The 8th of September in Malta is a very special date. It marks the National Holiday of Victory Day, which celebrates the victory of the Knights of the Order of Saint John in 1565. This Victory marked the end of the Great Siege, which took place when the Ottoman Empire tried to invade the island.
This year’s celebration of this important day includes a fun, entertaining and educational day for all the family, which will also give history-buffs and architecture lovers the opportunity to visit the beautiful Fort of Saint Angelo, at an admission price of €2.
Fort Saint Angelo, in Birgu (Vittoriosa), is a large medieval bastioned fort located at the centre of the Grand Harbour. Although mostly known for its tumultuous history under the Order of the Knights of Saint John, the tower itself, known at the time as ‘Castrum Maris’, meaning ‘Castle by the Sea’, is actually older than that – being first constructed and manned during the 13th century by the Aragonese. The tower at the time also sported two small chapels, which are still in use today.
When the Knights arrived in Malta, in 1530, they chose the Fort of Saint Angelo to be the Seat of their Grand Master, and refurbished the Castellan’s House and the Chapels, built a dry moat, as well as a battery at the tip of the Fort. The Fort served as the Knights’ Headquarters during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, after which the Order built the current capital city of Valletta, and relocated their main quarters there.
During the short two year period of the French occupation (1798 – 1800), the Fort served as Headquarters to the French army. In 1800, with the arrival of the British, it was taken over and garrisoned by British troops. Two battalions, in fact, resided in the Fort during the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was the main residence of the British Royal Navy in Malta. During World War II, the Fort was actively involved and suffered 69 direct hits between 1940 and 1943. After the war, it was restored due to all the damage incurred. When the British Navy left in 1979, Fort Saint Angelo was turned over to the Maltese government. It has been present on Malta’s list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as of 1998.
At present, the upper part of the Fort, as well as the Chapel of Saint Anne, belong to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. In 2012, the European Regional Development Fund allocated more than 13 million euros for its restoration, which was completed just last year, in 2015.
This week, visitors will be able to admire Fort Saint Angelo in all its glory, as it will be open for public viewing on Thursday 8th September. The Fort will be open from 9.00am till 18.30. Mass will be celebrated at 9.30am in the Chapel of Nativity of the Virgin, and at midday at the Chapel of Saint Anne. Guided tours in both English and Maltese will take place at 11.00am and 15.00, and one will also be able to enjoy an ample view of the National Regatta, taking place at the Grand Harbour, from the bastions of the Fort itself. There will also be a Victory Day commemoration ceremony at 10.30am.
During the day, a number of historical re-enactment groups will be presenting a view of life during medieval times There will also be an Artisans market, as well as a local fencing club.
The 8th of September will also mark the start of the Malta International Theatre Festival, which will be taking place at Egmont Hall, within Fort of Saint Angelo. The Festival will take place between the 8th and the 11th of September, and will be featuring both local and international live performances from Malta, Germany, Sweden, and Armenia.
Not an event to miss!