Malta (South Eastern Region) – Birgu – Order of St. John

I’ve read a lot this week about the Knights of St. John, the Christian crusaders who successfully defended themselves against the Ottoman forces in their sixteenth century attack on Malta. So important was the victory that Queen Elizabeth I said that Christendom across Europe would have been endangered if the Ottoman Muslims had been victorious.

The Knights governed Malta from 1530 until 1798 (they had lost their previous base in Rhodes – a city I now want to visit), when the French threw them out. The British reclaimed the islands in 1800, but they then came under British rule until the late twentieth century when Malta went for independence.

Seeing lots of the history of the Knights this week, it did feel quite unfortunate that they were no longer involved in Malta. However, I discovered today on my visit to Fort. St Angelo that they’re back in the fort that they originally did so much to create. They were given a 99-year lease to the upper part of the fort, which is one of the most impressive defensive structures that I’ve seen (and more on which in other posts), in 1998.

There is an agreement that the flag of Malta and the flag of the Knights will fly over the fort, which is just visible in my photo above. I like it when history does that, it feels right to me that the Knights are there. The only slightly unfortunate thing is that they’re now occupying some historic parts of the fort which visitors now can’t routinely visit.