One of the most prominent parts of Maltese history is attributed to the occupation of the islands by the Knights Hospitaller (coincidentally also known as the Knights of Malta). This order brought architectural prosperity to our little islands, and also built numerous military buildings to defend themselves from a highly probable invasion by the Turks.
The Knights invested heavily in the protection of the Grand Harbour, since the invasion of an island by sea was ultimately the most possible outcome. As can be seen from the picture below, the entrance to this Harbour was extensively garrisoned by fortifications built on the tip of peninsulas. These peninsulas, collectively know as the ‘Three Cities’ or ‘Cottonera’, form an impressive natural harbour with many inlets ideal for the maintenance of ships and shelter during storms. By fortifying them through bastions and manned castles, the likelihood of a sea attack became highly improbable.
But what about an invasion by land? The enemy could have easily disembarked anywhere on the island and then mount a land assault on these fortifications. As forward-thinking as always, the Knights anticipated such as event and defended the above peninsulas (Vittoriosa and Senglea) by building a row of land fortifications called Firenzuola Lines:
The big question is, what happened to these relatively prominent structures? These bastions were reconstructed several times since their initial erection, having survived numerous onslaughts from the ground at the time of the Knights, and aerial assaults during the second World War. While not all of these bastions survived, the remained few have unfortunately become ensnared in a limestone jungle of post world war construction.
Next time you visit any of the ‘Three Cities’, or happen to be flying over the island, it would be worth keeping an eye out for these Firenzuola Lines – a crown of fortifications literally hiding in plain sight!