Fort Ricasoli

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Fort Ricasoli
Kalkara, Malta
Sudika Kalkara Fort Ricasoli.jpg
View of Fort Ricasoli from Valletta
Coordinates 35°53′51″N 14°31′33″E / 35.89750°N 14.52583°E / 35.89750; 14.52583
Type Coastal fortification
Area 70,000 m2 (750,000 sq ft)
Site information
Open to
the public
No
Condition Mostly intact but in danger due to erosion
Site history
Built 1670-1693
Built by Order of Saint John
Materials Limestone
Battles/wars Siege of Malta (1798–1800)
Siege of Malta (World War II)

Fort Ricasoli is a large fortification in Kalkara, Malta. The fort was built by the Order of Saint John between 1670 and 1693. It occupies the promontory known as Gallows Point that forms the eastern arm of Grand Harbour, and the north shore of Rinella Creek. Together with Fort Saint Elmo and Fort Tigné it commands the approaches to Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour.

History[edit]

Fort Ricasoli from the sea.

Order of Saint John[edit]

In 1629, a tower was built on the peninsula on which Fort Ricasoli now stands. This was not intended for defence purposes, but was used to prevent the escape of galley slaves from the island. In April 1640, Giovanni de Medici proposed the construction of a fort there, but the plans were not implemented.

Fort Ricasoli was designed by the Italian military engineer Antonio Maurizio Valperga, as part of Grand Master Nicolas Cotoner's extensive fortifications around Grand Harbour. It is named for the Florentine knight who financed a large part of the works, Fra Giovanni Francesco Ricasoli. Construction began in 1670.

The fort has an irregular plan and follows the peninsula's coastline. On the land side the fort has a central bastion along with two half bastions. The bastions and the curtains connecting them are surrounded by a dry moat. On the side of the ditch there are two ravelins. The fort also contained a windmill, which does not exist anymore.[1]

In 1681, Gregorio Carafa brought the Flemish engineer Carlos de Grunenburgh to Malta to strengthen the fortifications. He proposed the construction of a battery at the tip of the headland. This was built in 1687, however it was destroyed in a storm in 1827. The fort was eventually completed in 1693.

In September 1715, various improvements to the fort were undertaken by the French engineer Jacob de Tigné. There were some minor improvements later on in the 18th century. By the end of the century, the fort contained seven heavy guns in its casements. These were open to the rear and had additional ceiling vents, and this allowed for a high rate of fire as the powder smoke withdrew quickly. Other guns were installed on the bastions and ramparts of the fort.

In the French blockade of 1798-1800, the fort was held by French forces and it continually fired at the insurgents' San Rocco Battery (the site now occupied by Fort St. Rocco) which was located about 700m away.[2]

British colony[edit]

The Fort continued to be an active military installation throughout the British period. It was the scene of a mutiny in 1807 when Albanian soldiers of the Froberg Regiment revolted and shut themselves up in Fort Ricasoli. Despite attempts at negotiation they eventually blew up the powder magazine. The mutiny was quashed by loyal troops, and 30 mutineers were condemned to death by court martial. The magazines were rebuilt between 1831 and 1833 at a cost of £1429.

The fort was also used as a temporary naval hospital in the late 1820s and early 1830s, before Bighi Hospital was opened.[3]

In 1844, the fort was manned by 500 men. The fort's guns were replaced several times between the 1860s and early 1900s. Bastion no. 2 was built between 1901 and 1902.

Fort Ricasoli was active in the defence of Malta during the Second World War. Structural alterations and additional gun emplacements on the seaward bastion bear witness to its continued use and evolution as a military installation. In April 1942, the gate and Governor's House were destroyed by German aerial bombings. Much of the internal structure was also badly damaged.

It was commissioned as HMS Ricasoli between 1947 and 1958, providing training for the Naval population. In 1958, the gate was rebuilt but the Governor's House was not, mainly for financial reasons.

Present day[edit]

View of Fort Ricasoli in 2013 showing a large crack in the bastion wall and even a partially collapsed wall where the land has already eroded.

Today the fort faces a much bigger threat from the relentless onslaught of the sea. The fort is threatened by erosion from seaward, where a fault in the headland on which it stands is being eroded by the sea.[4]

During the tenure of the British military, the bastion was substantially repaired, with the outer surface being cut back and new stone facing applied. This too is now eroding badly and in 2004 a section 100 metres long by 13 metres high was removed, restored and re-attached. Parts of the fort are still viewed as being in a dangerous condition.[5]

As of 2014, there is no public access to Fort Ricasoli.

Movie sets[edit]

The fort and its environs have been used extensively as a location for various films and serials. In recent years, huge sets were built within its walls for the films Gladiator (2000), Troy (2004) and Agora (2009). In these films, the fort stood in as Rome, Troy and Alexandria respectively.

The TV miniseries Julius Caesar (2002) and Helen of Troy (2003) were also partially filmed at Fort Ricasoli. A set dubbed as the Roman Road was built for Julius Caesar and this has been retained and used for other films.[6]

The first season of HBO's adaptation of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones used various parts of the fort to represent the Red Keep.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Windmill Fort Ricasoli". The Malta Windmill Database. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Spiteri, Stephen C. "French Blockade Batteries". Vassallo History. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  3. ^ "Regimental Hospitals and Military Hospitals of the Malta Garrison". maltarmc.com. British Army Medical Services And the Malta Garrison 1799 – 1979. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  4. ^ Said, Edward (17 October 2006). "In need of repair". Times of Malta. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  5. ^ Said, Edward (3 September 2010). "Fort Ricasoli is under serious threat". Times of Malta. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  6. ^ "Fort Ricasoli". Malta Film Commission. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  7. ^ "Locations of Thrones: Malta (Part 1)". cultureaddicthistorynerd.com. 9 August 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2014.