Saint Elmo`s fort is one of the most important fortifications of Malta. Separating the Harbor of Marsamxett from Grand Harbor, in the Medieval period the fort guarded the entrances to them, protecting the small island state from constant attacks of the Ottoman army.
Earlier the fort was a solitary watchtower erected in 1488 by order of the Spanish Royal dynasty representatives and at that time it was one of the main strategic objects of Malta. In 1533 the tower was expanded and strengthened, turning into a small fortress. But it was not enough for the fortress to be able to restrain the aggressive attacks of the Ottoman army and in 1551 the Turks managed to seize the Marsamxett harbor hardly having encountered any resistance.
In 1552 the fortification, named in honor of Saint Elmo, who was the patron of the Mediterranean navigators, was erected. The testing in conditions of a real battle was not long in coming – in 1565 the fort proved its effectiveness during The Great Siege of Malta from the 18th of May to the 11th of September. It has become the place of the most furious battles, during the month heroically resisting the massive shelling of the Turkish army. During the battles the fort was ruined and while building the city of Valetta it was reconstructed and strengthened.
The building of the new city did not have good influence on the military discipline of the knights that commenced to construct luxurious palaces for themselves and to tend to a beautiful life. When in 1798 the Napoleonian fleet appeared near the shore of the Marsamxette harbor, the knights not only refused to resist, but received the French army with hospitality. Maybe, thanks to this the Saint Elmo`s fort avoided another ruining.
Nowadays the fort is not being used according to its original purpose: it has become a tourist attraction. The National War museum is located here and every visitor can get acquainted with war equipment and weapons beginning with the prehistoric times and contemplate the theatrical performances and historical reconstruction of past events.
Up to the beginning of the 21st century the fort was in danger of ruining because of weather conditions (high level of air humidity) and lack of care, but than it was restored and in 2014 again was opened to public.