City Gate (Valletta)

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Monument outside Valletta showing the five gates that stood at the city's entrance

A total of five city gates have served as the main entrance to Valletta, Malta's capital city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The first gate was originally known as Porta San Giorgio, and it was later renamed Porta Reale, a name which was retained by the successive gates, and which was corrupted into Putirjal in Maltese. Since the 1960s, the entrance has been known as City Gate, or Bieb il-Belt (Door to the city) in Maltese.

The city gate is built in the Porta Reale Curtain, a curtain wall at the centre of the Valletta Land Front, located between St. James' and St. John's Bastions.[1] The Triton Fountain and Valletta's bus terminus are located just outside the City Gate. A bridge spanning across Valletta's deep ditch leads to the gate. The gate marks the beginning of Republic Street (formerly Strada Reale), Valletta's main street which goes all the way until Fort Saint Elmo at the opposite end of the city. The buildings in the immediate vicinity of the City Gate include the Parliament House, the ruins of the Royal Opera House and the City Gate Shopping Arcade. Saint James Cavalier and Saint John's Cavalier are located on either side of the gate, near the Parliament House and shopping arcade respectively.

In October 2014, an art installation incorporating elements of Valletta's five city gates was inaugurated close to the bus terminus. The installation was designed by Chris Briffa and it commemorates Valletta's selection as European Capital of Culture in 2018.[2]

First City Gate[edit]

Porta San Giorgio
Alternative names Porta Reale
General information
Status Demolished
Location Valletta, Malta
Coordinates 35°53′46.1″N 14°30′33.1″E / 35.896139°N 14.509194°E / 35.896139; 14.509194
Construction started April 1566
Completed 1569
Demolished 1633
Technical details
Material Limestone
Design and construction
Architect Francesco Laparelli or Girolamo Cassar

The original gate to Valletta was known as Porta San Giorgio, and was built during the reign of Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette, after whom the city is named. Porta San Giorgio was possibly designed by Francesco Laparelli, the Italian military engineer who designed most of the fortifications of Valletta, or by his Maltese assistant Girolamo Cassar. Construction started in April 1566 and it was complete by 1569.[3] The gate was rather plain in design, and was simply an unadorned small opening in the curtain walls.

A timber bridge originally linked Porta San Giorgio with the countryside across the ditch. Sometime before 1582, a stone bridge replaced the wooden one. The bridge itself was replaced a number of times, but its rock-hewn foundations remain intact and continue to support the present bridge.[4]

In around 1586, during the reign of Grand Master Hugues Loubenx de Verdalle, the gate was renamed Porta Reale.[5] In the late 16th century, a smaller outer gate was built and a triumphal arch was added above the original gate.[6]

Little else is known about the gate.

Second City Gate[edit]

Porta Reale
Putirjal
General information
Status Demolished
Location Valletta, Malta
Coordinates 35°53′46.1″N 14°30′33.1″E / 35.896139°N 14.509194°E / 35.896139; 14.509194
Completed 1633
Demolished 1853
Technical details
Material Limestone
Design and construction
Architect Tumas Dingli

The second city gate was built in 1633 to a design by the Maltese architect Tumas Dingli, during the reign of Grand Master Antoine de Paule. This gate was more ornate than its predecessor Porta San Giorgio, and it consisted of a central archway with a smaller arch at each side, and a wooden drawbridge across the deep, dry ditch that lies immediately outside the city walls.[3]

The gate was modified over time, and by the late 18th and early 19th centuries there were a number of features which had not been part of Dingli's original design. The gate was demolished in 1853 since it was too small and had to be widened.[6]

Third City Gate[edit]

Porta Reale
Putirjal
Goats at Port Real Wellcome L0045092.jpg
Kingsway in the early 1900s
Alternative names Kingsway
King's Gate
General information
Status Demolished
Architectural style Victorian
Location Valletta, Malta
Coordinates 35°53′46.1″N 14°30′33.1″E / 35.896139°N 14.509194°E / 35.896139; 14.509194
Completed 1853
Demolished 1963
Technical details
Material Limestone
Design and construction
Architect Col. Thompson

The third city gate was built in 1853, during the height of British rule of Malta. The gate was known as Porta Reale, and was also known as Putirjal in Maltese and Kingsway in English.[3]

The gate was designed by a certain Col. Thompson of the Royal Engineers, and it consisted of two central arches with two smaller ones. There were two statues on either side of the gate: one of Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, the first Grand Master in Malta, and one of Jean Parisot de Valette, the founder of the city. A bronze bust of Pope Pius V, who made significant financial contributions to the building of Valletta, was placed above the archway looking into Strada Reale in 1892.

In April 1942, the bridge leading to the city gate was damaged by aerial bombardment during World War II. The statues of L'Isle-Adam and de Valette were also destroyed in this attack.[7]

The replacement of the gate was announced at the Trade Fair of 1963, and demolition work began in June 1964, three months before Malta's independence.

The bust of Pope Pius V, originally located at Porta Reale, is now found in Great Siege Square.

When the gate was demolished, the bust of Pope Pius V was removed and put in storage. In 1993, the newly established Valletta Local Council recovered the bust and placed it in the council offices. In 2005, the bust was moved to Great Siege Square, close to St. John's Co-Cathedral and the courthouse.[8]

Fourth City Gate[edit]

City Gate
Bieb il-Belt
Valletta City Gate.jpg
City Gate in Christmas 2006
General information
Status Demolished
Architectural style Italian modernism
Location Valletta, Malta
Coordinates 35°53′46.1″N 14°30′33.1″E / 35.896139°N 14.509194°E / 35.896139; 14.509194
Construction started 1964
Completed August 1965
Demolished 2 – 5 May 2011
Technical details
Material Limestone
Design and construction
Architect Alziro Bergonzo

Work on the fourth city gate began in 1964 and was finished in August 1965. It was designed by the Italian architect Alziro Bergonzo to an Italian modernism design, and had a single wide doorway to cope with a greater influx of people. The gate was part of a project that never materialized, that of redeveloping the entrance to Valletta and the Royal Opera House. Its was the source of much controversy, since many said that it did not blend in with the rest of the city's architecture.[9]

Public interest in the redevelopment of the gate grew in the 1990s, and both the Maltese architect Richard England and Italian architect Renzo Piano submitted designs for this redevelopment.[10] The project was stalled due to poor public reaction, but eventually a new design by Piano was chosen and the gate was demolished between 2 and 5 May 2011 at a cost of €1.37 million.[11] The demolition of the gate was attended by the Prime Minister of Malta, Lawrence Gonzi.[12]

Fifth City Gate[edit]

City Gate
Bieb il-Belt
Malta - Valletta - Triq Ir-Repubblika - Valletta City Gate bridge + City Gate 01 ies.jpg
City Gate in 2014
General information
Status Complete
Architectural style Modern
Location Valletta, Malta
Coordinates 35°53′46.1″N 14°30′33.1″E / 35.896139°N 14.509194°E / 35.896139; 14.509194
Construction started 2011
Completed 2014
Technical details
Material Limestone and steel
Design and construction
Architect Renzo Piano

The fifth city gate was built between 2011 and 2014, to a design by Renzo Piano. This gate is very different from the previous ones, as it consists of a breach in the bastions, flanked by large blocks of stone which are separated from the original curtain walls by high blades of steel.

Like the fourth gate, it was also built as part of a project to redesign the city entrance. The project also turned the ruins of the Royal Opera House into an open-air theatre known as Pjazza Teatru Rjal, and a new Parliament House was built instead of Freedom Square.

Fifth city gate under construction in 2013

The new city gate, like the rest of Piano's project, is controversial.[13] The majority of the Maltese welcomed the demolition of the fourth gate, and some like the design of the fifth gate and see it as a new phase for Valletta. However, the modern design of the fifth gate has been heavily criticized, with many preferring a more traditional design similar to the third gate.[3] The new gate has been compared to the ancient Egyptian Temple of Edfu, with critics saying that the breach in the bastions and is out of place in the largely Mannerist and Baroque city.[14][15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Porta Reale Curtain - Valletta" (PDF). National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands. 28 June 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  2. ^ "Valletta installation recalls city's gates and celebrates the city of culture". Times of Malta. 6 October 2014. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d Claffey, Adam (14 February 2014). "Valletta: The City Gates". Air Malta. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  4. ^ "The Remains of the bridge of Porta San Giorgio/Porta Reale". Times of Malta. 11 April 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Vassallo, Bernard A. (1 January 2011). "Reviving Porta Reale in Valletta". Times of Malta. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "The Many pasts of City Gate". The Malta Independent. 11 January 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  7. ^ Mizzi, John A. (25 July 2009). "Statues of grandmasters at City Gate (1)". Times of Malta. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  8. ^ Cauchi, Simon (7 October 2006). "History of a bust". Times of Malta. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  9. ^ Attard, Chris (24 August 2008). "The gate triumphant". Times of Malta. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  10. ^ Galea Debono, Fiona (1 December 2008). "Renzo Piano resurrected for City Gate". Times of Malta. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  11. ^ "€1.39m to demolish City Gate". di-ve.com. 27 January 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  12. ^ Calleja, Claudia (6 May 2011). "City Gate bites the dust". Times of Malta. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  13. ^ Squires, Nick (8 May 2010). "Maltese anger at plans to rebuild Valletta". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  14. ^ Vassallo, Bernard A. (10 December 2009). "Valletta needs arched entrance gates". Times of Malta. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  15. ^ Cilia, Steve (27 July 2009). "The gate must return". Times of Malta. Retrieved 22 March 2015.