angelo Fort became a gunpowder fortification. In the period of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 the Fort served the Knights as their headquarters, from which they successfully protected the land from the Turks’ sea attacks.

From 1800 to 1979 the British occupied the Fort’s territories. Firstly they were used by the Army to settle their garrison in Harbour. Later on, in the beginning of the 20th century the Fort was taken by the British Navy. In 1912 the Fort was even officially registered as a ship, listed under such title in all the documents of that period. It was called a Stone Frigate then, which is a nickname for a naval establishment on land. The Fort also had its names as a real ship. At first, when it served a base for the Royal Navy, it was named HMS Egmont and in 1933 it was renamed HMS St Angelo. The British didn’t make serious modifications of the Fort, except for minor rearrangements as well as construction of a cinema and a plant of water distillation.

Just as numerous other objects of strategic importance on Malta, the fortification was seriously damaged during the Second World War. Between 1940 and 1943 it suffered 69 direct attacks.

The recent times

In 1998 the upper part of the Fort, namely the Grand Master’s House and the Chapel of St. Anne, was returned to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. The Order and the Maltese Government signed the agreement to describe the party’s rights with duration of 99 years, but the latter will be able to terminate it at any time after 50-years period. It stipulates that the Malta’s flag should be flown on equal position with the Order’s one, that the Order cannot grant any asylum to anyone and that Malta’s court has full jurisdiction on the fortification’s territories.

In the end of 1990s - beginning of 2000s many places on the Fort were deteriorating. Due to this reason it was unsafe to let people in, so a great part of the showplace was unavailable for visitors. Happily, the Maltese government managed to receive 13,4 million euros from the European Regional Development Fund to restore this historical place of military glory. In September 2015 the Fort’s restoration, managed by Heritage Malta, was fulfilled. It is planned now to introduce holding numerous cultural events and educational programs at the Fort Saint Angelo on the regular basis.

The Fort’s Legends

As a mysterious place having a long history, the Fort Saint Angelo has a number of legends and ghost stories. One of the most popular is the one about the Grey Lady ghost appearing around the Fort’s territories. She was the mistress of the Castellan De Nava family, which occupied the fortifications for some time. The story is classic: the master had an affair with a mistress and when problems began he ordered his guards to get rid of her. The guards didn’t think for too long and just killed her and put the victim in the fort’s dungeon. Since then she returned from time to time. Sometimes the Grey Lady appeared as an aggressive woman and sometimes as a soldiers’ savior.

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