|Manoel Island, Gżira, Malta|
View of Fort Manoel from Marsamxett
|Built by||Order of Saint John|
Fort Manoel is a fortification on the island of Malta. It stands on Manoel Island in Marsamxett Harbour to the north west of Valletta and commands the entrance to Marsamxett Harbour and the anchorage of Sliema Creek. Fort Manoel is a star fort, with much of its ditches and walls formed from the native rock of Manoel Island.
Fort Manoel is built in the shape of a square and with four square bastions giving it the shape of a star fort. The bastions surrounding the landward side are surrounded by cavaliers while the seaward bastions are fitted with large powder magazines. A ditch surrounds the entire fort.
The main entrance is on the seaward side facing Valletta. It is in Baroque style and is protected by the ditch and a drawbridge. Inside the fort there is a square surrounded by barracks, an armoury and other buildings including a chapel dedicated to St Anthony of Padova. A statue of Grandmaster Vilhena once stood in the square but it was removed in the 19th century and relocated to Valletta. It was later relocated once again and it is now in Floriana.
The fort was built by the Order of Saint John the patronage of Portuguese Grand Master António Manoel de Vilhena. The first stone was laid by de Vilhena himself on 14 September 1723, and work progressed rapidly. The gateway was built by 1726 and the ditch had been excavated by 1732. The fort was complete by 1755, although by this time de Vilhena had died.
The original design work for a fort on the island, then known as Isolotto, was the work of the French engineer René Jacob de Tigné. The final design also incorporated the work of Charles François de Mondion, at that time the Order's resident military engineer in charge of works of fortification and defence. Mondion also supervised the construction and after his death, he was buried in the fort's chapel.
The fort was an active military establishment initially under the Knights and later under British Military control from its construction through until 1906 when the British military finally decommissioned the fort's guns.
During the Second World War, a battery of 3.7-inch heavy anti-aircraft guns was deployed in and around the fort. The guns were mounted in concrete gun emplacements and deployed in a semicircle around the fort. The fort suffered considerable damage to its ramparts, barracks and chapel as a result of aerial bombing during the war. After this it was left abandoned and it suffered more damage from disuse and vandalism.
The fort was left in a state of disrepair for many years due to the ravages of time and damage sustained during the Second World War. In August 2001, MIDI plc began restoration work on the fort. Large parts of the fort were completely rebuilt, including the chapel and the main gate. It was reopened to the public on 31 October 2009. The restoration of Fort Manoel together with that of the nearby Fort Tigné cost a total of €30 million.
Fort Manoel is featured in the fiction book Il-Misteru tal-Forti Manoel (The Mystery of Fort Manoel) by Charles Zarb published in 2007. Since the restoration the fort served as a location for the shooting of the climactic scene of the ninth episode ("Baelor") of the TV series Game of Thrones.
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