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Vittoriosa (Birgu) (City Guide)

Online since: 09. April 2013

Vittoriosa Birgu in Malta

Vittoriosa is a city with an incredibly historic, cultural and modern atmosphere, and is full of interesting attractions. The layout of the city looks like a triangle. On the side facing the mainland, a large, double-gated wall runs along the city. The side facing the harbour entrance also has a city wall, on top of which is a beautiful promenade high above the sea, with a magnificent view of Valletta, the harbour entrance and Kalkara. At the tip of the triangle is the stunning Fort St Angelo. The third side of the city, which faces the Dockyard Creek, is open. There you’ll find the Casino di Venezia, the Maritime Museum, the church of St Lawrence and a luxurious hotel. In the city centre, you’ll discover something new and exciting around every corner. Right in the middle lies Victory Square, named after the Great Siege of 1565. According to legend, the Grand Master La Vallette was wounded in a fight near the Poste de Castille (a defence fortification) during the siege, but he and his guards nonetheless counterattacked the Turks, who were already inside the city walls, and drove them out again. Like everywhere in Malta, life here is rather relaxed and the people are very friendly and helpful.

Couvre Porte – Entrance gate to Vittoriosa (Birgu)

The Couvre Porte is probably the most exciting way to enter Vittoriosa (Birgu). There are two other ways into the city, but they are somewhat less glamorous. The Couvre Porte leads through the Poste d Aragon, over a small bridge, and through a second gate to the Poste de France. From there, another gate opens up into the inner city. In total, there are three gates you have to pass through, and so Couvre Porte is also known as “The Three Gates”. The well-preserved Poste d Aragon and Poste de France are both fortifications. The Poste de France lies behind a trench and is the city’s last stronghold.

Church of the Annunciation

The Church of the Annunciation is fairly close to the entrance gate of Vittoriosa (Birgu). Walking down the main road, you will see the church, lead by Dominicans, on your left-hand side. The first time the church was built was in 1528; in 1639, it was extended and stood for more than 300 years. During World War II, however, it was completely destroyed. It was reconstructed in 1960 and now the Feast of St Dominic is celebrated each year in the last weekend of August.

Inquisitors Palace

At first, the Inquisitors Palace was a rather small building. Until 1574, it served as Castellania, the court at this time. Later, it was the official seat of the 63 inquisitors and included the court as well as a prison. An inquisitor was a representative of the pope, sent to Malta to wipe out any doubts of the Churchs authority. He was also in charge of mediating any disputes between the Grand Master or the knights and the local bishops. Two of the inquisitors were even appointed pope: Fabio Chigi (1599-1667) as Alexander VII and Antonio Pignatelli (1615-1700) as Innocent XII. The institution lasted until Napoleon banned it in 1798. During the British occupation, the building was used as accommodation for officers for a short while. After the war, it was temporarily handed over the Dominicans, as their church had been destroyed.

Pjazza Vittoriosa (Victory Square) in the centre of Vittoriosa (Birgu)

Victory Square – also known as Il-Pjazza among the locals – is located right in the centre of the city. Here, you’ll see two statues: The white statue of St Lawrence, which was built in 1880, and the green statue, which was erected in 1705. It is known as the Victory Monument and represents the Great Siege of 1565. There is a small café on the square, which is very popular among locals.

Sacra Infermeria

This church was built in 1672 by Lorenzo Gafa. The name is derived from the adjacent convent, which used to be a hospital exclusively for knights. Benedictine nuns have lived there since 1652 and to this day, they keep their strict cloistral vows, meaning they are never allowed to leave the convent.

The Church Close and St Josephs Oratory

The area around the Church Close and St Josephs Oratory is divided into three small squares. St Joseph’s Oratory is now a small museum, displaying items such as the hat and sword of Jean de la Vallette, and the fake money that the British introduced during World War II to prevent the English Pound from falling into the hands of the Nazis in the event of conquest. Back in the day, this area was used as a graveyard for all those, who died during the Great Siege of 1565. The church is dedicated to Our Lady of Damascus.

Parish Church of St Lawrence

The church of San Lawrenz (St. Lawrence) lies on the banks of the Dockyard Creek, right behind the Freedom Monument. The massive church was apparently the first convent church of the order in 1530. After just two years, however, it burned down to the ground. A new construction was designed by Lorenzo Gafa, in a Roman Baroque style, around 1692, but it was only finished in 1913, when the second tower was added. The interior of the church is faced in red marble and beautiful paintings hang on the walls. The most beautiful painting of them all portrays the martyrdom of St Lawrence by Mattia Preti, which hangs behind the main altar. Apparently, it is the largest painting Preti ever painted. The beautifully ornamented statue of the saint from the 16th century is also impressive. The Feast of San Lawrenz (St Lawrence) is celebrated every year on 10 August.

Fort St. Angelo

At the tip of the headland is Fort St Angelo, which is most likely the oldest fortified place in Vittoriosa. It was first mentioned in documents of 1274 as Castrum Maris, but it is likely that it existed even before that. In the Middle Ages, the fort was occupied by the castellan, who oversaw his warlords affairs, while he resided in Sicily. When the Order of St John came to the island in 1530, the fort served as the temporary office of the Grand Master. New fortifications were added to protect the fort against gunfire. In the fort are the “House of the Castellan” and St. Annes Chapel. From 1912 to 1979, the fort was used as headquarters of the British Navy admiral in the Mediterranean region. At that time, the fort was known as HMS St. Angelo (Her Majestys Ship). As legal successor of the Order of St John, the Order of Malta established a representative office there.

The fort can be reached by using a small bridge that connects the fort to the Dockyard Creek. From there, you have a stunning view of the Grand Harbour and Valletta.

Freedom Monument

The Freedom Monument is directly opposite the Parish Church of St Lawrence at the Dockyard Creek. It shows the withdrawal of the British troops from Malta, when their last frigate left the harbour on 31 March 1979, effectively ending their military presence on the island that had lasted for 180 years. The statues symbolise the Maltese bidding the British farewell.

Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum is located right by the promenade of the Dockyard Creek. It consists of several houses, such as the Palace of the Captain of the Galleys, the House of the General of the Galleys, the Naval Store and the Naval Bakery. The Maritime Museum displays exhibits, paintings and other items related to naval history.

Vittoriosa 1565 Museum

This museum is dedicated to the Great Siege of 1565, which lasted a total of four months. The museum shows life-size models of knights and Turks in action, La Vallette expressing his gratitude after the victory, Draguts camp, the Torture Chamber and a video.

Bishops Palace

The Bishop’s Palace was built in 1542 by Bishop Cubelles and was extended in 1542 by Bishop Cagliares. The palace also served as Bishops Curia. Today, it accommodates a school.

S. Wagner

Further reading on this subject (from our online bookshop):
City of Valletta and Floriana
Valletta, the capital of Malta, is a World Heritage City.

It is the creation of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, known as the Knigh ... mehr
Tourist maps with street index (9th edition)
This is the most updated & userfriendly Map of the Maltese Islands. Open the map to see for yourself that the large scale Malta and Gozo map is ea ... mehr
Malta History & Tradition
- Sliema
- Valletta
- Markets
- St. John's CO-Cathedral
- Marsaxlokk
- Mdina
- Grand Harbour
- Island ... mehr

Short info:

Region: Vittoriosa (Birgu)
Category: Town

Location on the map in Malta

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