De Redin towers

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De Redin Towers
Various locations in Malta and Gozo
De Redin Towers Locator Map.svg
The locations of the 13 towers in Malta
Type Coastal fortification
Site information
Condition 9 survive
2 partially destroyed
3 completely destroyed
Site history
Built 1658–1659
Built by Order of Saint John
In use 1658-20th century
Materials Limestone

The De Redin Towers are a series of small fortified watch towers that Grandmaster Martin de Redin of the Order of Saint John built on the Maltese islands between the years 1658 and 1659. There are 13 on Malta and 1 on Gozo. The towers are in sight of each other, and provided a communication link between Gozo and Grand Harbour, in addition to functioning as watchtowers against attack by Corsairs. They were also designed to withstand an attack if the need arose.

The design is based on the design of the last of the five original Lascaris towers, the Sciuta Tower at Wied iż-Żurrieq, that Grand Master Giovanni Paolo Lascaris, de Redin's predecessor, had built in 1640. The locals refer to both the five Lascaris towers and the thirteen de Redin towers as "de Redin towers".

Nine of the fourteen towers still exist today and most are in good condition and accessible to the public. Two towers were destroyed but the remains still survive, while another three were completely demolished and no remains survive.

De Redin towers are featured on the coats of arms of the Armed Forces of Malta, the Malta Stock Exchange and the local council of Pembroke.

The towers[edit]

Għajn Ħadid Tower[edit]

The ruins of Għajn Ħadid Tower

Għajn Ħadid Tower was the first De Redin tower to be built. Construction began in March 1658 and within two months it was operational. The total cost of construction was 529 scudi, 2 tari and 8 uqija. It is located on a cliff face overlooking Mġiebah Bay and has views of l-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa, Comino, Gozo, San Pawl il-Baħar and Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq.

Like all the De Redin Towers, the entrance was through a doorway located on the first floor, that could only be reached by a retractable ladder, and this is stated in a 1743 report in which all coastal towers were inspected due to the fear of a plague. This same report stated that the tower was armed with two bronze cannons, gun wheels and stock, eighteen cannonballs, fifteen rotolos of gunpowder, four muskets and twelve rotolos of musket balls. It was manned by six people.

The area around the tower has a number of fields with rubble walls that were used to grow crops and house animals. A well dug into solid rock is also found a couple of metres away from the tower. The fields and well were probably used by the militia stationed in the tower since the tower was in a remote location and was difficult to supply. The tower was therefore self-sufficient. The tower is also located close to a small defensible room, but it is not known if this was built before or after the tower. The remains of a small sentry room can also be seen in the area. All these features are unique to Għajn Ħadid Tower.

The upper floor of the tower collapsed on 12 October 1856 during an earthquake, and most of the stones were taken to be used in other buildings. The defensible room situated nearby survived the earthquake. Despite the fact that the tower has collapsed, the ruins are still important as they clearly show elements of the tower's architecture which are not normally visible in the still standing towers. Therefore by studying Għajn Ħadid Tower, more information on the construction of the other identical towers can be found.

The typical commemorative plaque is missing, but it is on public display at a garden in Tas-Salib Square in Mellieħa. The 6-pound cannon from the tower was retrieved in 1975 by the Historical Society of Mellieħa and it is now displayed along with the plaque at the same garden.[1]

Għallis Tower[edit]

Għallis Tower

Għallis Tower was built in 1658 and it stands on the shore east of Għallis Point (Ras l-Għallis) in Salina, Naxxar. It commanded the entrance to Salina Bay along with Qawra Tower, which is one of the Lascaris Towers. The external wall is made of upper coralline limestone which is weather resistant while the inner wall is made of the softer globogerina limestone. It originally had a garrison consisting of a bombardier and three gunners, who manned a three-pounder iron cannon.

During the British period, Għallis Tower was modified by opening a doorway at ground level and the insertion of roof slabs. By the 1990s it was in a state of disrepair with external plaster and cement and many weeds growing around it. The internal walls were also damaged due to soot from the many fires lit inside the tower. It was restored between 1995 and 1996, and many stonework had to be replaced. It is now under the control of Din l-Art Ħelwa and is very well preserved.[2]

Saint Mark's Tower[edit]

Saint Mark's Tower

Saint Mark's Tower, also known as Qalet Marku, stands on Qrejten Point in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, limits of Naxxar, on the north shore of Malta. St. Mark's Tower has sight of Għallis Tower to the west, and Madliena tower to the east. It was built between March 1658 and July 1659, and construction cost 408 scudi. A fougasse was built close to the tower in 1741, and it was believed to have been lost until it was rediscovered during road works in the area in 2014.[3]

The tower was no longer operational by 1743, however in 1792 the Congregation of War ordered that the tower be rearmed with a 3-pounder iron gun. The British built a small guard room in front of the tower but today only the foundations remain.[4]

The tower was restored in 1997 by Din l-Art Ħelwa. It is now in very good condition but the area around it has criticized for the amount of litter left there, mainly from people camping on the peninsula.[5]

Madliena Tower[edit]

Madliena Tower

Madliena Tower was built in 1658. It stands on the north shore of Malta, on high ground above the shore west of Ras l-Irqiqa in Madliena, Pembroke. To the west the tower has sight of St Mark's Tower, and to the east is St George's Tower. A fougasse is located close to the tower.

After the British gained control of Malta, this tower continued to serve as a military installation. A cookhouse was added although it was later abandoned and is now destroyed. In the 19th century, it was initially used as a Martello tower, and it was later modified to mount a 64 pound rifled muzzle loading (RML) gun on the roof and it was used as part of the defence of the Victoria Lines. The tower was later used as a firing control station and accommodation for gun crews in the area. The battery was struck off from military use at the end of the World War I. The remains of a World War II military installation are situated close to the tower.

The tower still stands and is in relatively good condition. Over time there were some makeshift modifications and structures built adjacent to the tower. The original door at the second level was filled in and was no longer visible, and the commemorative plaque was been replaced by a slab of limestone. A steel door was added at the base of the tower. Parts of the tower including the original doorway and some stonework were restored in recent years.[6][7]

Saint Julian's Tower[edit]

Saint Julian's Tower

Saint Julian's Tower is located in Sliema. The tower has Madliena Tower in its line of sight to the west, and Fort Tigné and the capital Valletta to its east. The tower is still intact and is now used as a restaurant and an open-air bar. It gave its name to Tower Road, now one of Malta's most popular seaside promenades.[8]

Armier Tower[edit]

Armier Tower

Armier Tower, also known as Aħrax Tower, Ta' Ħoslien Tower or the White Tower, is located in an area known as "l-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa". It was the sixth De Redin Tower to be built, and was completed by November 1658. Construction had cost 589 scudi, 5 tari and 15 grammi. The square base of Armier Tower is larger than some of the other towers. An escutcheon once stood over the main doorway with De Redin's coat of arms, although this is no longer in place. Just as was the case with Għajn Ħadid Tower, a well was located close to the tower to supply water to the militia stationed in the tower.

In the early eighteenth century the Order began building batteries and redoubts to better defend the Maltese coastline. One of the batteries, called Batteria della Harach, was constructed around the De Redin Tower. It consisted of a semicircular gun platform and a blockhouse that was built on the western wall of the tower.

In the 1743 inspection, Armier Tower was armed with two bronze cannons, gun wheels and stocks, sixteen cannonballs, four muskets, one rotolo of musket balls and ten rotolos of gunpowder. Thirty years later, in 1770, the battery was armed with ten iron cannons with 700 iron balls and 150 grapeshot rounds. The gunpowder was stored in St. Agatha's Tower.

In the 19th century, the British used the tower as a naval station and they added several rooms to the tower's structure. At a point it served as the Governor's summer residence and a British coat of arms replaced De Redin's personal arms. After World War II the tower was privately owned but it was eventually abandoned.

The area around the tower is now covered with concrete and the foundations of some walls of the battery have never been excavated. Over the years Armier Tower was heavily modified so it is now difficult to see which parts are original and which were added later. Very little remains of the battery, except for the semi-circular gun emplacement, but even this is in a sad state of disrepair. In 2009, the tower was passed to the Mellieħa Local Council. It is in need of restoration.[1]

Bengħisa Tower[edit]

Bengħisa Tower was located in the south of the island, near Ħal Far. It was demolished by the British in 1939 to clear the line of fire of the nearby Fort Benghisa.

Triq il-Wiesgħa Tower[edit]

Triq il-Wiesgħa Tower

Triq il-Wiesgħa Tower is located in Żabbar. The rear part of the tower had collapsed by the early nineteenth century but was later rebuilt. During the Second World War, the roof parapet and stair room were removed and the tower was damaged after an aircraft crashed close by. In the decades after the war, the tower fell into a state of disrepair and was vandalized and misused. By the early 21st century it was in very bad condition, however it was restored in 2008 by Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna.[9][10]

Xrobb l-Għaġin Tower[edit]

This tower was located at Xrobb l-Għaġin, Marsaxlokk. It is now largely destroyed but some remains still survive. The state of the ruins is quite similar to those of the collapsed Għajn Ħadid Tower.

Delimara Tower[edit]

Delimara Tower was located in the south of the island, at Delimara near Marsaxlokk. It was demolished by the British in 1939 to clear the line of fire of the nearby Fort Delimara.

Żonqor Tower[edit]

Żonqor Tower was located at Marsaskala. It was demolished by British military engineers in the nineteenth century, and no traces of it can be seen today.

Ħamrija Tower[edit]

Ħamrija Tower

Ħamrija Tower was constructed in 1659 as the 12th tower in the series and the last on Malta's southwestern Coast. It stands on a cliff and has an excellent view of the island of Filfla. The tower is between Għar Lapsi, which is part of Siġġiewi, and Wied iż-Żurrieq, which is part of Qrendi. The tower is located a few hundred meters from two Neolithic temple sites, Mnajdra and Ħaġar Qim, although these had not yet been discovered when it was built.

The nearest tower in the chain is the Wardija Tower to the south-east. The tower was originally armed with an 3-pounder gun and a ½-pounder gun, both too small to be of much use except to signal.

The tower recently underwent repair after parts of its external revetments collapsed. These works also involved the reconstruction of the spiral staircase, its shaft and the parapet. It is now part of the Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra Archaeological Park, which contains the temples, the tower, a memorial to Sir Walter Norris Congreve, a visitor centre and the surrounding area.[11]

Wardija Tower[edit]

Wardija Tower

The Wardija Tower is between Żurrieq and Ħal Far; the nearest tower to it is Ħamrija Tower to the south-east. Wardija Tower was constructed and finished by June 1659 and was the last tower built in Malta. It is smaller than the other de Redin towers although it was armed with 2 cannon and 2 mortars. The tower's original name was Torre della Guardia di Giorno.

Mġarr ix-Xini Tower[edit]

Mġarr ix-Xini Tower

Mġarr ix-Xini Tower was the last De Redin Tower to be built, and it was the only one on the island of Gozo. It is built overlooking Mġarr Harbour, Gozo's main harbour to this day. Its design is different from the other De Redin Towers, as the entrance is approached by a flight of steps and a drawbridge.

The tower was constructed to a plan by Mederico Blondel at an estimated cost of 857 scudi, and it was functioning by June 1661. It was originally manned by a castellan and a bombardier, but by 1785 the Ottoman threat had receded so the tower was not permanently manned. Despite this, it was rearmed with two 6-pounder iron guns in 1792.

The tower was restored in 2000 by the Ministry for Gozo and Wirt Għawdex. A path leading to the tower from the bay was also reopened, enabling visitors to enjoy a pleasant walk to the tower.[12] Other restoration works were carried out in 2008.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Għajn Ħadid Tower and Aħrax Tower. Military Architecture. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  2. ^ Ghallis Tower, Salina. Din l-Art Ħelwa, 10 October 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  3. ^ Spiteri, Stephen C. (30 November 2014). "Qalet Marku gives up its Fougasse". MilitaryArchitecture.com. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "Qalet Marku Tower, Bahar ic-Caghaq". Din l-Art Ħelwa. 6 October 2011. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  5. ^ Lippiett, Tom (10 June 2013). "The disgusting state of Qalet Marku". Times of Malta. Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  6. ^ Pembroke, a town with great military heritage. Malta.com. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  7. ^ Madliena Tower - Malta’s ‘Martello’ Tower. Military Architecture. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  8. ^ "Sliema, St. Julian's, Paceville". Maltese Islands.com. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  9. ^ Baldacchino, Lisa Gwen (20 September 2008). "17th century tower in Xgħajra being restored". Times of Malta. Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  10. ^ "Triq il-Wiesgha Tower". National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands. 28 June 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Stroud, Katya (2010). Ħaġar Qim & Mnajdra Prehistoric Temples - Qrendi. Santa Venera: Heritage Books (subsidiary of Midsea Books Ltd). ISBN 9789993273172. 
  12. ^ Mġarr ix-Xini Tower. Visit Gozo. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  13. ^ Mgarr ix-Xini tower being restored. Times of Malta, 17 September 2008. Retrieved 19 July 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Spiteri, Stephen C. (1989), The Knights' Fortifications, Valletta: Book Distributors Ltd. 
  • Hughes, Quentin (2001), Fortresses of the Knights, Valletta: Said International 

External links[edit]