Some weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the unique Fort Manoel which has been undergoing a big restoration project after long years of damage and neglect.
Although it is one of the smaller Hospitaller forts on the maltese islands it is one of the major ones built by the Order of St John.
Fort Manoel was constructed on a site which was mostly unobstructed. The low humped typography of the island provided Mondion with an opportunity to create a partially built, partially rock-hewn fortification.
Its sprawling star-shaped layout consists of an extensive glacis divided by spurs with an intricate underlying system of subterranean countermines.
The low enceinte beyond the ditch is barely visible from the harbour.
Around the large parade ground are arcaded buildings serving as living quarters for the fort’s garrison which could take 500 men during a siege. These are dominated by the Chapel of St Anthony, now fully reconstructed.
On one of the bastions facing Valletta stands the Polverista designed for the storage of ammunition.
The main gate is on of Mondion’s most celebrated Baroque masterpieces. When seen from Valletta the entire fort pays tribute to Vilhena’s enthusiasm and generosity together with Mondion’s skills in synthesising civil architecture and military engineering.
Note: Most of the text about the history and design of this Fort is taken from information given to us during the visit and is property of curator Edward Said and Dr Stephen C. Spiteri.