Kalkara, whose name and motto are derived from its lime deposits (‘kalkara tal-ġir’, means ‘lime kiln’), started out as a small fishing hamlet and a resort area. Situated in the eastern part of Malta, Kalkara is sometimes thought of as the fourth city in the Kottonera group, that is, Birgu, Bormla and Isla, or Vittoriosa, Cospicua, and Senglea, since its history and economy is integrally tied to theirs.
During the Great Siege of 1565, when Fort Saint Elmo and Fort Saint Angelo were at centre stage during the fighting, Kalkara did not have its own fortress or battlements, however the town still dispatched much needed replacements and supplies, and was a lifeline for the defenders. In 1884, the businessman Fortunato Gulia donated a piece of land that he owned in Kalkara for the building of a new church and in 1897, Kalkara became an independent Parish dedicated to Saint Joseph Patron of the Universal Church. Unfortunately, this church was bombarded and destroyed during the Second World War, and parish status passed to another, older church instead. This was the Church of Our Saviour (known as ‘Tas-Salvatur’), which had been funded by the Italian knight Giovanni Bighi after the Great Siege in 1650. This knight also built Bighi Villa nearby, which was also occupied by Napoleon and later became a British Naval Hospital and after that, a school.
Another benefactor of the town was Giovanni Ricasoli, who in 1670 started funding a Fort to be built on the peninsula. Forte Ricasoli started to be constructed in 1696. In 1872, the British added more fortifications when they erected Fort Saint Roque. Twelve years later, they installed a 100-ton gun at the Rinella Battery.
Between these defence works in the north, and the massive walls of the three cities to the south, a real town was emerging, with a number of Capuchin friars among its early settlers. No sooner was the Second World War over that a new parish church started to be built, after the destruction of the old one. The new church, built in a more central location, was duly finished by 7 September 1952 when it was blessed by Mons. Gonzi and dedicated to Saint Joseph.
Recently, Kalkara’s population has begun to experience another surge, as with the current economic and commercial boom, more and more people are settling there. Kalkara craftsmen have long been renowned for their boat-building skills and ‘dgħajjes’ are still manufactured at the water’s edge. In fact, the Kalkariżi still take part in the traditional national regattas held on 8 September and on 31 March with their own constructed boats. The shoreline remains, as ever, one of Kalkara’s biggest assets, and offers a very good swimming area as well.
Part of the evolution of the Grand Harbour area included the construction of Smart City Malta, on the site formerly occupied by the Ricasoli Industrial Estate. Construction began in 2008 and as the site developed further, it procured not only business spaces, commercial outlets, and catering establishments, but also residential units, landscaped areas open to the public, and more jobs.