Fort St Elmo

Fort St Elmo

Situated on the tip of Valletta, Fort St Elmo defends the entrances of both harbours, Marsamxett and the Grand Harbour of Malta.

Way back in the 15th century, watch towers were already built on the same strategic site were Fort St Elmo stands today.  When the Knight’s of St John took over Malta in 1530, it was re-in forced. Fearing an attack by the Ottoman Empire, in 1551 the Knights demolished the medieval towers and built a new star shaped fort designed by Italian architects.

Fort St Elmo played a major role during the Great Seige of Malta in 1565. The Turks of the Ottoman Empire, led by Dragut (Turgut Reis), the Ottoman Naval Commander, landed in Marsaxlokk and proceeded with an armada of 24,000 men to attack the fort. Dragut thought that in a weeks’ time Fort St Elmo will be defeated but it stood for a month. It used to be re-in forced with supplies from Birgu and Senglea but on the 23rd June 1565, the Fort fell to the Turks. Together with 4,000 Turks that were lost, Dragut, lost his life, a major blow to the Turkish armada.

On the 8th September 1565, the Great Siege came to an end and the Knights of St John, led by the Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette, defeated the Turks. Nine months after, on the 28th March 1566, La Valette laid the first foundation stone of the new fortified city, Valletta, to be built on the same peninsula were Fort St Elmo stood. Francesco Lapparelli, the personal architect of the Pope was entrusted to plan the new city and he incorporated Fort St Elmo in his plans.

The fort continued to be modified during the 17th and 18th century and even during the British period. It came under siege again during the Second World War and was hit, the day after Mussolini declared war against the allies. On 11th June 1940, six Maltese died during this attack.

Today Fort St Elmo is totally restored and open for the public and it houses the National War Museum and the Great Siege exhibition.