The Wignacourt Tower, also known as the Saint Paul’s Bay Tower, is the oldest coastal fortification on the island of Malta. Its first stone was laid on the 10th of February 1610, and it was the first of six towers built by the Grandmaster Alof de Wignacourt.
These six towers, known as the Wignacourt Towers, were built by the Order of Saint John between 1610 and 1620, and were constructed to serve as watch posts around the island’s coastline, since at the time, the Maltese islands were vulnerable to attacks by Moors and Barbary corsairs.
Wignacourt Tower guards the point to the west of the church of Saint Paul, and its most distinct feature is perhaps the corner bastioned turrets. Originally, it was also armed with musketry loopholes, parapets and machicolations. An artillery battery was also added in 1715, to increase its fire power. During the 18th century, it was further equipped with two 6-pounder and three 18-pounder cannons.
Like each of the six towers, the Wignacourt Tower was originally accessed by a drawbridge. The entrance in fact used to be found on the first floor, where one approached the drawbridge through a flight of stone steps. These steps were unfortunately removed in the 1960s, and the entrance was moved to the ground floor.
The Wingacourt Towers all remained in use for coastal defence until the early years of British rule. They were later used for other different purposes, including serving as police stations, postal offices, hospitals and stables.
In 1970, the Wignacourt Tower was leased to Din l-Art Helwa, an NGO working to safeguard the Maltese heritage. This organisation restored the Tower in a process which took 3 years – from 1973 to 1976. During the restoration, the tower’s turrets were completely rebuilt.
In 1998, the Tower became officially a museum, sporting exhibitions of models of local fortifications found around Malta, as well as a number of typical medieval weapons, artillery and tools used in the middle ages, as well as a selection of guns and armour.
Last year, the Wignacourt Tower was once again restored and cleaned by the Malta Tourism Authority, with funds given through a European Union heritage project.
Visitors are welcome to tour the Tower, which is open daily from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 1pm, as well as on the first Sunday of each month.
This weekend, there will be a special opportunity to view the Wignacourt Tower in its typical medieval setting, since Din l-Art Helwa, in collaboration with the medieval re-enactment group Show of Arms, will be organising an event presenting a snapshot of daily life at the tower during the middle ages. This event will be taking place beginning from 5pm till 11pm on Saturday 23rd and from 10am till 5pm on Sunday 24th.
Donations at the door are appreciated and all proceedings will go to the restoration of historical sites.